drowned in miscellaneous work and travel killed any time I might have had to do some writing. Add to that the Internet blackout in our area for almost two days, and we have a seriously bad situation in our hands.
Banal internals in college, a demo of my lighting system here, and two books occupied my time during this hiatus. FTF was tiring, more because of the fact that we had to stand all the time, offset only by the lunch. It was, after all, in a 7 star hotel, and hence you could expect something interesting. This was the only one missing in the repertoire, and now from seedy roadsides to 7 stars, been there, seen that. Quite interesting to meet desperate job-seeking classmates one day, to desperate job-changing techies on the other. Interacting with genuine intellectuals like Ashok Rao on one day and with a “Senior Project Manager” from Wipro on the other can leave a person amused and bewildered. Was fun,
meeting and seeing people of varying stupidities, ranging from the eager IISc post-grad to the slow Wipro managers.
Sociology exams are fun. Minimal preparation, maximum creativity and scant respect for the details will help one well in passing with flying colours. On second thoughts, it works with most exams, including Engineering. After writing the most insane crap – praising things that I seriously think have no validity, but know that they somehow seem to attract good grades – got out.
The books were somewhat of a relief in this madness. One was interestingly called ‘Who owns the sky?‘ , written by Peter Barnes, addresses the question of the present day preoccupation with pollution and consumption of natural resources well. Most rhetoric seems to concentrate on our depleting energy and natural resources, predicting that they will become so scarce that using them will no longer be feasible, and that this will happen very soon. However, another book that I had come across put across arguments to support that we seem to have enough energy (though its conclusions for me were rather perverse and the book on the whole incoherent) and seem destined to find more sources of the same. Then why on earth are we pinching pennies ? Barnes says yes, we have enough coal to last half a millenium (like a person I know put it, we have enough coal to burn until humans evolve into something else) but the question is of sinks. We don’t seem to have any more place to put our waste in our ecosystem, and that is the main cause of concern. True, the US wants to send carbon dioxide to space, but that can hardly be practicable. So, how can we use market principles to counter this is the question the book asks, and comes up with a solution similar to emissions trading, though more equitable, but not without its own problems.
The other book, written by the eminent economist Joseph Stiglitz, is a harsh look at how global institutions like the IMF have played with the lives of billions, ostensibly in the service of New York investment banks. This book is easily available and a highly recommended read. Though it comes with its share of economics jargon, it is well written. It looks at two major examples, of the East Asian crisis of the late 90’s and Russia’s transition from Communism to a market economy and shows how the IMF failed in its mandate and made things worse, though only for the voiceless billions. The ones who made a windfall were usually aligned towards the financial or trading elites.
Both books bring up the same issue, addressing very different problems: how can we grow in prosperity, together. Individual opulence only brings hatred, jealousy and unrest, and growth needs to be equitable to be sustainable in a social framework (forget the environmental, that needs deeper repairs). Our generation seems to be understanding the issues involved. It is to be seen whether we are prescient enough to do the necessary changes.