Ode

Why Workplace Autonomy Is the Way of the Future

This is an edited excerpt from Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink, published by Riverhead Books. (c) 2009 by Daniel H. Pink.

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How You Can Train Your Brain to Help Reduce Stress

As Vicki Wyatt attaches electrodes to my scalp with a generous glop of slimy goo, I'll admit I'm a little skeptical about the calming effects of the treatment I'm about to experience. With newborn twins at home, I usually have enough slime in my life and on my clothes to push anyone over the abyss. But that, says Wyatt, is precisely why I could benefit from neurofeedback, a therapeutic tool that advocates claim can reshape our brains—and our lives.

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Is Hypnosis an Effective Replacement for Pain Killers?

Alexis Makris, a 19-year-old hairdresser's apprentice from Stuttgart, Germany, is jogging along a sunny beach in Greece. He's not interested in the cold steel hook poking around in his upper left jaw, or the latex-covered fingers of the dentist wielding the instrument in his mouth. He's too occupied with the smell of the salt sea air and the feel of the warm sand on his feet. When the tug of the wisdom tooth being pulled from his mouth becomes a little too insistent, he picks up his pace. As the tooth is finally yanked out, accompanied by a small gush of bright red blood, Makris is still running, oblivious to any pain.

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Is Chinese Pulse Diagnosis the Key to Preventive Medicine?

"Good news. We didn't find anything." The doctor delivered her verdict from the doorway of my room in the emergency ward of a hospital in Troy, New York, where I'd gone a few weeks ago for sharp abdominal pain. But after $700 in tests, I still didn't know what was wrong with me. Further examination by a gynecologist ($400) didn't turn up anything either. The next step would be to see a gastroenterologist ($200) for a CT scan ($500).

During a year-long search for the problem, I'd seen two family doctors, a naturopathic physician, a nurse practitioner and an acupuncturist, who in the absence of a diagnosis inserted needles into my hands, arms, feet, legs, forehead and solar plexus based on my description of the pain. Cost: some $1,000 and plenty of worry.

So, two weeks after the emergency room episode, I was relieved to find myself finally seated across from Leon Hammer, a master of the Chinese technique of pulse diagnosis, at his rustic cedar home down an unmarked driveway in New York's Adirondack Mountains. The 84-year-old Cornell University med school graduate enjoyed a long career as a psychiatrist, heading a child guidance clinic and studying with Gestalt founder Fritz Perls. But he was frustrated by the profession's inattention to the role of the body and physical touch in healing the mind. When he first met an acupuncturist in 1971, he recalls, "I'd always wanted to be a doctor, since I was a boy, and when I stepped into his consultation room, I knew this was what I'd had in mind."

Since then, Hammer has played the leading role in introducing pulse diagnosis, which has thousands of years of history in China, to the West. Modernized to incorporate the ills of the post-industrial age, contemporary Chinese pulse diagnosis (CCPD) enables practitioners to identify an extraordinary range of states -- mental, spiritual, emotional and physical -- simply by feeling a person's pulse. A typical session costs $50 to $100.

Pulse diagnosis can also find trouble before symptoms arise. So Hammer and other CCPD practitioners -- who only number in the hundreds in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand -- say that along with modern medical technology, acupuncture, herbs, exercise and a good diet, it's a crucial part of effective preventive medicine. "You can access any part of the body or function of the body and pick up where something is beginning to go wrong at a very, very, very early stage," Hammer says. "So in the hands of a skilled person, it's the best preventive medicine that exists. If I was in charge of the health-care system, I'd have every single person get their pulse taken twice a year."

Sounds great, but does it work? Hammer and I spent the next hour in an intimate silence, my arms stretched across a table in Hammer's upstairs office, his fingers playing across both wrists, then one, then the other, then both again. Could he find out what was causing my abdominal pain?

Two thousand years ago, during the Han Dynasty, everyone from rulers to peasants paid doctors to keep them healthy with the pulse diagnosis and treatments first described in the Nei Jing ("inner classic") circa 100 BCE. Eastern medicine, like Eastern philosophy, has always subscribed to the idea that the whole is found in its parts. In China, this is the basis of therapies like foot reflexology, tongue reading (in which the tongue's colour, texture and markings are attributed to conditions in the body) and pulse diagnosis. Acupuncturists trained in this subtle method say you can tell the condition of every body function by feeling the rhythm and qualities of the pulse at different positions on the wrist.

The spot on your right wrist at the base of your thumb, for example, reveals something -- though not everything -- about your lungs, especially their condition in the past. If a student of Chinese medicine feels a narrowing there, your lungs aren't expanding enough. If it feels slippery -- like pebbles rolling on a plate -- it may indicate evidence of a bacterial infection, past or present. And if it feels choppy -- like scraping bamboo with a knife -- there's probably some toxicity.

Typically, a doctor of Chinese medicine uses other tools of the trade, like tongue diagnosis, alongside pulse readings. Treatment involves regular stints on a massage table, with needles inserted anywhere from your eyebrows to the balls of your feet, and tonics brewed from herbs to strengthen the body's healing process. Western medicines and medical techniques are also suggested when appropriate.

Historically, these techniques attracted little attention in the West. But during the Communist takeover of China after World War II, some Chinese masters fled to the U.S. and Europe. One of these was John Shen, and Hammer knew when their paths crossed in 1974 that he'd found his teacher. For eight years, he spent weekends with the acupuncturist at his practise in New York City. There, he learned to lay his fingers on the wrist in 28 positions, varying the pressure to feel some 80 pulse qualities.

Shen died in 2000 at the age of 87. A year later, Hammer, then 76, published Chinese Pulse Diagnosis: A Contemporary Approach, an 800-page primer, and founded the Dragon Rises School of Oriental Medicine in Gainesville, Florida (dragonrises.edu), where he remains clinical director and principal instructor. It's the only U.S. school at which CCPD is taught. Students spend 435 hours covering the four areas of diagnosis -- asking, looking, listening and touching -- including 150 hours learning the pulse. Some students have gone on to teach. One of these is Scott Tower, who with colleague Sybill Hussein has introduced CCPD to thousands in Switzerland, Germany, the UK and the Netherlands.

If enough people learn the technique, Hammer believes it could be integrated worldwide. "Right now, the health-care system is designed to treat diseases," he says. "But let's say you come to see me first. I see a lot in your pulse that indicates cancer. I can't distinguish between the uterus and the ovary. I can't distinguish between a fibroid and a malignant tumour. Western diagnostic tools can refine mine. I can pick up what's wrong with you far before they can, and they have the tools to pinpoint the problem." Hammer would like pulse diagnosticians to replace general practitioners as the doctors you see regularly.

To illustrate the point, he tells the story of a 72-year-old friend who came for a reading. "It was very clear he was in imminent danger," says Hammer, who felt in his pulse qualities he terms "ropy," "leathery," "yielding-hollow" and "choppy." Hammer sent him to a cardiologist for a stress test. "They stopped the test immediately and put in a stent," he says. "The principle artery that goes to the left ventricle was 95 percent blocked. He's now seeing a very good acupuncturist who's dealing with the issues that caused the problem."

But not everyone is sure the West is ready for pulse diagnosis. While Ted Kaptchuk -- associate director of Harvard's Division for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies and author of the Chinese medicine classic The Web That Has No Weaver -- calls Chinese medicine in the West "a whole emerging kind of health care" and Hammer "a great healer," he says that as with any treatment, before pulse diagnosis goes mainstream, we need scientific evidence that it works.

Hammer strongly opposes that perspective, arguing in a June 2008 article in Acupuncture Today that to measure Chinese medicine by Western standards of statistical significance and double-blind studies would be a mistake. "We're at a crossroad between embracing the everlasting mystery of the ancient medicine or escaping into the certainties of a Western-style paradigm that has taken the heart out of its medicine," he writes. Yet Hammer doesn't deny his satisfaction at the results of a recent study by one of his students, acupuncturist and Ph.D. candidate Karen Bilton, at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. After testing and retesting by different pulse diagnosis practitioners on 15 patients 30 days apart, Bilton reports preliminary analysis showing consistent results no matter who did the reading.

There's no shortage of anecdotal evidence in support of pulse diagnosis' effects, either. Just ask 67-year-old acupuncturist Anne Adams. After a series of classes with Hammer in her hometown of Columbia, Maryland, Adams flew to Florida last year for a pulse diagnosis. Hammer diagnosed a "retained pathogen," maybe from a bout of hepatitis years prior, dehydration, stagnant qi (the Chinese word for the body's energy), unusual activity in her lower abdomen and perhaps low levels of thyroid hormone. "The findings sobered me," says Adams. Not only did she take the prescribed herbs and get regular acupuncture, she began to exercise, changed her diet, slept more and took time for herself.

At her appointment this spring, she saw a dramatic change; she and Hammer were delighted. "The correlations Dr. Hammer makes from patterns he sees in one's pulse are borne out by lab work and patient experience," Adams says. "His background allows him to understand and make Western diagnoses, which as a physician he was trained to do, and Eastern diagnoses from another angle. He's built a bridge between Western health care and acupuncture and herbal health care, which is invaluable."

At Hammer's house after my pulse session, we go downstairs and he begins to prepare food: chicken soup, oven-roasted corn, chocolate ice cream. We sit in the kitchen, surrounded by his own paintings and pictures of his spiritual teacher, Indian mystic Meher Baba, to go over his findings. He knows nothing of my personal or medical history.

"Your digestive system isn't very strong," he begins. "Overall, that's the most obvious thing." This fits with the gastroenterology referral. I describe the ER visit. Could be the problem, says Hammer.

"There's a muffled quality in the area of the pulse corresponding to the large intestine that indicates neo-plastic activity," he adds. My heart sinks: cancer. "It doesn't necessarily mean you have cancer," he says quickly. It could be an early warning sign, like a polyp. But he suggests I have it checked out with a colonoscopy.

"Also, there's widespread toxicity in your body," he continues, "though that doesn't differentiate you from anyone else at this point." In the first edition of Chinese Pulse Diagnosis, he says, toxicity is listed as rare. Four years later, the revised edition identifies it as common. "Allopathic science has found between 50 and 170 substances in the blood that weren't there 50 to 100 years ago," he adds. "Most are from plastic. But there are ways of detoxifying with herbs and needles."

Then he pauses. "Now," he says quietly, "at the risk of scaring you" -- oh no! -- "your heart isn't as strong as I'd like to have it. In fact, I'm a little worried about it. You're someone I have to insist see a cardiologist for an evaluation."

He says more, but it doesn't register. I'm scared. I've seen cardiologists for heart pain since my 20s, never finding anything. Nevertheless, I hear Hammer say "treatable." He wants me to rule out heart disease, then address the problem with herbs and acupuncture. A cure could take a year or more. "We can get rid of symptoms quickly, but to deal with the underlying pattern," he says, "that's another matter."

He felt a quality known as "rough vibration," he says, that corresponds to the heart at the base of the left thumb, and it came through in bursts, suggesting unstable heart qi. The pulse on my left side was much stronger than on my right; that sent up the red flag about my digestive system. And the toxicity showed up when he pressed the radial artery down hard, as what he calls a "retained damp heat condition." He laughs. "It sounds pretty bad, doesn't it? What it means is the body has a way of taking certain pathogens that could kill you and hiding them in joints, muscles or other places where they do more gradual damage." Hammer points to arthritis or chronic headaches as examples.

It's overwhelming. Still, as I leave Hammer's wildflower-fringed driveway, I feel hopeful. I'll get the cardiogram and the colonoscopy, as well as a hair test for toxicity, see a Chinese medicine doctor who understands Hammer's findings and follow a course of treatment. In a year, maybe I, like Adams, will be delighted by the changes in my health. Already I see the benefit of supplementing the standard physical with this kind of in-depth diagnosis. As Hammer said over lunch: "The reality here is that everything is affecting everything else. The trick is to figure out how."

What Does Silence Really Sound Like?

The sky is bright and cloudless: another perfect day in the San Francisco Bay Area. But I'm about to spend part of it inside a windowless, soundless room called an anechoic chamber in an attempt to experience what silence is really like -- and to find out whether it even exists at all.

The word "anechoic" means "without echoes," and an anechoic chamber -- the walls of which are generally lined with wedges of foam to prevent reverberation -- is a room that prevents echoes of the sounds made inside it. Anechoic chambers are used to test microphones and other audio equipment, but the lack of reverb creates a peculiar effect on the ears. They feel stuffy and plugged because, in jarring contrast to the noise encountered throughout the day, the ears aren't getting any feedback from the environment. After sitting in a confined space devoid of echoes for long enough, some people report hearing their own heartbeats, respiration and other bodily functions, a phenomenon termed "auto-emissive noise."

I have to admit I haven't spent much time thinking about silence. With so much noise in the form of honking horns and ringing cellphones plaguing us in everyday life, who has the time -- or the opportunity -- to listen, to wonder what it would be like if the only sound you could hear were your own heart beating? Moreover, who really wants to experience complete silence?

I've heard from others who've spent time in anechoic chambers that it's creepy. It can make you kind of crazy.

So it's with a sense of apprehension as well as excitement that I journey across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco to visit the laboratory of retired University of California, Berkeley psychology professor Ervin Hafter to see the anechoic chamber his team uses for research.

As I approach Tolman Hall, a building nestled among pine trees on a serene corner of the U.C. Berkeley campus, hordes of carefree co-eds spill out the door, finished with morning classes and on their way to lunch. I leave the pleasant sunlight behind and fight the stream of students to enter the building.

Descending a gloomy concrete stairway, I find myself in a grey basement. I'm buzzed into Hafter's subterranean laboratory, and a research assistant leads me down a hallway and into the main office, where a mess of computer equipment and piles of papers dominate the windowless room lit by fluorescents. I'm a bit taken aback by the sterile surroundings and the isolated atmosphere of the basement.

The assistant introduces me to Hafter, who's tall, with solemn brown eyes and wild, wiry tufts of grey hair sprouting from the sides of his head. His khaki-colored button-down shirt still has the fold marks in it. Since 1966, Hafter has studied auditory perception, spatial hearing and the effects of reverberant environments on users of hearing aids and cochlear implants. The anechoic chamber, along with a highly complicated set-up of computer programs and speakers, is required to test human subjects in his laboratory.

"There is no such thing as zero when it comes to sound," he explains as he leads me to the chamber. While zero decibels is technically demarcated as the threshold for the human ability to hear sound, some people can decipher sounds in the negative decibel range. The lack of echo in the anechoic chamber won't change that. The shaggy-haired research assistant, Swapan Gandhi, a musician, tells me he likes being in the chamber because "you hear things that you don't normally pay attention to," like the sound of your own pulse.

Such was the experience of the late avante-garde American composer John Cage, whose trip to the anechoic chamber at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts, was the inspiration for his most revolutionary work -- 4'33'', in which a pianist sits silently before a piano for four minutes and 33 seconds. Cage later wrote of his experience that he "heard two sounds, one high and one low. When I described them to the engineer in charge, he informed me that the high one was my nervous system in operation, the low one my blood in circulation."

In Cage's piece, not one musical note is played. Instead, the audience is left to revel in its own subtle sounds and to realize, perhaps, that silence doesn't actually exist.

I'm a musician myself, so Cage is on my mind as Hafter heaves open the door of the chamber, which is about six feet wide and resembles some sort of meat locker. Dim light emanates from two bulbs dangling on either end of the ceiling. My ears immediately feel plugged, as if they've been stuffed full of cotton, probably because the walls and ceiling are lined with rows and rows of fiberglass wedges that absorb all sound waves.

The floor of the chamber is covered in wedges too; we're walking on a springy suspended floor made of cross-hatched wire, with tangles of electrical cords and the same pattern of wedges spanning the actual floor of the chamber a few feet below us. I'm teetering all over the place on the wires, as my boots have kitten heels. I begin to hear a high-pitched ringing in my ears. It's eerie in here.

As I try to focus on what Hafter is telling me about the architecture of the chamber, I notice my chest starts to feel tight, out of nervousness. What surprises me is our voices don't sound muffled. For some reason, I've pictured our mouths moving but no sound coming out, like we're in some kind of a sound vacuum.

After a few minutes discussing his research, I tell Hafter I hope to hear some of the auto-emissive sounds I've read about. He's skeptical, because the anechoic chamber isn't completely attenuated, meaning that it doesn't totally shut out noises from the outside world, though it does come close. But if I stay still and quiet, he says, "You'll hear breathing. You'll hear stomach gurgles. You'll hear all kinds of stuff."

On that note, he leaves me to sit down in the lone chair in the chamber and promises I can stay inside the thing for as long as I want. The longest time he's ever been inside is probably half an hour, but it doesn't bother him. He's used to it. "Call me before you come out because I don't want you to fall," he says, concerned about my wobbly boots. "Light on or off?"

"Um, on," I say, giggling nervously.

Before I know it, the door has slammed shut and I'm alone in the dim light. Hafter can hear me from outside the chamber if I speak, but I can't hear what's going on in the rest of the laboratory. While it's comforting to know I can just yell and I'll be fetched immediately, something about the isolation feels disconcerting.

I try to remain still and quiet, as Hafter has instructed. I become conscious of my own breathing -- it sounds loud, clumsy, like Darth Vader. The tightness in my chest has increased and spread to my upper arms. I sit and wait for five minutes, 10 minutes, and still I've heard none of these so-called auto-emissive sounds. Why can't I hear my heartbeat? This is what it must feel like to do hallucinogenic drugs, I think, waiting for the effect to kick in.

After about 30 minutes, I realize I've zoned out into some kind of a meditative state, just listening to the rhythmic sounds of my own breathing. I hear an occasional single or double pulse in either ear; perhaps they're adjusting to the lack of noise? Or is it my heartbeat?

I'm hyper-aware of my body: the occasional gurgle from my stomach, the wheezing sound the air makes as I breathe in and out of my nose. I sense my body temperature has risen slightly, and think how good cool liquid would feel going down my throat.

Some minutes later -- at this point, I'm not sure how many -- I become a little dizzy. My ears are stifled, like I've put on a pair of fluffy earmuffs. I feel completely solitary, as though time has stopped. The scientists know I'm in here, and all I have to do is yell, I tell myself, but I can't help feeling paranoid. The ringing in my ears and the tightness in my chest are getting unbearable. The pulses in my ears are more frequent, my breath more wheezy.

Unlike John Cage, I don't feel inspired. In fact, I've never felt so alone.

Steve Orfield could probably tell me a thing or to about why the silence has made me so uncomfortable. At his laboratory in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Orfield conducts what he calls "perceptual market research"; in other words, the measurement of sound quality.

From the roar of a Cessna to the rumble of a Harley to the clicking noises coming from your computer's hard drive, every product makes some kind of noise. Dozens of Fortune 500 companies have come to Orfield Laboratories to figure out, through extensive consumer tests, how the sounds of their products can denote power, or quality, or expense.

But consumer testing is only part of the picture at Orfield Labs. On the grounds of his facility, complete with auditorium, acoustic simulation lab and reverberation room, is an anechoic chamber that Guinness World Records has deemed "the quietest place on Earth."

This dubious distinction wasn't something Orfield ever planned when he opened the laboratory as an architectural and lighting consulting firm in 1971. He stumbled into sound quality research during the dour economic times of the 1970s after realizing his business might not survive. Years later, he purchased the anechoic chamber from the Sunbeam Corporation in Chicago, Illinois. "It's as if you are sitting in a room that was lined with a foot of fabric on all sides -- the floors, the ceiling and the walls -- there's just nothing to create a reflection," Orfield explains.

But this particular anechoic chamber is special, and much more sound-tight than the facility in Berkeley. The six-sided room floats on springs in a concrete pit, which is surrounded by another chamber, which is surrounded by another concrete structure that's about three meters (10 feet) thick. When the manufacturer of the chamber took a sound measurement of -9.64 decibels, he decided to contact Guinness, and, well, the rest is history.

Orfield emphasizes that in technical terms, the quietest place on Earth, like Cage's symphony, isn't actually silent. It's really just a place where sound can't reverberate -- the opposite of, say, a cathedral or a sports arena. Still, the Guinness distinction warrants that people often want to come by and visit. If nothing else, it's a study in sensory deprivation. "We've offered to give anybody who will sit in there for 45 minutes in the dark a case of Guinness," Orfield explains. "But no one's ever taken us up. People are kind of frightened of the room." Even he won't do it. "If I sat in there for a half an hour, I would be uncomfortable. If I did it 10 times in a row, I would still be uncomfortable."

While I've beaten Steve Orfield's record time, I was no less frightened of the room for having stayed in it so long. Plus I had to leave the lights on.

Gerry Popelka, chief of audiology at Stanford University's School of Medicine in California, and inventor of the digital hearing aid, can explain why silence is so spooky. The ears don't make any kind of physical adaptation to it, he says. And people are so accustomed to excessive noise that it just feels odd to be in a place that eliminates reverberation or outside noise, like an anechoic chamber, because no one ever experiences it.

"We walk around in environments that are naturally noisy," Popelka says. "And as we live in more mechanized societies, there's even more noise. Now you remove all of that noise and you have a different sensation. But your ears didn't change at all. The idea of hearing your own blood rushing through your arteries is odd. It's only odd because you haven't listened to it before. But it's always been there."

Moreover, Popelka continues, there's an emotional and psychological reaction connected to such a dramatic change in the sensory environment. It's kind of like having a fear of climbing to the top rung of a ladder, only to practice it a bunch of times and find your bones didn't become less brittle as you practiced; you just became less afraid of falling and hurting yourself. The shock to my system, then, has to do with the fact that I'm not accustomed to this form of silence.

"Hearing is strongly associated with language and communication," says Popelka, "but it also connects us with the environment." Being cut off from that environment so completely is, well, scary.

Experts like Orfield and Popelka say young people today will likely suffer from more severe hearing loss than their Baby Boomer parents, simply because they've grown up in the era of the Walkman and the iPod. And the more damage to the ears that occurs from wearing ear buds or headphones, the more a listener will turn up the volume, rather than adjusting to a lower volume based on diminished hearing abilities. With advances in technology and a constant need for convenience, perhaps younger generations face a whole new concept of silence -- or, rather, a whole new concept of noise.

After spending more than an hour in the Berkeley anechoic chamber, I'm in a daze for the rest of my visit to the laboratory, until I'm able to bound up the concrete stairs and burst through the doors into the sunlight. As hyper-aware as I'd been of my breathing and the muted sensation in my ears inside the chamber, I feel equally aware now of the sounds of people's voices and cars driving by.

In fact, I've never been so thankful for noise, glorious noise.

Having come of age at a time when silence wasn't golden but a sign that your Walkman was out of batteries, maybe I'm less in tune with unheard melodies. However hard peace and quiet are to come by these days, I'd probably miss the hum and buzz of daily life even more. The beauty of silence is in the ear of the beholder.

Doctor Proves that Quality Health Care is Possible in the Third World

Cardiologist Ernest Madu sits in his office in Kingston, Jamaica. The walls are lined with framed diplomas and certificates. He hands me a leaflet showing a 4-month-old baby girl born with a disrupted valve in her aorta. The poster advertises a community campaign to raise $60,000 to fly her to Miami, Florida, for surgery. "I heard that she died," Madu says, a sombre look overtaking the usual brightness in his eyes. "If that child had been born in the U.S. instead of Jamaica," he adds, "she would have grown up to do what she wanted to do in life: Go to school, get married, have children, have a career. She died because she was Jamaican.

"Every life is valuable. A person in Indonesia is as important as one in Germany. Unfortunately, we live in a world now where if a person lives in a poor country, it's okay that their health is not as good. We need to find ways so that health and survival are equitable around the world."

For Madu, who is from Nigeria but practiced medicine for years in the southern U.S., access to medical care in the developing world is not simply an abstract issue of fate and fairness. It is a matter of life and death, which he faces every day in his work as CEO of the Heart Institute of the Caribbean (HIC). He and his wife Dainia Baugh, an internist, founded the HIC four years ago to prove it's possible to provide high-quality health care in a poor country like Jamaica. It's their hope that the hospital will become a model that spawns similar facilities throughout the global South.

This is a hugely ambitious goal. But when shaking hands with Madu, a powerfully built man with an even more powerful presence, you sense he possesses the charisma, determination and first-hand experience to make it happen.

People in developing nations die needlessly, Madu explains, because their countries lack basic medical services that patients in even the most impoverished or remote communities in North America and Europe take for granted. Before the HIC opened in Jamaica, there was no chance of receiving routine cardiology procedures like stress tests, electrocardiograms (ECGs or EKGs) or angioplasty.

"People have been indoctrinated to believe that good medical care can't happen in a place like Jamaica," Madu says. "It's simply assumed that ill people must go abroad for good treatment -- that is, if they can afford it and live long enough to make the trip. It's a mindset we have to get beyond if we want to improve health. Fifty percent of people having heart attacks die within 24 hours without the proper medical treatment. Even if you are rich enough to own a plane, it may be too late."

Patrick Walsh, a 47-year-old Kingston resident, declares he would not be alive today if not for the Heart Institute of the Caribbean. "I've come back from sudden cardiac arrest twice because of the defibrillator they implanted in me. It shocked me back to life." Complaining of swollen legs and shortness of breath, Walsh was referred to the HIC by his doctor. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and surgically outfitted with a defibrillator, a device incorporating a pacemaker that responds to a rapid or arrhythmic heartbeat with a shock so the pacemaker can continue to work. Such surgery was not available in Jamaica until the HIC opened.

"Dr. Madu assisted me by knocking off a balance of $9,000 from the bill," Walsh adds. "I am very grateful for that."

The hospital treats many poor patients, with a policy of not turning away anyone who needs help. "We charge only what they can afford to pay," Madu says. "Jamaicans are proud people, so many times the whole family -- the brother who is a cab driver in Los Angeles -- will send us money." Madu notes that the HIC provides more than $1 million a year in free or reduced-rate care.

The HIC does not yet have the capacity for pediatric cardiac operations, such as replacing the faulty valve in the little girl's heart, but Madu estimates that with the proper equipment and medical expertise, the operation could be performed in Jamaica for less than $10,000, increasing the chances for that little girl and others to live.

Another reason people in developing countries die needlessly is that medical authorities overlook the rising tide of so-called modern diseases -- such as heart disease and diabetes -- in these societies. It's assumed that malnutrition and infectious diseases like malaria or AIDS are the real threats. "Hypertension is a growing problem in Africa," notes Seyi Oyesola, a London anesthesiologist who regularly travels home to Nigeria on a volunteer open-heart surgery team. "Doctors don't detect hypertension when they are told it's not a problem and that they need to focus on malaria."

Fifty-six percent of hospital deaths in Jamaica are caused by cardiovascular disease, says Madu. Throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, it accounted for 31 percent of all deaths, a number that is expected to rise to 38 percent by 2020, according to a 2006 report from the World Bank's Disease Priorities Control Project. The report notes that cardiovascular disease is the second leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa after HIV/AIDS, and the leading cause for people over 30. "Africa made a huge mistake not responding quickly enough to AIDS," Madu says, "and I am afraid that is happening again with cardiovascular disease."

Reporting on the rise of cardiovascular disease in Africa with colleagues from Vanderbilt University in the journal Ethnicity and Disease in 2003, he concluded, "Unfortunately, at a time when Africa is dealing with an epidemic of infectious and communicable diseases, another pandemic is looming ... facilitated by the Westernization of indigenous cultures, increasingly sedentary lifestyles, high-fat Western diets, tobacco abuse and psychosocial stress from urbanization."

He calls this "the double burden of disease in poor countries," where the medical consequences of underdevelopment and overdevelopment coexist. Finding a solution to this impending crisis is what prompted Madu, 47, and Baugh, 38, to give up rewarding, comfortable lives as professors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, and come to Jamaica (Baugh's homeland) to become health-care entrepreneurs.

Skepticism was high in Jamaica about the possibility of receiving first-class cardiac care at home, but in just three years, the HIC has won a steady clientele of middle-class Jamaicans who don't want to travel to Miami for medical services, and poor ones who can't afford it. The HIC offers cardiovascular treatment for 5,000 to 12,000 patients a year at a fraction of what it costs in the U.S., due to lower expenses as well as donations from medical firms such as Medtronic.

Kenneth Baugh, a surgeon serving as Jamaica's deputy prime minister (as well as a distant cousin of Dainia Baugh's), says, "We are dealing with the common ailments of the past but now we have more chronic diseases as people live longer, so I am happy to see this kind of specialized health clinic in Jamaica, which shows we can create centers of excellence throughout the developing world."

New HIC branches now receive patients in Mandeville, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands, with another institute set to open in Montego Bay, Jamaica, in 2008. The following year, his Heart Institute of West Africa in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, is scheduled to open. The facility will also offer dialysis treatment, a diabetes clinic, nutrition counseling and a birthing center -- an acute need in a country with one of the highest maternal morality rates in the world. Madu envisions the day when hospitals in less wealthy countries will offer state-of-the-art care for other emerging diseases such as cancer and asthma.

Paying customers, including "medical tourists" from Europe and North America seeking high-quality medical care at affordable prices, will be the financial backbone of these institutions, making it possible to treat indigent patients for low or no fees. "The globalization of health care will eventually force medical costs down," Madu predicts.

"We've learned a lesson in Jamaica that we want to apply in Africa too," he adds. "If you improve the standards in a country, everyone else will eventually move up. We are already training a lot of technicians from other hospitals. When you show what's possible, you empower other health professionals to do what they do better. That's part of the plan."

Madu is also exploring offers to set up heart hospitals in Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Madu is forthright in explaining that he became a doctor to save the world. His life has been shaped by childhood experiences in Biafra, a region of Nigeria that declared a short-lived independence in 1967, setting off a three-year civil war in which as many as a million people died.

"Most of my memories start with that war," he explains. "In school, we had bunkers where we had to go during bombings. Some students were killed. I wondered even then how responsible adults could throw bombs at kids. Seeing that violence and tragedy has driven my life. I have always felt that I should try to do whatever good I could in the world."

He was trained as a physician and surgeon at the University of Nigeria and moved to New York City for his residency, during which he volunteered at a hospital in Harlem. "What I saw there -- patients without access to care, with no insurance, who came to see doctors only at the late stages of an illness -- was a shock in such a rich country. It still doesn't make any sense to me."

Specializing in echocardiography and nuclear medicine, fields that employ cutting-edge technology to monitor heart health, Madu worked in U.S. hospitals for more than 15 years and taught in medical schools at U.S. universities in Tennessee and Florida, and at Vanderbilt. But he always maintained a keen interest in global health-care issues, and would return to Nigeria every year on medical missions to provide cardiac treatments that were unavailable in that country.

Madu's smile fades as he tells a story from one of these trips. A man suffering congestive heart failure was brought to see Madu in a wheelbarrow. Madu prescribed some medication. The man returned three days later, walking on his own, to say thanks. With a rueful pause, Madu says, "Without any follow-up treatment, I'm not sure he lived. These medical missions felt like putting a band-aid on a big wound."

Madu beams as he shows me around his hospital, a renovated office building in suburban Kingston, and points out equipment for procedures rarely performed in developing nations: echocardiography, electrocardiography, cardiac imaging, electrophysiology, radiofrequency ablations, carotid Doppler ultrasound scanning, stress lab testing, peripheral vascular interventions and percutaneous transluminal angioplasty. He's equally proud of his staff of 21 full-time and consulting physicians, many of whom trained in the U.S. or Canada. Jamaica saw a 75 percent leap in the number of cardiologists on the island when the hospital opened in 2005.

Even with all this up-to-date technology -- including a telemedicine platform that enables HIC staff to consult electronically with medical experts abroad -- there's an agreeably relaxed atmosphere to the place. The waiting room is furnished with cushy sofas from which patients and their families cheer on the Nigerian team in a soccer match with Germany on TV.

Madu is not bashful about walking into a physician's office with just a perfunctory knock to show me a new device ("This technology never existed before in the Caribbean. Look at it!") or introduce me to a colleague ("Meet Dr. Aldo Furlani, an electrophysiologist, trained at the Montreal Heart Institute, who is from Argentina."). As we pass one anxious-looking woman hooked up to a monitor, Madu carefully studies the screen and then reassures her in a deep, soft voice. "Your heart looks really good to me."

More than a hospital, the HIC is also an education-and-research facility that conducts medical studies on health factors in the developing world, trains professionals from public hospitals and sponsors public campaigns about healthy lifestyles. While the HIC is run as a private business so staff can be free of interference from bureaucrats or shareholders, a non-profit foundation supports its research-and-training programs and raises money to honor the pledge that no sick person will be denied.

"This is not a business; this is a social movement," notes Edwin Tulloch-Reid, director of clinical services, a Jamaican who came home after working as a cardiologist in Canada and the U.S.. "We make money but that is not our mission. We must be economically self-sustaining to show that this can be done other places around the world."

Madu and his staff are worried that the advance of Western-style development means Jamaicans and other people of the developing world are losing the few health advantages they enjoy compared to wealthier nations -- a way of life with fewer processed foods, lower stress, more exercise and a richer sense of community, all of which have been proven to affect wellness. "Obesity is becoming a problem in Jamaica and it's rising in Africa," Madu reports. "And smoking is rising too as tobacco companies intensify marketing efforts there."

In developing nations, where a desk job seems like a dream come true after generations of back-breaking labor, where cigarettes still appear glamorous and where an overflowing plate of food represents a triumph over malnutrition, people are not naturally inclined to worry about exercise, smoking or overeating. But as Western-style development slowly transforms these societies, unhealthy lifestyles have become a growing problem. The first sight I saw coming into Kingston from the airport was a huge banner strung across the highway advertising Kentucky Fried Chicken, and later when walking back to my hotel from the clinic, I asked directions from a well-dressed young woman on the street. She was shocked that I wanted to go that far on foot. It turned out to be only three blocks, but along a particularly grim stretch of road full of speeding vehicles and exhaust fumes that made me wish I had taken a taxi.

Madu and his colleagues are dedicated to preventing these looming health hazards, not just treating the cardiovascular problems that can result. One HIC study underway looks at the impact of a daily walk on preventing heart disease. "We want to create a new culture of walking in developing nations," Madu declares, "to let people realize it is an important part of the good life, of modern life, just as much as cars or restaurants. Not everyone has the time or money to go to a health club, but everyone can walk. I make sure that people see me walking in the park evenings at 6:30, so they might think: Here's a doctor, from America, and he's walking. I should be walking too."

The HIC has launched an ambitious education campaign in Jamaica to promote healthy living, which includes a weekly 15-minute radio show offering advice on preventing heart disease, a partnership with restaurants and school cafeterias to provide healthier meals and an annual three-kilometre (two-mile) Heart Walk that draws hundreds of participants and gets widespread media coverage. They've enlisted reggae star Rita Marley, Bob Marley's widow, to help spread the word.

Although not Jamaican by birth, Madu is fascinated by reggae music, and he is organizing a campaign to establish a Reggae Hall of Fame in Kingston. "Jamaica, this little island, has pioneered a music loved all over the world. This needs to be celebrated so people here can realize what they are capable of doing. You succeed because you believe. That's the biggest thing we need in Jamaica and developing nations. People need that sense of possibility. That's what Bob Marley accomplished. He started with something that bucked all the trends because he believed in his ideals -- "

His colleague, clinical services director Edwin Tulloch-Reid, cuts him short and with a teasing grin asks, "Say, are you talking about Bob Marley or yourself?"

Find out more: caribbeanheart.com

Is there a doctor in the country?

The medical crisis in poor regions is heightened by an exodus of doctors and nurses who have been trained in developing countries at public expense and now practise in Europe or North America. One out of 10 doctors in Canada, according to Toronto's This Magazine, comes from low-income countries with acute health problems of their own, notably South Africa and India. Sixty percent of doctors graduating from the University of the West Indies in Kingston are not working in the Caribbean, according to the HIC.

"Why do people leave?" asks Madu, who still splits his time between the HIC and Baptist Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. "For a lot of them, it's because there are no facilities for people to do their jobs well. Everyone wants to feel they are making progress in their field. It's not just the money. People want to feel they are doing some good.

"But if we build good hospital facilities in the developing world, then more nurses and doctors will stay, and health care will improve. If even 10 percent came back from the West, that would make a great difference for people, and encourage more of the next generation to stay."

Yet Madu has discovered, "it's easier to get money from the international community for non-profit groups that go into poor places three times a year to do medical missions than for a hospital that can improve the medical infrastructure in these countries." He and Baugh have raided their retirement accounts to help fund the HIC, Madu says, which is one reason they both still practise part-time in the U.S. "I'm poorer now," he says with a laugh, "but happier."

The Best Home Remedies May Be Sitting in Your Spice Cabinet

By the middle of the afternoon, Ellen Ryan was out of steam. A community organizer in central Maine, Ryan says her energy crashed every afternoon. To get through the rest of the day, she'd grab a chocolate bar or a handful of candy kisses. "But I'm 52," Ryan says, "and those explosions of calories are becoming harder to work off."

When a friend said cinnamon helped alleviate another health problem, Ryan decided to give it a try by taking two 500-milligram capsules in the morning. "I immediately noticed a difference," Ryan says. "My chocolate cravings went away and I no longer have that crashing feeling in the afternoon. I haven't talked to a doctor; all I know is that cinnamon is inexpensive, easy to take and it stops the crash."

Clinical studies support Ryan's experience. Just half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day lowered blood sugar levels in adults with type 2 diabetes, according to a study of 60 subjects carried out at NWFP Agricultural University in Peshawar, Pakistan, and published in Diabetes Care in 2003. The same study found that cinnamon also lowered cholesterol.

People around the world have been using spice cures for centuries, but now scientists are finding that spices can ease inflammation, activate the immune system, kill bacteria and viruses and even cause cancer cells to self-destruct. Although most studies are preliminary, some research suggests that compounds in spices might help fight everything from Alzheimer's disease and cancer to depression and diabetes. Here's an overview of the potential medicines lurking in your spice rack.

Turmeric: Asia's aspirin

This bright yellow-orange powder, common in Indian curries, may pack more healing power than any other spice. Turmeric is the aspirin of Asia, where it has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to heal wounds and treat inflammatory illnesses like arthritis as well as at least a dozen other health problems. Made from the powdered root of a tropical plant closely related to ginger, turmeric contains curcumin, a compound that is both a powerful anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. It's also non-toxic.

Today, scientists are finding tantalizing clues that suggest curcumin might help prevent and treat Alzheimer's disease and cancer. Investigators at the University of California at Los Angeles, studying a mouse model of Alzheimer's, reported that the brains of animals fed curcumin had up to 80 percent fewer of the protein plaques associated with the disease than those of mice given a normal diet. The abnormal clumping of proteins in the plaques is thought to cause Alzheimer's. Teams at UCLA, Harvard and in Japan subsequently discovered that curcumin might fight Alzheimer's in several ways. First, curcumin forms a powerful bond with the amyloid beta protein associated with Alzheimer's that prevents the protein from clumping into plaques in the brain. Second, this bonding capacity enables curcumin to dissolve these plaques. Third, curcumin reduces oxidative damage and brain inflammation that contribute to the disease process.

It's still too soon to know whether curcumin can prevent or treat Alzheimer's in humans, says Sally Frautschy of UCLA's Alzheimer's Research Lab, where many of the studies are being carried out. "The animal models are not precise models of Alzheimer's, so these studies need to be replicated in humans," she says. Frautschy adds that a UCLA team led by John Ringman and Jeffrey Cummings has just completed a pilot clinical trial and researchers are now analyzing results.

Another challenge is finding a form of curcumin that's absorbed by the body, because it doesn't readily dissolve in water. Still, people in India have been getting their curcumin for centuries by cooking turmeric in ghee (clarified butter), which, like any fat, enables this compound to be absorbed. Indians also have some of the lowest rates of Alzheimer's disease ever reported, according to a 2001 study led by Vijay Chandra of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

Could India's low Alzheimer's rate simply be a matter of genetics? Genes may well play a role, but research by Tze-Pin Ng and colleagues at the National University of Singapore also points to a diet rich in turmeric. A study of 1,010 people over age 60 who had no dementia found that those who ate curry "occasionally" and "often or very often" scored higher on mental performance tests than those who rarely or never consumed it. Ng, whose study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2006, also notes that the most typical curry in Singapore is the turmeric-laden yellow curry.

Evidence is mounting that curcumin may help fight many cancers, says Bharat Aggarwal, a professor of cancer medicine at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. In addition to reporting that curcumin blocks most of the mechanisms by which prostate cancer cells survive and grow, he and his colleagues have listed nearly 40 animal studies that suggest curcumin may have a strong protective effect against common cancers, including those of the breast, colon, lung, prostate and skin.

"The potential is unlimited," says Aggarwal, who notes that small clinical studies are underway to investigate curcumin in treating colorectal cancer and multiple myeloma. "Curcumin suppresses most of the biochemical pathways that lead to inflammation -- and up to 98 percent of all illnesses are due to the dysregulation of inflammation." Research has shown that curcumin is likely to block a molecular "master switch" responsible for inflammation and many other processes, including the growth of tumor cells. Small clinical trials are also underway to give us a clearer picture of curcumin's potential in fighting Alzheimer's, cancer and other illnesses.

While we're waiting, should we start sprinkling turmeric into the pan every time we sauté onions and garlic? And, if so, how much?

The mice in Frautschy's study were fed the daily human equivalent of a gram, or about a quarter-teaspoon of turmeric. Aggarwal notes that clinical studies have found that a daily dose of up to 12 grams (about a tablespoon) a day for three months is safe. The basic rule of thumb? According to Aggarwal: "Eating turmeric is okay for every day."

Saffron: The priciest spice

This yellow spice comes from the dried and powdered stigmas of Crocus sativus, a fall-blooming purple flower native to southwestern Asia and cultivated in countries including India, Spain, Greece and Iran. The world's most expensive spice, saffron has been used for millennia as everything from an aphrodisiac to a remedy for colds and stomach problems.

It was also used in traditional Persian medicine to treat depression, a fact that inspired Shahin Akhondzadeh and colleagues at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences and the Institute of Medicinal Plants in Iran to test it in a modern clinical trial of 40 subjects. The researchers reported in Phytotherapy Research in 2005 that mildly and moderately depressed adults who received a daily 30-milligram capsule of saffron for six weeks experienced a significant improvement over those who were given a placebo.

Further research suggests that the ancients, who used saffron to treat about 90 illnesses, may have been onto something big. A series of recent studies in animals have found that saffron extracts blocked or slowed the development of colon, skin and soft-tissue tumors.

Chili Peppers: Kicks from capsaicin

All hot peppers, from cayenne to habaneros to the new, ultra-fiery Bhut Jolokia or "ghost chili," get their kick from capsaicin, a compound that triggers the body to produce more heat, and hence, burn more energy.

Teams at Maastricht University in the Netherlands and Laval University in Quebec, Canada, reported in Physiology & Behavior in 2006 that capsaicin and other compounds that trigger this reaction may help fight obesity. But don't cancel your gym membership just yet. Eating even the spiciest salsa will never beat exercise for burning calories.

You might still, however, want to add more spicy food to your diet. Scientists think capsaicin may cause cancer cells to self-destruct while leaving normal cells unharmed.

Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles reported in Cancer Research in 2006 that feeding mice doses of capsaicin equal to a human eating 10 habanero peppers three times a week dramatically inhibited the growth of prostate cancer cells. Another research group at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute investigated capsaicin in a mouse model of pancreatic cancer. In mice fed the equivalent of one spicy Indian meal a day, tumors shrank by nearly half after only three to five days.

Ginger: Not just for gingerbread anymore

This aromatic root has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic, Chinese and Tibb-Unani (traditional Islamic) medicine to treat health problems including digestive ailments, arthritis, infectious diseases, fever, high blood pressure, pain and muscle aches. Today, researchers are zeroing in on the biochemical effects of ginger in the body, which may not only help explain its benefits but also begin to lay the groundwork for new and less toxic treatments for a host of illnesses.

Two key compounds in the spice are gingerols, which gives fresh ginger its pungency, and shogaols, which gives dried ginger its zip. Some of the most convincing findings on ginger's health benefits in humans come from studies of morning sickness. A study of 70 women in the first trimester of pregnancy led by Teraporn Vutyavanich of Chiang Mai University in Thailand reported that women who received one gram of ginger per day had significantly less nausea and vomiting from morning sickness than a control group given a placebo.

Ali Badreldin of the College of Medicine and Health Sciences at Sultan Qaboos University in Oman, along with colleagues in the UK and the United Arab Emirates, recently examined 91 studies on ginger conducted around the world over the last decade. In a 2008 review article in Food and Chemical Toxicology, the researchers highlight animal and test-tube studies that have found ginger can lower both blood sugar and cholesterol, contains pain-killing compounds that mimic nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with fewer side effects, eases inflammation from arthritis and protects against ulcers.

Badreldin and his colleagues also note the results of studies in rodents that found that ginger has powerful antioxidant properties that protect against the toxic effects of radiation treatment and skin diseases caused by ultraviolet B radiation.

These studies lay the groundwork for possible ginger-based treatments for diabetes, arthritis and other inflammatory illnesses, protection against radiation sickness from cancer treatment and even cancer itself.

Even if ginger proves effective, these treatments are likely years away. What is known is that ginger has been used medicinally for centuries, underscoring its safety. "Ginger is considered to be a safe herbal medicine with only few and insignificant adverse side effects," Badreldin notes. But he and his colleagues are also quick to say that large, rigorous clinical studies are needed to pinpoint ginger's efficacy in various illnesses and uncover any side effects from long-term use.

If you want to try ginger, how much should you take? The American Academy of Family Physicians notes that no specific studies of doses have been conducted, but clinical studies on nausea generally use between 250 milligrams and 1 gram of powdered ginger root in a capsule, taken one to four times a day.

Is it possible to overdose on spices? Like anything else, spices should be taken with a healthy dose of common sense. Pregnant women should avoid saffron, because in large doses it may induce abortion, and they should consult with their doctors when taking any herbal products. (That's a good rule of thumb for everyone). Ginger can cause stomach upsets. Some studies have found that too much capsaicin from hot peppers can cause stomach problems.

It will take further clinical studies to establish whether and how spices might prevent or even cure disease. Based on recent research, though, turmeric remains one of the most promising and safest condiments in treating a host of illnesses. So don't forget to add it to your next soup or main dish. If it really does help prevent Alzheimer's, it may well help you remember a lot of other stuff too.

Is the Hydrogen Age Just Around the Corner?

You may think hydrogen power is some futuristic fantasy, fit only for science-fiction writers. Or, at best, you might consider it a promising technology that won't be ready for prime time for another 40 to 50 years. If so, think again. In a special edition on "Best Inventions 2006," Time magazine praises the decision by Shanghai-based Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies "to design and market the H-racer, a 6-inch-long toy car that does what Detroit still can't. It runs on hydrogen extracted from plain tap water, using the solar-powered hydrogen station."

Hydrogen vehicles are not mere toys. More than 500 are on the road today. A BMW prototype with a hydrogen internal-combustion engine attained a top speed of 186 miles an hour. Mazda, Ford, Honda and GM are developing a variety of hydrogen-powered engines. Perhaps most exciting, Honda is now powering zero-emission vehicles with hydrogen derived from tap water in small stationary units that drivers can keep in their garages.

We believe the rapid pace of invention, testing and commercialization of fuel-cell technologies is a strong sign that we are entering the early stages of a hydrogen revolution. Instead of waiting half a century as critics suggest, the large-scale production of hydrogen fuel-cell cars could begin very soon. We have come to a crossroads where a single, courageous decision by a few world leaders could launch a new era of progress. That decision is, of course, to shift from our dependence on environmentally damaging fossil fuels to plentiful, renewable and clean-burning hydrogen fuel.

Not everyone sees the bright future of the hydrogen age. Some well-informed energy experts contend hydrogen will be viable only after 20 to 30 years of development. The respected environmental think tank Worldwatch Institute, cautions, "Despite recent public attention about the potential for a hydrogen economy, it could take decades to develop the infrastructure and vehicles required for a hydrogen-powered system." Joseph Romm, author of The Hype About Hydrogen, states that, "Hydrogen vehicles are unlikely to achieve even a 5 percent market share by 2030."

These predictions are needlessly pessimistic, based on common misconceptions about the cost, efficiency and technology of hydrogen. If we make hydrogen a national and international priority, as outlined below in a strategy for launching the hydrogen economy, we foresee the first affordable hydrogen fuel-cell cars coming to market starting between 2010 and 2012, and achieving 5 percent of the new car market share by 2020 or sooner.

Let's examine the critics' misconceptions about hydrogen.

Myth No. 1: A hydrogen industry needs to be built from scratch The production of hydrogen is already a large, mature industry, and the global hydrogen industry annually produces 50 million metric tons (50 billion kilograms) of hydrogen, worth about $150 billion. To put that into perspective, the current global output of pure hydrogen has the energy equivalence of 1.2 billion barrels of oil, or about a quarter of U.S. petroleum imports. The hydrogen industry is growing at 6 percent a year, thus doubling every 12 years. All this is happening without the incentives that would be provided by a growing fleet of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles in need of fuel. If the hydrogen industry can expand so quickly "below the radar," it will have no problem expanding quickly enough to fuel the needs of hydrogen fuel-cell cars in the future.

Myth No. 2: Hydrogen is too dangerous for common use This myth begins with the hydrogen-filled German zeppelin, the Hindenburg, which blew up at Lakehurst, New Jersey, in 1937. Recently that event was revisited in a detailed analysis by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientist Addison Bain. He found that it was not the hydrogen that originally combusted, but the dirigible's outer coating, a highly flammable material similar to that used in rocket propellants. In reality, the hydrogen industry has had an excellent safety record for decades. In 30 years, liquefied hydrogen shipments have logged 33 billion miles. During all this time, no product losses or fires were reported. Gasoline, our automotive fuel of choice, is 22 times more explosive and has a dismal safety record in comparison.

Hydrogen, while flammable, is generally more easily managed than hydrocarbon fuels. If hydrogen is ignited, it burns with a clear flame and only one-tenth the radiant heat of a hydrocarbon fire. The heat that is produced tends to dissipate much more rapidly than heat from gasoline or oil fires. The bottom line is that hydrogen-safety critics should turn their fire against gasoline, and agitate for the rapid adoption of hydrogen on safety grounds alone! Myth No. 3: Hydrogen can't be distributed via existing pipelines The transportation of hydrogen, one of the most frequently mentioned concerns of critics, is easily accomplished through pipelines. Creating a new pipeline network to move hydrogen is unnecessary; we can use the one already in existence. Some existing pipelines are already hydrogen-ready. The others can easily be modified with existing technologies by adding polymer-composite liners, similar to the process used to renovate old sewer pipes. Using existing pipelines creates no additional safety concerns. Already, hydrogen-refueling stations are appearing in California, Florida and British Columbia. Other regions are sure to follow.

Myth No. 4: There is no practical way to run cars on hydrogen Hydrogen fuel cells have been used for space flights since 1965 and they were used in a passenger vehicle as early as 1966 (GM's Electrovan). Today, fuel-cell vehicles are undergoing rigorous testing and are far advanced. As of mid-2003, manufacturers had dozens of fuel-cell buses and upwards of 100 fuel-cell cars on the road. Fuel cells are being tested for military vehicles on land and sea; submarines have used them for years. Heavy trucks, which spend up to half their engine run time idling because they have no auxiliary power source, are also beginning to use fuel cells. FedEx and UPS plan to introduce fuel-cell trucks by next year.

With such a massive wave of research and trial, fuel cells are sure to advance quickly, as each successful application benefits from its predecessors' experiences. As a whole, mass production will drive down the price of fuel cells.


Myth No. 5: Hydrogen is too expensive to compete with gasoline Despite decades of U.S. policies favouring the use of petroleum, hydrogen technologies are already close to economic viability. When we consider system-wide life-cycle costs, hydrogen is already a desirable alternative to fossil fuel. The factor of greenhouse gas emissions makes hydrogen overwhelmingly preferable to gasoline. Even when hydrogen fuel is produced from natural gas, on a per-mile-driven basis, fuel-cell cars generate as little as 30 percent of the carbon dioxide produced by gasoline-powered cars.

Cost is the bottom-line factor for many consumers contemplating the adoption of new technologies. Research shows that small hydrogen generators could be manufactured by the hundreds and installed at service stations supporting a few hundred fuel-cell-powered cars using natural gas as a raw material at a cost of $6 per million British thermal units (BTUs). These would deliver hydrogen to cars at $2.50 per kilogram, since one gallon of gas is the energy equivalent of one kilogram of hydrogen. That is equivalent to $2.50 per gallon gasoline, less than we are paying now. Moreover, as current trends continue, we believe the days of $2.50 per gallon gasoline will be very fond memories.

Once these myths are dispelled, we can clearly see the environmental advantages of hydrogen power as well as the promising economic benefits. "Hydrogen could become a strategic business sector and an engine of global economic growth within the decade and for the remainder of the 21st century." That's the assessment of Julian Gresser and James Cusumano (one of this article's co-authors) in a 2005 report, "Hydrogen and the New Energy Economy," published in The Futurist.

It is well known that at critical times in history, certain industries have made key technological breakthroughs that have become dynamic engines of broader economic growth. Famous examples of the convergence of critical technologies and rapid growth include: the canals and railroads of 18th- and 19th-century England and, more recently, the convergence of computer hardware, software and Internet technology in late-20th-century America. Due to the tremendous public benefits realized through the success of strategic technologies and industries, governments have usually played a pivotal role in accelerating these technologies' development. California has already taken the national lead in implementing a "Hydrogen Highway Network Action Plan" to build 150 to 200 hydrogen-refueling stations, approximately one every 20 miles on California's major highways.

Similarly, Florida's state government has launched an innovative program to promote hydrogen as a strategic growth sector. Working within a broad alliance among private companies, state and local governments, universities and environmental groups, the Florida Hydrogen Strategy initially focuses on fuels cells, hydrogen storage and power-grid optimization. The strategy offers tax refunds, investment tax credits, performance incentives and enterprise-bond financing. Internationally, Japan, Germany, Canada and Iceland have major hydrogen programs underway. Leaders of these nations understand that, in addition to laying the foundation for independence from oil and creating a key industrial sector, the rapid development of hydrogen will accelerate innovation in related sectors, such as biotechnology, solar photovoltaics, ultra-light materials and nano-materials.

Given the urgency of the energy and climate crises, we urge development of a broad political consensus around a strategy for transitioning to a hydrogen economy. This strategy would apply regulatory, financial and other market-driven incentives while drawing on the best available technology and talent. Under the leadership of a non-partisan National Hydrogen Task Force, political leaders in the U.S. and elsewhere should convene the nation's leading hydrogen scientists, engineers and inventors, along with top environmental lawyers, finance experts and specialists in public/private enterprises.

Their mission should be the development of a draft "Strategic Hydrogen Alliance Reform and Enterprise Act" (SHARE) that would create the statutory framework for accelerating the development of the hydrogen economy as quickly as possible, on par with the urgency that accompanies a state of war or a natural disaster.

The main stages of this transition plan for the U.S. are outlined below and include the following milestones:

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Can the Victim and the Criminal Ever Reconcile?

When she comes in, the room is full of prisoners -- many of them doing time for murder, many already having served 25 years or more. She's very nervous and sits down without shaking anybody's hand. More than 10 years ago, her 12-year-old son was abducted, raped and stabbed to death. "I want to know," she says, "did he ask for me? Did he cry for me? I need to know what happened, so I can stop imagining."

But today, Maria -- a five-foot-tall woman in her fifties who works as a cashier in a supermarket -- will not be facing the offender. She's meeting a group of men dedicated to helping heal victims at California's San Quentin State Prison. That's what Maria is looking for: healing. Because she cannot live with the fact that she doesn't know anything about her son's last moments. "Perhaps I can ask them what I would have asked my offender," Maria reasons.

And so Maria, supported by another mother whose son was murdered, starts talking about her loss. She sheds her tears, collects herself and then asks the men, gathered in a circle of chairs, some tough questions: What went through your mind when you killed your victim? What do you remember about your victim at the time of the crime? Was it worth it? One by one, the men answer her. They don't get upset and don't turn away. They keep their eyes on Maria and tell her the truth, and nothing but the truth, without justifying themselves or evading her questions. This truth-telling slowly fills the room with an awe-inspiring power. Perhaps never before has the accounting of these horrendous acts been such a gift of healing to someone hearing it. "Thank you," Maria whispers, again and again.

Slowly, the room lightens up. One of the men asks Maria to share some fond memories of her son, and she responds eagerly. She also shares that while she is glad her offender has been prevented from causing further harm, she bears no ill will toward him. She knows a thing or two about the challenge unresolved pain poses. "I'm tired of coping," she says. "I want to live again."

Jacques Verduin, who facilitates this group process at San Quentin prison, has thoroughly trained these men to handle this kind of meeting. Ten years ago, he started the Insight Prison Project (IPP). Through it, some of these tough customers have acquired gifts they can share with other prisoners as well as everyone else: counselling; conflict resolution and mediation; victim/offender education; violence prevention; yoga and meditation instruction; parole planning and addiction recovery. As many as 300 inmates a week attend the programs.

Although Verduin hardly stops stressing the team effort inherent in his organization, you could say he has planted seeds of peace and reconciliation among people for whom that might seem impossible.

But in his case, the seeds were probably tulip bulbs, for Verduin is as Dutch as they come: blonde hair, blushing apple-red cheeks and bright blue eyes with the steadfast determination of Hans Brinker, the archetypical Dutch boy who stuck his thumb in a dike to save the country from flooding. And the 47-year-old Verduin, who calls himself a "recovered psychotherapist," has needed every inch of Hans Brinker's courage to deal with California's troubled prison system.

The inspiration to start self-rehabilitation programs in prison came when Verduin realized modern society was destroying its members' sense of community and connectedness. According to Verduin, the spirit of kindness, compassion and caring was gone. He resolved to build an organization that would hold up a lamp in one of the darkest places in our culture, a place where human beings are discarded, labelled as prisoners and forgotten. Where better to start than inside the walls of San Quentin?

Opened in July of 1852, the oldest of California's prisons is home to some of the most dangerous men alive. That's where the state's death row for men is located, as is its only gas chamber, now used to perform lethal injections. The cells in which the men live take up only 35 square feet (a little more than 3 square metres), and are double-occupied.

"It's a tough place," acknowledges Verduin as we wait for our IDs to be scanned at the prison gate. "When I started, it was just about as difficult to get into San Quentin as it was to get out. The first time I sat with a group of prisoners was quite intimidating. I was so green. One of the first things they said was, 'Hey man, what are you driving an ambulance for?' It took me a little while to figure out that this was slang for, 'Why are you trying to save us?' Then they wanted to know how much drugs I had used and of course, I could not impress them."

This cat-and-mouse game went on for a little while, but Verduin decided to stop playing when one of the inmates told him he looked pretty uncomfortable, sitting there trying to save their sorry asses. "At that moment I took a deep breath," remembers Verduin. "I said 'You know what? I am uncomfortable, but I want to make this a group where it is okay to be uncomfortable. Let's cut the bullshit and get real.' That did it! At that point they all started to buy in. That's how we started our first group."

If a rehabilitation program for prisoners sounds like a waste of time and money, consider this number: In California, almost 70 percent of those who leave prison return within 18 months of release.

For the past 30 years, in the wake of California's legislation asserting that "the purpose of imprisonment for crime is punishment," rehabilitation has been largely absent from the state's penal system. Despite its recent comeback, the number of inmates in California has increased. The average cost to house, feed and guard an inmate in California exceeds $40,000 a year.

In other words: California's "punishment" system has been as expensive as it has been ineffective. Verduin sees signs of change, in San Quentin's new warden Bob Ayers, for example, who Verduin believes is one of the strongest proponents of programs to "support public safety and prevent re-victimization in society."

The property on which San Quentin stands is one of the most beautiful spots in the state, just north of San Francisco in Marin County. It must be hard for prisoners to see surfers and boats gliding by all the time, we conclude as we stroll along with Verduin into a large courtyard where prisoners are walking, talking and working out. "That's why the motto of our program is 'Leaving prison before you get out,'" he answers promptly. "It is the only way to stay sane in a place like this."

As a devoted practitioner of meditation, Verduin knows that being locked behind steel bars isn't the worst kind of prison. As far as he is concerned, getting out of the other prison -- the one into which we lock ourselves -- is the main priority. But breaking free from the chains of trauma and unresolved hurt has proven to be at least as difficult as breaking out of a maximum- security prison. The reason why many people, even those who have never been behind bars, don't attempt an escape is that their prison can look so good. As long as there are iPods, televisions, computers, houses, careers, money, food and drinks, why bother about freedom?

That is the difference between the prisoners inside and outside San Quentin. When you are inside the penitentiary, your world and your prospects don't look so good and not much distracts you from yourself. That is why Verduin loves to work with these men. "When they are 'sick and tired of being sick and tired' and want to heal, there is an immediacy, an urgency, that's hard to find outside, which is very refreshing."

Walking into the shabby building where IPP's so-called Katargeo Group "holds the space" is like walking into a monastery or an ashram. The atmosphere is solemn, sobering, humbling. No fashionable clothes, no cell phones, no pretense. The main purpose of the meetings is to "sit in the fire" and face the deep-rooted pain that led to crime and murder. The men come together to remind one another of who they really are, as human beings, humble and imperfect, but deeply soulful and wizened as well. Most men have been at it for several years and have become masters in their own right. When you've been to hell and found your way back, you conduct yourself with a natural authority.

They have learned the hard way how to look within. Verduin explains, "One of the main priorities in the trainings at IPP is on something called 'impulse control.' You do this by learning to be able to witness your own experience. That's why we make space for contemplation in each class. This technique can make the difference between committing a crime and not."

Today the group topic is forgiveness. One of the inmates, who prefers to stay anonymous, says he's willing to forgive just about everyone, except the guy who murdered his wife. The inmate was in prison when she was stabbed. He had been utterly powerless, not only to defend his loved one, but to be there for his 4-year-old son who witnessed the murder. "I'll never be able to forgive that guy. I will always hold onto that anger."

Another prisoner, Eric, has plenty of reasons to be angry too. As a kid, he was molested and raped by eight people on a regular basis. It had become so commonplace that he began to think the sole purpose of his life was to be used. One day all the anger exploded, which resulted in a tragic loss of life. Eric has learned to forgive, but, he explains, "I'll never assume I'm done forgiving and being forgiven."

Listening to stories like this, it becomes clear that each man here is a victim as well as an offender. In this light, it seems cruel that men like Eric are punished throughout their lives for something that happened in a few minutes. Of course, the victims and their families are dead or traumatized forever too. Still, in meeting these men, one can't help but think that if they could take their places in society and share their hard-earned wisdom with the rest of us, we would all be the better for it.

When we ask Eric, PJ and Ali after the session what they would do if ever they got out, their eyes begin to shine. They would go back to their neighbourhoods to help build community based on the principles they have learned in IPP programs and other classes. Stories of prisoners who have done this are told and retold, like the one about former group member Sterling Scott, who now works in juvenile detention facilities across California. Sterling had been behind bars for 23 years.

Meanwhile, Verduin dreams of raising enough money to set up what he calls "The Ambassador Initiative," in which former prisoners who have learned job skills on the inside go into their communities to serve as salaried youth counsellors and violence-prevention facilitators par excellence.

IN these victim/offender programs developed and taught by IPP Restorative Justice Manager Rochelle Edwards, inmates write about how they killed or hurt somebody, and learn to understand their own histories. Each class ends with naming the victims and doing something in their honour. Each prisoner also writes a letter to his victim. It does not get sent, but as Verduin says, "they still go through it." All this is done in preparation for a group dialogue with family members who lost loved ones in crimes like those perpetrated by these men.

One of the first such meetings, just before the program started, was with Radha Stern, a woman Verduin met at a dinner party and whose son had been murdered. "I asked her if she would talk to me about this. So we met a couple of times and she took me through the whole process: the pictures; the newspaper clippings; the poems the family wrote; how she lost all fluids when the sheriff came and told her that her son was killed, everything. She taught me about the other side of the crime. When we were done, she said, 'Now I want to see what you do.'"

Verduin asked the men if it would be okay to bring Stern in. They assured him she was welcome. "The first time she brought pictures of her son," he says. "The second time she brought a quilt, which she had made for every year of his life: his favourite food, his pets, his friends... All the men touched the quilt, which was very special. Imagine the hands that had taken a life touching this quilt that belonged to a mother whose son's life was taken." After a few meetings, Stern became like a mother to the members of the group.

Then, Verduin says, something beautiful happened. He managed to get approval for a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal, to be held in a dank basement that doubled as a classroom, just past urinals you could hear flushing. Verduin had asked all those invited to come in suits and fine clothes. "After all, who ever does that for these guys?" So Verduin bought a tie and Stern prepared a delicious meal.

"By the time all the food was cleared through security, it was cold," Verduin says, "but Radha had thought about this and brought a thermos bottle of hot gravy." He stops here to wipe the tears from his eyes. "Every time I talk about this it gets me, because that's love, right? Hot gravy!" After a moment, Verduin continues. "Everybody wept when they spoke of what they were thankful for. It was beautiful."

A couple of months later, when the 10-year anniversary of Stern's son's death was approaching, the men wanted to do something in honour of Stern and her son. They decided to make a quilt. "One of the guys," Verduin says, "used the pocket of his favourite visiting shirt -- the best piece of cloth he had. There were also napkins, and pieces of mattress. Some guys drew on it; some actually embroidered on it."

After Stern was given this quilt, she took her husband and daughter to meet the guys. She's now preparing for a dialogue with her son's murderer.

"Healing wants to happen," Verduin says, "if you let it."

11 Things We Can Learn from the Rest of the World

The world is becoming One. But the game is being played according to rules set by the West. Where colonialism ultimately failed at running the world, Hollywood and the stock market are succeeding. In the process, we are seeing material gain and progress for developing nations -- but also substantial loss. And Westerners may lose just as much in this as the rest of the world. The cultural richness and indigenous innovation that is in danger of being wiped out in Africa, Asia and Latin America by globalization could actually make Western societies healthier and happier. Here are 11 lessons the West can learn that would improve Western life and create a better future for all humanity.

1) Democracy (Ghana)

Ubuntu for all!
By Baffour Ankomah

Here's a surprise. What Africa has to offer the West is democracy! History says Ancient Greece invented democracy. But the Greeks took their inspiration from the other side of the Mediterranean in Egypt. "African democracy," which is practiced to this day in villages and towns across the continent -- where 70 percent of Africans live -- is very different from "Western democracy." It is based on the humanist philosophy called Ubuntu, originating in southern Africa, which teaches, "I am because you are." African democracy is focussed on including everyone, whereas Western democracy, with its basis in majority rule, divides people and nations.

Traditional African democracy doesn't involve organized opposition. Power is arranged like a pyramid. At the top is the king who exercises supreme authority, assisted by his council of elders and sub-chiefs. But the king or chief has no power except that which is given to him by the people. He is usually enthroned for life, but the actual duration of his reign depends on how well or poorly he performs. If he is a good king, he stays. If he is a bad king -- who oppresses the people, or acts against their interests and traditions -- he is overthrown by the people, using the constitutional means established for the purpose.

African democracy has a lot to teach the world about decision-making. Minor day-to-day decisions are made by the chief or king in consultation with the council of elders. But major decisions affecting the community are made by the people -- all the people. The job of the king or chief is really to implement the will of the people.

In the African system, for example, if villagers want to build a school, the chief calls the whole community together under the trees of the village square. The gathering of the villagers acts like a city council or parliament. Wide and passionate discussions are held that day on the subject of the new school. Everybody is free to voice an idea. There is no organized opposition, but opposing views are strongly and freely expressed. The chief or king is the last to speak, but that doesn't mean he has "the last word" as would be the case in Western culture. At the end of the day, a consensus is almost always reached. And -- most important -- the new initiative enjoys broad support, since even opponents feel heard and respected. This kind of democracy is not a struggle for power, but an organizing structure.

Baffour Ankomah, from Ghana, is the editor of the magazine New African.


2) Ingenuity (India)

Finding solutions for what's impossible
By Vijay Mahajan

In rural India, you may spot a rather unusual vehicle. Halfway between a cart and a tractor, it can carry maybe 12 passengers. It doesn't need a licence plate, but it does have a motor -- taken from a surplus water pump -- and can travel up to 40 kilometres (25 miles) an hour. That can be a problem, since the cart doesn't have brakes to speak of. When the driver needs to stop, the passengers jump off and drag wooden brake shoes against the wheels.

Jugaad is the name of this motorized problem-solving device, and it costs just 60,000 rupees (about $1,300). A jugaad is an alternative solution, an improvisation, a jury-rigged answer conceived by a creative culture in which scarcity and survival are constant challenges. While India makes headlines in the financial press as an economic force to be reckoned with, the real dynamism of its culture is in creations like the jugaad. It's their talent for improvisation that keeps a billion Indians moving forward into the future. Necessity is the mother of invention, as the saying goes -- an important lesson for the West. Indian farmers ride triumphantly on their homemade vehicle. It represents their personal victory over the hard reality they inhabit, in which nothing is certain. In their lack of possessions -- so unimaginable for Western souls -- lies the secret to fulfillment and happiness.

A jugaad is an adaptation; Indians are constantly adapting to their situation. If a train car is too full, they find ways to move over to make space for new passengers. Flexibility is a condition for survival and future success, evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin concluded from his study of nature.

In the West, with its long-established rights and all-powerful lawyers, this wisdom has been lost. If something doesn't work quite right, a Westerner throws it away and buys a new one. An Indian goes in search of a jugaad -- and often comes back smiling.

Vijay Mahajan is the founding director of microcredit institution BASIX in India.


3) Work (Nigeria)

Take the initiative
By Seyi Oyesola

Creating work. That's something the West could learn from the rest of the world. Asia, Africa and Latin America all host thriving cultures of entrepreneurship. People here constantly undertake new initiatives and create new jobs -- for themselves and for others.

You seldom see local entrepreneurship anymore in the West. People are more likely to be employed by large corporations and organizations. Of course small business pioneers exist in Europe and the United States, but they are relatively few when you look at the entrepreneurial boom we're seeing in China and India. Social-welfare programs have tended to work against entrepreneurship, especially in Europe. Initiative is smothered if you aren't challenged to take care of yourself.

Wherever you go in Asia, Africa and Latin America, you see people creating work -- and providing inspiration.

Seyi Oyesola practises medicine in London and is founding director of Global Medical Systems.

4) Yoga (India)

Bend it like a Brahmin
By Jagdish Parikh

Westerners should practise yoga. It's the best recipe for creating a healthier political system, economy and society.

Yoga? This may surprise you. In fact, you probably already know a lot of people who are doing yoga, right? Yoga studios are springing up everywhere in the urban West. They help people relax and stay in shape. But what on earth does yoga have to do with the functioning of society?

Real yoga is actually much more than the relaxation technique touted in the West. Yoga, an Indian life path that's been around for thousands of years, is about experiencing your self. Yoga points the way toward self-realization, which helps you see past identification with the ego to a consciousness more integrated with that of humanity and nature. Yoga is practised on eight levels. Hatha yoga, the physical yoga that's very popular in the West, is the first stage. Hatha helps relax you and promotes good health. These are nice side benefits, but not the core of yoga.

The other, deeper levels of yoga provide answers to a conflict that no economic model -- from communism and socialism to the currently victorious capitalism -- has resolved: the conflict between the individual as a human being and the individual as a tool for progress. In vain, people seek happiness and fulfilment in economic systems that are solely geared toward material growth. In the dominant Western model, an individual's private and professional lives are incongruent. Every activity is measured in money. Even the abundant supply of books and courses related to personal growth is mainly focussed on accumulating greater material wealth. No one can find happiness in such a model. We are not here to keep the economy going. Every individual comes to this Earth with his or her unique talents, and the true fulfilment of life is about developing those talents. This is why the economy and society must be reformed to allow people to develop and expand themselves through the work they do.

We can only really be happy if we can lead ourselves -- instead of being led by the drive for more and more economic growth. To lead ourselves, we must first get to know ourselves. That is the path of yoga. When we learn that we are connected to our fellow human beings and nature, we become capable of making the transition from the current social model based on competition to a harmonious society based in co-operation. That transformation begins within us. Then, based on it, we can reform the way in which work is organized in society. Work should enable us to develop our talents.

Books about what needs to change and why abound. We know. Lack of knowledge isn't the problem. What we're missing is the courage to convert that knowledge into a behavioural shift. That courage can only be found through inner experience. Which is why yoga is so important.

Jagdish Parikh is managing director of the Lemuir Group of Companies, and the author of "Managing Your Self."


5) Community (Kenya)

The real social security
By Kimanthi Mutua

The greatest value that Africa can teach is its culture of collectiveness. Centuries of individualism and materialism have destroyed most of this essential support structure in the West. Today's Westerners are trying to rediscover it on the Web. Social networking is the hottest new trend -- people bonding with one another in virtual reality. In Africa, people connect in the daily reality of their lives. They naturally support each other, which builds an experience of community and compensates for the hardships of their lives.

It is important and interesting to note that in studies by the World Values Survey, most people in Africa do not report feeling less happy than people in developed nations despite being the poorest people on the planet. Africa is a living example of the fact that more money does not bring more happiness. That is a mirror the West should look into. Happiness comes from connections, from hope for the future and from the sense that you belong to something bigger than yourself. And because of the support people feel from their communities, hope is always present in Africa. The strong ties within the community also support healing. Look how fast Rwanda is recovering from a ghastly genocide and compare that with another terrible chapter of history -- the Holocaust -- that still rips through individual lives and politics in the West. Rwandans are overcoming their disaster faster because they find healing in their communities. That is an inspiring message. The West could rediscover the spirit of community.

Kimanthi Mutua is managing director of the microcredit bank K-Rep in Kenya.


6) Raising Children (Kenya)

Families first
By Nthenya Mule

Raising a family is a full-time job. Without my extended family and close friends, I would not be able to take care of my two sons the way I want to do, given that I'm a single working mother. Not only are friends and family always available to step in and take care of my sons as needed, they also support me with advice about how to guide and educate them best. Without them I would not be able to do what I'm doing.

"Madness is genetic -- you get it from your children," goes the saying, but before I ever go to a therapist, I have spoken with at least five people in my immediate circle and the problem that initially seemed insurmountable no longer seems as daunting.

I think solutions for problems and conflicts that are found in my community are more suitable, because there is broad and permanent support for them. I can even accept critique more easily, because such advice comes from relatives and lifelong friends, who have my best interests at heart. I know they mean well and care about me. That social fabric supports our lives and those of our children. It's something the West seems, sadly, to have lost in the quest for individualism above all else. Generations -- even the world -- would benefit if the West could rediscover its own communities again.

Nthenya Mule is the Kenya manager of the Acumen Fund, a non-profit global venture fund that uses entrepreneurial approaches to solve the problems of poverty.


7) The Village (Tanzania)

Someone looking out for you
By Zuhura Sinare Muro

My marriage was a challenge for our families. I am a Sunni Muslim woman. My father was a leader of the Muslim Council of Tanzania. I fell in love with a man who comes from a staunch born-again Christian family. This was at a time when evangelical Christians were decimating congregations of traditional Christian churches in Tanzania. Knowing the sensitivities of a civil marriage and the family profiles involved, we decided to request our families to allow us do a small wedding ceremony.

When we presented that idea, it caused an uproar. Despite the challenge of the anti-religious wedding, both clans decided to arrange for a big ceremony. The climax was the wedding reception, with 1,200 invited guests, members from both families. Including the pre-wedding festivities, the wedding day and the after-wedding party, more than 2,500 people showed up. This is a typical way to celebrate a marriage in our society. The whole village came because people feel connected and wanted to be part of the event.

These strong community ties support me as a working mother. I can leave my children any moment -- even unannounced -- in the care of a sister, a grandmother or an aunt. It's easy; it's normal. I don't need daycare, because my children belong to the extended family. I also know that I will be taken care of when I'm ill. When I die, my family will take care of my children. And I know my clan will bury me.

The flip side of that is I'm expected to take care of my relatives as well. I may serve on the board of an international company, but I cannot leave on a business trip abroad when my mother-in-law has to be taken to the hospital. I am supposed to nurse her day and night. I will be shunned by my family or community if I let a stranger bathe and feed her. I'm also expected to look after any orphan the clan feels will develop well under my care.

The village -- in the widest possible sense of that word -- supports me, and I support the village. We give and we receive. We are connected.

Zuhura Sinare Muro is a social entrepreneur investing in value-based education.


8) Happiness (Bhutan)

Boost your country's GNH today!
By Lyonpo Jigmi Y. Thinley

Governments usually aim to achieve the highest possible economic growth as measured by the gross national product (GNP), which is how the world looks at progress. In Bhutan, however, we believe this is a narrow view that traps people in cages of materialism. All that humanity sacrifices at the altar of materialist progress to appease insatiable wants has not been in the best interests of furthering human civilization.

The king of Bhutan introduced the concept of gross national happiness (GNH), which is based on the idea that true development of society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other. That's why for the past two decades, happiness has been incorporated as a guiding principle in Bhutan's policies.

Over the years, we've made Bhutan greener than most countries and despite the advent of satellite TV and the Internet, the social fabric is still intact. These policies have also made Bhutan more secure than ever before. To us, these are all indications that our policies are beginning to realize the goal of making people happy. And that's what all of us want: to find more ways we can engage in the pursuit of happiness.

Lyonpo Jigmi Y. Thinley is the former home minister of Bhutan, a small kingdom in the Himalayan Mountains.


9) Non-violence (India)

One world, many truths
By Satish Kumar

The most important thing for the West to learn is that there is no one truth. There are many truths. You have a truth. I have a truth. Both could be true. Take a tree. A botanist sees a particular species. The carpenter sees wood for furniture. A religious person sees a sacred tree. A poet is inspired to write a poem and a painter sees a painting. One tree, many views. Many truths -- all equally true.

Truth is not important. Anekant -- "no one truth" -- teaches the Jain religion of India. Without fixed truth, there are no dogmas.

However in the West, and particularly in science and religion, truth is supreme. The West needs believers. Hence the disagreements, the fighting, the wars and the conflicts. The Jains don't need believers. They seek happiness and practise friendship, respect, tolerance and harmony. Nonviolence is supreme; truth is secondary. And seeking the impossible one ultimate truth, with all its divisive effects, is not the primary objective in life.

Believing is temporary. You may change your mind. Today's truth may not be tomorrow's truth. Truth changes. The practise of nonviolence is enduring and universal.

Satish Kumar was trained as a Jain monk in India. He is the editor of Resurgence magazine.


10) Food (India)

The cradle of local food
By Vandana Shiva

Western industrialized agriculture is not as productive as most people think. The extensive use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides requires a lot of water, harms soil fertility and poses a threat to biodiversity. Numerous studies have shown that the yield per acre at organic farms is higher than at conventional farms, but just as profitable and often more so. By going organic, farmers can get higher yields, while taking better care of the land.

The very essence of good agriculture is sustaining the land. That cannot happen with the intensive chemical and mechanistic farming methods that characterize Western agribusiness. Some people in developed nations are beginning to understand this, as witnessed by the growth of organic and local food, even though it's nothing new in the rest of the world. This traditionally efficient way of farming in developing nations needs to be protected from the incursion of Western farming methods -- so we can better feed our people, sustain our land and continue to offer inspiration to those in the West who understand the importance of these things.

Vandana Shiva is founder of Navdanya, a movement for Biodiversity Conservation and Farmers' Rights, based in India.


11) Humility (Sri Lanka)

Make a bow, receive a blessing
By Lalith Gunaratne

It was an emotional farewell for 24 boys and girls between the ages of 14 and 17 who had spent five days learning and sharing together. In keeping with South Asian tradition, most of them bowed down and prostrated themselves in gratitude and respect to the elders who had been their tutors. When they bowed to me, I got a sense of their innocence and felt genuine happiness for what we as adults had shared with them in their learning.

The youth were from six schools in the Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra states in India, participating in a British Council-sponsored experiential-learning program on leadership and teamwork through sports, held at a school in the city of Chennai. I was there supporting the lead trainer from Britain in working with these young leaders and six teachers.

The tradition of bowing to elders is one of the most beautiful acts of gratitude I encounter in Asia. Yet I had not always felt comfortable when someone bowed down to me. My urban parents had not brought me up in that tradition. A lot of hugging and kissing took place at my house, but no prostrating and bowing. So I had always felt embarrassed when anyone prostrated themselves in front of me. My Western beliefs led me to think that no one should feel so subjugated as to go down on his knees to anyone else.

I have come to realize that this is my Western notion of individuality coming out, even though I was born and spent my early years in Sri Lanka. My parents, both teachers, were part of a hybrid generation, having been English-educated in colonial Sri Lanka at Christian schools, but experiencing the Buddhist influence of humility and simplicity in their homes. So I did live in two worlds. The only time I bowed to my parents was at my wedding. My partner Samantha had been brought up in the tradition of bowing to her elders. Her German-born mother encouraged it as a part of her father's Sri Lankan tradition. I remember feeling awkward doing it, but then saw the tears in both my parents' eyes as I got up. It became a moment of great emotional significance for me.

Recently I discovered that in bowing, people are not only showing gratitude, but looking to receive a blessing from you in parting. When someone bows to you, the correct response is to touch the person with love and compassion, giving him a blessing for a happy future. It is a return gift of positive energy. Further, in bowing, a person shows you complete trust and abandons his ego as he puts his head down and takes his eyes off you. He is at your mercy. This show of trust strengthens the bond of our common humanity.

So now I see bowing to another in a different light. To bow to someone in gratitude and respect, in request of blessing, needs one to love and respect "self" first. If we can learn to bow to our self, to each other as the human family and to nature -- if we can learn to bow with love and trust, and to receive blessings -- we will have done much to keep our hope for humanity alive.

Lalith Gunaratne is a renewable-energy consultant in Sri Lanka and a Readers Blogger on odemagazine.com.

Reprinted from the October 2007 issue of Ode Magazine.

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