Some History

In his second Faith Column, David Skitt gives us a brief history of Krishnamurti

Born in 1895 in a small town west of Madras, Krishnamurti was the eighth child of Brahmin parents. Against his express wishes, the house where he was born has since been declared a national monument by the Indian Government.

In 1909 his father, a minor government official, moved to the International Headquarters of the Theosophical Society of Madras. For some years the Society had been looking for the coming of Maitreya, the next ‘World Teacher’ after Krishna, the Buddha, and Jesus.

Charles Leadbeater, a senior figure in the Theosophical Society, who claimed to be clairvoyant, picked out the boy Krishnamurti as ‘the Vehicle for the Lord Maitreya’ and in 1911 an organisation was formed by Annie Besant and Leadbeater called the Order of the Star in the East, of which Krishnamurti was made the head. Years later, in 1922, Krishnamurti was said to undergo a profound spiritual experience in Ojai, California, and in April 1927 was finally declared by Mrs Besant to be ‘The World Teacher’.

It then came as a severe shock to most of his followers when in August 1929 Krishnamurti publicly dissolved the Order of the Star, declaring that no organisation could lead to the discovery of truth. His only concern would be ‘to set man free.’ He was to dismiss the title of ‘World Teacher’ as a ‘flimsy label,’ belief or disbelief in it being irrelevant. He then went on for the rest of his life to give talks around the world when invited to do so, and probably spoke with more human beings than anyone has ever done on the deeper issues of life. As time went on Foundations were set up in India, America, England and Spain to preserve and make available his works, and schools were also established in India, America and England.

Krishnamurti’s life was by any standard remarkable. For some people the aura of ‘The World Teacher’, of a twentieth century Maitreya or Messiah, always clung to him, while others saw him as a fallible, if extraordinary, human being. Most people were deeply impressed, overwhelmed even, but it is of course difficult to know how much of that was in the eye of the beholder. Certainly anything that smacked of worship or personality cult was anathema to him. What nobody would dispute is that for more than sixty years Krishnamurti argued passionately that the problems facing us demand a radical change in human consciousness.

David Skitt was educated at Cambridge. From 1955 to 1985 he worked as a translation revisereditor for the OECD and the European Space Agency in Paris. He is a trustee of the Krishnamurti Foundation at Brockwood Park, Hampshire.
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Air pollution: 5 steps to vanquishing an invisible killer

A new report looks at the economics of air pollution. 

110, 150, 520... These chilling statistics are the number of deaths attributable to particulate air pollution for the cities of Southampton, Nottingham and Birmingham in 2010 respectively. Or how about 40,000 - that is the total number of UK deaths per year that are attributable the combined effects of particulate matter (PM2.5) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx).

This situation sucks, to say the very least. But while there are no dramatic images to stir up action, these deaths are preventable and we know their cause. Road traffic is the worst culprit. Traffic is responsible for 80 per cent of NOx on high pollution roads, with diesel engines contributing the bulk of the problem.

Now a new report by ResPublica has compiled a list of ways that city councils around the UK can help. The report argues that: “The onus is on cities to create plans that can meet the health and economic challenge within a short time-frame, and identify what they need from national government to do so.”

This is a diplomatic way of saying that current government action on the subject does not go far enough – and that cities must help prod them into gear. That includes poking holes in the government’s proposed plans for new “Clean Air Zones”.

Here are just five of the ways the report suggests letting the light in and the pollution out:

1. Clean up the draft Clean Air Zones framework

Last October, the government set out its draft plans for new Clean Air Zones in the UK’s five most polluted cities, Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton (excluding London - where other plans are afoot). These zones will charge “polluting” vehicles to enter and can be implemented with varying levels of intensity, with three options that include cars and one that does not.

But the report argues that there is still too much potential for polluters to play dirty with the rules. Car-charging zones must be mandatory for all cities that breach the current EU standards, the report argues (not just the suggested five). Otherwise national operators who own fleets of vehicles could simply relocate outdated buses or taxis to places where they don’t have to pay.  

Different vehicles should fall under the same rules, the report added. Otherwise, taking your car rather than the bus could suddenly seem like the cost-saving option.

2. Vouchers to vouch-safe the project’s success

The government is exploring a scrappage scheme for diesel cars, to help get the worst and oldest polluting vehicles off the road. But as the report points out, blanket scrappage could simply put a whole load of new fossil-fuel cars on the road.

Instead, ResPublica suggests using the revenue from the Clean Air Zone charges, plus hiked vehicle registration fees, to create “Pollution Reduction Vouchers”.

Low-income households with older cars, that would be liable to charging, could then use the vouchers to help secure alternative transport, buy a new and compliant car, or retrofit their existing vehicle with new technology.

3. Extend Vehicle Excise Duty

Vehicle Excise Duty is currently only tiered by how much CO2 pollution a car creates for the first year. After that it becomes a flat rate for all cars under £40,000. The report suggests changing this so that the most polluting vehicles for CO2, NOx and PM2.5 continue to pay higher rates throughout their life span.

For ClientEarth CEO James Thornton, changes to vehicle excise duty are key to moving people onto cleaner modes of transport: “We need a network of clean air zones to keep the most polluting diesel vehicles from the most polluted parts of our towns and cities and incentives such as a targeted scrappage scheme and changes to vehicle excise duty to move people onto cleaner modes of transport.”

4. Repurposed car parks

You would think city bosses would want less cars in the centre of town. But while less cars is good news for oxygen-breathers, it is bad news for city budgets reliant on parking charges. But using car parks to tap into new revenue from property development and joint ventures could help cities reverse this thinking.

5. Prioritise public awareness

Charge zones can be understandably unpopular. In 2008, a referendum in Manchester defeated the idea of congestion charging. So a big effort is needed to raise public awareness of the health crisis our roads have caused. Metro mayors should outline pollution plans in their manifestos, the report suggests. And cities can take advantage of their existing assets. For example in London there are plans to use electronics in the Underground to update travellers on the air pollution levels.

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Change is already in the air. Southampton has used money from the Local Sustainable Travel Fund to run a successful messaging campaign. And in 2011 Nottingham City Council became the first city to implement a Workplace Parking levy – a scheme which has raised £35.3m to help extend its tram system, upgrade the station and purchase electric buses.

But many more “air necessities” are needed before we can forget about pollution’s worry and its strife.  

 

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.