This was written for Publication in a local paper many moons ago before I started blog activity and without my own domain under asokaplus with WordPress.
If I remember right this was posted under British Council Open Web Site for young (English) learners. Then government pressured this site close down and eventually they had to close it. I retrieved most of my writings and kept it as a pdf file.
I could not find it for the last six months and today I found it accidentally.
I am posting it without any editing.
The local paper did not publish it.
The soreness and annoyance after that made to be very active in my writings.
Just like Microsoft killed my attempt to promote Linux in Kandy schools.
One can only guess how stupid and partisan the editors of Local English Papers.
Most of the content are relevant even today.
Going for Zero Growth
Learning Science in Swabhasha mediums was one of the reasons that we were ill prepared for the recent tsunami and the post-tsunami rehabilitation work. Apart from not knowing each others languages, people brought up in Swabasha mediums did not have the luxury of knowing a communicating language i.e. English. Most of the officials both in administrative and scientific grades who did their studies in one stream or other do not upgrade their knowledge or do research work relevant to their field of study. One of the many reasons being that most of them while they were students read limited number of books in their study course and only a few would read additional books (English) and once they pass out and obtain employment (most of the time they are employed in fields alien to the subjects they have studied for their degrees) they do not update their knowledge.
Furthermore, they are bound by archaic rules and regulations in places where they work. These rules and regulations are hindrance to the progress of the people with innovative ideas. Old cronies would consider them as a threat to their mediocrity. They are pushed aside by higher-ups and it is difficult for them to be assertive and stagnate involved in mundane tasks.
The second reason is the free distribution of books to school children. Some of the books are about 30 years old in content. They contain lot of inaccuracies and there is no attempt to update at least at 5 year intervals. One of my school friends who is a science field officer tells me that some of the teachers are teaching the same old story (theory) for the past 30 years.
For them there is nothing called updating, just carry on regardless. None of his science projects that he had been working on for more than 25 years are taken seriously by the administrators.
I remember when I was a student Prof. Ranjith Ruberu who was instrumental in introducing the School Biology Project in Kandy and one reason I took up biology as an interesting subject was due to his pioneering efforts. He used to come to our classes and sit in the back row and listen to our teachers without upsetting the class.
Without our knowledge he was supervising the teachers not the students. The quality of our teaching was good and the teaching was in Sinhala. The result was in the evening, I rush to the British Council Library, Kandy and pick up a book or two in science for my leisure reading. Sadly this project is no more and I tell my friend that if the Education Department can kill this Pioneering School Biology, his projects are fodder for the donkeys.
For me it was obvious that the Sinhala was not the native language for science. For an example the Sinhala translation for Light Spectrum was “Warnawaliya” and this word kills the science learning in Sinhala in its beginning and there is no Sinhala word for Spectrum which has a wider meaning in Science.
When one drops the “Warna” part, one is left with “Waliya” and the meaning it is used for by students, everybody knows is nothing scientific. After some careful thought just recently I thought of a word for Spectrum and that was “Poornanthaya” and even this does not approach anywhere near the true meaning in English.
To find Sinhala words for Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Leap is beyond my imagination.
For the last 3 decades our students were reading only Swabasha medium books and most of these books are outdated and the terminology is bizarre and confusing. My understanding is that the words coined in Sinhala for Japanese “5 S Principles” is somewhere close to “Sansargaya” and kills the Japanese meaning in its conception (rather inception).
The third reason and the most important is that no books in science in Sinhala have been published by independent authors (like Adhikaram's) due to the government´s monopoly in books.
The books written by tuition teachers perpetuate this state of affairs still further narrowing the student interest only getting through competitive examinations, thereby killing genuine interest in science for the sake of science. If a scientific writer publishes a book in Sinhala he would not have any readership and his efforts would be in vain. Without our own breed of writers in Science even Mr. Arthur C. Clark´s efforts are in vain. The success of Mr. Arthur C. Clark´s ingenuity is due to his independent writing.
Can any of our Sri-Lankan Sinhala / Tamil Scientific writers emulate him?
There is dearth in scientific writing in Sri-Lanka.
Only one illustration would testify the paucity and immaturity in pragmatic scientific thinking.
On what criteria did the Government Officials decide that the safe limit for erecting structures is 100 / 200 meters from the sea shore?
At best this is an arbitrary decision and not scientific.
In simple logic it should be a variable distance.
The minimum may not be the safest but there are pragmatic issues to address.
The contours of sea shore and the sea bed are not homogeneous.
It is certainly not a “straight line”, so how come?
A uniform length?
It baffles me.
I do not want to waste anymore time on this issue.
Going for zero growth is a provocative and a controversial issue.
I only have to pick up a few old American Science books, that I read from sixties to seventies and beyond in support of this argument.
They are full of facts and predictions.
Majority of them were unbiased and forthright.
American Scientists with conscience have predicted in early seventies most of the social, political and environmental catastrophes but political and military structure worldwide would not listen.
If not for the short sighted advice of the military and economic spheres, the global concepts of these American and British Scientists would have had a universal appeal.
I am pretty sure some of these scientists may be feeling guilty conscious for not been able to give an advance alert of the tsunami disaster.
But the fault is not theirs’.
The California University provided us the Scientific know how and Japanese experts provided us the infrastructure, but who lacked both Science and Conscience.
It is the Sri-Lankan who lacked both.
Our pseudo-scientists with political patronage and all Sri-Lankan electorate for selecting the present bunch of pseudo-politicians (lacking insight as well as foresight) are to be blamed.
No point bashing the IMF.
Onus is for us to pick the gems out of the pebbles, when foreign advice is dished out.
Are we able to do that politically, economically and scientifically?
Zero growth concept propounded by these Western socioeconomic thinkers in the nineteen seventies is revealing. Being myself not interested in economics and politics, this line of thinking was out of the ordinary.
Having had mouthful of negative and positive growth concepts of our politicians, I did little digging.
1. Zero growth in Population
Applying the zero-growth principle to population growth is a good example where quality of life can be improved. With my own conviction for need for zero-defect in service and industry expounding a zero concept economically was a novelty to me, even though the concept was 30 years old in American Standards. For brevity’s sake I would be brief in population analysis. We are probably fast approaching the ecologically sustainable figures for human population globally, what we now need is to talk about is negative growth of population (birth rate minus death rate).
Not zero growth but negative growth!
In China the problem of population was uncontrollable the socio-economists had an aggressive family planning policy and limited one child for a family. There are serious doubts about how they implemented this policy and the single child has become a problem to many parents in China.
It is said that a single child is a problem child.
In fact they were applying negative growth principle.
When parents die only one child is left. This is an example of going for negative growth in population.
In zero growth principle each family is entitled for two children. When parents die of old age only two adults are left and not making a burden to the existing population. Genetic pool is not disturbed. This I call the homeostasis in population concepts and do not disturb the existing population demography.
Only people with ethnic sentiments would argue against this philosophy. Fewer mouths to feed mean more quality food for the remaining.
Zero growth means more to share and spare with.
Unlike the principle of few rich people and more poor people the zero growth principle is for equitable share of wealth.
If one look at modern Sri-Lankan families it appears middle class families are shrinking in not because of government policy but because of economic reasons. But this is not so for poor families. We have to make viable option for family planning and make adequate safeguards for the first two children such as making them available the best schools, learning aids and health insurance.
For families with more than two children availability of schools and benefits should be on competitive basis and may even have to introduce punitive measures for very large families.
Positive economic growth of IMF panacea is an antithesis to some of these American scientific thinkers.
Our economic experts and politicians wake up from your slumber.
I put this antithesis to a not so young graduate (Sri-Lankan) of economics. His initial reaction was utter surprise. I asked him what about population growth and present population estimates.
He started thinking.
Arguments for zero growth from these scientists were plenty. They of course warn how average Americans and corporate conglomerate would react to zero growth concept but their facts are revealing. Their analysis was selfish gains of individuals and corporate conglomerates determine policy but no global aims.
Few more citations are in order all dates back to early seventies.
“The exponential economic growth of the industrial nations makes enormous demand on nonrenewable resources of the planet, one can only wonder how long it will be before the rest of the world catches on to what this means. The US for example, consume 44% of the total out put of coal, 28% of its iron output, 33% of the petroleum and 63% of the natural gas. If present rates of consumption persist, the known resources of the coal will be exhausted in 300 years, oil in 70 years, most metals in 50 years and natural gas in 30 years”.
“The notion of zero-growth economy is heresy to both capitalist and socialist societies”.
“Economic growths geared by way of profit margins deplete resources faster than they are replenished and are counter productive”.
“With so powerful a commitment to growth the corporations stands as the most serious obstacle to the attainment of steady-state economy”.
“Large corporations not only have the power to pollute, they have the economic and political power to prevent, delay and water down the regulatory legislation”.
“Because most of the economic growth
“An industrial economy not only depletes resources but creates massive quantities of pollutants; some of them are highly toxic. One of the most ominous pollution threats is radioactive waste from nuclear power plants”.
The automobile provides a case history of the difficulty of working out political solutions to the environmental pollutions. British economist E.J.Mishan considers that the invention of the private automobile as one of the great disasters to have befallen the human race. He argues that for a fraction of the money the nation is currently spending on maintenance of private cars and the government services necessary to keep the traffic moving, the country could provide comfortable, frequent and highly efficient public transport (bus, train or subway) in all the major population areas; restrain and gradually reverse suburban sprawl, futile attempt of commuters to get away from it all; restore quiet and dignity of cities, enable people to stroll unobstructed by traffic and enjoy once more the charm of towns and villages.
2. Zero Growth in imported Cars.
We should go for less of automobiles and less of consumerism.
Man made disasters are more ruthless.
More people have died on the road in Sri-Lanka including the Galle Road of accidents than the tsunami disaster. Tsunamis do not come as frequent as vehicle accidents. Hope somebody prove me wrong.
Same old science (nineteen seventies) books show revealing statistics. For every 400 to 500 cars there is one death.
Disability is more.
How many vehicles do we have?
Do your own calculations!
In developed countries 1% of drivers die prematurely because of his / her own vehicle accident. Young people die more than old. It is said that one in 10 owns a vehicle in Sri-Lanka and we have only one car manufacturer.
A Zero growth of foreign cars is a viable option if we want to encourage our own manufactures taking the challenge to build our own vehicles.
3. Zero growth on felling of Trees (coconut trees included)
Along with zero growth there should be zero destruction. Felling of trees including coconut trees (for building hotels) along the beach and inland (in the coconut triangle) should be banned. Instead plant some coconut trees along the beach so that when the next tsunami comes few fellows can climb or hang on to them and save their lives (until the waves subside).
Zero destruction a viable preposition;
Zero destruction is a must.
4. Zero Growth on population Migration
Zero-growth a viable preposition; Zero-growth a must; Starting with population. Zero growth should be applicable to people migrating from villages to cities and from inland to shores for economic activity. Let them enjoy the serenity of villages for years to come. Instead of pumping money to the cities (Zero growth of the cities) improve the facilities in villages such as schools, shopping malls and community and sports facilities closer to the village so that migration to city is zeroed.
Reverse the trend from cities to villages and from shores to inland. With the availability of IT facilities one need not come to Colombo to buy blue chips. IT should be the instrument and vehicle of transmission not the avoidable physical movement of people.
In New Zealand a small village called Otira (on a foothill of an earth quake prone mountain) with a population 5 to 7 people including children has a school, a teacher radio communication network, IT and facilities for survival in the winter when road is not accessible due to snow.
They love to stay in that serene environment (ideal for “Bhavana”) without coming to the city.
5. Zero Growth on use of nonrenewable resources for energy
There should be zero growth in use of fossil fuels, coal and nuclear energy. Alternative renewable energy sources like solar energy and bio-gas and hydroelectric should take precedence. Not only this will protect our forests but would bring back the perennial rain that we were accustomed to.
Sri-Lanka is a very small Island and we should not think it as a continent to exploit.
On a lighter tone, how many politicians that can be made dispensable especially in education.
The Greatest Resource is Education (so money to be made!)
However we are successful in having negative growth in one field. That is the only field that should not have any negative growth. That is our education. Zero growth principle does not apply to education.
It is fitting to end this with some citations from the book “Small is Beautiful” (E.E.Schmacher; First published in 1973).
The classical statement on this point was delivered by Lord Charles Snow in his “Rede Lecture” some years ago: “To say that we must educate ourselves or perish, is little more melodramatic than the facts warrant. To say we educate ourselves or watch a steep decline in our lifetime, is about right” According to Lord Snow, the Russians are apparently doing much better than anyone else and “will have a clear edge”, “unless and until Americans and we educate ourselves both sensibly and imaginatively”.
Lord Snow, it will be recalled, talked about “The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution” and expressed his concern that “the intellectual life of a whole of western society is increasingly being split into two polar groups.....At one pole we have literary intellectuals....and at the other the scientists”. He deplores the “gulf of mutual incomprehension” between these two groups and wants it bridged. It is quite clear how he thinks this “bridging” operation is to be done; the aims of his educational policy would be, first, to get as many 'alpha plus scientists as the country can throw up”; second, to train “a much larger stratum of alpha professionals” to do the supporting research, high-class design and development; third, to train “thousands of upon thousands” of other scientists and engineers; and finally to train 'politicians, administrators, an entire community, who know enough science to have sense of what scientists are talking about “If this fourth and last group can at least be educated enough to “have sense” of what the real people, scientists and engineers are talking about, so Lord Snow seems to suggest, the gulf of mutual incomprehension between the Two Cultures” may be bridged. These ideas of education, which are by no means unrepresentative of our times, leave one with the uncomfortable feeling that ordinary people, including politicians, administrators are really not much use; they fail to make the grade: but at least, they should be educated enough to have sense of what is going on and to know what the scientists mean when they talk. However, my belief is that science void of conscience and moral principles is destroying our social fabric faster than ever.