The Economy Rises

February 13, 2020

CNN reports:  “The US economy expanded by 2.3% in 2019.” Good news, isn’t it? Let’s see.

The US continues it’s wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya and Niger as well as it’s support for the war in Yemen killing thousands of civilians, including 8,000 children and sparking a humanitarian crisis and in Syria in which 500,000 people have been killed and 12 million (half the country’s population) displacedOn a related note, overheard in a conference of the major weapons manufacturers, Raytheon, Oshkosh and Lockheed Martin, how the wars in middle east “benefit” their stock prices. Of course, they do—more wars, more demand for weapons and the economy rises.

Benoa Bay, a region in the south of Bali, consists of 1,375 hectares (13.75 square km) of mangrove forests, five rivers, 12 traditional villages and 150,000 residents. The “residents” are indigenous people—the temples inside their home compounds still contain ashes from their ancestors—who have lived there for hundreds (probably thousands) of years, sustainably—proven by the fact that the forests, coral reefs, fish are still alive and vibrant. This land is now being “sold” by the Government to a private company for, here we go:

…[a] £150 million port facility, world-class cruise ship harbour and marina with hotels, resorts, housing and golf course in the area. This group of artificial islands separated by canals would also include a shopping arcade, luxury villas and townhouses, eco chalets, a business district, a water theme park and – possibly – a Bali culture amusement park in an effort to lure in elite tourists.

Does anyone not get the irony of destroying 12 truly traditional and sustainable Balinese villages and building “eco-villages”? And maybe the amusement park should be called “Bali Cultural and Environmental Destruction” amusement park. Who cares if most Balinese people oppose this project on their land (democracy, anyone)? At least, the economy will rise.

If the project were to go through, besides the destruction of the forests, corals, wildlife and environment, what will happen to the 150,000 residents? They will be displaced from their homes and available as cheap labour in the same mega-project as construction workers, cleaners, taxi drivers and so on. In an economist’s graph, they would move from “unemployed” to “employed” and would become part of the economy as “unskilled labor”. Never mind that they have intimate knowledge of the forests, corals and how to live sustainably in that region (their home), knowledge passed down for generations and knowledge that is absolutely vital, if we are to ever live sustainably.

The mega-project would need a lot of “resources”*, bring in a lot of “employment” and once completed, would bring in a lot of “foreign money” from the “elite tourists”. A win-win-win for the economy and a lose-lose-lose for the planet. And the economy rises.

The tall and beautiful Jeungjing trees next to my house in a small village in Bali were sold the other day for $75 each, which were then promptly cut down with chainsaws and converted to timber logs for construction. Trees that not only supported life—Javan kingfishers and various other songbirds, cicadas, squirrels and don’t forget, humans, by producing oxygen—but are life themselves, converted into logs for the almighty god of economy.

Few changes I am noticing at airports and in flights these days.

Children now play outside less and less. For one, there is no land that just exists because no one owns it, every piece of land is now divided, owned, and marked “Private Property” and “No Trespassing”. Whatever public places like parks, pools and community halls are left have to be constantly defended against the march of economy. Secondly, the natural instinct of adventure and exploration in children is on sale to the highest bidder – the producers of video games and TV channels. They decide if the children should kill zombies, grab more land (a good preparation for future) or follow Dora the explorer on adventures that feature, ironically enough, trees, forests and animals, all the while the real ones outside are being decimated.

In India, farmers who were growing food for themselves and their village are being forced to produce genetically modified cotton for cheap, mostly single-use t-shirts in Walmart or dog food and tulips to be exported to Europe. To be clear, producing and exporting these means that the large quantities of water and soil nutrients that are required to produce them, vital for the survival of both the people living on that land and the ecosystem, are being exported away leaving the people and the land without water, without topsoil, impoverished and malnourished. No wonder farmers are committing suicide at an alarming rate. Not just in India, this is the fate of farmers in Africa, Indonesia (Europeans obviously need their rice), South America (North Americans obviously need bananas all year round), Pakistan, Bangladesh and so on. “Third-world countries”** obviously need to balance the trade and increase their economy, don’t they?

Under the far right (fascist) government of President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, the rate of deforestation of the Amazon rainforests has increased 267% which equals to 2253 sq. km in July – that’s 400 football fields per hour. Hundreds of millions of year old ecosystems that support trillions of life forms and, not to put too fine a point on it, produce oxygen for us to breathe— ‘the lungs of our planet’— are being decimated in the service of the economy. Rainforests of Indonesia, Papua etc. are suffering similar fate. Orangutans—translated as person (orang) of the forest (hutans) in the Indonesian language— are now critically endangered. Looking at orangutans and their babies, isn’t it shocking that the law considers them property – things that can be bought, sold, killed with no consequences–and not living beings with the right to exist? This is true of all wild animals everywhere in the world, of course. In fact, anyone trying to protect them is the one doing “illegal” activities and is either thrown in jail or killed by loggers. A few corporations own the logging rights — rights to clearcut, i.e. to destroy, i.e. to kill — the forests of the world including their non-human inhabitants. Derrick Jensen in his book “Strangely like War” writes:

…the Canadian corporation Abitibi-Price owns a million acres [of forests] in the United States and Canada, and holds cutting rights to 19 million acres more. Barito Pacific holds 2 million of Indonesia’s 21 million acres of forestry concessions. Canadian Pacific Forest Products owns or holds tenures on 24 million acres. The Japanese paper manufacturer Daishowa controls nearly 10 million acres of timberland in Alberta and British Columbia, Canada. Karl Danzer of Germany controls more than 7 million acres worldwide”

 

and so on and so forth. If one were to ask about the insanity of a for-profit corporation in one country owning the rights to destroy the forests in another, the only answers you would get are balance of trade, economy, money, debt and so on — fictional stories created by humans — and nothing about suffering, empathy or humanity. And the economy rises.

This is no different, of course, than the slave trade of 16th to 19th century which was driven mainly by economics. Yuval Noah Harari in his extraordinary book Sapiens writes:

The slave trade was not controlled by any state or government. It was a purely economic enterprise, organized and financed by the free market according to the laws of supply and demand. Private slave-trading companies sold shares on the Amsterdam, London and Paris stock exchanges. Middle-class Europeans looking for a good investment bought these shares. Relying on this money, the companies bought ships, hired sailors and soldiers, purchased slaves in Africa, and transported them to America. There they sold the slaves to the plantation owners, using the proceeds to purchase plantation products such as sugar, cocoa, coffee, tobacco, cotton and rum. They returned to Europe, sold the sugar and cotton for a good price, and then sailed to Africa to begin another round. The shareholders were very pleased with this arrangement. Throughout the eighteenth century the yield on slave-trade investments was about 6 per cent a year – they were extremely profitable, as any modern consultant would be quick to admit.

Charles Eisenstein in his book Sacred Economics gives us another simple example of “economic growth”, an example which might be personally true for many of you as it is for me:

Child care has been another area of high economic growth in my lifetime. When I was young, it was nothing for friends and neighbors to watch each other’s kids for a few hours after school, a vestige of village or tribal times when children ran free. My ex-wife Patsy speaks movingly of her childhood in rural Taiwan, where children could and did show up at any neighbor’s house around dinner time and to be given a bowl of rice. The community took care of the children. In other words, child care was abundant; it would have been impossible to open an after-school day care center.

For something to become an object of commerce, it must be made scarce first. As the economy grows, by definition, more and more of human activity enters the realm of money, the realm of goods and services. Usually we associate economic growth with an increase in wealth, but we can also see it as an impoverishment, an increase in scarcity. Things we once never dreamed of paying for, we must pay for today. Pay for using what? Using money, of course—money that we struggle and sacrifice to obtain. If one thing is scarce, it is surely money. Most people I know live in constant low level (sometimes high-level) anxiety for fear of not having enough of it. And as the anxiety of the wealthy confirms, no amount is ever “enough.”

From this perspective, we must be cautious in our indignation at such facts as, “Over two billion people live on less than two dollars a day.” A low cash income could mean that someone’s needs are met outside the money economy, for example through traditional networks of reciprocity and gifts. “Development” in such cases raises incomes by bringing nonmonetary economic activity into the realm of goods and services, with the resulting mentality of scarcity, competition, and anxiety so familiar to us in the West, yet so alien to the moneyless hunter-gatherer or subsistence peasant.

And the economy rises.

US continues to increase it’s largest export—guns and military weapons (read: death) all around the world and blocking UN resolutions to control the flow. It exported 10.5 billion dollars worth weapons in 2018 and that excludes “military aid” since that’s free. Ironically, in many of the wars that the US fights, including the war on drugs, both sides are using weapons Made in USA, a win-win for the weapon manufacturers and the economy.

 

Prisons in the US are overflowing— about 2.2 million people, the highest of any country not just by percentage but actual numbers—and becoming privatized. These prisoners are used by for-profit corporations in dangerous and menial jobs, for example, as firefighters in California to contain the fires caused by climate change with almost no pay or benefits. A few of them die but at least the economy rises.

You vote Democrat or Republican, BJP or Congress, they all promise a rising economy and the economy rises.

No one seems to appreciate the fact that a rising economy (higher GDP) means higher rate of production of stuff and this “production” simply means the conversion of the living to the dead – the living mountains, rivers, forests, trees into plastic, cars, cement, phones and so on. And the economy rises.

The rivers suffocate because of dams and toxic chemicals from factories and the economy rises.

The oceans are vacuumed by industrial fishing (bottom-trawling***) and suffocate under plastic trash, toxic chemicals and the economy rises.

The earth is being polluted, burned, devastated, dug up, toxified — in a word murdered—and the economy rises.

No one asks the question: “Should the economy rise?” and the economy rises.

 

* Resources: This might sound shocking to most people, especially to economists, but there is no such thing as resources or raw material. These so called “resources” are either living beings (trees, fish etc.) or their homes (rivers, oceans, mountains, deserts) or both (rainforests, prairies, wetlands, corals) and they have to be taken either by violence or fictional economic stories of balance of trade, debt and so on.

 

** Third world – This term was coined during the cold war between the US and Soviet Union to describe countries that did not align to either side. The US and it’s NATO allies were First World, the Soviet Union and it’s allies were Second World and the rest who did not get involved in the war, (i.e. the peaceful ones) were Third World. Any guesses as to who came up with the term? Obviously, the ones who described themselves as First World.

However, these terms have now completely changed meaning and are mostly used in a racist way, even though the person using it may not know this. “First world” is used to describe mostly white-people countries that are “developed”, meaning “civilized”, meaning what all other countries should and want to become and “third world” is used to describe countries with people of all other colours that are “undeveloped”, meaning “uncivilized” meaning aspiring to become “first-world”.

How about a new definition? “Third-World” countries are the ones that still haven’t completely destroyed their rainforests, corals, oceans, animal species like elephants, tigers, giraffes, rhinos – and still have many indigenous people living sustainably within these communities. Meanwhile First World countries are the ones that have mostly destroyed these, save for a few national parks and are now importing these “resources” – food, fossil fuels and so on. Sweden, for example, the model “First World” country for many imports 97% of it’s food!

*** Bottom trawling, a form of industrial fishing that involves dragging heavy nets across the sea bottom, which obliterates seafloor habitat and seafloor creatures in the “most destructive of any actions that humans conduct in the ocean.” Every six months, bottom trawlers drag an area the size of the continental United States.

 

 

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The Wasp on my Roof

August 9, 2019

Lately I’ve been in a house cleaning mood and yesterday I decided to take on the toughest challenge—the roof of my living room. My house has the Balinese-style high vaulted ceiling, fully open to the outside from one side and with doors that I usually keep open on the other. As any of you living in Bali know, this means that I share* my house with many non-human companions— spiders, wasps, geckos, both large and small, caterpillars, butterflies, damselflies, dragon flies, snails, an occasional snake and so on. I just realized that many of you reading might be feeling squeamish at this point which is the exact opposite of why I listed them. I like all of them and am happy to share my house with them. They usually mind their own business as long as I mind my own. As the resident snake expert of Bali likes to say: how do you know if a snake is dangerous or not? If you are getting close to her (no, not ‘it’), cornering her, are unaware of her and scaring her by your movements, she’s dangerous. If you are aware of her and keeping your distance and simply letting her do her (vital) job in the ecosystem, she is not dangerous. As is true for snakes, so is true for my non-human companions.

As I am cleaning the roof, I came across a full, round nest, bigger than the size of my wrist hanging from the ceiling. In a moment of ignorance, I brushed it with my broom and down it came in a second. Instantly, out of nowhere, a wasp came to where it was and started to fly around frantically. I looked down where it had fallen and broken into pieces and I saw three wasp larvae lying on the floor. From all that is human in me, it was clear what I had done. The wasp mother was flying around the place in patterns I had never seen before, now zig-zag, now in circles, now as if hanging and swinging from the roof, now landing on the empty space where her nest had been. It does not take a rocket scientist (actually, it might be a distinct disadvantage if you are a rocket scientist) to figure out that these were the same moments of panic and shock for her which we all experience at a sudden loss, the moments in which we are aware of what has just happened in the deepest of our cores but neither our body nor our hearts, brains or emotions have caught up to the horror of the loss. I simply stood there, motionless, watching her for about 20 minutes. It was a strangely solemn moment. Eventually, I got on with my cleaning but she was still there after 4-5 hours, just sitting close to where her nest had been. Thankfully (and selfishly), I was glad she did not figure out how it had happened or who did it.

After this incident, I decided not to touch another, much larger nest which has about 4-5 wasps already on it and glad that I didn’t. I read up on the life of wasps and their nests and found out that wasp nests only last for a season and are never used again (and therefore can be cleaned). It is very easy to figure out if a nest is alive or dead just by looking at it. Incidentally, I also learned that wasp females can decide the sex of their offspring: if they want males, they lay eggs without fertilizing them, if they want females, they fertilize the eggs with the sperm stored inside their body.

Here’s the point: all our non-human neighbors in this world (including trees) are constantly communicating with us and with each other just like us humans through their bodies, through their sounds and through their behavior. All we need to do is learn a few basic “words”— the more we learn, the better—of their language. If any of you have had a pet, you know what I’m talking about. They are usually clearly communicating what they like and what they don’t, when they are happy and when they are not, when they are angry and when they are in pain, what their crouching posture means and what their wagging tail means if we only take some time to understand their language**.

Yes, living necessarily entails being part of the cycle of life of consuming (eating) other living beings, whether plants or animals, and finally being consumed when we die. Notwithstanding the Jain philosophy, for someone to live, someone has to die. This is okay, in fact, desirable, as long as—and this is the most important point of any relationship—we are aware of our responsibility to give, not just by dying but when we are alive, and not just take. Currently, we humans, are taking and taking and not giving much back.

Learning the basics of the language of our non-human neighbors not only enables us to understand and live with them harmoniously and cause less harm through ignorance—like destroying their home and children with a flick of a broom—but it is vital to our continued survival on this planet. We are currently breaking their backs, destroying their homes, killing their (our) kins and pretending not to listen to their screams. We are destroying nature, of which we are a part of, and our planet, which is our only home, at a breakneck (literally) speed. Through our science and through our education, through our laws and through our religions, through our economy and through our progress, through our philosophy and through our morality, through our factory farming and through our agriculture, we have normalized this destruction and silenced our non-human neighbors’ pain. Only we humans, the chosen one, feel the pain. Let’s just take science for example: Rats, frogs, monkeys, pigs, birds, fish, snails, and so on are routinely “experimented on” (tortured) and the students or scientists are told to remove “emotion” (humanity) from these experiments. Scientists routinely debate if animals and plants feel pain in science journals and newspapers. Seriously? If you can look at the conditions of factory farmed cows, chickens or pigs or baby monkeys whose mothers are killed (for science!) to see how they react or a dog struck by a car and writhing on the side of the road or a baby rhino not leaving the side of his dead mother who was just shot down for her horn and still don’t know, in the core of your being, that that is the same pain you would feel in that situation and need science (or religion, or philosophy) to help interpret “this odd behavior”, then congratulations! Whatever your favorite myth is—science, religion, education, philosophy, law, economy, progress , etc.,— it has (or they have, together) successfully brainwashed your humanity—animality—out of you.

At this point, you might be asking why (especially if you’ve been industrially schooled [schooled for the economy and production], live in a city, read mainstream media, work in a company and believe in technology and progress) are our non-human neighbors important for our survival? Leaving aside the moral and ethical problems that I just laid out, there is a strictly practical, utilitarian reason. The air that we breathe is produced by trees (which are being cut down) and phytoplankton in the ocean (which are being replaced by plastic), the water we drink and use is the result of natural cycles of rain and rivers (which are being toxified and dammed) flowing into oceans (which are being toxified and vacuumed), and the food we eat comes from plants (which are being toxified by fertilizers and pesticides) and animals (which are being tortured in factory farms or becoming extinct). All these processes are complex, subtle, delicate and require participation from various organisms from bacteria and fungi to whales and five hundred year old trees. These processes are the complex web of life, they are life itself and we are part of this web, not above it. How do I know this? By the results of its destruction: The air is increasingly becoming unbreathable in many of the cities from New Delhi, to Beijing to Seoul and is killing 60,000 people a day***. The water in the rivers, streams and in the ground is disappearing fast and also becoming undrinkable at the same time. All cities in the world import water from nearby places which are becoming farther and farther away (or deeper and deeper in the ground). Imagine what will happen when these places run out—and they are running out fast—and there is no water. Natural disasters like floods, droughts, fires, earthquakes caused by climate change—caused by destroying this complex web of life—are increasing all around the world. The planet, our only home, is being destroyed, murdered. Every tree and every fish, every river and every mountain is asking us in their own unique language, if we can just put aside our distractions for a moment and listen: What are you going to do about it?

* The word sharing is incorrect in this context. I’m their guest in this house (and in this world) since they were here before me in this house (and in this world).

**A simple example with a dog: Dogs usually face in the direction they want to go (logical, right?). And yet, how many times have I seen humans facing the dog and yelling “Come” at them. From the dog’s perspective, it means not only that the human is barking and angry and someone to be stayed away from, but that she should be going in the reverse direction since that’s where the human is facing.

*** Science Daily, “Pollution Causes 40 Percent Of Deaths Worldwide, Study Finds.”

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The Eyeglasses Myth

April 12, 2019
Snellen Chart

A Snellen Chart – very easy to get your own!

Eyeglasses (or contact lenses) are so common these days that we hardly notice them anymore. Your child complains that she cannot see the blackboard or TV, you go to the optometrist and voila, she’s now wearing an ever-thickening pair of eyeglasses for the rest of her life. What happened? Most of our other body parts – ears, teeth, hair, bones – start to wear out much later in life except for our eyes. They seem to be falling apart at an earlier and earlier age. Let’s see why that is and what we can do about it.

Our eyes evolved in their current form at least 200,000 years ago, probably more. Since there were no books 4000 years ago and no phones, computers, tablets, game consoles, TVs just 60 years ago, we were used to seeing objects that are far away most of the time with some close up work of carving, painting, sewing and so on. As you probably already know and have experienced, our eyes are therefore most relaxed when we are looking far away and tensed when we are looking at objects close by. They are continuously adjusting to the distance of our view. Unfortunately, modern life is the exact opposite. We do close up work pretty much exclusively –  phones, computers, video games, reading, writing and so on and very rarely look in the distance.

So let’s start with a hypothetical 7 year old girl and see what happens to her eyes. She is playing video games (besides reading and writing) for hours daily and one day, the tensed eye-muscles get locked into the close up mode. Objects far away become blurry. This condition is called pseudo-myopia which is a medical term for temporary myopia. The solution here is not to go to the optometrist but to change some of the (bad) habits. She needs to look up and out at a distance frequently for some time before going back to the close up work. It’s called the 20/20/20 rule. After every 20 minutes of close up work, look at objects 20 or more feet away for 20 or more seconds. This gives your eyes a chance to correct themselves and they will gladly oblige.

Unfortunately, her bad habits continue and the long distance vision is now continuously blurry. She can’t see the blackboard (Do they still use blackboards?) in school and so her parents take her to the optometrist. The doctor does a test of the long distance vision using a Snellen eye chart and gives prescription glasses with which she can see the smallest possible line on the eye-chart which is approximately 20 feet away. Now with these glasses, she can see that blackboard again. However, she is told to always wear them. These glasses are for long distance viewing but she is now doing most of her close up work for hours with them on. This is where the trouble starts! The glasses have one mission – to bring everything closer to your eyes – whether it is mountains, blackboards or an iPhone. And what happens when you bring a book, for example, very close to your eyes? Try it now – the letters become blurry (called hyperopia). To resolve this blurriness, her eyes now change their shape (elongate) in a process called accommodation so she can see these close up objects clearly. Her eyes are actually trying to fix the vision problem of blurriness. Unfortunately, she has just moved from the temporary condition of pseudo-myopia to a permanent (less temporary) condition called axial myopia or simply myopia or near-sightedness.

Her eyes have now adapted to see the close up objects clearly by changing their shape and she now continues her close up work with the glasses and elongated (and tensed) eyeballs. You can now probably guess where this is going? Yep, the bad habits continue and far away objects become blurry again. So the glasses that were used to correct the long distance vision have ended up causing the eyes to elongate and making them worse. This process continues and the prescription numbers keep increasing. While this is a problem in itself, at a certain point the eyeballs become so elongated that they are at risk of a condition called detached retina and loss of eyesight. Some studies indicate that even LASIK surgery does not exclude one from this condition since the shape of the eye is still elongated. In addition, strained eyes cause headaches and stress.

Now here’s the good news. Our eye prescriptions do not have to keep increasing. Not only can the process be stopped at any age, it can actually be reversed without any surgeries. As it turns out, our eyes, just like every other organ in our body, are capable of fixing themselves completely. How do I know? I’ve been working on reducing my own number (although somewhat intermittently) for the past 2 years and it has reduced by a decent 1.75.

So what’s the solution? For pseudo-myopia, as described above, adopt better habits, specifically the 20/20/20 rule.

For axial myopia, quit your job or school, move to a small village in Bali and do nothing other than stare at oceans, rice fields and coconut trees in the distance. What? Not practical, you say? Well alright, I’ll describe something else. After all, even after moving to Bali, it’s not so easy to eliminate all close up work anyway.

The solution consists of the following three steps or habits.

1) Use the lowest possible prescription that is comfortable for what you are doing: Let’s assume you have a prescription of -7.00 in both eyes.

a)  You only need glasses with full prescription of -7.00 for very specific tasks like driving at night, deciphering the teacher’s cryptic handwriting on the blackboard, bird-watching etc. Wear them when absolutely necessary. For example, I almost never wear them. Sometimes you will look silly when you don’t recognize someone while they smile at you from a distance but looking silly once in a while is a good thing.

b) For most of the general purpose activities that you do at home or office (except for (a) above and (c) and (d) below) like cooking, eating, watching TV, and so on use a prescription that’s lower by 0.75 or 1.00. So in our example, use another set of glasses that are -6.00 or -6.25 for most of the day. These should be your default glasses.

c) For smartphones, video games, reading, writing, craft, puzzle solving and any other task that requires very close up and focused work, use another set of glasses with a significantly lower prescription, say 2.25 or 2.00 lower than the full prescription. So in our example, these glasses would be around -5.00 or -4.75. You will notice that you can still comfortably do these tasks with a much lower prescription. This is the single most important thing in this entire post that you need to do to get the benefits.

d) I’ve found computer work to fall somewhere in between all of these. Glasses which are 1.25 lower seem to work well but I don’t like to manage more than 3 pairs of glasses. So you could either increase the fonts and use the glasses in (c) above or just use the ones in (b). However, make sure to follow the 20/20/20 rule!

Note that all these lower prescription numbers are just guidelines. You will need to find your correct lower prescriptions for yourself based on what activities you do most. The higher the prescription numbers, the more lower (more difference) you can go in (b), (c) and (d) above and vice versa. Usually, we keep our previous prescription glasses anyway (or if you don’t, please start). So experiment with them on various activities and you’ll come up with the right prescriptions for you. Another way to get the correct differences for (b), (c) and (d) is to simply buy the cheap +1.00, +2.50 etc. reading glasses, put them over your current glasses and try the close up activities like reading and looking at a smartphone. So if your full prescription is -7.00 and you can do phone work or reading by putting +2.00 on top of your glasses, your prescription for reading is +5.00. Just remember the rule: use the lowest possible prescription that’s comfortable for the job at hand.

2) Active focus: Whenever you have time and are outside (or you can look out of the window), wear the glasses in 1)(b) above which are your default glasses anyway and focus on something like a tree or building that is far away. It will look blurry at first but if you focus, without squinting, it will start becoming clearer in 5 to 10 minutes. That’s all. This helps to both relax and guide the eyes into fixing themselves. Do it at least once a day as much as possible.

3) 20/20/20 rule: I’ll restate. After every 20 minutes of close up work, focus on something that’s 20 or more feet away for 20 or more seconds. Stop reading and try it now!

The first point might seem complicated, but once you get used to carrying and changing your glasses, it is not that hard. Just by doing that, you should at least notice that your number has stopped increasing and is slowly decreasing. If you do all three, you should definitely see a rapid reduction in the prescription. As your vision improves, you can use the glasses in (b) above for (a) activities, in (c) for (b) activities and so on so that you only need 1 new pair of glasses each time your vision improves. And I assure you, it’s a great feeling when you need to get glasses that are *lower* then your current prescription.

Also, I recommend printing out a Snellen eye chart – the same eye chart that the optometrists use – laminating it and putting it up on a well-lit wall in your house. This should cost about $2 dollars and half hour of your time to do. You can download the chart here: https://endmyopia.org/charts/. This way you can measure your eyesight anytime you want. That’s how you’ll know that your eyes are improving. Incidentally, you can also see how much your eyesight varies throughout the day and after various activities. It is usually best when you wake up and progressively gets worse as you do close up work. Also, after a vacation where you’ve hopefully stared at oceans, mountains and trees more than your phones and kindles, you’ll see a noticeable improvement in your vision. This clearly shows that our eyes are continuously adjusting to the activities we do and therefore, we can gently guide them towards lower prescription by changing our habits.

A few other things:

  1. Cylindrical and Axis numbers: On your eye prescription, along with your spherical numbers (for example, Sp:-4.00), you might also have a cylindrical number (for example Cyl:-1.00) and an axis number (for example Axis:100). Keeping the axis number same, reduce the cylindrical number step by step, the same way you reduce the spherical number. For example, if your numbers are Sp: -7.00 Cy:-2.00 Axis:100, go for Sp:-6.50 Cy:-1.00 and Axis:100 for (b) above.
  2. Different prescriptions for each eye: For example, left eye has -7.00 and the right has -8.00. Get -6.00 for the left and -7.00 for the right.

Getting lower prescription glasses is not rocket science. Try various prescriptions at the optometrist for reading, phone work etc. and see what works best. Remember the main rule, use the lowest possible prescription for the job at hand.

3) Can’t get lower prescription? In western countries like the USA which are considered to be the free world, it appears that optometrists will only fill out the exact prescription given by the eye doctor. However, you can always order glasses online by filling your own prescriptions (www.eyebuydirect.com and www.zennioptical.com).

So there you have it. Our eyes, just like all our other organs, can fix themselves. All we need is a different set of habits. This goes against what most optometrists and eye-doctors recommend. I don’t want to get into the politics of the issue but is it news to anyone these days that doctors overprescribe everything – from C-Sections, to dental work to MRIs, pills and surgeries – in both the western and eastern countries? Whatever your beliefs about the doctors’ motives are (follow the money!), hopefully you’ve got enough information here to get curious about this topic, especially if you have high prescription or your child’s eyesight keeps getting worse.

All credit for the above post goes to my friend Steven who opened my eyes (!) to this information when my eyes were hurting a few years ago. He pointed me to two sources that have a lot more information and should answer most of your questions:

  1. endmyopia.org. This website is truly an amazing source and also has forums where you can ask specific questions. I highly recommend signing up for their 7 emails in 7 days at the bottom of the home page, which will give you a  much better introduction to the topic than my post above.
  2. Vision Improvement Guide PDF. Very concise and easy to follow – 18 pages

Feel free to contact me with questions as well. If I know the answer, I’ll be happy to assist.

 

 

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A Brief and Fascinating History of Agriculture

September 27, 2018
Rice Fields

Picture of a rice field across from my house in Bali. Notice the forested area in the background.

The word agriculture brings to mind rustic images of villages covered in long, green fields of wheat, rice or maize (corn) and farmers sowing seeds, removing weeds or ploughing the fields. It feels like something that has existed forever, something we take for granted. We know that agriculture is what provides us our food and therefore is as vital to us as the air we breathe or the water we drink. But is it really? Let’s see.

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Nyepi – A Simple Solution to the World’s Problems

April 6, 2018

Today, on the tiny island of Bali, Indonesia people celebrated Nyepi, the Balinese New Year also known as the silent day. And boy, was it silent! All shops, factories and offices were closed. No one went outside their compounds and the roads were empty. People used as little electricity and as possible and all construction stopped. The ports to and from Bali were closed and even the high-traffic Bali airport was closed, the only major international airport in the world to close down for a local holiday. This year even the internet, both cell phone and Wifi, as well as all TV channels were shut down.

And what happened to our non-human neighbors that we share this earth with? Let’s see.

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