Friday, June 24, 2011

Truth, the environmentalist

 I posted an ad on the local BB for riders to go to the Rainbow Gathering.  My first reply was from a person named Truth. 

Truth:  Hi there- just wanted to let you know that air conditioning causes holes in the ozone layer. being a  rainbow person i thought you might want to know that. blessings-Truth

Bodhi:  Only when it leaks out of the  pipes.  At a certain recent historical point, they stopped using freon and now use a less damaging refrigerant.  Why?  As a Rainbow Person, you don't use a refrigerator?  You use an ice box and buy a new ecological block of ice every day?  The refrigerant in your refrigerator will cut holes in the ozone layer also. 
In Peace, Bodhi

Truth:  Dear Bodhi, Hey,  I wasn't being snarky when sharing that info with you-I thought you might want to know.I am sorry that my email seems to have upset you. Your reply was filled with snark though, and that's kind of sad. I have a sun frost solar powered fridge btw and it doesn't use freon, it uses a different refrigerant which does not make holes in the ozone. And before I could afford the fridge, I had my cooler buried in a creekbed. But I truly was not trying to out "planetarily correct" you. I thought I was being friendly. 

Sister Truth,
No offense taken at all.  I found your need to tell me amusing.  It is true that you have gone a long way to have a more ecological refrigerator.  I hope your solar refrigerator runs on sulfur dioxide or anhydrous ammonia; if not, it probably is loaded with the same or similar less damaging refrigerant as the air conditioner in my late model car. 

It is false that air conditioning cuts holes in the ozone layer.  Freon refrigerant, when released into the atmosphere, cuts holes in the ozone layer.  Freon refrigerant, contained within an intact refrigerant system, whether air conditioning or refrigerator or freezer, does not cut holes in the ozone layer.  Freon is no longer used since 1995, and other similar chlorofluorohydrocarbons are being phased out.  Nowadays, refrigerant is usually a blend of less damaging chlorofluorohydrocarbons. 

Sorry.  I'm a bit dumb witted and you need to be specific when you speak to me.  When you say, "just wanted to let you know that air conditioning causes holes in the ozone layer," then I think, Truth thinks that running an intact air conditioner will cut holes in the ozone layer.  She must be either exaggerating or has been ill informed.  She probably means that freon escaping from broken refrigerant systems have cut a major hole in the ozone layer that has damaged the Earth.  She may not know that legislation was passed almost a decade ago to outlaw some CFHCs and phase out others while funding research to develop new safer refrigerant alternatives.  I wonder if Truth has a refrigerator?  I wonder if Truth knows that there is a refrigerant in it, most likely the same one that is in my late model car air conditioner.  Other possibilities are: she is homeless and has no refrigerator, she uses an ice box, she lives off the grid at high altitude and drops her food into a box in the river, she has a totally ecological refrigerator.  The most likely alternative was that she had a regular refrigerator and didn't realize that it uses refrigerant also. 

You saw my ad for a rider to the Gathering but you don't need a ride there.  You noticed that a Rainbow sister uses air conditioning.  You know there is an ingredient in air conditioners known for damaging the ozone layer.  You assumed that I was either a Rainbow hypocrite with a cavalier attitude about environmental damage, or I was ignorant about how refrigerants can do environmental damage.  You assumed that all air conditioners always damage the ozone layer.  You conflated the potential for refrigerant leaks with the fact that refrigerants have done damage.  You assumed that the dangerous ones that caused the alarm and did most of the damage, and continue to damage the ozone layer even though they were removed from circulation almost a decade ago.  Taking the good natured course, you chose to educate me of a piece of information with love and kindness in your heart. 

As a chronic asthmatic, I used inhalers.  One day, about 20 years ago, I noticed that the propellant inside my life-saving medicine was freon!  That meant that I and every asthmatic on the planet was exhaling freon into the atmosphere every day!  I began a letter writing campaign that lasted about 7 years.  Now look around you.  Freon propelled inhalers have all been replaced. 

I am delighted to see a blossoming of a whole new generation of Rainbow youths.  I love to see the rainbow colors, the dreadlocks, the health food and vegetarianism, the lack of consumerism and instead a sense of reverence for Mother Earth.  I love it!  But here's my gripe. 

About 85% of Rainbow youths smoke tobacco.  A few years ago, I asked some young brothers and sisters why they smoked.  I got answers like: "Oh! It's American Spirit.  It has no additives." Or, "I pick up every single cigarette butt."  I was perplexed that they could justify the damage to their own immediate and long term health with such flimsy excuses.  One possibility was that they had been sold a bill of goods by some advertizing agency. 

I thought, how could an marketer capture an entire market niche of Rainbow youths if they don't watch TV or read magazines, and cigarette billboards are outlawed most places?  If I were a tobacco company advertizer, and I wanted to sell to a market niche, how would I promote my product?  PLANTS!  I would put plants in places where that market niche congregates and have them give out cigarettes for free, like they did to the Armed Forces in WWII. 

At last year's Gathering, I looked for tobacco company plants.  I saw one spaced out youth, all dressed in tie dies with a bandana around his head, and a 5lb can of loose tobacco hanging from a strap behind his neck with an endless supply of rolling papers wandering throughout the camps giving out smokes. He was reminiscent of the beautiful girls who carried trays of smokes slung by a strap around the back of their neck, around at events and restaurants in the 30's.  I never spoke to him. 

But there was an older woman, also dressed in beads, bracelets, and tie dies, replete with bandana around her head, who looked to me like a washed up drunk.  She sat not far from main circle, right off one of the main paths, sitting behind a booth where she gave out and endless supply of cigarettes.  She had a deep throaty cough, probably due to her chain smoking.  I could understand why you would want to get a cigarette from that other cute youth, but who would want to approach this sad, coughing woman to get a free cigarette?  I chatted with her for a while, and then asked if she was a plant from a tobacco company.  She was taken aback.  She looked at me with outrage and shame, but didn't answer my question.

I am perplexed that health food, environmentalist Rainbow youths all seem to smoke tobacco.  They know the bad effects to their health, but may not know that they are being exploited by profiteering capitalists to enrich heartless corporations.  I asked so many blossoming Rainbow youths why they smoke, and the best answer was that "It's cool!" 

Be honest with me, Truth, do you smoke tobacco?
In Peace, Bodhi

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A discussion of Mother India with friend Madhukar

 Madhukar brought up 'ADVAITA-SPEAK,' a frequent practice among the advocates of Advaita.  He contested that only those who practice what they preach have any meaning to their words.  Madhukar is an American with east Indian heritage, and a fellow traveler and Buddhist. 

  • Bodhi: I noticed in India that a popular pass time for devout men was to discuss the true meanings of the Sanskrit slokas. I found they discussed it ad nauseum, but didn't incorporate the meaning into their lives. I know India has changed a lot since I was there. Are the high minded men still doing that, Madhukar? You're there.

    When I was there, women would wake up before dawn, get the fire going, grind the flour, make the chappatis and aloo sabji, and in Kashmir, they heated up the water for the men's hot baths. Then she would feed the men, clean up after breakfast, immediately begin cooking lunch, and have lunch ready by 10:30am. Then they might pack a lunchbox, and send the children to dad's work with a hot lunch. After lunch she would sweep the floor, shine the cooking pots, and cow/deer dung the floor and walls. Then she would take the laundry to the water hole which could be a stream, a "tank," a government spigot in the middle of town, a well, or up in the Himalayas, a spring. She would wash the laundry at the water hole, bathe herself and her baby, then fill up several large jars. With the help of other women, she would stack the jars on a woven grass ring on her head 2-3 jugs high, grab the laundry with one hand, and the freshly bathed baby in the other hand, and haul the water & clean laundry back home, sometimes several miles. Then she might go shop for an ounce of oil to cook supper, and a few vegetables, and collect firewood or cow pods. While she did all this, men would sit around smoking bidis and playing dice, reading the newspaper and sipping tea, or reciting their favorite Sanskrit slokas to argue the true meanings with a friend. Is it still like that?

  • Madhukar: firstly---i am no longer in India; having returned a few months back to the States. but i did live there and in Nepal for 3 years. with 7 other trips before that as well....and---i would have to say that, YES--it is that way exactly still---in the hinterland. its fundamentally a patriarchal society--for all its Devi worship and Divine Mother worship. i have had to work my way thru all this --- one step at a time--reading, interviewing, cajoling, and making friends with folks---and at first accepting, then rejecting and finally resolving and blowing out the backside of the thing. to project my own system or 'mores' on another culture---is as totally bogus, as the presumptions that many have that in america the streets are paved with gold and that we are all depraved materialistic hedonistic sex maniacs. it is good to wrestle with all these things --- and see other cultures and the our own thru their eyes---which is an EYE OPENER as well. in many respects---in the hinterland of India---not much has changed for 5000 years---except they have cell phones now. and tractors. but when i first arrived 11 years ago--- i harvested potatoes behind a waterbuffalo with a wooden plow---just like it was 500 years ago.... India has changed more in the last 10 years---than in the previous 100. it will all trickle down as the middle class grows. yes---i can critique mother India --because i love her---just as i can critique my own country---- i just want a better and more just life for everyone.
  • Madhukar: ...and regarding these so-called 'men of religion'--- i understand and completely 'get' your point. i would feel the same if i saw that here in an american judeo-christian patriarchal society as well.
  • Bodhi:  Exactly!
  • Bodhi: My mom and dad came to see me in Budh-Gaya. They hoped to convince me to return to the USA with them. My meditation teacher, Anagarika Munindraji, took us for a walk to some smaller nearby villages. My parents were tired and rested on a low wall. Beyond the wall was a long stretch of paddy fields, each small plot with a rammed earth wall around it. There was an intricate system of gullies and spouts from higher fields to lower ones. On the high end near the wall, there was a well with a unique device for pulling up the water. There was a large fulcrum holding up a long pole, not centered. On the short end was bound a large boulder. On the long end, was a long rope with a 1-2 gal bucket fasted on. A withered and bent old man with a rag tied around his brow, was pulling one small bucket after another out of the well and pouring it into the top of the gully. In other words, this single old man was planning to flood acres of paddy fields bucket by bucket. My parents were awestruck!

    They sent me to ask him in Maghahi language if he would rather live in the USA? He replied, "What for? Life is good right here." (Btw, I can't remember not one single word in Maghahi.)

  • Madhukar: Ah! 'what for?--"life is good right here! i understand...♥