Much of the focus of today's journalism is on stories of conflict, violence, death, failure or disaster. In a talk delivered at Cardiff University, UK, noted British journalist Martyn Lewis stressed that the media need to change their vision and consider positive stories as worthy of analysis and reporting as negative ones:
The main criteria for commissioning and including stories should be the extent to which those stories shape and change—or have the potential to shape and change—the country or the world in which they [journalists] live. They are criteria, which will not only allow them to expose the injustices and the tragedies in the world, but also to give proper weight to the successes and triumphs. They need to hold up a fairer image of the world in which explaining and analyzing mankind's achievements should be just as important as chronicling and investigating its failures.
However, things seem to be moving in the right direction. More and more audience research around the world is increasingly pointing the media towards a more balanced news agenda. In some countries, there is growing realization that reporters are "obliged to raise, not lower, people's sights." It would help journalism as a whole if editors, proprietors and reporters mandate and follow some reasonable changes, and view stories in a different light.
As the pace or our lives gets faster and faster, we complain more and more about the paucity of time. An article by B. K. Asha (Purity, April 2002) examines where today's "instant culture" is leading us:
Today human beings are in a desperate hurry to beat time. They want to do everything instantly, be it cooking, cleaning, eating, working, in fact, every conceivable activity that could be finished as quickly as possible. In this jet age, speed is efficiency, so we have e-mail, e-commerce, e-shopping, supersonic jets...fast foods, instant photography, instant therapies and a plethora of services that thrive on this craze for instant culture.
Every new scientific development today leads in one way or another to saving time, to reducing the hours of work. But where will time saved without knowledge of how to use it wisely lead us? It all boils down to what we want out of life and whether it will satisfy the needs of the inner man and bring real happiness. Leisure has a place in the pattern of life, not as something to be wasted and forgotten, but as something that awakens us to the true joy of living. This can only be if our activities are directed towards an end and there is an aim in life which is beyond mere social aspirations, or material or even intellectual enjoyment.
What we need in our age is education for leisure, so as to enable the rising generation to cope positively with the problem of spare time. It implies giving them something worth living for, something enduring that they can cherish throughout life, something that will reveal to them the true meaning and purpose of life and bring real happiness.
The prehistoric cave paintings of Chauvet in southeastern France show the work of deft hands: Hundreds of animals appear in lifelike poses—standing, stalking, running, or roaming in packs—on surfaces specially scraped to make the sketches stand out. Many archaeologists assumed that such sophistication required thousands of years of cultural development and artistic experimentation. Yet a new, improved dating analysis suggests that the Chauvet paintings were made between 32,000 and 29,000 years ago, placing them among the most ancient artworks known. (Discover, February 2002)
The results confirm that the Chauvet cave paintings are 10,000 to 15,000 years older than those at Lascaux, even though the art in the two locations is similarly fine. The finding implies that prehistoric art did not evolve steadily from crude beginnings to complex representations, as was previously thought, but "in spurts, with lots of apogees and lots of declines," says archaeologist Jean Clottes, who is in charge of the research at Chauvet.
It is now believed that there may be earlier cycles of artistic development as yet unknown. "I would be very surprised if much older art was not discovered in the next few years, not only in Europe but mostly in Asia, Australia, and Africa," says Clottes.
Further excavations in different parts of the world will indeed uncover evidences of much older art. Even the Chauvet cave findings, rock art specialists admit, "upset all our thinking about how style evolved. We can no longer argue that the development of art was linear because we see now that it was not just a matter of a crude sort of art first and then a slow improvement."
In fact, artistic skill can be traced back to the beginning of human history. Early man was not left unaided but had Divine Instructors who taught him all the arts and sciences; and their pupils handed their knowledge from one generation to another.
The artistic skill displayed by the old cave-men renders the hypothesis which regards them as approximations to the "pithecanthropus alalus"—that very mythical Haeckelian monster—an absurdity requiring no Huxley or Schmidt to expose it. We see in their skill in engraving a gleam of Atlantean culture atavistically reappearing. (The Secret Doctrine, II, 741 fn.)
For nature-lovers, and for those who know of the intimate relationship between man and nature, the following facts and findings reported in Sanctuary Asia will be a cause for concern.
Probably the most comprehensive survey of biodiversity ever conducted in the United States, by the Nature Conservancy, has documented more than 200,000 species of plants and animals, twice the previous estimate. Nearly one third of these species are threatened. Loss of wild habitats and invasion of exotic species are the leading causes of species decline. The inventory, based on data gathered over the last 25 years by the Conservancy's Natural Heritage Network, suggests that the U.S. contains about 10 per cent of the known species on earth and ranks close to the top among nations in its variety of mammals, freshwater fishes, salamanders, mussels, snails, crayfish and needle-leafed evergreen trees such as pines. However, the U.S. ranking of being among the highest biodiversity nations could be deceptive, simply because many countries in the Third World have not been sufficiently studied. Yet the Nature Conservancy's survey gives an inkling of the threat to the natural world.
Another report, outlining research by Anne Weil, a research associate with Duke University, and James Kirchner, a scientist at the University of California-Berkeley, estimates that the earth will need 10 million years to recover its species diversity following mass extinctions. The best scientific estimates are that, in the absence of policy changes, half of the planet's species will be lost in the next 50 to 100 years. The study underlines the fact that not only will extinctions leave an impoverished and barren planet for future generations, but that the human race itself will be extinct long before any of the vanished species make a comeback. The team found that the time lag between extinction and revival of biodiversity was much longer than previously believed, and was also remarkably consistent. Kirchner said that while the findings are a cause for concern, they do not mean that the earth's species are doomed. "Whether mass extinction happens or not depends on us. We can choose not to let it happen."
Still another report, that on global climate change, by the Pew Centre, has warned that we need to be prepared for a rise in sea levels of over 50cm., resulting in the submergence of approximately 20,000 sq.km. of land by the year 2100. According to the report's co-author Gary Yohe, even if temperatures were stabilized immediately, sea level rise would still continue into the next century, due to the momentum gathered by the ocean's expansion.
According to Bird Life International, one in eight of the world's birds—which translates into 1,200 species—face extinction in the next 100 years. Seventy four bird species have become extinct since 1800, and 35 species have vanished for ever in the last 100 years.
A scary picture indeed! Yet humans are so obsessed with a sense of their superiority over nature that only a major catastrophe will open their eyes.
A recently study on "Media Violence and Its Impact on Children," conducted by the Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) in Delhi, with the support of Unicef, Unesco and the Ford Foundation, should be an eye-opener for parents who encourage or connive at their children watching adult TV programmes. The pioneering survey covered 1,350 kids in the age group of six to fourteen years from various socio-economic groups in five cities—Lucknow, Kolkata, Delhi, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad. The Times of India reports:
If you think children are hooked to cartoons, action flicks and adventure series you are behind the times. Soap operas are what they are watching—adult family dramas, in particular. They are also keen on horror and crime shows, and this fascination has intensified dramatically since September 11...
If we speak of matter as essentially inanimate or inert, we establish the need for a graded hierarchy of beings: Stones have no experience whatsoever; bacteria have a minimal degree of life; plants have a bit more life, with a rudimentary degree of sensitivity; "lower" animals are more sentient, yet still stuck in their instincts; "higher" animals are more aware; humans alone are really awake and intelligent. In this manner we continually isolate human awareness above, and apart from, the sensuous world. If, however, we view matter as animate (or self-organizing) from the get go, then hierarchies vanish and we are left with a diversely differentiated field of animate beings, each of which has its gifts relative to the others. And we find ourselves not above this living web, but in the very midst of it, our own sentience part and parcel of the sensuous landscape.