Category Archives: Environment

Effects of Global Warming

Coconut Tales of Tail Spin and the Windshield of Whirlwind

Coconut tree which lives over 50 years of productive life sometimes more than 80 years if left untarnished by human activity lives behind a tell tale story of the weather beaten life.

If one looks at a human face at 80 (eighty) it leaves behind a sad tale of wrinkles but never leave behind the tale of destruction he or she has caused over his or her life time, leave alone the junk that is collected and left behind.

On the contrary, the coconut tree tells us all the rough times it has had over the years, if we look at the way the trunk had twisted and turned against the air current around it, it bears the true tale of forbearance.

What a contrast?

In fact it can tell the exact time of the last grand cyclone it had managed to withstand on its own.

Unlike the humans they are a barometer of wind currents of today and tomorrow.
If one looks at its leaves, the gentle rustle they create with the wind and how it raises a rhyming tune with some alarming whirring of a whirlwind, foretelling a thunderstorm that is about to land is something we have taken for granted but never given thought in any scientific manner.

We take it for granted that the water is abundant but at the same time pollute it in every possible way from Adams peak to the sea.

The same story is true for the coconut tree.

It is vandalized to the stem and we cry hard only when the coconuts go high in price but never cared to listen to its story and the windshield it creates on a daily basis.

My observation days back to my childhood inquiry not necessarily based on any scientific themes. If I wanted to fly a kite I look at the coconut trees and their leaves and then bring out the kite if I consider the conditions are favorable.

Then I go to a place where I can get the kite over the coconut trees quickly and off I go with the wind.

I never paused to think what a service it does as a wind breaker.

This little piece is to finally put to rest and peace of my mind with the wind physics (theory) of biological nature and facts which I call the biophysics of coconut saga.

I should have done this decades ago!

Not only the coconut tree stands to the wind upright but it divide the wind to upstream high and a downstream gentle for us to live in peace. This we forget when we chop it for fast growing development and consumption as timber.

It is the scene of coconut trees that touches my heart when the plane lands at Katunayake. It was strikingly beautiful 30 years ago but now we see s few coconut trees near the airport and the sudden thud of landing.

The landing is also not as smooth as it used to be.

I even go to the extend of saying that the planes used to land smoothly due to the coconut plantation driving the unnecessary tailspin and head wind currents well above the plane as it touches down making it easy for the pilots to land.

Think about it this as food for for thought for scientists who are hell bent on discovering new source of energy along with foot prints of destruction.
I wish our veteran pilots do some study on this keeping in mind those who were on service during the second world war II might know it better than the present day autopilot youngsters.

Coconut tree is a wind breaker and a windshielder.

Of course it will provide its trunks to climb when the next tsunami comes if we start growing thousands and thousand of them around our beaches instead of constructing polluting hotels that divert the sewerage to the sea.

This is my wishful thinking but I am sure more trees will be down to move the fast development trends of our political mights.

Good Bye my friend windshield and welcome thy whirlwind of destruction in the name of construction!

Majestic Elephants

This is a country run with Mega Mania Memorabilia (3 Ms) but unable to look after our majestic elephants.

Three years ago one of the tuskers was dead due to negligence and dehydration after a so called majestic pageant that paraded the hill country.

Then recently a giant tusker was dead in captivity and the popular story circulating round is he was let to die to get the tusks for ornamentation in high office.

Then comes the floods in the East.

A young dead elephant is trapped in a tree. First of a kind of news item and quite relevant in context.

That tells the sorry story of our majestic heritage and how we care.

It is an eye opener for the world if not for this blessed country.

We had 90% forest cover at the beginning of the last century and had over 60,000 elephants.

By mid last century the estimate was 6000 in the wild.

I do not believe we have 600 left in the wild now and the the forest cover is less that 20% now not enough to sustain vegetation let alone elephants.

We are going to commission two mega coal power units in the near future.

The forest cover will be reduced to 10% within a decade of their operation due to acid rain and the environmentalist are hiding behind the saffron clothed M.P.s.

Very soon we won’t have a place in the jungle to meditate in quiet solitude.

Mega mania development will sacrifice the rest of the trees in the name of development efforts.

Very soon we have to import coconut timber with coconuts on top.

Last tsunami a few people survived by climbing on top of coconut trees.

We have mega floods after 53 years in the East and there are no coconut (palms) trees grown for 6 years after the tsunami to climb onto.

But we have election after election to elect representative who ruin this country.

Mega Mania Memorabilia at its best!

The carnival goes on!

Thinking before the leap

It is unfortunate that man is the biggest polluter on the planet earth and he thinks only after the fact or afterward.

This is very relevant today with flash floods in different parts of the world.

He thinks the rivers and sea are dumping places for his economic activity.

He does not care for the river basin or its management and install industries upstream and discharge all the waste to the river and its basin around. This is seen in India, China, USA and all European countries.

It is true of Sri-Lanka too.

From the time of Portuguese this has happening in this land. They started with a port called Colombo and the Kalani river is the most polluted of all.

Then he invents filters and the like to purify water.

We might even invent nanotechnology but is it worth if we continue to pollute our soil and water?

We have water cutting ceremony every year and it is time to rethink and revisit our heritage.

Pure drinking water we had 100 years ago.

More development more pollution that is the equation which we cannot understand with the big brains we have.

We need not have to filter if we do not pollute it in the first place.

Is there a single river or stream in this country which hails for over 40 rivers and streams that we can sip some water for thirst without any treatment?

If we cannot drink it does not matter.

We can filter or boil it.

What about the animals who try to live with us.

Can a stray dog drink a bit of pristine water on a Poya Day!

When we see the sorry stage of our stray dogs I begin to wonder is it a Buddhist country in practice anymore?

We had Kings who cared for animals but can we say the same thing about the elected elite!

That is my message for the first Poya Day. of year 2011.

Buddha the Unsung Environmentalist

I often wondered
Why Buddha
Did not
Utter
A terse verse
On the mother nature?

Then again
He is one
Who lived
Half of his life
Under the shade
Of trees and caves
That mother nature
Had plenty then
Even in India

One who shed attachment
To dwellings of
All kinds
Be that it may be
Physical or psychological
He was wise
Not to trod on
To Climate,
Global Warming
A debate which illustrates
The fickle
And transient
Nature of
Material World

But where did he
Attained
The Enlightenment
Of all?

Was not
Under a bright floral tree
Knowing
Even the flora is transient
But under a Bo tree
Which gave
Shelter
From harsh elements
But bears tiny fruits
The avian fauna
Love to eat
When hungry

Didn’t he
As a gesture of gratitude?
Gazed at the very
Bo Tree
In solid contemplative mediation
For a week on stretch
I wonder, I wonder

How can I say
He is not
An environmentalist?
Not by preach
But by precept
And practice

Asoka

Biophysics

This is another word I would like to add to English, if it is not there already in existence, this time in Scientific World.

We had an Engineering Exhibition in the University, I do not know what was being exhibited there but what my gut feeling says is that they are all big events for public consumption and certainly not miniature exhibits of biological nature.

I am pretty sure they did not talk about biophysics and nano-technology.

I have been against the Coal Power Project form its inception.

 

I have many reasons including Acid Rain and I have stated that Coal Marketing Board will be as bad as the Paddy Marketing Board of yesteryear and its corruption scale will have to be estimated in time to come.

 

Suffice is to say that most of the Coal would wind up in undesirable places and the scale of corruption will be covered by black soot. 

How black soot will effect our children’s chest physiology and sporting outcomes are a different kettle of fish. 

I have voiced these concerns with scientific data but they are under the carpet of power politics now.

 

One pertinent question our energy planners not addressed is that these coal power plants are operational 24 hours a day and the interruption of nocturnal terrestrial cooling effect that is necessary for air circulation and water condensation and the night rain pattern that we used enjoy that invariably purified the air of soot, dirt and chemicals is going to be disturbed due to constantly warm air that is not circulating. 

The effect of this is going to be phenomenal.

 

As long as the rain is there even infrequently and with disturbed patterns then there is some reclamation. 

But think of the scenario for some reason or the other if the rain fails for a period of two years with drought. 

Then we have to be using more and more coal power to generate power, the conditions are conducive for catastrophic events.

 

The nocturnal cooling effect is negated for a prolonged period of time and the pollution it created is of clinical scale. 

We see this pattern in Kandy even without the warming effect discussed above and that is why Kandy is the most polluted city of the country when rain fails the nocturnal cooling draft fails and the pollutants remain for considerable length of time in the lower atmosphere. 

We have now cleared our rain forest to less (33% is the critical value) than the sustainable level for natural rain and ecological balance. 

We can see the effect of acid rain in less than 5 years after a period of prolonged drought.

 

I will talk a little about the miniature life of biological nature that can mop up some of the CO2 created by the mega projects like Coal Power Plants. 

But more than thousands of other chemicals that are emitted which cannot be made safe and some of them causing cancer (are the projects for future studies) in the air not diluted due to stagnation and failing air circulation.

These are mega events and banning cigarettes has no ameliorating effects once these chemicals are in air and in circulation and when we have to breath them 24 hours a day.

 

The algae I had been interested in are tiny but common in nature and their contribution can be very significant if properly harnessed but the experiments done on them are very few an far between.

I gather in Germany they are working on them to mop up CO2 emitted by coal power units.

What ever big or small engineering feats it may be whether it is motor car or a rocket no engineering feat can bring about more than 33% efficiency or throughput.

 

In biological system this is scaled down to less than 3 to 4% and even though the process is very slow by the shear numbers of biological beings and the multiplying cells the process of conversion is made good with eventually.

 

Problem with engineering feats is that they are not cost effective or efficient. 

The rate of conversion is fast and the rate of production of pollutants and poisons are also fast.

 

This is what I used to argue with my fellow engineering students at the campus many moons ago and also asked why they used heavy metal to built cars (that also not stainless steel) that is subjected to resistance or impedance or inertia of motion and why not aluminum like in aircrafts.

 

They will give some answers and I will give counter arguments while playing bridge (which I learnt from them) and this goes on with new themes added.

Years went by we parted and departed from ivory towers we built and went into real world and domestics. It is sad now I cannot find somebody to talk ten words in analytical English on a scientific topic or discussion.

Even, people like Prof. Carlo Fonseka talking and taking partisan in bizarre politics in their twilight years sadden me most. 

I am not saying that he not entitled to it. With his reputation if he makes a mistake his ardent followers are left astray.

 

What has happened to their scientific inquiry and what has happened to their inbuilt instincts.

 

We were fed a good and healthy dose of inquiry and free discussion then and now there is paucity of inquiry and query, question or rationalistic views about world around us living and inanimate (Physics).

I dearly remember Prof. Osmond Jayaratne and his investigation into lightening.

There was Prof. Rnjith Ruberu with beautiful exposition of Botany and Biology.

I am not talking about Chintanaya Professors with mathematical talents.

I never talked about biophysics then since all medical stuff including biochemistry was boring for me.

 

Now that I am somewhat of an independent thinker my argument of biophysics start with a simple relationship (not Newton’s equal and opposite reaction).

This is where I have element of disagreement with Buddhist practices, too.

Why only animals are sacred?

Why not other living things, the plants that all animals depend directly and indirectly?

To me plants are sacred too.

Without plant life the world cannot exist.

This is where my thinking is at variance with even Buddhist tenets.

Why there is only a law for animals?

Is it only animals with brains or nervous system that is important to Buddhists?

I have not found a answer for this in Buddhist scriptures.

So I am entitled to my own analysis in a biological sense.

So my simple theoretical aspect of biological relationships especially the biophysics is that there is infinite relationship one to one and one to many in every biological cell or biological system.

There is no distinction of pant life and animal life whatever the form it may be.

They are all life forms in a constant web of actions and reactions.

As far as we know they can be seen with definite evidence only on this planet.

This planet is the only planet we know of and I am not extrapolating to any other heavenly objects with life or without life in this universe.

Ever since the life began in this planet this biological or biophysical relationship continuously existed without a break.

There is either positive or negative relationship but this relationship is such that it was never to destroy or eliminate one or the other.

 

Continuity of life existed uninterrupted in spite of major physical catastrophes.

 

If this would not have being the case various new forms of life would not have emerged in evolution.

There was competition but never extermination by living thing by living things.

That is my bona fide or the compelling argument.

All life forms are important including mosquitoes whether they carry infectious agents or not.

We cannot argue that world should be without insects including mosquitoes.

There my argument and tent converge with Buddhism.

All life forms be happy!

It is the physical catastrophes that eliminated species lock stock and barrel but never simple biological competition.

This theoretical aspect had very interesting convergence when I saw my fish dieing in the open including the Guppies.

First I thought it was the algal bloom and the lack of oxygen.

It is the very simple and straight forward plausible explanation I can give.

But when this happened again and when I checked with the internal digital temperature it was not strange coincidence that the temperature was above 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

It was the global warming (atmospheric temperature) that killed the fishes, other factors were contributory.

 

Interestingly high atmospheric temperature encourages mosquito breeding.

 

Every ton of coal (when it is burnt 24 hours a day) we burn will increase the number of mosquitoes by billions!

Single physical change, the temperature alone can kill animals.

Humans can die of heat stroke and why not fish.

There is a protein called heat shock protein even in bacteria and our cells also have it in a different form and all animals too have this protein to overcome stress.  

Heat is a stress.

That system can easily be damaged.

Yes most of the fish who are kept indoors especially the mollies cannot live above 86 degrees.

 

It was only algal bloom and lack oxygen alone the some fish could come up and breath at the surface or produce young ones before dieing but this did not happen.

 

The biological relationships I propose in theory could not keep pace with the adverse temperature which is partly man made.

There was no time for evolutionary adaptation.

The other relationship is human population expansion.

I believe we have come to the optimum population of 6 billions.

The earth cannot sustain 9 billions.

This extra 3 billion will upset the balance of biophysical relationship that come into equilibrium in the microscopic levels.

The mega level is man and his megalomaniac beahviour.

Earth cannot sustain its biophysical relationships with the rate at human population is expanding and consuming all the limited resources.

Biophysical barrier will break down soon.

Then calamities after calamities would occur.

Gloom, bloom and doom unless we arrest the population expansion and the rate of use of easily available energy resources.

First we have to arrest the population growth.

Second we have to have a food security.

Third we have to prevent the made made causes of global warming.

Even in this country the priority is on energy and its use and its expansion and not conservation.

We got our priorities wrong.

We will loose all the biodiversity and elephants in no time.

We do not have neither the master plan nor the vision.

We do not have philosophers.

We do not have scientist of international caliber.

We only have politicians of various shades and colours but without a distinction.

23rd September (Poya)