Saturday, November 24, 2012

Wrote in 2009- Environmental Education - the What, Why and How?

Our ancestors were born into the illustrious cultural cradle of tree worshiping and reverence for all lifeforms. We seem to have retained only the customs and not inherited the true culture. After the independence, particularly after 1970s India followed the path of economic models of the west - which resulted in development (though inequal in many cases) coupled with large scale environmental degradation.

As forewarned by the Noted economist Mr. Fritz Schumacher, the economic path of the west were not suitable not only for the west but would be disastrous for India - a populous country. Yet we followed with more vigor and allowed the uncontrolled explosion of industries in the water rich agricultural belts without adequate infrastructures to handle the waste or depletion of water resources.

We failed to grasp the sustainable and equitable growth underlined by the Gandhian Economist Sri. JC Kumarappa before our independence itself. We were in a hurry to prove to the world of our capacity to ape the mindless development of the west. The resultant environment damage is slowly becoming evident now with drought and floods and the prise rise of essential commodities. The costly failure of not creating the necessary awareness begun in the school itself - part of the so called modern education. Which, by the time a student moves into college, subsequently become part of the mainstream society, the wrong perception that "Governments are responsible for the protection of environment" is firmly established in his/her mind. The 'real education' that we are discussing, need to create the necessary awareness that environmental protection must be everybody's primary concern, for we all live in and with it.

Environment Education need to evolve from an 'extra curricular' or a rote-learning mark-oriented subject into an integral part of all subjects. Unless the young don't understand it properly to shape the future, our existence will become questionable. Environment education should go beyond occasional tree planting into issues like social inequity and poverty and how they contribute to environmental degradation, development patterns, lifestyles, culture, social system, etc.

Having stated that it must go beyond simple ecology it is also critical to keep it simple for easy understanding and a resultant positive action. Environment education can't be imposed upon in this age of burnout due to heavy academic load. It cannot and must not be taught as a separate subject. It is inherently inter-disciplinary and forms a vital part of all subjects. One need not specialize in environmental science to be an environment educator.

Environment education can easily be incorporated into all subjects i.e.: without understanding the damage to the environment caused by of humans from the perspectives of - chemical, physical, biological, technological, social, economical, political, historical..., we cannot move to a sustainable future. As Sri. J Krishnamurti points "The right kind of education starts with the educator, people who have no academic degrees often make the best teachers, not being specialists they are interested in learning, in understanding life".

The curriculum and text books need a overhaul /simplification with the inclusion of critical environmental perspective which they lack today. As experts become ever more specialized and governments rely ever more heavily on experts, critical information gets lost. With media focusing only popular culture and viewership, it has become harder for ordinary people to understand and engage with the issues that affect their lives. In this scenario the educator's job becomes all the more important as he/she needs to simplify all the jargons to get engagement from students and society.

Environmental coverage in media and Books in schools (ICSE, CBSE, etc.) are full of jargons like Carbon neutral, Eco-footprint, Climate change, El-Nino, Green house gases, Azola effect, entrophication, and even the most talked about one - 'Global warming'. When I was a Environmental Science Teacher I asked students what these terms meant - they reproduced verbatim the definitions found in the textbooks and not understood the big-picture!.

Students quoting every now and then the most mis-guided phrase of all time "Eco-friendly" - what this term really means nobody knows. (in true sense nothing can be termed eco-friendly except cannibalism). I have seen many corporate houses printing beautiful full-colour glossy brochures and circulating of their so called eco-friendliness! and so called CSR etc.

I am sorry sir, the purpose of Environmental education for which you fought many years for, is defeated Sri. MC Metha... (the Sr. lawyer in Supreme Courts of India who fought for Environmental Education).

Firstly environment educators need to get oriented towards the real purpose. A localised method of environment education is necessary which can come only in observing ones environment and not from books. E.g.: 3200 Metric Tons of solid waste is generated everyday in the city of Chennai as of 2008. God only knows what it is in Delhi and Mumbai. As per the Pollution control board more wastes are actually generated in the affluent parts of the city. - Can we equate "misguided education and affluence = environmental degradation" may be and may need to be...

All projects exercises concerning environment education to be simplified to the point of practice (practical action) by all concerned. In addition rote methods to be completely avoided for it to be effective. Information alone is not enough. The objective of environment education is to move from awareness to action, and this is not possible by facts alone or for that matter marks or examinations.

The environment educator should involve the students in various simple activities within the school premises to begin with, accompanied by necessary information. Students should also be motivated into, understanding and getting involved /solving real life problems by participating with Government bodies, NGOs, etc. with the help of schools, which would deepen their learning and understanding. Parents also need to be involved in the (lab) practical aspects of the environment education.

Simple (simplified) sustainable activities like - Reducing each person's (energy) consumption of both electricity and fuel, reducing paper usage, reducing travel, reducing unnecessory mobile phone usage and long phone calls, carefulness in using all natural resources including water, reducing waste particularly food, carrying a bag while going for shopping, usage of public transportation, buying vegetable from farmer's market or kirana /mandis instead of supermarkets, supporting farmers by creating farmer's markets in ones own locality, supporting organic products, putting-up a home vegetable garden, tree adoption (why adoption and not planting - many tress are planted and left to die), being/becoming a vegetarian, stop bursting crackers due to air pollution, noice pollution and waste during Deepavali and New year times, stoping of immersing PoP and painted idols in ponds /sea, etc. all of these can be jointly done by the student, parent and teacher. A sustained campaign of real awareness and action by all can only prevent any further damage to the environment.

Fortunately we all have an entire community (Bishnoi in Rajastan) and a socio-environmental movement (Chipko - which was the reason for Indian Forest preservation act in late 60s) to look-up to for clear understanding and action as to how ordinary people can participate in environment protection. The learnings of Chipko movement and the lifestyle of Bishnoi community should become part of us like Ramayana and Mahabharata in these needy times. Finally, able minded Parents themselves can act as an environment educators /campaigners to take up the responsibility in their localities.

And a note from a Respectable Educator in Response !

Date: Thu, 10 Dec 2009 06:20:48 +0530
Subject: Re: Environment education - why, what and how... some thoughts... From:

Dear CGK,
excellent piece!

I was recently at the conference of Bhoomi in Bangalore where I coordinated a discussion among educators and students...

ANd the paper i wrote for the first issue of the magazine is here.

WOuld you like to submit this as a piece for their magazine?

In any case I will send this to them and also mention your name as 'deeply interested in food, agrgiculture and environment matters'. And Vallipuram is growing rapidly. I am hoping that we will launch the campus in June or July.

With warm regards

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Science - in Sanskrit, with Sanskrit, is Sanskrit

As a student entering into the vast ocean of Sanskrit Sciences I am compelled to write the sorry state of our country's grate scientific and mathematical heritage and also my views on some of the remedial steps.

First Science in Sanskrit is called as Shastra (the word Vignana has different meaning). The Shastra treaties in Sanskrit in comparison with the Kavya /Sahitya (the literature part of the Sanskrit) is like an Ocean with a Pond - that much is the vastness of Science in Sanskrit

Though Sanskrit has science treatises covering various topics, Indians stopped studying Sanskrit and particularly Science through Sanskrit. With the introduction of wide spread English (only) education since 1900s. Sanskrit studies are also down-graded to humanities in Universities and Language studies in Schools - this way people are kept away from the core of Sanskrit - which is Science and are taught only the Literature part. For example when we think of Sri. Narayana Bhattathiri we think of only of Narayaneeyam and not his work on science of language called "Prakriya Sarvasvam" (grammar) neither the fact that he is a shishya of Achyuta Pisharati who is a Grammarian, Mathematician, Astronomer and Narayana Bhattathiri himself is grammarian, scientist (most of the scientists are grammarians)

Sanskrit is not only a scientifically created language. It also has the second highest repository of science treatises (after English) and entirely original Scientific thoughts and concepts - unlike in English till 1900s most works are translations from other languages. There is a 800 page book published 10 years back containing just the names of the Mathematics treatises from Kerala region alone during the past 500 years - imagine how many book names could be covered in 800 page book in fine print - (we can write atleast 50 book names in one page) - that many original books are available in manuscript forms in many of our countries archives.

Sanskrit as a language inherent with phonetic, syntactic and semantic ingenuity and the widest morphological verity. Studying Sanskrit not as a language but as a tool for science would be the best approach. Contained in the depths of the language the most sought after ideas to solve not just the problems of today, individual, national or international. The particular emphasis on Objective and Subjective scientific inquiries into the ontological aspects of the earth to the nature of human thought and understanding. Many of the scientific /philosophical treaties looks at the God more from a Cause/Effect PoV than anything else. Thus the basis found in the Sanskrit science offers is on the scientific thinking which starts with the material ontological aspects of the visible world and proceed towards the logics of proof and the methodology of inquiry, etc.

By not communicating this (Science) part of Sanskrit effectively to younger generation we are doing injustice to this great language as well as our tradition of a scientific society and also to the future generations. Many of our cultural and traditional activities stemmed out science and not from any blind superstitions.

Why elders are not able to communicate - they themselves don't know !. Not only many of our elders themselves are unaware of these facts also ridicule our culture as they are the first /second generation of English learners or Macaulay's children

The fact that many treatises are available on the objective (materialistic) sciences for Eg.: On the Mathematical front starting with Vedic mathematics (Vedangani) - Sulba Sutras; Bodhayana sutra; The nature of Zero - difference and usage between poojya, shoonya, poorna; The 6 different Infinity concepts; KATAPAYAaadi Sankhya system, Bhaishali manuscripts, the Khagolajnah (astronomer) parampara from Aryabhatta onwards and their works, Kerala Ganitha parampara (Kerala Mathematical lineage), Basis for Quadratic equations, Trikonamiti (Trigonometry), Calculus, etc.

On the Health sciences front - Ayurveda (I need not elaborate here as it is a holistic health science including objective and subjective aspects of the medicine including the spiritual health of subjects). The Ecology /Botany /Agriculture combined into one group of science called Vrukshayurveda (Science of Plant health); the chemical and physical science treatises; Science of construction - Vaastu - our countries Temples, Forts, Dams, etc. stands as testimony to the advanced science;

Chandas shastra (phonetics), The science of music (Shastriya sangeeta) and its connections to science of sound, Akshara-Shabda shastra (Shiksha - science of sound), Pada shastra (vyakarana /Grammar - science of the word and the meaning), Nyaya /Vaishesika (Epistemological /Ontological view of the world from cause and effect to sub-atomic views - Science of reasoning and methodology of reasoning) Psychological and Para-psychological sciences covered in Tantra sastra; philosophical and scientific debates in Mimamsa and Saankhya shastra and finally the core-subjective science parts propounded in Upanishads (spiritual - adhyaatma).

If one notices carefully many of the Scientific texts in Sanskrit deals with subjects very rationally and some even denounces God itself - not like a Nastika vada point of view but more from a rational inquiry and critical thinking point of view


Parents those who are studying Sanskrit - if they need to inspire /motivate their children into studying Sanskrit - first they should themselves pick-up knowledge on Science and also focus on the aspects of Scientific /Rational analysis - science of reasoning - rather than just the standard monologue that "Sanskrit is a Deva Bhasha" or "Samskriti" etc. though they are essentially truth but don't cut ice with the modern students who are looking at studying engineering then Sanskrit.

Probably parents themselves want their children to study applied science and applied mathematics than pure science or pure mathematics (pure science is research oriented and applied science is job oriented). Sanskrit would be an excellent starting point for those who pursue pure science /pure maths. Few of my Sanskrit teachers are teaching to IIT students both UG & PG students Sanskrit grammar and Tarka (Nyaya /Vaishesika) - as there are few pockets of awareness exists among students that the science part of Sanskrit is indeed a great boon for researchers who are seeking radical topics, ideas, concepts and even out of the box thinking itself.

India had many great scientists and mathematicians till 1950s and slowly the decline started - due to ignoring pure science and mathematics and our inborn logical /critical thinking. As a society when we slowly moved to applied science purely for economical benefits we are loosing our edge on innovation and scientific thinking.

Some of the non-fiction general science books covering ancient Bharatam's science glory may need to be studied by Parents especially the books by authors such as Fritjof Capra, Erich Von Daniken, Ananda Coomaraswamy, Carl Sagan, etc. would help to kindle some scientific perspectives

CDAC (center for development of Advanced computing) the institution which brought out PARAM super computer is having a large team of Sanskrit scientists. GOOGLE and few other software giants are having teams of software engineers who are working on Sanskrit NLP, Computational Linguistics and Semantics. Some other Open source teams are also into Sanskrit NLP open source projects

(NLP - Natural Language Processing is a field of computer science and linguistics concerned with the interactions between computers and human (natural) languages; it began as a branch of artificial intelligence.) for more info on Sanskrit NLP - or or

NASA is working on Mercury Vortex based vertical take-off /landing Vimana (some of the concepts for this are taken from Yantra Sarvasvam of Maharishi Bharadwaja). Though some of the vimana concepts are disputed scientifically - the ideas are indeed rich and thought provoking

Most IITs, IISc and Major universities have some sort of Computational Linguistics /Sanskrit studies - departments including the Left-leaning JNU in Delhi. These universities are having funds and grants for Research for Sanskrit-Science. The sorry state is that we don't have enough students who are into both Science and Sanskrit.

Economically also these research students are paid well (fellowships, aids, etc.) and on completion there are plenty of career options available which are both intellectually & economically fulfilling and also global in nature - in simple language this means that one can also land in a well paid career inside as well as outside India as many universities and research bodies outside India focusing on Sanskrit-Science

No point in boasting our past glories when we ourselves are not ready to learn Sanskrit or science for our own rational-critical-thinking. As a society we simply develop conclusions based on News reports and advertisements instead of doing our own bit of research and investigations.

This translates to we are becoming a large group of consumer of propaganda and opinion fed to us by media as a proof for many of our decision making with respect to health, religion, medicine, food, education, etc. We slowly become idiots controlled by media and addicted to it. Which is one of the reason for our decline as a society and being Ruled by people who are unfit. The rational scientific thinking which is a pre-requisite for getting into Sanskrit Science hopefully will relieve us from stupidity of becoming a consumer of all junk.

Please forward the link to many people studying Pure science and Maths and also people in the IT Industry - who could contribute to Sanskrit-Science by learning Sanskrit. Many of you may be able to recall the large Science exhibition during the World Sanskrit Book Fair conducted by by Samskrita Bharati in Bangalore in Jan 2011 - Some Scientists came and presented - many such people are there to guide us...

Friends over 300,000 Science manuscripts are waiting to be explored - what is hidden in those treatises - we don't know !

Shouldn't we know ??

Some information about a book by name " Sanskrit Computational Linguistics" published by "Springer" given below:

This volume constitutes the refereed proceedings of the 4th International Symposium on Sanskrit Computational Linguistics, held in New Delhi, India, in December 2010. The 18 revised full papers presented were carefully reviewed and selected from numerous submissions. The papers can be categorized under following broad areas such as phonology and speech technology; morphology and shallow parsing; syntax, semantics and parsing; lexical resources, annotation and search; machine translation and ambiguity resolution.
Content Level » Research
Keywords » computational linguistics - dependency trees - finite state calculus - morphology analyzer - paninian grammar - parsing - sanskrit analyzing systems - sanskrit grammar - sanskrit tagger - text analysis
Related subjects » Artificial Intelligence - Communication Networks - Theoretical Computer Science
Cost - 46 Euro
Many such publications are also available for serious students...