Monday, July 31, 2006

Bouquets of Flowers

Bouquets of Flowers

By Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)

July 30, 2006

There was a time when words just poured through the black nib of my pen. Frenzied typing in the middle of a night, essays after essays, poems after poems, as if I was intoxicated. Minutes went by. Hours vanished like a heartbeat. Words still flowed through my thumbs, pinky and middle fingers. Now only the middle finger rises up. Instead of beauty of poetry, I see mud and more mud in our decorated world living room. Uttering “F” word is crass and classless. But there is a time, a moment when the unbearable feeling of helplessness becomes too loud to muffle anymore.

They look like bouquets of flowers. Wrapped up in shiny silvery wrap. Dozens of red roses for a beloved. Not one, but many of these “bouquets of flowers” were lying on the cold floor in Qana. The youngest was 10 months old. The oldest 95 years. If these were indeed flowers, they surely could have been the ignored ones that could be easily mangled and rooted out from their cores without the slightest bit of mourning. What a difference between weeds and the decorated roses. What a difference between the bombarded Lebanese civilians and the uplifted soldiers in the south.

If the world affairs would have been just a play on a robust stage, it surely is a badly directed one. The anguish of victims can easily be overwhelmed by the obnoxious crocodile melancholy of suppressors and predators.

“They are terrorists!”

“We are liberating Lebanon!”

Liberating from what and into what? From peaceful sleep into wrapped up “bouquets of flowers” lying neatly in the morgue to be buried in an unmarked mass grave?

Bad hair day? Perhaps, a liar’s Pinocchio nose was itching. You purported to be bringing in peace just a day before the children were bombed to dust and splattered bones. I wonder what was in your mind. Staple food? Your meeting with murderous planners and politicians were done, you got the whiff of what was coming indeed for those mangled children, women and men, fleeing from bombardment, seeking refuge in that “safe building”. Perhaps, they were also the “terrorists”, even the 10 month and 95 year old ones.




War on terror!

War on terror!

War on terror!

Anyone opposes your plundering march and inquisition, are the terrorists?

How forgetful we are. Only in last century we had one of the most atrocious warfare engulfing our world. Then the fascist was coloring the communists; the left and the Jews were the bad guys and gals. Here is a quote from “The Anatomy of Fascism” by Robert O. Paxton:

“Fascist violence was neither random nor indiscriminate. It carried a well-calculated set of coded messages: that communist violence was rising, that the democratic state was responding to it ineptly, and that only the fascists were tough enough to save the nation from antinational terrorism. An essential step in the fascist march to acceptance and power was to persuade law-and-order conservatives and members of the middle class to tolerate fascist violence as a harsh necessity in the face of Left provocation. It helped, of course, that many ordinary citizens never feared fascist violence against themselves, because they were reassured that it was reserved for national enemies and “terrorists” who deserved it. Fascists encouraged a distinction between members of the nation who merited protection and outsiders who deserved rough handling”.

Many may feel dizzy seeing all the bloodshed, clueless how and where all these crazy violence leading us to. They arrested a Muslim man in Seattle for shooting in a Jewish Federation office the other day. Innocent civilians got hurt, one was dead, several wounded. A synagogue in Australia were attacked and the rabbi there said that a dozen of middle-eastern men were running away were laughing, as if they were in a boys day out. You can forget about Iraq. Shia and Sunni are at each other’s throat, with bombs, knives and bullets. Hundred a day civilians are getting killed in Iraq. For what? “Freedom”? Just a few weeks ago Mumbai got a jolt, several crowded trains were bombed, first class passengers were murdered in cold blood. For what? “Freedom”?

Are these incidents separate from each other? Or are there any synchronized orchestra playing its vigorous tune behind the deafening sound of bombs and sobs of tears?

Our innocence has disappeared. Our love poems have desiccated into wordless obituaries.

What is left?

Thorny weeds and roses? Bouquets of flowers?

A jungle?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Global Warming's Real Inconvenient Truth

Mr. Samuelson's following article is informative and to the point. Global Warming is an engineering problem to be solved. However, for engineers finding solution to this increasingly disastrous problem requires social and political backing from the societies, not from any individual nation, but a cohesive and uniform approach taken by the world nations could propel engineers finding the right solution. Otherwise, all the talks are quite fruitless.



Global Warming's Real Inconvenient Truth

By Robert J. Samuelson

"Global warming may or may not be the great environmental crisis of the next century, but -- regardless of whether it is or isn't -- we won't do much about it. We will (I am sure) argue ferociously over it and may even, as a nation, make some fairly solemn-sounding commitments to avoid it. But the more dramatic and meaningful these commitments seem, the less likely they are to be observed. Little will be done. . . . Global warming promises to become a gushing source of national hypocrisy.''

-- This column, July 1997

Well, so it has. In three decades of columns, I've never quoted myself at length, but here it's necessary. Al Gore calls global warming an "inconvenient truth," as if merely recognizing it could put us on a path to a solution. That's an illusion. The real truth is that we don't know enough to relieve global warming, and -- barring major technological breakthroughs -- we can't do much about it. This was obvious nine years ago; it's still obvious. Let me explain.

From 2003 to 2050, the world's population is projected to grow from 6.4 billion people to 9.1 billion, a 42 percent increase. If energy use per person and technology remain the same, total energy use and greenhouse gas emissions (mainly, carbon dioxide) will be 42 percent higher in 2050. But that's too low, because societies that grow richer use more energy. Unless we condemn the world's poor to their present poverty -- and freeze everyone else's living standards -- we need economic growth. With modest growth, energy use and greenhouse emissions more than double by 2050.

Just keeping annual greenhouse gas emissions constant means that the world must somehow offset these huge increases. There are two ways: Improve energy efficiency, or shift to energy sources with lower (or no) greenhouse emissions. Intuitively, you sense this is tough. China, for example, builds about one coal-fired power plant a week. Now a new report from the International Energy Agency in Paris shows all the difficulties (the population, economic growth and energy projections cited above come from the report).

The IEA report assumes that existing technologies are rapidly improved and deployed. Vehicle fuel efficiency increases by 40 percent. In electricity generation, the share for coal (the fuel with the most greenhouse gases) shrinks from about 40 percent to about 25 percent -- and much carbon dioxide is captured before going into the atmosphere. Little is captured today. Nuclear energy increases. So do "renewables" (wind, solar, biomass, geothermal); their share of global electricity output rises from 2 percent now to about 15 percent.

Some of these changes seem heroic. They would require tough government regulation, continued technological gains and public acceptance of higher fuel prices. Never mind. Having postulated a crash energy diet, the IEA simulates five scenarios with differing rates of technological change. In each, greenhouse emissions in 2050 are higher than today. The increases vary from 6 percent to 27 percent.

Since 1800 there's been modest global warming. I'm unqualified to judge between those scientists (the majority) who blame man-made greenhouse gases and those (a small minority) who finger natural variations in the global weather system. But if the majority are correct, the IEA report indicates we're now powerless. We can't end annual greenhouse emissions, and once in the atmosphere, the gases seem to linger for decades. So concentration levels rise. They're the villains; they presumably trap the world's heat. They're already about 36 percent higher than in 1800. Even with its program, the IEA says another 45 percent rise may be unavoidable. How much warming this might create is uncertain; so are the consequences.

I draw two conclusions -- one political, one practical.

No government will adopt the draconian restrictions on economic growth and personal freedom (limits on electricity usage, driving and travel) that might curb global warming. Still, politicians want to show they're "doing something." The result is grandstanding. Consider the Kyoto Protocol. It allowed countries that joined to castigate those that didn't. But it hasn't reduced carbon dioxide emissions (up about 25 percent since 1990), and many signatories didn't adopt tough enough policies to hit their 2008-2012 targets. By some estimates, Europe may overshoot by 15 percent and Japan by 25 percent.

Ambitious U.S. politicians also practice this self-serving hypocrisy. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a global warming program. Gore counts 221 cities that have "ratified" Kyoto. Some pledge to curb their greenhouse emissions. None of these programs will reduce global warming. They're public relations exercises and -- if they impose costs -- are undesirable. (Note: on national security grounds, I favor taxing oil, but the global warming effect would be trivial.) The practical conclusion is that if global warming is a potential calamity, the only salvation is new technology. I once received an e-mail from an engineer. Thorium, he said. I had never heard of thorium. It is, he argued, a nuclear fuel that is more plentiful and safer than uranium without waste disposal problems. It's an exit from the global warming trap. After reading many articles, I gave up trying to decide whether he is correct. But his larger point is correct: Only an aggressive research and development program might find ways of breaking our dependence on fossil fuels or dealing with it. Perhaps some system could purge the atmosphere of surplus greenhouse gases?

The trouble with the global warming debate is that it has become a moral crusade when it's really an engineering problem. The inconvenient truth is that if we don't solve the engineering problem, we're helpless.