India can be the Vishwa Guru on climate change: Mark Tully

I was in Kolkata just before Christmas, always a great time to be there because of the enthusiasm with which Kolkatans celebrate that festival. This time, while attempts to prevent Christians celebrating were made in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, in Kolkata , chief minister Mamata Banerjee joined in singing carols .

Whenever I speak about India’s tradition of religious tolerance, of accepting that there are different ways to god, I quote the way Indians of different faiths enjoy celebrating each other’s religious festivals. an example, I tell of my amazement to find Sikhs in the congregation at my first midnight mass in the Cathedral of the Redemption in New Delhi. I had just arrived from an England where my Roman Catholic friends were barred from coming to a Church of England service with me. But here were people of a completely different religion attending a Christian service. Since then I have frequently been invited to join in the celebrations of Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Muslim and Parsi festivals.

I went to Kolkata to attend the 10th World Confluence of Spirituality, Power, and Humanity organised by the Srei and Kanoria foundations. Several speakers at the conference suggested that India should be the vishwa or world’s guru because of its tradition of religious plurality. That plurality was highlighted by the wide variety of faith leaders at the conference.

Among them were the Roman Catholic archbishop of Ranchi, Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, and Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, chief imam of the All India Imam Organisations, the Venerable Bhikkhu Sanghasena of the Mahabodhi Meditation Centre in Leh, and Srimat Swami Shuddhianandaji, of the Advaita Ashram. The RSS was represented by Indresh Kumar. Former President of India Pranab Mukherjee also spoke.

I chaired a session discussing the possibility of India playing the role of vishwa guru in tackling the problem of climate change. The recent snowfall in Florida might even persuade United States President Donald Trump that this is a problem. In the session the threat the world faces from climate change and the degradation of our environment was discussed in a spiritual context. The disappointing progress made at the 2015 United Nations Paris Conference on Climate Change and Trump’s reaction to the limited accord which was reached there indicate how little the world’s political leaders will do to avert this threat.

But where do spiritual leaders come in? Climate change is a crisis which requires much more fundamental changes than technology can provide. The fundamental changes we need are changes in the way we live our lives. Those changes will only come about if we revive our respect for nature and it is faith traditions which teach that the earth and all that is in it is sacred.

In introducing the topic ‘Spirituality and Nature – Climate Change at the Confluence’, I quoted from Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. rangement is our madness in failing to realise the danger of the unthinkable happening if we don’t get real about climate change. Ghosh wrote, “The most promising development (in the environment movement) is the growing involvement of religious groups and leaders in the politics of climate change. If the securitization and corporatization of climate change is to be prevented, then already existing communities and mass organisations will have to be in the forefront of the struggle. And of such organisations, those with religious affiliations possess the ability to mobilize people in far greater number than any others.

The lifestyle changes we need to make are widely seen as burdensome, giving up a lot which makes life easier and enjoyable, but faith traditions demonstrate that we will live deeper, fuller, and hence happier lives if we do make the required changes. However, the impact of the faith communities would be much louder if they all spoke with one voice. At the end of our discussion the speakers, a Jesuit priest, Father Francis Gonsalves, an Islamic Scholar, Aslam Parvaiz, and two prominent Hindus, Swami Chidananda Saraswati, and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, all agreed it was worth continuing the search for that one voice.

Maybe India’s New Year’s resolution should be to become the Vishwa Guru on climate change by showing to the world that this one voice exists here and manifest its ability to mobilise people.


Deep, buried glaciers spotted on Mars

Deep, buried glaciers spotted on Mars

Buried glaciers have been spotted on Mars, offering new hints about how much water may be accessible on the Red Planet and where it is located, researchers said Thursday.

Although ice has long been known to exist on Mars, a better understanding of its depth and location could be vital to future human explorers, said the report in the US journal Science.

Astronauts could essentially just go there with a bucket and a shovel and get all the water they need," said co-author Shane Byrne of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson.

A total of eight ice sites, some as shallow as a few feet (one meter) below the surface, and going as deep as 100 meters or more, have been exposed by erosion.

These underground cliffs, or scarps, appear "to be nearly pure ice," said the report.

The discovery was possible due to images and data sent by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), launched in 2005.

The probe's first find of water on Mars was published in Science in 2010.

But now, scientists realize that ice is more widespread than previously thought, said lead author Colin Dundas, a geologist at the US Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Arizona.

There is shallow ground ice under roughly a third of the Martian surface, which records the recent history of Mars," he said.

What we've seen here are cross-sections through the ice that give us a 3-D view with more detail than ever before.

The ice contains bands and color variations that suggest it was formed layer by layer, perhaps as snow accumulated over time, leading to ice sheets.

Researchers believe the ice formed relatively recently, because the sites appear smooth on the surface, unpocked by craters that would be formed by celestial debris smashing into the planet over time.

But just how and when they formed remains unclear.

The cliffs are located in the northern and southern hemispheres of Mars, at a latitude of 55 to 58 degrees, which on Earth would be similar to Scotland or the tip of South America.

These regions slip into a frigid darkness during the Martian winter and would not be a suitable site for a long-term human camp.

However, they are not as treacherous as the poles, and if a sample could be drilled from one of the glaciers, researchers could learn plenty about Mars' climate and the potential for life on Earth's neighboring planet.

If you had a mission at one of these sites, sampling the layers going down the scarp, you could get a detailed climate history of Mars," said MRO deputy project scientist Leslie Tamppari of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

It's part of the whole story of what happens to water on Mars over time: Where does it go? When does ice accumulate? When does it recede?

NASA plans to send the first human explorers to Mars by the 2030s.


Minister commissions research on phasing out gas from Dutch homes

Minister commissions research on phasing out gas from Dutch homesPhoto:

Economic affairs minister Erik Wiebes has asked officials to investigate how gas-powered central heating systems can be phased out in the Netherlands.

Some 90% of Dutch homes are heated by gas but the government wants to slash this to meet targets on cutting fossil fuel usage set down in the Paris agreement on climate change.

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