Not long ago, I read somewhere that ‘current events’ are a first draft of history. In case you didn’t know, ‘first draft’ is the preliminary text you write. You then return to it and edit it to improve it. This is a skill that will be of great help to you. I am still practising it and it helps me a lot.
Thanks to my two geography gurus – the late Sri B Narasanna at National High School, Bengaluru, and Dr Surinder Mohan Bhardwaj at Kent State University, Ohio, USA – I have learned the value of following current events in my ongoing explorations in geography.
So, today, a few items from the news as reported in the main edition of this very newspaper, the Deccan Herald (DH). As we frequently do with so many names, words, and phrases, we always called this paper Decc’n’eraaldu! I still frequently do so, just for fun.
Headline: “SC opens Sabarimala temple door to women”
As you might have seen in several articles in this column, if you have been reading them carefully and paying attention!, I’ve often spoken of geographies and the personal characteristics of an individual – age, ‘race’, gender, disability, caste/creed/religion, etc. I have also written several times about aspects of sacred places.
For a long time, tradition at the Sabarimala temple in Kerala has forbidden menstruating women from entering the temple. This is part of that phenomenon of taboo geographies of menstruation (for example, read the series on “Proscription and Prescription” published in this paper not very long ago).
In passing judgment on the matter, DH reports that, “Justice D Y Chandrachud, in his judgement, said the social exclusion of women, based on menstrual status, was a form of untouchability which is an anathema to constitutional values.” Four of the five judges agreed with him. One judge, Justice Indu Malhotra “sounded a note of caution saying in a pluralistic society of diverse faiths, beliefs and traditions, to entertain PILs challenging religious practises followed by any group, sect or denomination, could cause serious damage to the constitutional and secular fabric of this country. “
This case is about access to a sacred place. I have three questions for you:
- What are the geographical issues you see in this case?
- What is your opinion on the matter?
- And why do you hold that opinion?
You will probably have read about the ancient ‘silk road’ … a network of routes connecting places in China (the East) with places in Europe (the West) and those in-between. That network of routes has led to many processes of geography and history that we still see today. Since those days, centuries ago, we have developed and advanced many technological advances that have given us two new revolutions: (1) the transportation revolution, and (2) the communication revolution. The world is more connected than ever. (Many believe that in spite of this, human beings are increasingly isolated, too.)
Along comes China with a grand plan to revive the idea of the ancient network in the modern context. They are calling it the Belt and Road Initiative. I have mentioned this in some previous articles. For example, in this three-part series on “Circular Connections”.
Basically, China is trying to get various countries (examples: Pakistan, Sri Lanka, many countries of Africa) to participate in this initiative by becoming friendly to Chinese interests. China is investing vast amounts of money in developing port and railway infrastructure in these countries. The aim is to open up a friendly route for China to export more of its goods around the world.
Why is that important for China? It would make China more powerful than the USA in the world. How? By investing in infrastructure projects (examples: rail and ports) in various countries, China will exert a lot of power in those countries. The investment will be in the form of ‘loans’ given to the countries. We will ‘lend’ you the money, then you use that money to ‘pay us’ to develop your infrastructure. Don’t worry, you can pay back over time. You don’t have to pay it all at once. But while you owe us money, you have to do things we want you to do.
Those countries will get into debt with China, owing China money. Pakistan had signed on to the idea; its Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Saudi Arabia and encouraged them to join the Belt and Road Initiative. But now, … well, read the DH article and find out.
Increasingly, it is becoming clearer that climate change is causing diseases to spread farther and farther. Due to increased global warming, the habitats (i.e., places where organisms live) of disease-carrying organisms (the vectors) and the disease-causing organisms (the pathogens) that they carry are able to geographically spread out more and more.
When the Zika virus (pathogen) began spreading in Brazil ahead of the 2016 Olympics, people were advised to protect themselves from mosquitoes (vectors). One of the recommendations was: move to higher altitudes. The ideas there is that mosquitoes cannot survive in the cooler temperatures at those higher altitudes.
Now, DH reports on a story of how even that strategy may not work in Himachal Pradesh. The temperatures are rising even at the higher altitudes, making it possible for mosquitoes (vectors) to spread the dengue virus (pathogen).
You can also see how this warming is negatively affecting the cultivation of apples in Himachal Pradesh, making it more and more difficult for the farmers there.
A version of this article appeared in the Deccan Herald Student Edition, 03 October 2018