Words of Warning

As an environmental educator, one that did not academically have a ‘science’ background, my own ‘learn as you teach’ education included the building up of a glossary of environment-related terms. As environmental educators, our learning needed to be well-grounded; we had to correctly, but creatively communicate the concepts related to the words. In the early 1990s one of these terms was the Hole in the Ozone Layer. We developed an information and activity package to share the causes and consequences of this aberration to Nature’s way of protecting life on earth.

Over the decades that followed, the same exercise was carried out to communicate the issues of global warming, carbon footprint, unsustainability, and other words and concepts that held within them the frightening story of how humankind, in its race for technological and lifestyle progress was carelessly and callously destroying the very foundations of a sustainable life for all living things on earth.

While we struggled as educators to reach out, speci

climate change.jpeg
https://www.cathywilcox.com.au/

ally to the younger generation with the plea to tread lightly on the earth, the world galloped ahead—consuming more, wasting more, and damaging more, in the race to becoming faster, bigger, and stronger. Nature, overwhelmed, responded with increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters. And scientists introduced, what soon became the ubiquitous  term Climate Change.  This became the blanket word describing the frightening state of the world we live in; the core of international conferences and agreements, and the harbinger of the worse that was still to come. Millions of words were written and spoken on the subject, paying lip service to the concerns about climate change, while actions demonstrated the very opposite.

One way to mark this year that has seen probably the direst impacts of climate change, is the selection of Climate Emergency as the Oxford Word of the Year.  This has been defined as ”a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it.”

The annual Oxford Word of the Year is a word or expression that has attracted a great deal of interest over the past 12 months. Every year, this word is selected from a list as the one that best reflects the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year, and is perceived to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance. Surprisingly this year the shortlist was dominated by words related to the environment including ‘climate action’, ‘climate denial’, ‘eco-anxiety’, ‘extinction’ and ‘flight shame’. But the term Climate Emergency stood out like a flashing danger signal.

Interestingly, last year, climate did not feature in the top words typically used in the context of ‘emergency’ which is generally associated with human health, hospital, and family emergencies. The attachment of the word Emergency with Climate reflects, for the first time, the fact that the health of the environment is being viewed with the same sense of urgency as the health of humans. As the editor-in-chief of The Guardian said: ‘We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue. The phrase “climate change”, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.’

Climate Emergency–Words that warn of impending cataclysm, even as nations and leaders talk and talk at the ongoing UN Climate Change Conference COP 25. Hopefully there will be some words, (and more actions) of wisdom as a fragile world teeters into a new decade.

–Mamata

 

Have We Lost the Apostrophe?

When something needs a protection society, you can be sure it is well on its way to extinction. And so is the case with the apostrophe. But ironically, the Apostrophe Protection Society (APS) in Britain has declared itself dead and buried while the apostrophe it created itself to protect is still breathing—though barely.

The Society was founded in 2001 with “the specific aim of preserving the correct use of this currently much abused punctuation mark”. The Society’s founder Mr. John Richards, who has fought valiantly for two decades in the service of the apostrophe, is closing it down for two reasons. First is that he is cutting down on his commitments—given that he is 96, that is perfectly understandable. But surely, there may be, somewhere in the world, some younger champion of the post-office comma? (In some parts of India, the apostrophe is referred to as the post-office comma). The other is disillusionment with the state of punctuation—he feels that less and less people and organizations care about the proper use of the apostrophe.

What a tragedy! The apostrophe is an essential part of punctuation. Though misused, the mind boggles when one thinks of the confusion we would face without it. The Society laid down three key tenets in this regard: (1) use apostrophes to denote missing letters; (2) use them to indicate possession—except in the case of possessive adjectives like ‘its’. They also had a strict rule about when not to use them—never use them to indicate plurals.

At any rate, the announcement of the closing down of the APS has elicited so much interest that the website has not been able to take the traffic over the last few days, and is temporarily replaced with a message that the full site will be back soon. And the reassuring thing is that the site is not being closed down and will remain open for reference. (http://www.apostrophe.org.uk/)

RIP APS. But let us hope RIP Apostrophe is still some time away!

See also our older  post ‘Emma Watson’s ‘Eats Shoots and Leaves’ Moment’ https://wordpress.com/post/millennialmatriarchs.com/21

–Meena

Timekeepers to the Nation

For most of us growing up in India in the 1970s and 80s thIMG_20191202_114741.jpge passage of time was marked by the HMT watch!  One’s first watch, the graduation watch, the watch that one was gifted, or gifted for a wedding—all these came in the form of an HMT watch.

It was the bond that was also marked by a sense of national pride in wearing something of world class quality that was totally indigenously manufactured. The news of the shutdown of the HMT factory in 2016 saddened many faithful users and supporters.

A recent visit to the HMT Heritage Centre and Museum in Bengaluru was like a travel back in time, reviving many memories. Set in the verdant grounds of the HMT Township, and housed in a lovely old two-storied bungalow that was once the residence of the Chairman, the exhibits trace the history of Hindustan Machine Tools Limited (HMT), the country’s first machine manufacturing company, set up by the Indian government in 1953. While HMT is usually synonymous with watches, it was a company manufacturing a number of other products including tractors, bulbs, machine parts, printing units and defence equipment. The museum includes exhibits of the great variety of these products, and traces their history, along with interesting facts and figures. For example it is interesting to note that there was a time when most of the factories in India had at least one HMT machine and every household had at least one HMT product.

The display starts with a pictorial chronology of the history of the company, and how it marked its presence in different parts of India. Then, of course, are the watches—over 2000 of them mounted on wooden blocks which are recycled from benches, windows and doors from the school and employee quarters that HMT once used to run in the vicinity. From the first watch presented to the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1962 till the 100 millionth watch manufactured and gifted in 2000 to the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee—the array boasts several other landmark models—Braille watches, India’s first Day-Date quartz and Ana-Digi watches, watches that were used as fashion accessories, and even the Nurse Watch that nurses who could pin upside down on their uniform for quick viewing. Models named Archana, Sujata, Abhishek, Kanchan, Sona and Lalit became part of millions of families across the country, as did Janata—the common man’s watch. Walking through this section one could nostalgically identify the models that one’s own family members wore.

The next section provides a peep inside the casings to reveal the cogs and wheels that made these time pieces go tick-tock; and the sequence of putting these different parts together. Magnifying glasses and microscopes help to look closely at some of these minute parts. One can only marvel at the meticulous care with these were assembled.

Moving on to the next large and well-lit space we see some of the other machines and printing equipment that was also manufactured by HMT. To get a real feel of walking onto a factory floor, is the time clock which the workers used to punch in their arrival by pushing down a lever. This is operational still, and one can punch and print the time of one’s visit on a card. The display of a variety of machines is impressive indeed. Imagine a company producing everything indigenously, from a part the size of a pin head to giant tractors!

The first-floor documents the range of machine tools manufactured by the company since its inception, along with a world map that indicates their collaborators from across the world. An AV room plays a video that shares HMT’s history, and its different units. The last section explains the origin and development of the HMT tractor, along with its functioning parts. There is also an operational tractor on which one can take a ride!

And while one is still lost in memories of the times that were, one walks out into the fresh air and greenery to a shop that sells some of the remaining pieces of HMT watches. A perfect souvenir of a legacy that we are all proud to be a part of.

–Mamata

https://www.hmtwatches.in/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Specially-Abled

access 2Today, Dec 3, is observed as the International Day of Disabled Persons. The Day was proclaimed in 1992 by the United Nations General Assembly.

India signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and as part of compliance in this regard, enacted THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, 2016. Most importantly, the Act lays down Rights and Entitlements, which include:

Ensuring that the persons with disabilities enjoy the right to equality, life with dignity and respect for his or her integrity equally with others; that the capacity of persons with disabilities are utilized properly, by providing appropriate environment; that no person with disability shall be discriminated on the ground of disability; that no person is deprived of his or her personal liberty only on the ground of disability.

The Act is comprehensive in covering all aspects—from Rights to Education to Employment to Health.

In my on-ground experience though, the last-mile is still challenging. Many people with disabilities and their care-givers are not aware of their rights and entitlements. Even the first step of disability assessment and registration—which entiltes PWDs for a host of entitlements like pensions, bus and train passes etc.—is not easy, and involves ‘running’ from one office to another. Access to government and private buildings including educational and healthcare instiutions, registrar offices, post offices, banks, ATMs, cannot be taken for granted.

A long, long way to go. But to end on a note of hope, here is a story of how a small intervention can make a difference in one life.

Sajan (name changed) is a vibrant young man who lives in Delhi with his parents and a younger brother. He was born with orthopedic impairment. His parents always encouraged his ambitions. They bought him a manual tricycle to enable him to attend school.

Through hard work and perseverance, he was able to complete his secondary education. He dreamt of completing his graduation but was unable to find a suitable college nearby. His tricycle had also worn out and he was finding it harder to pedal to distant places. As a result, he chose to pursue his higher education through a distance learning programme.

Simultaneously, he also began preparing for competitive exams in order to get a government job, but found the long commute to the coaching centre tiring.

It was during this time, that his parents learnt of GMR Varalakshmi Foundation which was working in their area with differently-abled.

After a thorough assessment, staff members recognized that his trouble stemmed from using the old tricycle. The team organized an electric tricycle to him. This model of tricycle is much easier to ride, has an easy, low entry and exit, and very good back support.

Today, he rides 7 kms every day to a coaching centre of repute and is earnestly preparing for competitive exams. He is extremely happy that he can travel long distances without any discomfort.  He says, “The electric tricycle has provided wings to my dreams”.

–Meena