February 1, 2010

Waste not

Posted in Economics, Environment at 9:13 pm by randallbutisingh

WASTE NOT WANT NOT

On March 15, 2008, I sounded the wake up call to all Americans in an article “Waste not want not” exhorting them to change their way of living as I envisaged the consequences of their wasteful habits..  This year, 2009, it became pellucidly clear  that my warning was timely; the middle and lower classes especially, are paying very dearly for their prodigality.

Read my article. Many people thought that this country,  the mightiest and richest in the world could never  be reduced to the state it is in now,  heavily indebted – and  squandering the poor taxpayer’s money in aids to foreign countries, Israel, the least deserving getting  forty per cent of all aids given, enabling her to build nuclear weapons as many as India and China put together.  She is now involved in a war that should not have been,  and to which there seems to be no end;   money squandered that could have been used to better  conditions at home.

Fellow Americans, if you are optimistic to the extent to think that things will get again to  what it  was before, think again.   That will never be.  The situation now calls for a definite change of lifestyle.   To alleviate the  suffering this crisis has caused, you will have to eliminate from your budget all luxuries and most of the amenities and live simply.  Let the rule be;  “not how much I want, but how much I can do without”.   Live simply.  It will eliminate stress, save money and benefit your health.  Put the land, whatever size it may be to good use by doing some kitchen gardening, using pots, if necessary.   Store your vegetable waste and build a compost to fertilize your plants.  Plant fruit trees.  Food is a basic necessity.   For your survival, it needs to be given top priority.  Eat a little less.  This will be good for your digestive organs and your waistline.

Begin seriously to recycle.  It will help save the environment from littering and save you money.  Recycle even your envelopes as was done during the Second World War.  Do not throw away your old shoes when it is most comfortable or your socks when it has a little hole; darn it as was being done in old times.  Learn to stitch and darn.  Practise self help so you will not have to pay for every service.   Learn to walk more when you have to travel short distances;  it will be good exercise for you and will save you fuel and wear and tear on your vehicle.

Rise early.  Morning is the best part of the day;  don’t waste it.  Get into the fresh air  and walk.   See the rising sun;  hear the birds sing, observe how all nature is awake, the busy bees flitting from flower to flower to collect nectar and pollinate the flower so that you can get fruit and grain for your table.   Party less, spend less on unproductive sports and read more for knowledge and entertainment.

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January 17, 2010

The lesson of Haiti

Posted in Environment, Politics tagged , , , at 9:20 pm by randallbutisingh

The lesson of Haiti – by Fidel Castro

January 14, 2009. 8:25 p.m.

TWO days ago, at almost six o’clock in the evening Cuban time and when, given its geographical location, night had already fallen in Haiti, television stations began to broadcast the news that a violent earthquake – measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale – had severely struck Port-au-Prince. The seismic phenomenon originated from a tectonic fault located in the sea just 15 kilometers from the Haitian capital, a city where 80% of the population inhabit fragile homes built of adobe and mud.

The news continued almost without interruption for hours. There was no footage, but it was confirmed that many public buildings, hospitals, schools and more solidly-constructed facilities were reported collapsed. I have read that an earthquake of the magnitude of 7.3 is equivalent to the energy released by an explosion of 400,000 tons of TNT.

Tragic descriptions were transmitted. Wounded people in the streets were crying out for medical help, surrounded by ruins under which their relatives were buried. No one, however, was able to broadcast a single image for several hours.

The news took all of us by surprise. Many of us have frequently heard about hurricanes and severe flooding in Haiti, but were not aware of the fact that this neighboring country ran the risk of a massive earthquake. It has come to light on this occasion that 200 years ago, a massive earthquake similarly affected this city, which would have been the home of just a few thousand inhabitants at that time.

At midnight, there was still no mention of an approximate figure in terms of victims. High-ranking United Nations officials and several heads of government discussed the moving events and announced that they would send emergency brigades to help. Given that MINUSTAH (United Stabilization Mission in Haiti) troops are deployed there – UN forces from various countries – some defense ministers were talking about possible casualties among their personnel.

It was only yesterday, Wednesday morning, when the sad news began to arrive of enormous human losses among the population, and even institutions such as the United Nations mentioned that some of their buildings in that country had collapsed, a word that does not say anything in itself but could mean a lot.

For hours, increasingly more traumatic news continued to arrive about the situation in this sister nation. Figures related to the number of fatal victims were discussed, which fluctuated, according to various versions, between 30,000 and 100,000. The images are devastating; it is evident that the catastrophic event has been given widespread coverage around the world, and many governments, sincerely moved by the disaster, are making efforts to cooperate according to their resources.

The tragedy has genuinely moved a significant number of people, particularly those in which that quality is innate. But perhaps very few of them have stopped to consider why Haiti is such a poor country. Why does almost 50% of its population depend on family remittances sent from abroad? Why not analyze the realities that led Haiti to its current situation and this enormous suffering as well?

The most curious aspect of this story is that no one has said a single word to recall the fact that Haiti was the first country in which 400,000 Africans, enslaved and trafficked by Europeans, rose up against 30,000 white slave masters on the sugar and coffee plantations, thus undertaking the first great social revolution in our hemisphere. Pages of insurmountable glory were written there. Napoleon’s most eminent general was defeated there. Haiti is the net product of colonialism and imperialism, of more than one century of the employment of its human resources in the toughest forms of work, of military interventions and the extraction of its natural resources.

This historic oversight would not be so serious if it were not for the real fact that Haiti constitutes the disgrace of our era, in a world where the exploitation and pillage of the vast majority of the planet’s inhabitants prevails.

Billions of people in Latin American, Africa and Asia are suffering similar shortages although perhaps not to such a degree as in the case of Haiti.
Situations like that of that country should not exist in any part of the planet, where tens of thousands of cities and towns abound in similar or worse conditions, by virtue of an unjust international economic and political order imposed on the world. The world population is not only threatened by natural disasters such as that of Haiti, which is a just a pallid shadow of what could take place in the planet as a result of climate change, which really was the object of ridicule, derision, and deception in Copenhagen.

It is only just to say to all the countries and institutions that have lost citizens or personnel because of the natural disaster in Haiti: we do not doubt that in this case, the greatest effort will be made to save human lives and alleviate the pain of this long-suffering people. We cannot blame them for the natural phenomenon that has taken place there, even if we do not agree with the policy adopted with Haiti.

But I have to express the opinion that it is now time to look for real and lasting solutions for that sister nation.

In the field of healthcare and other areas, Cuba – despite being a poor and blockaded country – has been cooperating with the Haitian people for many years. Around 400 doctors and healthcare experts are offering their services free of charge to the Haitian people. Our doctors are working every day in 227 of the country’s 337 communes. On the other hand, at least 400 young Haitians have trained as doctors in our homeland. They will now work with the reinforcement brigade which traveled there yesterday to save lives in this critical situation. Thus, without any special effort being made, up to 1,000 doctors and healthcare experts can be mobilized, almost all of whom are already there willing to cooperate with any other state that wishes to save the lives of the Haitian people and rehabilitate the injured. Another significant number of young Haitians are currently studying medicine in Cuba.

We are also cooperating with the Haitian people in other areas within our reach. However, there can be no other form of cooperation worthy of being described as such than fighting in the field of ideas and political action in order to put an end to the limitless tragedy suffered by a large number of nations such as Haiti.

The head of our medical brigade reported: “The situation is difficult, but we have already started saving lives.” He made that statement in a succinct message hours after his arrival yesterday in Port-au-Prince with additional medical reinforcements.

Later that night, he reported that Cuban doctors and ELAM’s Haitian graduates were being deployed throughout the country. They had already seen more than 1,000 patients in Port-au-Prince, immediately establishing and putting into operation a hospital that had not collapsed and using field hospitals where necessary. They were preparing to swiftly set up other centers for emergency care.
We feel a wholesome pride for the cooperation that, in these tragic instances, Cuba doctors and young Haitian doctors who trained in Cuba are offering our brothers and sisters in Haiti!

— Fidel Castro Ruz
January 14, 2009. 8:25 p.m.

Translated by Granma International

September 23, 2009

GUARDIAN ANGELS II

Posted in Environment, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion tagged , , , , , at 1:05 pm by randallbutisingh

GUARDIAN ANGELS II

It was on a great looking South Florida summer afternoon in 1995. After I got home from work I decided to go for my usual two- mile walk around my neighborhood. Nearby was a large plot of land was occupied by a plant nursery and I would say that its length was about half a mile. I had a friend, Mike Roberts, doing some carpentry work on our house at the time, and I told him that I was on my way to go walking around the nursery.

Going west, about the equivalent of three city blocks away was the nursery. I rounded a corner on the west side of it and proceeded north going towards Eureka Drive, a main route. On my left were three houses, sitting far apart on remote farms, all enclosed by barbed wire fences and ferocious dogs; nothing else. Strangely enough I never looked skyward, but about midway on that half-mile strip I became aware of a sudden darkening of the skies up, and ahead of me.

I figured that I would be able to touch Eureka Drive, turn around, and be home before there was a cloudburst. Although being a seasoned seaman and knowing something about summer squalls, I underestimated nature and the fury of a Florida thunderstorm. Two more minutes, and the clouds broke loose like the biblical deluge; ten seconds and I was completely drenched with no possibility of seeking any kind of refuge or shelter and slightly more than half a mile from home, including the three city blocks.

This was no ordinary rainfall, there were countless bolts of lightening all around me, hitting the asphalt ferociously with circles of fire in front, sideways, and behind with no end in sight. Tears came to my eyes and I started wondering why I had been saved from a heart attack in December1992, only to die this way.

Then it all came back – between two and three o’ clock that same afternoon, Anthony Rivera, another officer on the job looked at me with squinted eyes and asked, “Hey Ram, do your religion or culture have women dressed in full colourful clothing and jewellery and can be described as Goddesses?” I responded in the affirmative and asked the reason for the question. He stated    “I just saw you in a big circle of fire surrounded by some of these Goddesses but the fire never touched you”. He asked a few more questions about the culture and religion of Hindus, all of which he described in his “vision”. About the fire, I told him that Hindus pray with a little fire burning in front of them and thought no more of our little conversation.

The torrential rain, thunder and lightening kept on, and on, with sparks and fire all around me, some as close as fifteen inches away from my feet. I kept on trudging and came across the previously mentioned corner and turned east, and after about nine minutes, in the wall of rain I made out a red pick-up truck headed in my direction. The driver stopped, and it was Mike ordering me to get into the truck.

I protested, not wanting to mess up his vehicle, he insisted, and stated the obvious danger. As we drove back to the house he said that when he realised the full fury of the storm he had to find me.

Was this the end of storm or danger? Not yet!

As we got out of the truck and started walking to a side door of the house a blue bolt of lightening hit the driveway, about three feet away from the truck’s tail end. The noise was deafening, and the flame was blue, the bluest we had ever seen, better described as a deep ultra violet, the size of a football, soccer, as called by some folks. On a lighter side, Mike laughed and said: “that’s your warning, Pat”.

Next day I sought out Anthony Rivera on the job and asked him to recount to me what he had seen in his “vision” the previous day. He reiterated everything without skipping a beat or changing his thought processes. After he was done I gave him an account of my horrifying episode, – his reply? He only confirmed what he had said on two different occasions.

I am not a practising religious person and I do not believe in coincidences, however, I do believe in a “higher order” that sends “guardian angels” to watch over us.

Anthony Rivera and Mike Roberts will be given a copy of this essay.

Patanjali Ramlall : Guest Contributor

“The greatest human being who ever lived”

Posted in Economics, Environment, Science & Technology tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 11:07 am by randallbutisingh

Monday, September 21, 2009 06:25 PM

The death of the greatest human being who ever lived

Norman Borlaug saved between 200 million and 1 billion people, depending on the math

Norman Borlaug saved between 200 million and 1 billion people, depending on the math

By: Andrew Steele – Globe and Mail Newspaper, Toronto. Canada.

Norman Borlaug is dead. (Click on his name to see his Biography on http://www.Nobelprize.org)

That probably means nothing to most people.

But Borlaug – along with other researchers who create the Green Revolution in food production – saved between two hundred million people and one billion people, depending on how you do the math.

Norman Borlaug spent decades with the Rockefeller Foundation in Mexico cross-breeding grain varieties to produce a new disease-resistant dwarf strain of wheat that transformed agriculture, especially in the third world.

Previously, nations from Turkey to Mexico to India were rocked regularly by crop failures. Too much or too little rain, heat or cold could plunge entire nations into famine, war or revolution.

In the 1960’s, Borlaug introduced new strains that absorbed more nitrogen and thus grew faster. Previously, plants that grew faster just fell over and rotted, but Borlaug cross bred them with shorter “dwarf” plants with hardy thick stalks that could stand up to high nitrogen absorption. The result was fast-growing, disease-resistant plants perfect for unstable climates.

He also introduced backcrossing techniques that increased their disease resistance through selective breeding.

Most importantly, he was focused on using these techniques specifically to alleviate starvation in the developing world. His goal was always to attack famine, not merely to improve margins in agribusiness.

His impact was immediate and dramatic.

When his seeds were used widely in 1963, Mexico instantly went from famine-prone to a wheat-exporter. Their wheat harvest was six times greater after Borlaug was done than before he started his work. Imagine the compromised stability of Canada and the United States if Mexico were still endured regular famines threatening the lives of millions.

Borlaug’s seeds arrived on the sub-continent in 1965 as it was roiling through famine and war. Within five years, the previously starving Pakistan was self-sufficient for grains. India would be self-sufficient within a decade. The two nations were transformed. It is impossible to conceive of the great leaps of Mumbai and Kolkata in an India still experiencing regular famine. Consider the reception of the Taliban in Northern Pakistan if the government could not prevent famine in that region. Food security is a huge contributor to world peace.

He would go on to introduce new rice strains in China and grains in Africa that would continue to save millions.

It was conventional wisdom in the 1960s that hundreds of millions would die of mass starvation and no one could do anything about it. Biologist Paul Ehrlich wrote in 1968, “the battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate…”

Borlaug did.

His persistence and inventiveness demolished a horseman of the apocalypse. Today, the causes of famine are almost always political rather than weather. The disaster is far less common in the south and virtually forgotten in the developed world.

For his efforts, Borlaug won the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and was the subject of an episode of Penn and Teller’s Bullshit where he was lauded as the “Greatest Human Being Who Has Ever Lived.”

Some critics have attempted to argue that Borlaug’s work contributed to the environmental challenges of today, that the population growth of the last forty years contributed to or even caused climate change or resource depletion. Others have decried his invention as “genetically modified food,” which it undeniably is.

Borlaug himself remained concerned about population growth and resource use. But the reality is that Borlaug’s work was instrumental in saving the hundreds of millions of lives and hundreds of millions of trees. The Borlaug Hypothesis in agronomy states “increasing the productivity of agriculture on the best farmland can help control deforestation by reducing the demand for new farmland.” In other words, you do a better job with what you have and you won’t need to use virgin resources.

Of his harshest critics Borlaug stated, “some… are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They’ve never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things.”

Borlaug remained grounded despite his elevation to sainthood with the Nobel Prize win. He continued to work in Africa, Asia and Latin America improving crop yields. In 1986, he created the World Food Prize to continue to spark innovation in food production.

Norman Borlaug died on September 12, 2009, at 95 years of age. His family released a simple statement that “We would like his life to be a model for making a difference in the lives of others and to bring about efforts to end human misery for all mankind.”

When Princess Diana died, television networks covered it 24/7. Michael Jackson’s passing created a tsunami of Internet traffic. I learned about Borlaug’s passing on the sidebar of a news website on global development issues in foreign policy.

Norman Borlaug goes to a better place having made the Earth undeniably better, safer and freed from hunger.

And he goes in virtual silence……

———————————————————————————————————————

– Submitted by Cyril Bryan – Guest Contributor.

September 21, 2009

A thing of beauty is a joy forever

Posted in Art : Beauty, Environment, Philosophy tagged , at 1:10 am by randallbutisingh

This quote is taken from a poem by John Keats, the English Romantic lyric poet who died at the young age of twenty six.  He was one of the famous Lake poets, the other two were Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley.  Keats also wrote some  Odes which, among others, were his most distinctive achievements.  Ode to Autumn, Ode to the Nightingale and Ode to the Grecian urn are but a few.  Beauty like love never dies.  There are a number of things which I cannot forget as long as I live.  I remember one day walking along the road when I saw the woman who loved me coming towards me.  When she saw me she flashed me one of those beautiful smiles which only she could.  It was like the freshness of a breeze.  I cannot forget that.  Then there was the day as I was walking to school, I spied a lone wild white flower in the green field.  It attracted my attention.  I stopped and gazed at it for some time oblivious of time, then there was the time when I was pulling weeds in my garden when I saw two tiny bluebells among the weeds.  I was entranced by them; I stopped and gazed at them for a while and could not bear pulling them out; so I left them there to blow.   Shortly after I wrote a poem about them – Wild Flowers – which could be found in my weblog.

There are other incidents in my life, but I just mentioned these few to show that  Beauty is Truth, and Truth like Love is enduring, therefore  a thing of beauty is a joy forever.  Hats off to  Young Jonn Keats.

– Randall Butisingh

September 20, 2009

Discussions with Brian Konkal -13 : South Africa

Posted in Education, Environment, Religion, South Africa tagged , , at 6:01 am by randallbutisingh

Discussions with Brian Konkal -13 : South Africa

Clearing away the smoke (Kristen F. Konkol)

To read with pictures go to: (http://briankristenkonkol.blogspot.com)

Smoke billows into the air, covering the landscape. The clear sunny skies have a hazy look to them as the fire burns away at the earth. The acrid smell hits your nose and you merely look into the distance amongst the rolling landscape to spy the source stimulating your senses. The dry Kwa-Zulu Natal winter months bring many controlled (and some uncontrolled) burns to the dry, crisp and pale landscape. The charred and blackened earth can be seen in vast hectors of land in both rural and cityscapes alike. As you travel down the roads, you are occasionally even made to detour as the smoke envelopes the sky and visibility is minimal. This blackened earth is commonplace throughout the months of June-August in our province (and some others) as a practice of cyclic renewal of the earth.

Oftentimes one may think how unattractive, stale and lifeless the landscape looks throughout these months. But with the first rains at the end of August, the green “fuzz” appears as you look over the vast areas of land. For amidst the charred and lifeless remains of earth springs new buds and blades of green. Renewal begins and the cyclic pendulum has swung, bringing beauty and color to the once inert landscape. The green “fuzz” gets thicker as the grass, plants and trees begin to taste the sweet drops of moisture from the swollen clouds. The beauty and fragrance of the flowering trees and plants tickles the senses as one walks down the road seeing eye-catching violets, corals, reds and other vibrant colors springing out from the buds. As the memory of the dry and charred earth fades, one is reminded that there is always more than meets the eye. For a snapshot in time of this blackened earth would not capture the potential and cycle of renewal that takes place in Kwa-Zulu Natal (and other parts of South Africa). There are so many life-giving occurrences that happen each and every day reminding us that there really is so much more than the senses can take in and process.

This can also be illustrated by a recent experience we were blessed with in Alexandra Township . “Alex” as it is known, is one of the oldest townships in South Africa and is situated on the outskirts of Johannesburg , close to Sandton, one of the very affluent and wealthiest suburbs in South Africa . In contrast, Alexandra is one of the poorest urban areas in the country. Picture over a million people sandwiched into a few square kilometers of space. As one enters the township many of the observed homes, hostels (housing thousands), dwellings and shacks are put together with any variety of resources. Here the color and vibrancy of trees, grass and flowers are replaced by dirt, garbage and bland colored materials of the make-shift small shops and densely crammed houses.

But just as the blackened earth provides one with the mistaken identity of a lifeless snapshot, the outward appearance of Alex is deceiving, for it is one of the most vibrant and alive places to have the opportunity to experience. The kids dancing on the corner, the soccer games happening in every available space, the women sitting, talking and singing as they sell their goods, the man sewing with amazing craftsmanship in his shop, people walking up and down the streets greeting one another with familiar smiles…life abounds! People flow in mass numbers up the main streets (6 in one direction, 22 the other) creating a notable buzz. The energy in Alex is contagious and one is reminded again that there is so much more than meets the eye. As we came to a seemingly ordinary and small room made of cinder block, we are told it was once the home of the world-renowned Nelson Mandela. Not only he, but so many other notable names such as Hugh Masekela (musician and trumpeter), Mark Mathabane (tennis player and author of the autobiography Kaffir Boy), Samora Machel (former Mozambiquan president), Alfred Nzo (South African Minister of Foreign Affairs 1994-1999), Wally Serote (poet), Annie Twala (the “Mother of Alexandra”), Sam Buti (reverend) and many others called Alex their home.

From one of the main streets we were then directed into an alley like area. From the portal of the road we entered the bowels of Alex and were treated to the sweet sounds of jazz. We were in one of the oldest jazz “clubs” in the country (oldest in Alex) and have an amazing cross-cultural exchange of learning local greetings with the people there. So many laughs occurred and so much was learned and experienced between two seemingly dissimilar people from different backgrounds. An observer would think it a group who knew each other for years. As dusk drew near, and we exited Alex, the “smoke” had cleared and we could see that this place was not the snapshot of a dry and blacked earth, but the green “fuzz” and vibrancy of so much potential, color and flare…the beautiful people!

What we are reminded of every day is how blessed we are to see the cycles of life here and to see beyond the snapshots and begin to piece together clips to the bigger picture. We are humbled each and every day to look beyond the sometimes challenging outward appearance and see the beauty and amazing gifts within the people we walk and serve alongside. For we continue to see that the blackened earth provides so many amazing green and vibrant blades of renewal and life-giving promise in so many ways!

With peace and love,

– Kristen F. Konkal

Rev. Brian & Kristen Konkol, Project Coordinators, South Africa
Young Adults in Global Mission, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
P.O. Box 28694. Haymarket.3200. South Africa.

September 1, 2009

A garden is a lovesome thing

Posted in Art : Beauty, Environment tagged , , at 9:06 pm by randallbutisingh

A garden is a lovesome thing

God wot!

Fringed pool,

Ferned grot.

The veriest school of Peace; and yet the fool contends

that God is not –

Not God!  – in Gardens! when the eve is cool?

Nay, but I have a sign,

‘Tis very sure God walks in mine.

–Thomas Edward Brown (1830 – 1897).


Comment:

Agriculture is the noblest profession  and the farmer the most important of all workers because on him depends the sustenance of the human race.  He grows the food the world has to eat.  Air and water the prime necessities are free, but food for the nourishment of the human body has to be grown.  The Farmer is the co-creator with God.  He plants and waters, but God gives the increase.

The poet, though was speaking of a beautiful Flower Garden where one can go for relaxation and refreshment of spirit in the evening and enjoy the beauty of the flowers – an ambiance conducive to peace and quiet; or as I put it in one of my poems -VIGILANCE BEACH –  (where) ” Remote from the toil and strife of busy life, I sit and dream in peace.”

There is also a song in the the HYMNAL  which puts a visit to the Garden very nicely.  It goes:

I come to the garden alone   While the dew is still on the roses;   And the voice I hear falling on my ear,  The Son of God discloses;   And He walks with me and He talks with me  and He tells me I am His own,    And the joy we share as we tarry there,  None other has never known.

There are two more stanzas to this Hymn which can be found in  THE HYMNAL  of the West Lauderdale Baptist Church.

– Randall Butisingh

May 10, 2009

A thought for Mother’s Day

Posted in Education, Environment, Guyana, Philosophy, Thoughts tagged , , , , at 2:58 am by randallbutisingh

PROTECTION OF MOTHER EARTH

Today, on Mother’s Day,  I wish to divert my attention from the usual celebration of our biological mothers to focus and pay obeisance to that Great Mother whom a wise Creator has provided for the sustenance of His children and without whom there could have been no physical existence.   I refer to Mother Earth.

We, mankind are all built with the same materials, varying only in colour, shape and size;  each endowed with his own peculiar talents;  and each, if he were to use them wisely and to its full potential will make for a world of peace and happiness.

The Amerindian, supposedly a primitive people has a wise saying which goes;  “the sun is my father and the earth, my mother,” and also “we belong to the land and not the land to us.”  The Amerindian will never abuse the land and what it provides.  He will never wantonly destroy forests or kill more buffalos than is required for his immediate use; and though sometimes he may stumble into the war path, as mortals are prone to from the beginning of time, he is always willing to sit with the enemy and smoke the peace pipe.    But alas! civilised man, who appears civilised outside, but is uncivilised inside, comes and stakes out a section of God’s earth and claims it as his own; then in the name of progress, he will cover it with concrete and asphalt after destroying the forests and draining the marshlands which give sustenance to other forms of life which we neeed for our sustenance, making them endangered species.  He will destroy large number of cattle so as to get only the skin. or for raising the price of beef, or slaughter large herds of the Caribou so as to get only the tongue or huge shoals of sharks so as to get the fins , or herds of elephants so as to get the tusks;  and I can go on and on.  What about the idle rich Englishman who would hunt for foxes with his dogs or the Raja who would hunt the Bengal tiger for sport.

Civilised man also scars the bosom of Mother earth with his mining activities.  He drills for enormous quantities of fossil fuels and pumps enormous quantities of water from the soil for use in his factories.  These activities also contribute to land slides and global warming from the huge quantities of carbon that are spewed into the atmosphere.  He also mines for  enormous quantities of the metals to fashion his battle ships and weapons of mass destruction.  In mining for gold, he pollutes the rivers, the source for fishes and domestic use.  This is very much evident in Guyana where the miners not only scar the land but pollute the rivers with mercury, endangering the lives of the Aboriginal Indians.

Now, to satisfy his desire tor wealth and control, he has directed his greed on his neighbour whom he is supposed to love as himself, in order to wrest from him what is not his.  The result  – a world  divisive and infected with the virus of conflicts and full scale war.

At this time Mother Earth is crying out to her children to halt the carnage or she will not  have the capacity to sustain coming generations.

Surely. in these circumstances,  many cannot go along with celebrating Mother’s Day.  Instead,  all can cooperate and come to the  rescue of Mother Earth, for without her sustenance, we shall all perish.

May 6, 2009

Who am I?

Posted in Environment, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion tagged , , , at 8:54 am by randallbutisingh

We will ever be restless until we find rest in Thee

I am a wave leaping out of the Ocean lifted by a gust of vagrant wind.  I see many like myself, each of us with its own individuality, dimension and behaviour.   Somes as gentle ripples, hardly rocking the boat, others larger inviting the surfer and yet others huge and boisterous which can toss large vessels about or cause devastating floods.  We believe that we are not the same and one with the source from which we came.  This causes conflicts and restlessness among us.  What we truly are is lying peacefully beneath us and we will ever be restless until we realise that we are one, and one with the Source from which we came — the Ocean.

Randall Butisingh

April 1, 2009

GUYANA: GREEN AND TROUBLED LAND

Posted in Economics, Environment, Guyana tagged , , at 2:31 pm by randallbutisingh

guyanagreen.jpg

Guyana is a hard country to place. Mike Atherton only got to know it after falling in love on a cricket tour; now it’s part of his life. As England’s cricketers return there, he sketches a nation of great beauty stumped by its recent history …

From INTELLIGENT LIFE Magazine, Spring 2009

The very name provokes head-scratching and blank looks: Guyana? The most common reaction, after the initial puzzlement, is to ask which bit of Africa it is in (Guinea? Ghana?). Further bewilderment follows the revelation that not only is Guyana on the South American mainland, sandwiched between Venezuela, Brazil and Suriname, but that it is also, historically, culturally, politically and economically, part of the English-speaking Caribbean. The confusion is fitting: Guyana is a confusing country.

Two countries, really. One is the narrow strip which runs along the Atlantic coastline for 430km. This is where the vast majority of the population resides, squeezed between encroaching jungle on one side and wild ocean on the other. Farmland—rice and sugar, mainly—hinders the jungle’s desire to reclaim its territory and a crumbling sea wall keeps the ocean at bay. The sea wall could be an allegory for the Guyanese themselves, seemingly fighting a losing battle against both the elements and other, man-made troubles. At the heart of this country is the capital, Georgetown, once the “garden city” of the Caribbean, now decaying.

The other country is a vast, largely uncharted wilderness, a country of infinite beauty, hardship and endless possibilities. It is the size of Great Britain but is one of the most sparsely populated areas in the world. It is a land of mighty rivers, stunning waterfalls and huge savannahs. It is inhabited by small numbers of Amerindians, whose way of life has been little changed by the upheaval from colonialism to independence, by hardy gold and diamond prospectors, and by species of wildlife, such as the jaguar and the harpy eagle, which are rare and endangered.

This is a country replete with minerals of all kinds, which should be thriving in our commodity-driven age. A Canadian exploration company believes that it has found an offshore oilfield [2] —of which Guyana recently won control after a long legal battle with Suriname—that would dwarf the North Sea. And as water threatens tobecome one of the most valuable resources of the 21st century, nowhere should be better placed to exploit this than Guyana, whose very name means “the land of many waters”.


The contrast between the narrow coastal strip and the uncharted hinterland has been neatly expressed in the literature about Guyana. In1960, as the independence movement was coursing through the region,
Trinidad’s prime minister, Eric Williams, sent the novelist V.S. Naipaul on a year-long tour of the Caribbean colonies to record his impressions before the inevitable change. The result was Naipaul’s
first work of non-fiction, “The Middle Passage [3]
(1962), in which he wrote disparagingly about Guyana, “its size, its emptiness, the isolation of its communities”. For Naipaul, the landscape reflected the reality on the ground—a thin fringe of development dwarfed by a vast, uncultivated interior. “In the bush”, he wrote, “there are little irregular areas of timorous destruction—indicating attitudes you will learn to associate with British Guiana.”

For Wilson Harris, Guyana’s most famous and least understood novelist, the hinterland represented something very different. Before he dipped his quill, he had already charted large sections of the forest as a government surveyor and liked what he had seen. Before his exploration, “the map of the savannahs was a dream,”he wrote, “the names of Brazil and Guyana were colonial conventions I had known from childhood.” In his best-known novel, “The Palace of the Peacock [4]” (1960), he celebrated what Naipaul was to disparage. Where Naipaul felt that Europe’s “civilising” mission had not gone far enough, Harris felt the bush was a natural corrective to the deformations of colonialism.

Fifty years after these two novelists brought their trained eyes to bear upon Guyana, both impressions still seem valid. The hinterland contains the largest pristine rainforest left on the planet but the impoverished, ethnically divided and under-developed country on its periphery is ranked 110th on the United Nations’ Human Development Index [5], well below other Caribbean nations like Barbados and Trinidad, both of which, once upon a time, would have lagged well behind their South American neighbour.

It is time for a confession of bias. My wife is Guyanese, my children have Guyanese passports and I have spent many happy hours in downtown Georgetown drinking rum and discussing, in order of importance, the latest West Indian cricketing shambles and the uselessness of politicians [6]. Rum, by the way, is one thing that the Guyanese do better than anybody.
The Eldorado 15-year-old Special Reserve was voted the best rum in the world in 1999, 2000 and 2001. Even non-liquor drinkers cannot but appreciate its aromatic flavours. Just a little ice or water will do: on no account defile it with Coke.

It was in 1994, during a thunderstorm magnificent in its intensity, the kind that only the tropics can provide, that my future link with this strange land was forged. England were due to play Guyana in a four-day match at the Bourda ground as part of our preparations for the Test series, but local custom has it that cricket brings rain and within an hour of the heavens opening, it had flooded Georgetown (which lies below sea-level) to the extent that it was immediately clear that there would be no play the next day. The Sidewalk Café was one of the few places to go for a drink—these were the days when sportsmen were not so fussy about their pre-match preparation—and it was there that my future wife was. She was giving her brother a send-off drink before he was due to be charged and sentenced next day for contempt of court over an article written in the local newspaper.

It is amazing the lengths you will go when your heart misses a beat. I soon found myself, in between trying to captain England [7] and score a few runs, coaching children in an orphanage just outside Georgetown, walking the sea wall at dusk, and generally finding any excuse to develop my new-found enthusiasm. The ensuing bond was fortunate in many ways, one of which was that without it I would surely have taken home an impression of Guyana, as many cricketers do, shaped only by the damp walls of the Pegasus hotel, the brown-stained ocean, a few angry mosquito bites and the dark, sullen clouds that kept emptying their load. Not the Caribbean of popular imagination, of golden sands and azure seas, that’s for sure.

My last visit to Georgetown, in November, was an altogether sadder occasion, returning as I was for the funeral of my father-in-law. David de Caires was a wonderful man who stayed put through the troubles of the disastrous Forbes Burnha years, when many of his contemporaries left the country. Burnham, who was Afro-Guyanese, formed a nominally socialist party and played on the cold-war fears of successive American administrations to get help in bringing down the Marxist, mostly Indian, government. After independence from Britain, he kept himself in power by rigging elections, nationalised key industries which led to economic collapse and silenced the free press. The legacy of that era is a bitter ethnic divide [6], and my father-in-law involved himself with anything that might help to heal it, principally through the Stabroek News, Guyana’s most respected independent newspaper which he founded following the death of Burnham, and then edited, but also through his other enthusiasms which included the restoration of the theatre guild and the Camp Street renovations.

On the kind of glorious, breezy Caribbean day that constantly reinforced his hopes for the potential of the region, he would have been gratified at the turnout for his memorial at Brickdam, the huge Catholic cathedral that dominates the heart of the old city. Every shade of colour and ethnic mix was there—blacks, Indians, Portuguese, Amerindians—and every level of society from cabinet ministers to a group of youngsters from the St John Bosco orphanage. And for once, the sentiments were shared by all.

Such moments of unity are all too rare. Since the 1950s, Georgetown and violence have gone together like rum and water. The forbidding atmosphere that often pervades Georgetown—especially at election time—was noted in 1974 by Jane Kramer in a prescient New Yorker piece entitled “A letter from Guyana”. “The restlessness here”, she wrote, “is not the noisy, nervy restlessness of, say, Trinidad or Jamaica but a kind of anxious energy with a sullen, still, expectant edge to it.” Ethnic crime between those of Indian descent—the majority—and those of African descent has been widespread, but more recently it has been ratcheted up, with appalling massacres in the Indian village of Lusignan and the frontier town of Bartica on the Essequibo river.

Today’s violence is a direct hangover from the Burnham years, during which Guyana fell behind its Caribbean neighbours in social and economic development. Sugar and bauxite were among the industries that were nationalised, the civil service and judiciary were subordinated to party interests, and exchange controls put in place so that a thriving black market in foreign currency developed. The education system collapsed, the middleclasses fled and the skilled workforce disappeared. In 2007 the World Bank reported that the Caribbean contained seven countries with the world’s highest emigration rates for college students, of which Guyana, with an astonishing 89%, was the highest.

Although Georgetown today reflects this unhappy recent history, it is possible to glimpse, through the decay, the splendours of another past. The avenues are wide and tree-lined, and the old wooden buildings that survive are rather grand—raised on stilts to protect against flooding with beautiful Demerara shutters to keep out the rain and draw in the sea breeze. Several striking buildings remain by the Maltese-born, Italian-trained architect Cesar Castellani (Castellani House, once the prime minister’s residence, is now the National Art Gallery), and there are pleasant public areas such as the Promenade Gardens to shade you from the heat.

Across the road from the Promenade Gardens, however, the Parade Ground  has a darker history, one that suggests this garden city has always had its serpents. In 1823, after rumour that the king’s plans to free them were being ignored by the colonial authorities, 13,000 slaves turned on their overseers and owners in what came to be known as the Demerara Uprising. The rebellion was nipped in the bud in brutal fashion. Several of the slaves were publicly hanged where the Promenade Gardens stand today, a disturbing background to the now-tranquil site, noted by Guyana’s most celebrated poet, MartinCarter: “Old hanging ground is still playing field/ Smooth cemetery proud garden of tall flowers.”

Many of the old buildings hav collapsed or been torn down or destroyed in one of the city’s many fires. Ugly concrete buildings have replaced them. Few avenues have been properly maintained, the drains are often clogged and stagnant and the kokers (sluices) work only intermittently. It doesn’t take much for the city to become flooded. Given a combination of factors—principally a more stable political landscape that would help arrest emigration—it could be returned to its previous glory. This is unlikely to happen anytime soon, though. The decline has been too steep, the inbuilt ethnic prejudices are too strong and the violence, now boosted by a sharp increase in money-laundering and drug and gun crime, is endemic.

There are many ways to leave the troubles of Georgetown behind. The easiest is to hop on a small plane at the Ogle airfield, just outside the capital. This is cheating a little, since getting to the bush should involve some sense of hardship, but from above the sight is astonishing: dense broccoli-like vegetation that stretches as far as the eye can see, interspersed only by the silver veins, glinting in the sun, of the Demerara and Essequibo rivers as they wind their way into the heart of darkness. Guyana has 600 miles of navigable waterways and it is on one of its rivers, the Potaro, that Guyana’s greatest natural wonder can be found. Kaieteur Falls is five times higher than Niagara and twice the height of Victoria and every day 60m tonnes of tea-coloured water tumble over its edge into the abyss below. If you have lemming-like tendencies, there is nothing to stop you. And it is totally unspoilt; if you want to avoid the six-day overland trek, then you can find yourself right by the falls after just an hour in the plane.

Otherwise, set off north-west of Georgetown, over the Demerara bridge, through villages that could be transported to any state in India without being lost in translation, and through the market town of Parika, until you reach the banks of the Essequibo, which at 1,000km long and 20km wide at its mouth is Guyana’s mightiest river. Here you can take a water-taxi, sighting howler monkeys on the way, to one of the many eco-lodges that border its banks, or visit Kyk-over-Al, the tiny island where Dutch settlers made their first headquarters. The name means “see-over-all” and the view of the Essequibo and Mazaruni rivers from this settlement is indeed stunning. If your experience of rivers is something like the Thames, or maybe a gentle trout stream, then the sheer scale of the Essequibo will blow your mind.

This is about as far as most visitors get, but  there is much more on offer for those both able to afford the cost of transport into the interior and prepared to suffer its hardships. It is easy to be romantic about the bush, but on my own trips up the Essequibo I have had to come to terms with a tarantula nesting above my bed, piranha swimming below my feet and a jaguar’s footprints in the morning sand revealing its night-prowling proximity.

Near the geographical centre of Guyana, deep in the interior, lies the Iwokrama International Centre [8], a vast protected area of rainforest established to study how best the forest might be preserved. I am told that Iwokrama offers visitors the best chance of seeing a jaguar and it is from here that Guyana’s huge variety of wildlife can best be experienced. Beyond there, if the body and mind are willing, the dry grasslands of the Rupununi savannahs stretch away until, eventually, you reach Brazil. This is true cowboy (and malaria) country, with rodeos attracting cowboys from the Rupununi and Brazil at Easter.

If Guyana really is two countries that rarely intertwine, the question must be, “how can one help the other?” Can this pristine rainforest contribute in some way to the development of the impoverished land on its doorstep? Eco-tourism is one obvious way forward, following the examples of Costa Rica and Ecuador which have benefited enormously from such an approach.

Guyana’s president, Bharrat Jagdeo, believes that he has found another way and is enthusiastic about a scheme that ties in the preservation of the rainforest with economic aid. Last year he offered to give away control of Guyana’s entire rainforest (40m acres of it) to a British government agency in return for economic assistance. Everyone would be a winner: the world would benefit from the prevention of the kind of deforestation as a result of logging, mining and farming that accounts for a fifth of the world’s carbon-dioxide emissions. Guyana would benefit, too, as it realises the value of its natural assets. In brutal terms, Jagdeo, a trained economist, has put a dollar rate on his country’s greatest asset, in the hope that the value of one part can help prevent the disintegration of the other.

The West Indies and England play one-day cricket in Georgetown [9] on March 20th and 22nd. 2009.

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