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EDITORIAL - Stop manufacturing illnesses without building hospitals

3 September 2015 08:11 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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President Maithripala Sirisena, in his widely-acclaimed policy statement at the ceremonial opening of the new Parliament on Tuesday, pledged that the social justice and sustainable development policies of the new National Government would give high priority to national food production, environmental protection and rural economic development. 

Some important insights on these and related issues were given at a seminar held on August 27 by the Organisation for Good Living Practices. Civil engineer and environmentalist Ravi De Silva, leading nutritionist Dr. Damayanthi Perera and eco-friendly innovator Dr. Nandadasa Narayana were among those who spoke at this seminar, with the organisers and the audience agreeing that the awareness they received in two hours was much more and deeper than what they got during 10 years in school. 

When the Kandalama Hotel was being built in the early 1990s, environmental groups had held demonstrations, including a one-hour meditation on Dambulla Rock, protesting that the hotel would cause serious damage to the area’s culture and environment, including the wewas. But Ravi De Silva, as the project manager of the Kandalama Hotel, took so many innovative measures that the hotel later won an Asian award for the most eco-friendly hotel. Mr. De Silva, now a consultant on corporate sustainability, explained how even in the area of waste management, by separating the huge quantities of organic waste from plastic and polythene, they were recycling the garbage into something good for Mother Earth and for agriculture. He said the general world order was to innovate, improve, consume and throw away. But now we need to change the cycle and innovate means to recycle the throwaways. 



According to Mr. De Silva, many plant and animal species have gone extinct in recent centuries due to the exploitative practices of a selfish, greedy and wicked world. But we reap what we sow and the next in line for extinction is the human race itself unless effective action is taken immediately to curb air pollution, the rising temperatures and sea levels and other forms of pollution. He pointed out that the new Government had spoken of a plan to reduce air pollution by 2020. That is good but not good enough. Immediate action needs to be taken to innovate means of producing green energy. These could include electric vehicles, solar and wind energy. He lamented that the slashing of fuel prices in January this year had been put into reverse gear because of selfish attitudes. During the past six months, the number of vehicles imported had doubled compared to the same period last year, meaning that air pollution had also doubled. Even now, pollution levels are so bad that up to 60 percent of the people living in cities and suburban areas are known to be suffering from respiratory ailments. If we go on like this, people will soon start dropping dead because of breathing toxic air. 

Mr. De Silva also pointed out how the cutting down of trees was increasing air pollution. Without a proper knowledge of botany or biology, most people do not seem to be aware that when trees produce food through the process of photosynthesis, they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy, normally from the Sun, into chemical energy that can be later released to fuel the organisms’ activities. This chemical energy is stored in carbohydrate molecules, such as sugars, which are synthesized from carbon dioxide and water – hence the name photosynthesis. In most cases, oxygen is also released as a waste product. More trees means less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Remember this before you cut a tree. Woodman, spare your axe. 

Dr. Damayanthi Perera spoke of how the excessive use of agrochemicals was polluting our soil, groundwater and rivers. As a result, most of the staple food, vegetables and fruits we eat are poisoned with the toxicity being increased by marketers who use some 1,200 additives including preservatives, flavour-enhancing substances and artificial sweeteners. 

The speakers showed the vicious cycle we have created. We are producing or importing poison food or ultra-processed rubbish, thus more and more people are falling sick more often because we are eating a little poison with every meal. At the other end, huge private hospitals are being built because so many people are falling sick. So a selfish, greedy and wicked race is manufacturing diseases and then building big private hospitals to cure these diseases with the once sacred vocation of medicine also becoming a big business today. Physicians, save yourselves.
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