Thursday, 20 March 2014

Right at our nose tips

[This link appears in the post. But in case you don't make it till there, here it is:]

We may perhaps be able to accurately trace the origins of human and animal species on planet Earth to a very distant and remote past some day. In comparison, the age of motorized transport seems to have dawned only a few finger-snap moments ago; all advancements presumably motivated by a desire to be able to travel large distances and to be able to do so in as short a time span as possible.

While our desire seems to have found fulfillment to a very great extent when it comes to large and very large distances; city to city, state to state, country to country; I am not too sure we have hit the bulls eye for the shorter distances. Perhaps we were never meant to.

It all must certainly have started out on a successful note. Some 200 years ago it probably took a good 45 minutes for a horse carriage to go from BHU to Varanasi Jn railway station (I know I know - there were no trains 200 years ago). And horses as well as carriage drivers perhaps blinked in silent fascination as they saw a steady stream of improved vehicles overtaking them at ever increasing speeds. And as might be reasonably expected, horse carriages slowly gave way to buses and cars and jeeps and motorcycles; all eminently capable of covering the distance in say 1/3rd the time. Today perhaps 3/4th of Varanasi owns this capability.

But, alas, we are back to 45 minutes from BHU to Varanasi Jn (assuming no traffic jams of course!).

And we are back to 45 minutes in a very bad way. Presumably, we breathe in lesser oxygen and more of the "not so good stuff" during this journey now. Then there are the ever increasing decibel levels to worry about. Not to mention the cold fact that Earth's petrol and diesel supplies are, well, not going to last for too much longer.

This is stuff we all know everything about - but it's perhaps only half the story. There is something else that has gone wrong in my opinion. Terribly wrong.

A whole cultural shift seems to have happened. By and large we are no longer inclined towards using a source of energy that is perhaps closest to us : our own physical energy : that derived from consuming three square meals a day (which we certainly continue to do). And the physical energy of animals. [Note: As long as we treat animals well I do not see a problem with harnessing their energy for useful work.]

The bad news doesn't stop at an immediately available energy resource going unutilized either. If my reading of the situation is correct, this unused physical energy is one of the factors leading to increased psychological as well as physiological ill health - at the level of the individual as well as the collective. And to fix this have come treadmills and stationary bicycles [preferably in air-conditioned gymnasiums of course].

So we now have a situation wherein many a folk choose to drive to work through city traffic rather than walk/cycle to save time; which they don't since the drive perhaps takes about as much time as cycling would have minus the traffic; then drive back home; then drive to a gym to "burn calories" and "stay fit"; and then drive back again.

It makes very little sense when I think about it.

A reversal of this cultural shift is something that needs to be addressed rather urgently in my opinion. It will reduce wasteful consumption of fossil fuels as well as pollution resulting from vehicular emissions significantly. The number of cars worldwide surpassed 1.2 billion a couple of years ago []. Just imagine the scenario if each of these cars drove say (on an average) 5 km lesser per day. [Needless to say, there are clear exceptions to my suggestion : E.g. vehicles being used by medical care practitioners.]

It will also bring back into play a whole energy resource that we are no longer actively utilizing: we ourselves. We have perhaps been missing the significance of this slip because this energy resource is so very close to us.

Right at our nose tips.

[And we are not even talking about two wheelers and three wheelers here. My recommendation stays the same for them as well: certainly use them when absolutely necessary. But at other times: walk and cycle as much as possible: use your energy and stay fitter in the process; for longer distances: hop onto a public transport vehicle whenever possible.]


  1. In my hometown of Mohali, most people commute less than 10-15 kms for their work and daily activities. In the last few years, many small cars have been replaced by SUV's that are gas guzzlers. It is really stupid to not ride to work. I assume that it is true for most of the non-metro cities in India.

  2. Great thoughts professor.
    really inspiring