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09.12.2009 General News

``Keeping a sound eco-system``

By Dr. Kofi Dankyi Beeko. MD. [email protected] - Ghanaian Chronicle
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BY NATURE, all living things (and let us simplify it by saying, plants and animals) tend to adapt to changing circumstances. We, “homo sapiens”, as we are called by Anthropologists, are no exception to this natural rule.

Some exceptions, however, are that we once slept in the woods, on grass, and in caves, -“raw within nature” as one Zoologist prefers to put it. At the same time, plants too MUST adapt to fit into the ever-changing climate. Both species are permanently at risk of the danger of getting extinct, i.e. disappearing.

Let's skip, for this exercise, the intricacies that lead to instability in the eco-system, (experts would assist us in another exercise). The Tilapia, called “Apatire” in Twi, is today, even from the same source, different from what we used to see coming from the Lake Bosomtwe, some 50 years ago. It seems we won't survive, unless the “instinct” for change functioned tirelessly. That exactly seems to trigger my worry hereto.

Another situation is also that having left what was called the Sixth Form in the last days of “the Nkrumah era”, many boys and girls who left the country to study abroad, ignited so to speak by Nkrumah's stimulus to go out there and learn, did not return immediately following their studies, and like the Tilapia mentioned above, some transformation had taken place, with untold problems, when in the end, one would like to return to live in the “same lake”, and say to hell with the transformation, which was natural.

In 1892, Alexander Graham Bell, demonstrated his newly-invented “sound phenomenon”, to be called “the Telephone.” Not even Charles Dickens could have found words to describe the public enthusiasm that this event stirred up. But, there was a big problem, not known or heard of by many people even if they lived in America.

An epidemic of influenza in New York, (concurrent with the invention), was blamed on the technological breakthrough by the American citizen of Scottish origin, and he had to be protected from an irate New York community, seeking to lynch him. Innovations are not readily accepted. The reasons ought to be many.

Rudolf Diesel (1858-1913), the German Engineer who in 1892 designed and patented an internal combustion engine to run on a “different kind of fuel,” until then known as Gasoline, was found dead in his cabin on board a ship carrying him to England to demonstrate the concept of his new machine, in 1913. In his career, Edward Jenner (1749-1823) discovered that smallpox could be prevented with an inoculation with “the substance” from cowpox-lesions. He was ridiculed for many years. We, humans, are such that we are slow in learning to accept what is new.

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) freed mankind from the false concept that the sun revolved around the Earth. The truism of a heliocentric universe did not fly easily. Galileo Galilei (the law of inertia) was resisted, and his papal condemnation and house arrest just got reversed posthumously, 350 years later, by Pope John Paul II. For four decades, I was used to a car maintenance system where the customer sent in the vehicle, and at the end of the service, the spare parts which needed replacement were nicely packed in the cartons in which the new parts were delivered, and left in the trunk.

The vehicle's owner had the option of either requesting that the old parts, (no longer useful), either be disposed of, doing the owner a favour, or he takes them home for storage, for whatever reason and purpose.

I was astounded, when I saw a bill when my vehicle (brought in used by the same owner) was sent in for servicing for the very first time years back. I talked to a friend who had returned from the Diaspora, much earlier on. He yelled, “By Jove! You must be crazy.

Who recommended you send a used vehicle to the dealer?” he continued. He did not give me any chance to try and explain myself. But, somewhere in-between our long wrangle among friends, we had calmed down somewhat, each of us. Then he continued, “The mechanics you think should be the best, because they are with the car company X or Y, are the same ones who perch by the roadside and repair all sorts of cars.

They come either before, or after work, to do their own first, or second job whichever way you would like to look at it. The standard is the same, and luck is what we all pray for. It is not like where you have come from. Learn it, son!”

If he hadn't taken me for lunch after this harangue, I would have thought he wasn't any longer my friend. But, he has stayed solidly a friend, even till today. He, like me, was that day just frank. The next “University” I attended (had to attend) is the one that teaches you all about what is called, “home-second-hand items”, in our Republic.

The day I got the bill that shocked me beyond comprehension, the few parts that were bought were new”. The lesson was yet to come. They were new parts, but from a beautiful place in the world I have visited before, Dubai! I did not think anything of inferior quality could come from Dubai.

My experience with Dubai was a heaven here on earth, next only to Singapore. Because of this “made-in-Dubai phenomenon”, it is said that you are better-off with anything coming from Japan or Germany, or the USA, direct, even if it is so much used. That doesn't leave out such items as spark plugs.

They have been used and discarded in Germany, but, never mind, they are far superior to others made in Dubai. Literally, Germany or Japan becomes the “home” being talked about, and used items from these places take the driver's seat in consumables, especially machines. This is not to speak of “Broni waawu”, which have been with us since half-a-century,” and with textile items.

The machines include electronic items such as sound systems. The “home-second-hand” embraces virtually everything by way of machines, big and small, that the advanced nations have discarded.

Having once passed through one of the strenuous trainings in the world professionally, I was sure I had understood this local law, even if I found it awfully strange. Then one day, someone who still saw signs of what the Ghanaians in England called, “JJC”, or “Johnny just come-apparel” on me, called and invited me to “an interesting place”.

It turned out to be a section of the city I had driven past, for the umpteenth time, without imagining that, behind the “thick wall of people” left and right as you drove by, there was something else. Heaps of metal junk from all industrialised nations - all kinds of machines, but junk, just junk! You won't find a better designation.

This junk is the existence of thousands of people, who definitely were not doing badly, because if you were to rendezvous with them, you would think they must be Parliamentarians, or ministers of state who had just received their “ex-gratia”. Something worse yet to come! Mercury is known to Astronomers as the planet that is closest to the Sun, and comparatively relatively small. In Greek mythology, Mercury should be a God. In science, it is an element whose fumes are very poisonous.

It has been designated as one of the environmentally most poisonous elements. Unfortunately, since almost one hundred years, the Instrument Sphygmomanometer, commonly just called “Sphyg” by most medical personnel, used in measuring blood pressure (BP) contains Mercury (Hg). There are strong recommendations to eliminate Mercury from the system altogether. Instruments containing Mercury are being replaced with “Aneroid machines”, or lately with Digital. Digital instruments are found to excel in quality-delivery (hence are used even on spaceships).

Over and above all, Mercury's toxicity in the environment makes it a “non-option”. African countries however, have demonstrated on numerous occasions, the readiness to accept toxic agents (waste) from Europe and the Far East into our environments.

Examples are, the Ivory Coast with nuclear waste that had fatalities about two decades ago. Nigeria doesn't have a white coat on, and Ghana has in the past accepted computer-connected waste materials into the system. One would like to pray that doctors would understand, and won't encourage Mercury-containing gadgets into the environment, like “home-second Sphygs”. That poses a real environmental fear!

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