An Euro-American lover-of-money — moneyphile — named Peter Thiel wants to live forever!
While his greed for money and his desire to live forever are his personal choices — what amazes me is his greed for wanting to be a philosopher as well. (Some people need everything, don’t they?) He says something like this:
I think there are probably three main modes of approach to death…You can accept it, deny it or you can fight it.
Now, Mr. Thiel is a businessman, a merchant, a capitalist. He loves money more than anything. And he is proud of it.
…merchant must concern himself with buying and selling, earning money and making a profit. This requires cunning, willingness to enter into disputes, cleverness, constant quarreling, and great persistence. These are things that belong to commerce. They are qualities detrimental to and destructive of virtuousness and manliness, because it is unavoidable that actions influence the soul. Good actions influence it toward goodness and virtue. Evil and deceitful actions influence it in the opposite sense…
…These influences differ according to the different types of merchants. Those who are of a very low type and associated closely with bad traders who cheat and defraud and perjure themselves, asserting and denying statements concerning transactions and prices, are much more strongly affected by these bad character qualities. Deceitfulness becomes their main characteristic. Manliness is completelyalien to them, beyond their power to acquire. At any rate, it is unavoidable that their cunning and their willingness to enter into disputes affects their manliness (adversely). The complete absence of (any adverse effect) is very rare among them.
The character qualities of merchants are inferior to those of noblemen and rulers. This is because merchants are mostly occupied with buying and selling. This necessarily requires cunning. If a merchant always practices cunning, it becomes his dominant character quality. The quality of cunning is remote from that of manliness which is the characteristic quality of rulers and noblemen. If the character of (the merchant) then adopts the bad qualities that follow from (cunning) in low-class merchants, such as quarrelsomeness, cheating, defrauding, as well as (the inclination to) commit perjury in rejecting and accepting statements concerning prices, his character can be expected to be one of the lowest sort, for well-known reasons. It is because of the character that one acquires through the practice of commerce that political leaders avoid engaging in it. There are some merchants who are not affected by those character qualities and who are able to avoid them, because they have noble souls and are magnanimous, but they are very rare in this world.
With this, I want to define Mr. Thiel as having the following characteristics:
(No wonder he wants to live forever!)
Greed Mr. Thiel…greed! Wish someone had taught you some virtue in your childhood
As these people have both the will and the resource to make life extension happen — once such technologies will actually happen — these people will be the ones who will live the longest or in the craziest scenario: they will be the one who will live forever. With people who are not greedy, cunning, clever, quarrelsome, etc. perishing.
It implies the world will be inherited by people with values such as the ones given above. (greed, cunningness, etc.)
So what about those who are not of those characteristics? I mean what about those of us who are not greedy, cunning, fraud, etc.?
But I have a more serious consideration:
Why do I care if Mr. Thiel and the likes live forever?
Why should I care?
Should I care?
If yes, how can I stop them? OR how can I help establish certain equity first?
Read Duration: 2–3days (It is short but requires attention.)
Author: Edgar Allan Poe
Sub-Genre: Philosophy. Cosmology. Spirituality.
Opening sentence:To the few who love me and whom I love, to those who feel rather than think, to the dreamers and those who put their faith in dreams as in the only realities, I offer this book of truths, not in its character of truth-teller, but for the beauty that abounds in its truth, constituting it true.(Preface)
Top 10 Highlights:
‘Now I do not quarrel with these ancients’,continues the letter-writer, ‘so much on account of the transparent frivolity of their logic — which, to be plain, was baseless, worthless, and fantastic altogether — as on account of their pompous and infatuate proscription of all other roads to Truth than the two narrow and crooked paths, the one of creeping and the other of crawling, to which, in their ignorant perversity, they have dared to confine the soul — the soul which loves nothing so well as to soar in those regions of illimitable intuition which are utterly incognisant of “path”.
‘Kepler admitted that these laws he guessed — these laws whose investigation disclosed to the greatest British astronomers that principle, the basis of all (existing) physical principles, in going behind which we enter at once the nebulous kingdom of metaphysics. Yes! These vital laws Kepler guessed, that is to say, he imagined them…’
‘In concluding this letter, let me have the real pleasure of transcribing them once again: “I care not whether my work be read now or by posterity. I can afford to wait a century for readers when God himself has waited six thousand years for an observer. I triumph. I have stolen the golden secret of the Egyptians. I will indulge my sacred fury.”’
A diffusion from unity, under the conditions, involves the tendency to return into unity — a tendency ineradicable until satisfied.
Discarding now the two equivocal terms, ‘gravitation’ and ‘electricity’, let us adopt the more definite expressions, ‘attraction’ and ‘repulsion’. The former is the body, the latter the soul; the one is the material, the other the spiritual principle of the universe. No other principles exist.
…the tendency to the general centre is not to a centre as such, but because of its being a point in tending towards which each atom tends more directly to its real and essential centre, unity — the absolute and final union of all.
The wonderfully complex laws of revolution here described, however, are not to be understood as obtaining in our system alone. They prevail everywhere where attraction prevails. They control the universe of stars.
And that all around them (circular masses of nebulae), on every side, there are volumes of stars, stretching out apparently as if they were rushing towards a great central mass in consequence of the action of some great power.
With a perfectly legitimate reciprocity, we are now permitted to look at matter as created solely for the sake of this influence — solely to serve the objects of this spiritual ether.
Existence — self-existence — existence from all time and to all eternity, seems, up to the epoch of manhood, a normal and unquestionable condition. Seems, because it is. But now comes the period at which a conventional world-reason awakes us from the truth of our dream.
Poe searches for the sweetest-spot of Wisdom to look into philosophical questions and he almost does it!
Let us begin this thought experiment by imagining a habitable planet with life. Far Far away!
The planet is revolving around its own star. Its day-night period same as Earth’s.
And on that planet, let us imagine species – Millions. With variety for procreation. Just like on Earth.
Let us imagine one species among them head-and-shoulders above the rest – In intelligence and sophistication. Just like us!
Now let us decide that the planet has had life for more than a billion years. The intelligent species there has been smarting around for more than 2 million years. Just like ours!
Now let us imagine the planet with its peculiar atmosphere, water, soil, forest, etc.
Let us imagine all this with one crucial difference — it’s intelligent species not like humans. Let us imagine them different. Yes, let them walk on two feet and let them look like us physically. But let them not be like us behaviorally.
Let’s make them different.
Let’s not make them build huge buildings, monuments and structures. Let’s not make them political. Let’s not make them national. Let’s not make them create huge corporations. Let’s not make them kill each other or creatures. Let’s not make them adhere to their own mandatory principles. Let’s not make them need any kind of superficial entertainment — Let’s make them wise.
Yes, let’s imagine them greedless, free and wise. It’s just a thought experiment after all!
They didn’t build huge buildings and structures because they are okay with distributed minimalistic settlements and structures of aesthetic/experiential importance.
They didn’t organize politically because they are okay with improvisational organizing. They understand the need of community but also realize the absurdity of politics and power.
Everyone is wise enough to mind their own business and greedless enough to not want unnecessary things. Everyone has their own land and they are fine cultivating what they need and consuming it. Remember, they are not greedy, so it will work.
Now, since they are wise as such, they did not need/want big businesses.
Nor did they have to trouble other creatures for their own amusement. They live at a distance far enough to remain untroubled by other creatures.
Since they are free and wise, they didn’t adhere to mandatory customs and principles such as marriage and children. Their population is well balanced. Whenever it seems to increase, they have the wisdom to understand it, hence, there will always be those who will make personal sacrifices. They didn’t need any forms of superficial entertainment as they don’t have any dissapointments hence anxieties.
So, what will they do? How will they live? How do we imagine that?
I propose the following:
They will spend their time in philosophical, scientific or artistic contemplation and creation. Depending on individual preferences or the need.
They won’t build sophisticated technologies. There is no need — they don’t want to conquer their fellows or the cosmos. They are wise enough to be happy where they are. They will scientific technologies though. For reasons clear! They might have computers and internet.
They have understood that the only purpose of their high intelligence is to experience and understand life and the world. Nothing else matters! All is peaceful and well.
Not every species that goes extinct is because of human beings. But we are responsible for quite a few!
A quick walk around a city like Kathmandu will show you stories. Better than movies – because these stories are not just of human sorrows and glories. The stories are also of dogs. Stray dogs!
Dogs like to get cozy in winters or when it gets cold. They like to wrap themselves around their own body to generate heat.
A dog warming itself like that is disturbed by the noise of a speeding motorbike (which Nepal quite honestly hasn’t made and doesn’t deserve considering its output) which passes by the dog.
The dog is forced to get up in horror, only to realize that all is safe. No one cares about him/her enough to even intentionally bother. The biker is gone — to his friends perhaps. To watch a game of football perhaps! The dog looks on in shock. He has been robbed of his moment of warmth! No one knows if the dog will be able to sleep in there again.
Sights such as these make you apathetic towards people. While you may, a few minutes earlier have empathized with the desperately waiting human-eyes in shops that don’t sell a thing — You stop caring after these incidents.
You then start questioning — Why should I empathize with people? What right do some people have to burden others? Why are some people even existing? Why can’t there be a system that looks at animals and animal-like-humans equally?
It is nothing to be ashamed of. If the same question can be asked of dogs and other animals then why not of humans?
If more than 50 billion animals can be killed each year in US alone, what is the big deal with COVID? Let me go. Let them go.
(Such stray dogs are mercilessly killed by the municipality once their population goes out of hand.)
Why sustain a species at the price of finishing every other?
The paradoxical questions are :
Why do so many people have to live?
What is their purpose?
Why does a human get to ask these questions?
Where is the management?
To the third and fourth questions I have another question:
Is it time for an association of Post-Humans, who are intellectually superior to normal people?
Such Post-Humans can be decided on an emotional and intelligence criteria. Not IQ, Mensa or likes. Something new. Something beautiful. Something glorious!
Why can’t those Post-Humans then manage humans, just as normal humans manage animals and slaughter-houses?
Not to eat of course!
The idea is to create a situation where a superior breed of humans take control over the world and with intellect and empathy manage other humans, creatures and environment. Creating a balance.
How can it be done?
It won’t be easy of course!
But remember: It mustn’t have been easy for our ancestors to tame and manage dogs too.
The number at the time of this finishing is — 49,344,410,694!
A small background before we jump into the philosophy of cataclysm.
I grew up with Hindu/Buddhist philosophies and as you may know — there’s a gargantuan presence of the inevitability of death in these systems of thinking.
Take the goddess Kali for instance — one of the most popular goddesses around. Her name is the feminine form of Kala which implies both time and death.
Psychospiritually, death could mean the killing of Ego and Maya — the kill is optional. But it also means the finish line of a certain biological span — which is inevitable. It doesn’t mean you should kill your biological self though!
Worshipping Kali is a method of non-stop realizing the fact that death is inevitable and living according to that realization (with humility and wisdom).
Hear from one of the most popular ‘experts’ of the system:
India imposed an economic blockade on Nepal. Since every day-to-day stuff comes from there, things got pretty hard!
Basically, there was no fuel so everything inflated. From food to clothes, every fkn thing! You had to plan for a week to travel a distance of 30 km and if you agreed to do it — you had to share a bus with ~150 co-pathetic souls which had a capacity of 60 at most. That too at a high cost.
But the most vicious inflation took place in the most dreaded area — inside the head!
Here you were, hardly recovering from the natural catastrophe that didn’t take you away only because you were lucky — and now you couldn’t even trust humans! Bastards from the South could march in anytime with their leather boots and take you to their concentration camp — Yes, you thought these!
And then 2020 came andCOVID happened. You sat at your home wondering what the brothers from North and West have spread around the world. You come from one of the most irrelevant nations in the world which means the richer folks could be experimenting on you and you could do nothing about it! Your perspective on vaccines or the whole issue didn’t count too. You were nothing! And you could be thrust into nothingness anytime they wanted!
So you spent all your time on the internet with the intention of understanding the world and then knew all about Climate Change, Food Crisis, Water Crisis, World War 3, Asteroids, AIs, etc. etc — all serious contenders to end this human hubbub!
All this has accumulated into an understanding of the world where:
Some of us have started to constantly realize the fact that catastrophe is inevitable. Philosophy of Cataclysm is real.
My point is —
There is a new philosophy in the market place. It is called Cataclysm. Or it could be called inevitabilism, even catastrophism, maybe end-of-humans! Decivilization???
Even that’s not the point though.
The actual point is that we may have to start a new religion:
Where we invent a new God. This God shall be the symbol of impending catastrophe. This God’s only job will be:
To make us constantly realize the fact that cataclysm is inevitable!
So the possibility of cataclysm remains and determines every breath we take, every hand we shake.
Let’s discuss more of this philosophy of cataclysm.
Sensing what humans were doing to her forest, a tiger at a national park started getting paranoid.
‘They will destroy this all one day. I will have nowhere to go. There’s no point giving birth. There’s no point looking ahead at the future. We’ll all go’, she thought strolling along the riverside.
She was still young and was yet to bear a child. A few years ago, she buzzed with excitement and energy. But lately, she had lost all interest. She looked lean and weak.
Looking around,she saw all her favorite hide-outs and trees being cut down mercilessly. Each time she came back to an old place, something was gone.
‘All this will soon go! There’s no point’, she thought as she sat on a rock resting her chin in her paws.
Just then, a few meters away, she spotted a couple of Sambar deers budding with joy and romance. A few months ago, she would have quietly got down and stealthily walked to feed on them. But now, she lacked both energy and will.
The Sambars saw her. But they must have sensed her feebleness and pessimism for they weren’t scared at all. Instead, they jumped and giggled their way nearer to her.
‘What are you so happy about? Don’t you realize — all this will be gone soon?’ the tiger roared at the couple.
Surprised by the tiger’s humility, the Sambars walked closer to her.
‘What’s up with her?’ the male whispered to his partner.
‘No Idea! let’s ask her,’ the female replied.
They reached up to her and the female said:
‘I am pregnant. That’s why we’re celebrating’
‘You fools! Don’t you see, all this will be gone soon. Why are you bringing a newborn into this world? The humans will destroy it all. They will end it all. Don’t you think I want to give birth? But there’s no point! Our world will end,’ the tiger passionately spoke.
‘How old are you?’ the female deer asked.
‘That means you still got more than 10 years to live!,’ the male deer said.
‘Yes. So what?’
‘I think you are the one who is a fool here!,’ the female deer spoke. The male poked her in nervousness. The tiger stood up. The female didn’t seem to be intimidated as she continued:
‘It’s one thing to understand what’s happening in the world but it’s completely stupid to obsess over it. You are an individual. Your job is to survive and live. You are a tiger, for god’s sake! You are supposed to fight till your last breath. The world will end the moment you die! There’s no other end. You are a bloody individual animal in this forest full of billion other animals. Don’t act as if you are the forest. You’re not! You’re nothing. You are not the whole, you are just a part. You are only supposed to focus on your individuality and at best your children and family. Let your children come and let them survive for their individuality. You’re not the fking whole. You are not supposed to think for us. We are supposed to think for ourselves. The world is this way because of those who thought for everyone. Please do me a favor and don’t think for me. You go out there and fight against the world till your last breath. The forest ends for you the day you don’t find a single spot to hide or a single deer to feed on. Until then…it doesn’t end!
‘If something is beyond your ability — you can do nothing about it. This forest is too important for them anyway…to let it die. The most powerful among them will ensure this world will keep on existing — not for the world’s sake but because they have no other playground to show-off their scepters!’
The tiger encouraged and inspired by the speech, pounced on the deer and shredded her to pieces. The male ran away.
‘I will survive, I will live. The World ends the day I die’, she roared as the deer-blood dripped from her jaws.
1. Don’t inspire a tiger. Especially if you’re a deer.
2. You are not the whole. You are just a part. Go out there and live till the end of your world!
Arthur C. Clarke’s famous short-story The Sentinel (the seed from which 2001: A Space Odyssey sprang) is about a monolith discovered ‘high on the ridge of a great promontory…’ of Moon by an individual in a team of Lunar explorers. The object is too smooth to be natural and had been leveled to support a glittering, roughly pyramidal structure set in the rock like a gigantic many-faceted jewel.
The discoverer is not able to make sense of that object. Looking at it, he is convinced there had once been a lunar-civilization. His first guess after that is that it might be a building or shrine. After that, he wonders if it might be a temple. A closer examination makes him realize that a lot of hard work has been done by the builders to place it there. He guesses Egyptians. His pride doesn’t allow him to admit that the work might have been created by a civilization more advanced than humans!
After throwing a small pebble at the object, he knows he was looking at something that could not have been matched in the antiquity of his own race. He guesses it might be a machine, protecting itself with forces that challenged Eternity.
Later, he realizes that the object is as alien to the moon as himself. The age of the monolith is then measured and it is revealed that the object was set there before life existed on earth. But, by whom?
Long long ago there must have been very advanced races that must have scaled and passed the heights of present-humans. But they must have been lonely in a young universe. This may have eventually prompted them to search star clusters for intelligence. But all they must have found was emptiness or mindless things. The Earth must also have been the same. The wanderers, looking at the Earth, must have guessed that a the distant future, there would be intelligence there. They must have left the monolith as a beacon that signalled the presence of other civilizations. But they placed it on the moon and not on the Earth, because-
Its builders were not concerned with races still struggling up from savagery. They would be interested in our civilization only if we proved our fitness to survive- by crossing space and so escaping from the Earth, our cradle. That is the challenge that all intelligent races must meet, sooner or later…it depends in turn upon the conquest of atomic energy and the last choice between life and death.
Clarke wrote this story in 1948. WW2 was just over and humanity was still amazed, shocked and terrified at its new-found-tool, The Atomic Bomb.
Clarke simply tries to send a message – Such weapons have the capacity to exterminate humanity. A massive world exists outside of us. We are nothing yet. We have seen nothing yet. So, we better behave!
73 years have passed since this story. Humans have survived the threat. Humans have reached further, deeper and seen clearer.
But what did humans do after reaching space conveniently?
We waged a cold-war where the outer space was merely a playground of strategic purposes! The same story continues today…
A monolith hasn’t yet been discovered. Nor has there been any concrete sign of other civilizations. There has been a constant though- Threats still exist.
Therefore, a question remains relevant:
Are we humans safe from ourselves?
Let us define Civilization as the stage of a creature where it can satisfy both the conditions:
a. build great things and
b. doesn’t have a threat from itself.
Similarly, let us define Savagery as:
The stage where a creature has internal conflicts of such magnitude that it has a threat from itself (irrespective of what it builds).
With these definitions, a weird thing appears:
Animals and creature which we call ‘lower’ and ‘unintelligent’ seem to be in the same stage of civilization as us!
Yes, they do not build rockets and computers, but they do not destroy themselves and their environment either.
So, what is stopping us?
What is responsible for our savagery? For our non-civilization?
In 1950, only the US and the USSR had nuclear weapons. Today, 9 nations possess them. While no one would be stupid enough to use them, they have become a crucial strategic tool. But that doesn’t mean, the dangers have been swept aside:
This goes to show that Clarke’s designation of savagery yet persists. In other words, we are still savages and are not yet civilized as we still have threats from ourselves, no matter what we have built.
The present Climate Crisis and the complications it has brought also proves the same.
Yes, for Clarke back then, the parameter of non-savagery was the ability to reach the vast expanse above. And man has reached there. But man hasn’t been able to disengage from the catastrophic threats imposed on itself, by itself. Outer Space is yet another battlefield!
As to the answer to the questions of what is stopping us; what is responsible for our savagery;for ournon-civilization,
This kind of threat exists today for: International-Politics.
The same organizational-structural-system that almost ended it all!
What amazes me when I hear about the past is that we haven’t been able to find an alternative political system or be harmonious with the present one- although we have managed to peek into our cells, brains and wherenot!
Nor have we been able to be brave enough to modify this obsolete system even when we have located alternatives.
What I mean by ‘obsolete system’ is that which is at constant war with itself and has the following characteristics:
In simple terms- National Systems.
Isn’t it time we moved on from nations and nationalities? Or at least establish a mechanism that will not allow us to destroy us for petty things? They were created by kings and princes with swords. For themselves! There are none left now and swords are already obsoletely obsolete things for museums.
We may have left the Earth, but we are still stuck in our own heads.
This proves that humans are still immature. Perhaps Clarke should have placed the monolith at Alpha Centauri.
From this viewpoint, it seems we humans are not civilized as long as we have the prevalent National Systems…or at least until we modify them!
A city can be defined as a geographical area which is compact, immensely interconnected and is urbanized. That is, it is modernly administered, uses and consumes advanced laws, systems, technology and infrastructure.
Our current crisis of Climate Change has some thinkers and even the United Nations proposing the idea that cities are the ideal construction that can help us overcome this crisis.
This makes it a perfect occasion to look at few of the great developments in cities in human history.
The process of knowing the history of cities involves scientific processes that are ongoing in nature. Archaeology is the most vital tool available for us to understand and know things of the ancient world. Especially of the time-period which has no written work to tell. It looks to unearth materials which are interpreted and placed in the most suitable time-period of its belonging. As new things get discovered, new light is thrown into the once unknown period and area.
With all this definition in mind. Let us see how cities have evolved.
The region of Levant is very important for archaeology. It was in Jericho of this region where the oldest known protective wall, the wall of Jericho, has been found. Along with this a stone tower has also been unearthed.
Archaeological evidence reveals that by 8000 BCE, the site grew to 40,000 square meters (430,000 square feet) and was surrounded by a stone wall 3.6 meters (11.8 feet) high and 1.8 meters (5.9 feet) wide at the base. Inside the wall was a stone tower 8.5 meters (28 feet) high and 9 meters (30 feet) wide at the base. The tower had an internal staircase with 22 steps
The hypothesis behind the wall is that it may have been built to protect its settlement from flood waters. The tower may have served some kind of ceremonial purpose. Some are also of the idea that the tower served the function of motivating people into the communal lifestyle as there have been suggestions that a population of some 2,000–3,000 persons were living there. But this varies as some estimate the population to be as low as 300. But nonetheless, Jericho is a concrete evidence on the movement of the human race from a hunting way of life to a one of full settlement.
Jericho has also provided evidence of agriculture. It has to be noted that, although modern cities tend to detach from agricultural pursuits, during the time leading up to Jericho, humans were still in a nomadic state. Hence, Jericho signifies not only the most distant evidence of a city but also of an organized settled living system.
Wheat and barley is thought to have been cultivated. It is highly probable that irrigation had also been invented.
Jericho’s settlement occurred in two phases. The one mentioned above was followed by a second settlement at around 7000 BCE. It too was a Pre-Pottery Neolithic in its nature. It expanded the range of domesticated plants and animals. Its buildings were rectilinear in structure and were made of mudbricks. Each building had several rooms and a central courtyard. Terrazzo floors made of lime decorated the rooms while the courtyards had clay flooring. Dishes and bowls were used. This phase of settlement lasted until about 6000 BCE. Towards the end of 5000 BCE, another urban settlement appeared in Jericho. It was walled yet again.
While Jericho ebbed-and-flowed, a massive city flourished in Mesopotamia where one of the earliest precursors to modern human life was found. It was where writing originated, and all kinds of technological, legal and moral basis of a collective urban life initiated. The city was Uruk.
Uruk was inhabited from its inception until c. 300 CE. after which it was abandoned and buried. It was excavated in 1853 CE. It used cylinder seals for attesting personal property and documents. It had monumental mud-brick buildings. Large sculptures and metal casting was done. Pictographs on clay tablets were used to record the management of goods and workers.
5000 BP (before present), Uruk had ~50,000 people. At its peak, it may have had around 80,000 inhabitants.The Ubaid Period (c. 5000-4100 BCE) saw Ubaid people first inhabit the region. This period is followed by the Uruk Period (4100-2900 BCE) during which cities started developing in various regions of Mesopotamia. Among which, Uruk became the most important.
The Uruk Period is divided into 8 phases but it was most influential between 4100-c.3000 BCE. It was during this time that
The city was divided into Eanna District and Anu District.
The Eanna District was walled off from the rest of the city. Anu district had a single massive terrace, called the Anu Ziggurat which was dedicated to the Sumerian sky god Anu. In the Uruk III period, a white temple was built on top of the ziggurat. From the Uruk VI period, a Stone Temple has been discovered.
Uruk continued to be relevant through the Ur III Period (2047-1750 BCE),
In 1922 CE, during an excavation of the ruins in that region, ‘The Great Death’ was discovered, which was a grave complex. Further studies revealed that in its heyday, Ur was a city enormous in size.
It used Cuneiform tablets which has allowed us to know that Ur was a highly centralized, wealthy and bureaucratic state during the third millenium BCE. The Royal Tombs, from about the 25th century BCE, contained,
Ur may have been the largest city in the world from 2030-1980 BCE, with a population of about 65,000.
Probably founded by farmer settlers from northern Mesopotamia, from the very beginning, it became a location of importance as a trade center as it was located at a point where the Tigris and Euphrates run into the Persian Gulf.
The city began to grow from a small village ruled by a priest or priest-king. There were two major dynasties: of Mesanneppada, the first king who was followed by three others: Mes-kiagnuna, Elulu, and Balulu. The Second Dynasty is not recorded and the history of which is not known.
When the Semitic leader Sargon (2334-2279 BCE) conquered the entire Sumerian land with his people the Akkadians, the Akkadian Empire ruled over the regions of Mesopotamia until it was inundated by Amorites who made their capital in a small town called Babylon. Which began the first Babylonian Empire.
The ziggurat of Ur, the temple, was built in the 21st century BCE. The ruins were uncovered in the 1930s which covered an area of 3,900 feet by 2,600 feet. It was a part of a complex that was an administrative center for the city.
End of Part 1
In this first part of our series of Short History of Cities, we talked about Jericho, Uruk and Ur. Although there have been evidence of multiple cities in the course of time in Jericho and other smaller ones around Uruk and Ur; these three stand tall on the basis of evidence gathered and the impact made.
Each should have inspired the city that followed and they collectively must have been very influential in not just the developments of cities as greatest technological achievements, but also in the development and progress of human species as a whole.
I have spent my entire life in Kathmandu. I more or less know how the seasons work here. But, this October has been unlike any other. It has been very hot and mosquitos are still buzzing.
Yes, I do consume a lot of Climate Change information and that may have influenced my outlook towards this year. But still, it’s mid-October and I am sweating and slapping myself! Didn’t I wear a sweater this time around last year? Weren’t the mosquitos gone along with the monsoon?
I want to know whether it’s always been this way and I have been exaggerating or is there something else to it!
A quick search on Google has revealed the current temperature (the time of this writing) of Kathmandu to be 29 °C.
At 9 AM this morning it was 31 °C.
I checked on a historical dataset tool and it showed that the temperature at 9:35 AM in October 13, 2010 was 23 °C and the weather was foggy. It showed the temperature at the same date and time to be 22 °C and 20 °C and foggy in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
Further, at 9:35 in the morning in the 13th of October it showed:
19 °C and foggy in 2013
19 °C and foggy in 2014
21 °C and foggy in 2015
~ 21 °C with broken clouds in 2016
25 °C with scattered clouds in 2017
20 °C with broken cloud in 2018
21 °C with scattered clouds in 2019
25 °C with broken clouds in 2020
25 °C with passing clouds in 2021
It has been more or less around the same temperature at around 9 in the morning as per this tool.
I clearly was stupid to be wearing a sweater this time last year.
I then cross-checked with this tool. It showed weather from the TIA radar. It showed:
At 9:35 in the morning in the 13th of October:
79 °F or 26.1111 °C and partly cloudy in 2010
77°F or 25 °C and partly cloudy in 2011
73 °F or 22.7778 °C and fair in 2012
66°F or 18.8889 °C and cloudy in 2013
64°F or 17.7778 °C and light rain in 2014
72°F or 22.2222 °C and mostly cloudy in 2015
77 °F or 25 °C with mostly cloudy in 2016
79 °F or 26.1111 °C with partly cloudy in 2017
75 °F or 23.8889 °C and fair in 2018
75 ° F or 23.8889 °C and partly cloudy in 2019
79 ° F or 26.1111 °C with light rain in 2020
84 ° F or 28.8889°C and fair in 2021
This tool clearly shows that the temperature has been the highest in 2021 within the last 11 years.
Both tools show that 2010, 2011, 2016, 2017 and 2020 have been the warmest.
9:35 AM temperature in Kathmandu:
in 2000 was 79 ° F / 26.1111 ° C and partly cloudy
77 ° F/ 25 ° C in 2002 and partly cloudy
79 ° F / 26.1111 ° C and partly cloudy at around 8:35-10:15 AM in 2004
81 ° F / 27.2222 ° C and fair at 9:35 AM in 2005
81 ° F / 27.2222 ° C and partly cloudy in 2008
This looks something like this:
I am unsure of the reliability of the data available. But the rise in temperature I felt subjectively seems to be justified.
We saw data of two different sources and the curve more or less looks the same.
Biodiversity is a way of looking at biological varieties of any given space-time.
If I have 20 species of flowers in my garden then it means I have a biodiverse garden. On the other hand, if in the same location I have a concrete floor on which I stand alone with my cell-phone, then it means it’s not a very biodiverse situation.
Since Earth is the only known planet to have any kind of Biology let alone diversity, Biodiversity is used in Earth’s context.
The term “biodiversity” is a contraction of “biological diversity” or “biotic diversity”. These terms all refer to the idea of living variation, from genes and traits, to species, and to ecosystems. The popular contraction “biodiversity” came about in the mid-1980s, heralded by a symposium in 1986 and an influential follow-up book, Biodiversity (Wilson 1988). These events often are interpreted as the beginning of the biodiversity story, but this mid-1980s activity actually was both a nod to important past work, and a launching of something quite new, in ways not fully anticipated.
The diversity of biology on Earth is quite amazing if we think about it.
Roughly 8.7 million species of plants and animals are thought to be existing as of now. Now, that’s a lot of species!
What’s more, there are a lot more species to be discovered. Some are even of the opinion that we have not even properly begun sea-species exploration yet.
If we think about it, a species of any animal or plant signifies something very distinct to that particular species which is not found in any other and which makes it unnatural for it to blend with any other.
In other words, every species has a uniqueness to it.
We humans tend to get very haughty when it comes to our self-image, respect and all that. We are all unique in our own ways and have distinct individual traits. But we’re just one specie: ONE!
There are roughly 8.7 million other species just like us with each individual component distinct from other components of the same species. Just like in us. Now that is diversity. Variation!
What they do is, they take over 14,000 of the population time-series gathered from a variety of sources such as journals, online databases and government reports. After which, a modelling framework is used to determine the trend in population time-series. Rates of change are calculated and aggregated,
…Each species trend is aggregated to produce an index for the terrestrial, marine and freshwater systems. This process uses a weighted average method which places most weight on the largest (most species-rich) groups within a biogeographic realm. This is done to counteract the uneven spatial and taxonomic distribution of data in the LPD. The three system indices are then averaged to produce the global LPI.
There is another tool released by Natural History Museum in London:
I checked Nepal’s 2020-2050 BII with SSP 1 and this is what it showed:
Nepal seems somewhat resilient and functioning in SSP1. But the curve is slightly declining. Similar is the case with other SSPs.
Leading up to the UN Biodiversity Conference COP 15, there was a warning given by Prof. Andy Purvis of the Natural History Museum in London. He said that biodiversity,
…is the foundation of our society. We’ve seen recently how disruptive it can be when supply chains break down – nature is at the base of our supply chains.
Causes of all this
HUMANS, once again Humans!
Plant and animal species around the world are currently threatened by nothing more so than by humans. Our requirements and subsequent activities such as:
Exploitation of natural resources
Depletion of natural resources
is responsible for this crisis.
Impact of biodiversity loss
Biodiversity is not just crucial because variations should exist for ethical, aesthetic reasons. Although those reasons are sufficient enough.
Depletion in biodiversity has a huge adverse impact in the overall ecosystem. Life on Earth is balanced by the interdependence of species on each other. Loss of any species can lead to negative effects on the whole system.
It is a very delicate balance. Predatory creatures losing their prey will also be in danger of extinction as they won’t be able to feed on any other.
All this can lead to serious collapse of the Earth’s ecosystem.
Along with this, there are obvious disadvantages to the human species. One is that diseases will spread. Nature has balanced everything in such a way that even her housekeeping is done by her organisms. A slight deviation in this can result in serious catastrophe to humankind.
Humans will also see dramatic change in their agriculture if this balance is disturbed, resulting in social and economic disadvantages.
There have been international initiatives to solve this crisis. These are the prominent ones:
World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Fauna & Flora International (FFI), United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP), Conservation International, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), International Crane Foundation (ICF), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Oceana.
But these international entities cannot function without cooperation from National and Public entities.
Biodiversity preservation also depends on two sets of actors:
At the National Level, the governments have to cooperate with Scientific and International agenda. Protection of species, habitats, anti-deforestation, overhunting and pollution, etc. has to be strictly followed.
At the public level, it’s all about making people aware of the crisis at hand and making biodiversity loss a normal subject of conversation among people such that people can understand what has to be done from their side. Almost everyone is responsible for over consumption, pollution, exploitation of resources, etc. so everyone has to wake up.
Awareness programs have to be greatly initiated. Public actors have to be active for this. General people are ignorant of these things. They have to be explained as to what is really going on.
My belief is that human beings will survive no matter what. Unless some cosmic catastrophe strikes. My sincere belief is that certain privileged human beings will survive no matter what. Man wants to survive. As Nietzsche said, human beings will do whatever it takes for the survival of its species.
Humans will move on from biodiversity loss as well. Perhaps towards techno-diversity. But, humans will survive.
The question is How? and with Whom? Alone or with other creatures?
How should humans survive?
This question is still out in the open for all of us to answer.
Today, climate change is having a serious impact on the Earth. The actions we take today will determine our fate as a species on this planet.
Although climate change on Earth is a natural phenomenon, human induced Carbon emissions have been responsible for heating of the Earth’s atmosphere to a critical point. The scientific community world-wide seems to have now agreed upon this fact.
It was the Swedish Scientist Svante Arrhenius who gave the first warning on Climate and its impact in 1896. He talked about Greenhouse Gases creating problems for the atmosphere and Carbon Dioxide warming the surface temperature of Earth.
Earlier, in the 1820s Joseph Fourier had developed a theory that said –
the amount of energy entering Earth through Sun’s radiation should be equal to the amount of energy exiting the Earth.
John Tyndall in the 1860s had demonstrated that coal gases (containing CO2, methane and volatile hydrocarbons) absorb energy. He showed how CO2 absorbs multiple wavelengths of sunlight like a sponge.
After this, research on the relationship between Greenhouse Gases and Climate increased and also did the process of measuring Earth’s surface temperature. Mechanisms to monitor climate change through human activities began developing.
British engineer Guy Stewart Callendar noted that the United States and North Atlantic region had warmed significantly on the heels of the Industrial Revolution.
Callendar’s calculations suggested that a doubling of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere could warm Earth by 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F). He would continue to argue into the 1960s that a greenhouse-effect warming of the planet was underway.
It was the American scientist Charles Keeling who developed a mechanism to measure the atmospheric concentration of CO2. It became known as the Keeling Curve. It is a graph that shows the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere.
In 1963, the first conference on Climate Change was held and the subsequent developments showed that:
Humans have added a great amount of CO2 to the Earth’s atmosphere. Along with it, other Greenhouse gases have also been added:
Carbon dioxide (CO2)
Nitrous oxide (N2O)
Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)
Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3)
Water vapor (H2O)
It was then noticed that these gases were heating the Earth. These gases were stopping the Solar radiations that were supposed to reflect back into Space. It was named the greenhouse effect and was confirmed that the absorbed heat was what was increasing the temperature.
Here are a few facts:
The increasing temperature impacts all activities on Earth that are dependent on Heat. And that is everything!
Humans have been adding around 3o billion metric tons of CO2 annually.
In the last 150 odd years, the Temperature of the Earth has been increasing by 0.6 degree celsius. But it is estimated to increase by 0.4-2.6 between 2046-2065 and by 0.3-4.8 between 2081-2100
There is a concept called Tipping point which is a point beyond which Earth’s system will get damaged beyond repair. It is 2 degrees.
If nothing is done, the temperature is expected to increase by 5 degree by 2100
Evidences of Climate Change:
Measured Surface Temperature
Inconsistent season patterns
Appearance of Plants and Animals in environments previously not favorable to them
The Impacts of Climate Change:
Sea Level Rise and its impact
Flood, Landslides and their impact
Biodiversity loss and its impact
Glacial melts and its impact
In 2000, 1,50,000 people lost their lives due to the impact of Climate Change
In 2009, this number raised to 3,00,000
The people residing near coastal areas and mountainous regions are the most vulnerable.
Although adequate warning has been given and nations have started to take precautionary actions, poorer countries such as Nepal have a long way to go. The 2020 CRI index showed Nepal to be the 12th most vulnerable nation from Climate Change. Due to the presence of Himalayas and dependency on Summer Monsoon; Nepal, which is an agriculture dependent nation can have catastrophic consequences if proper actions are not taken immediately.
Glacial Lake Outburst Flood and other natural disasters such as Flood, Landslide, Soil-Erosion have already increased by a considerable margin. The problem though is that enough research has not been done and that which has been done has not been contextualized and distributed among the public and the responsible agencies.
Internationally there have been ‘landmark’ initiatives in regards to Climate Change.
In 1989 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established under the United Nations whose task was to provide scientific basis of Climate Change and impact Political, Economic decisions.
Nepal has also initiated Clean Development Mechanism. It has also agreed towards promoting Alternative Energy carbon neutralization. In 2011, the Local Adaptation Plans of Action – LAPA) was prepared. Nepal is also a part of the Kyoto Protocol, Paris Agreement and Sendai Framework.
Nepal’s Issue and Crisis
Precipitation, Increasing Water stress. Droughts, storms, floods, inundation, landslides, debris flow, soil erosion and avalanches- are the apparent issues Nepal has to deal with.
Climate Migration resulting from the above will occur and the lack of capable/credible power-structure will only bring more crises thereon.
Nepal’s major crisis will stem from the Glacial Lake Outburst Flood. It occurs when water dammed by a glacier is flooded which results in flash floods of water and other debris destroying the infrastructures of lower regions. This impacts agriculture, settlements, industries and tourism.
Prakash Mani Sharma writes in Climate Change and its Impact in Nepal:
In Nepal’s Himalaya, total estimated ice reserves between 1977 and 2010 decreased by 29% (129 km3). The number of glacier lakes increased by 11% and glaciers receded on an average by 38 km2 per year during the same period. The substantial impacts on snows and glaciers that are likely to increase the possibilities of Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs).
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, issued a report in 2007 that claimed Himalayan glaciers could completely melt away by 2035. • The other scientists believe that by the time global temperatures increase by just 2 degrees Celsius, more than half of the Himalayan glaciers will have vanished
even under the present climate at least 44 glacial lakes have been identified with serious potential of GLOFs.
Of these, 20 glacial lakes are identified as potentially dangerous for GLOF events. Among the potentially dangerous lakes, only few mitigation measures are taken.
Several GLOF events have occurred over the past few decades incurring extensive damage to roads, bridges, trekking trials, villages as well as incurring loss of human life and other property and infrastructure. At least 12 GLOF events have been reported to date. These have caused extensive damage and with continued regional warming GLOFs are likely become more common.
Monsoon is another area that will get disturbed due to Climate Change. Since Nepal is heavily dependent on the Summer Monsoon, there is a huge risk for agriculture and other industries.
There is an even bigger risk for areas directly heavily dependent on Summer Monsoon.
Snow, glacier melt precipitation will also bring risk to agriculture and industries. Furthermore, it will increase the chances of floods, landslides and soil erosion. With this too, there is a huge risk for areas heavily dependent on Summer Monsoon.
Here are some facts related to Nepal and Climate Change:
Out of the 75 districts, 29 districts are highly vulnerable to landslides, 22 districts to drought, 12 districts to GLOFs, and 9 districts to flooding.
95% Greenhouse gases generated from Nepal are from agriculture and forests. 77 % of this is from forests.
By 2030 the surface temperature can reach up to 2 degree Celsius.
By 2060 the surface temperature can reach up to 3.8 degree Celsius.
By 2090 the surface temperature can reach up to 5.8 degree Celsius.
70 % of the people in Nepal are dependent on agriculture.
There are 6000 rivers in Nepal with an annual mean runoff – 224 billion cubic meter
Per capita water availability – 9000 cubic meters
~96% water is used in agriculture but only 24 % is used in agriculture
Nepal is dependent on Monsoon. Now there is a risk of greater rainfall.
Monsoon will get even more unpredictable
All this can result in food crisis
Weakened Agriculture sector will be impacted more by Climate Change. There is a risk of Food Insecurity and Food deficiency
There hasn’t been much research on Climate Change in Nepal. Because:
GCM model is difficult to implement
Lack of Climate Change Records
Natural Variations in Water Resources
Poor resource Management
Impacts which can help understand Climate Change scenario in Nepal:
Changes in Precipitation Pattern
Increasing Water Stress
We earlier mentioned Stewart Brand and his three strategies. In Nepal’s case, Amelioration seems implausible which leaves us with Mitigation and Adaptation.
Mitigation – Avoiding the unmanagable.
Adaptation – Managing the unavoidable.
The challenges of Nepal can be summarized as follows:
Too much dependency on Agriculture makes Nepal very vulnerable.
The same dependency results in difficulty in implementing strong policies.
Lack of dependable financial sector.
Lack of Research
With this, there are basically two approaches towards solving the climate crisis in Nepal:
From the National Level
From the Local to Individual Level
From the National level, the best that has been done so far is the theoretical राष्ट्रिय जलवायू परिवर्तन निति
It’s goal is to contribute to the socio-economic prosperity of Nepal by developing a sustainable system. It aims to assist people, families, groups and communities, vulnerable from Climate Change. Not only that but it also wants to develop a sustainable system, promote green-economy and mobilize grants from various sources towards reducing climate change catastrophe.
The policy has identified the following areas:
Agriculture and Food Security
Forest, Biodiversity and Watershed preservation
Water Resource and Energy
Rural and Urban Settlements
Industry, Transportation and Physical Infrastructure
Tourism and Natural/Cultural Heritages
Public Awareness and Capacity Building
Research and Technical development
Climate Change Finance Management
But since these policies are paperworks that will merely feed their makers and the makers’ masters, these are the minimum actions that have to taken from National Level to avoid catastrophe in Nepal:
Focus on Water Management: Sustainable agricultural techniques have to be developed that are less water intensive and refocused efforts have to be put on the rehabilitation of water infrastructure.
Focus on Infrastructure development and crisis mitigation: Roads, Electricity and such infrastructures are going to suffer. Appropriate preparations have to start NOW.
Support Local and Independent Actors: If you can’t and don’t want to do it yourself, at least don’t make it difficult for others.
From the local to individual level:
Awareness programs have to be greatly initiated. Usage of less water, diverse agriculture, micro irrigation, small scale storage, etc. have to be taught and adapted. Public actors have to be active for this.