There are two kinds of people in this contemporary world- those who believe that our Earth is warming due to human activities and those who think global warming is a hoax. This post is for the former; and for the latter, just ask yourself, “what if human induced global warming is real, and if we do to act now, it will be too late? Will you be able to turn back time to make necessary amends”? Thus, irrespective of your beliefs, I encourage you to read on. Read more
Just Cool It! is the latest book by Ian Hanington and David Suzuki. It is practical guide in understanding climate change a.k.a global warming. The book is divided into two sections i.e. the problems and the solutions. The initial part was one of the most stressful texts I have ever read, but part two in the other hand provides a relief by giving hope that we can still save our planet. Read more
WHY SAVE ONLY TIGERS?
Why save only Tigers?! What about Frogs, Fishes, Monkeys and other animals?
Tigers are not only majestic animals but also on the top of the food chain in an ecosystem. They determine the population of all the other species below them in the food chain. Suppose, Tigers are removed from the ecosystem, the next big predator would be Alligator or Leopard or Vulture and they won’t be able to do all those things that Tigers do. They won’t eat what tigers eat and hence some species might overpopulate the region at the cost of other species. For instance, if Tigers become extinct, the deer shall have one less predator species to eat them and too many deer might overgraze and cause soil erosion and destroy the local vegetation, local climate and also consequently ant’s and termite’s habitat.
Ants and Termites are very important part of the ecosystem as they feed on all the dead material and turn it into manure. They consume and decompose. Their disappearance will mean starvation of anteaters and cause their extinction (except if they can adapt to the sudden dietary change imposed upon them) and thus shall follow the domino effect of extinction, which we are experiencing at this very moment.
Hence, save Tiger!
Species such as Tigers are called Keystone species. (What’s Keystone?) Keystones are such stones in an arc which feels the least pressure; however the arc still collapses without it. Other such Keystone species are Sharks, Sea stars, Brown Bears, African Elephants, Humming birds, Tiger, etc. Keystone species are not permanent, they change with time.
I learnt about this concept from one of the most comprehensive and principle based book called Ecology&Environment by K.Siddhartha. One of my favorite Environmental Studies book (you can take my word because I read a lot about this subject). If you are passionate about Environment or what to educate yourself about it, it’s a must read. (of course for concept building, not for advanced studies)
Also, if you want to read a little extra about it right now, here is the link http://nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/keystone-species/
CONTEST ALERT! If you describe in the comment section about the effects of the extinction of any of the Keystone Species in your area in 200- 250 words. You can win an exciting gift (maybe of your choice), irrespective of where you live! And of course Plagiarism is strictly discouraged. Only original thoughts shall be considered. The contest lasts till the end of this month 🙂
If you are interested in knowing more about Keystone Species, don’t hesitate to post your requests, questions, etc on the comment section below. Ciao
Diversity & Fertility
India, a country of diversity, blessed with fertility. These two are very important virtues,
often taken for granted. You throw a seed and a tree will grow, that’s India. Just pause, and observe the diversity of people, plants, animals, seasons, etc. Twenty nine states (to start with), twenty nine different communities with various sub communities who speak different languages and have different customs. We all know about it (often don’t appreciate it until we go to a foreign country and start appreciating it and once we are back to India, like a pendulum we again start to stereotype and take the beauty of our country for granted, so weird! never mind!). AT LEAST as the next generation we should learn to appreciate the diversity of our nation.
Diversity is an indicator of development, cosmopolitanism and growth; and India is endowed with it, not just our human world, but our natural world as well.
Whenever I read or hear the magic words, diversity and fertility. I start making plans for how I can just pack my bags and go see all the natural wonders of the world. And I start with a nearby park; see a dog fight and run back home shivering with fear; and seeing a lizard in my room is my worst nightmare. But I don’t have even an iota of doubt that I’m an Earth lover, everything about it is absolutely beautiful (even a lizard, as long as I don’t see it in my room). In fact who doesn’t love nature? We all do, maybe in different ways and degrees. The most beautiful views in the world are of natural wonders and not of a mall or a highway and the most expensive and luxurious apartments in cities are either close to a green path or have a beautiful view.
Green wars a.k.a. Environmental issues are increasingly becoming an important part of our lives. We are developing respiratory diseases, cancer, facing water management issues, air, water, land pollution and what not. So I have been reading about it from some years now (we all have been) but I never really understood it clearly (until I read ‘Green Wars’ for reasons explained hereunder).
So we all know that any environmental issue comes down to this, sustainable development, the middle path. We all read about illegal mines, dams responsible for floods, building of highways and rail tracks through sanctuaries and pristine forests. Some of it is important for development of the country, but at the cost of environment and the local communities!?. To me it seems like such situations have no solution. I read a lot about it and I have found most of the articles, lectures, etc polarized. Often leaving the reader devastated. On one hand there was an Interstellar situation and one the other hand there was ‘I don’t care, YOLO, I want the American lifestyle’ situation.
While Bahar Dutt’s book the Green Wars provides a deeper insight into the issues and is inspiring. It says (shows) that sustainable development is possible.
I wrote this poem to describe how I feel about Sustainable development:
Two roads diverged into the woods,
I wanted to travel neither,
As they both are extreme in their own ways,
So I went straight,
It was no road,
An unexplored territory, a tough terrain,
The sustainable development, as it is often called
And that made all the difference.
(The above poem is a modification of ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost)
Vital questions to ponder upon (derived from the book)
Q. What is sustainable development?
As defined by the Brundtland commission, 1987 – “Development that meets the needs and aspirations of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”
For example, when we have to construct something near an ecologically sensitive area, we do it without effecting or with the least possible effect on the local communities and the natural environment.
Q. Why should I care if an animal becomes extinct?
Extinction is an environmental phenomenon which occurs due to various factors. It is widely believed that we are going through the sixth mass extinction (yes, this has happened five times before, the last one 65 million years ago, when dinosaurs became extinct). We are going through the Anthropogenic mass extinction (it’s called so because we humans are the main cause). The current extinction rates are thousand times higher than they would be had humans weren’t in the picture (Science Journal says so).
So why do I care? This question doesn’t have a simple answer. The reason being, each animal or species affects us in a unique way. For example, the Vultures of India are becoming extinct (the reason is debatable). Vultures are scavengers and they do the vital task of cleaning up to ten million camel, buffalo and cow carcasses in a year. You can call them janitors, cleaning workers, safai karamchari, etc but remember they work for free! The Parsi community who expose their dead to the ‘tower of silence’ are also affected by Vulture extinction. Why? Aren’t there any other scavengers? The answer is, if they don’t eat it, the dogs and rats will. But, vultures are not only scavengers but also play an important role in containing various diseases and prevent it from spreading to other animals. It’s their special quality not every animal can do that. So if Vultures disappear, dogs and rats will eat the carcasses and this will lead to the rise of other scavengers who can’t contain diseases and that will ultimately lead to rise of incidences of Rabies and Anthrax.
Likewise, every animal or species affects us in a unique way. And once an animal or species becomes extinct, there is no way of bringing them back. Just so you know, there is this principle in Environment, the more diverse the environment, the more stable it is; the less diverse the environment the more vulnerable it is.
Q. What is human-animal conflict?
With the increasing population and the simultaneous increase in needs of the people, and the consequential increasing dependence on natural resources has lead to human-animal conflict. The increasing demand has lead to things such as building of dams, mining, clearing land for irrigation, making highways and railways, etc because of which forests are shrinking.
When forests shrink, it becomes less spacious for the plants and animals living in it. It’s the same as a family shifting from a bungalow to a 2 bedroom apartment. The family members used to their private space are left with much less space and they go to their neighbor’s house or the common parks nearby etc. Likewise, animals visit us in schools and human residential areas, attack farmers, cattle, etc.
This being in conflict with the so called ‘human interest’ is human animal conflict. It is considered to be the leading and most comprehensive environmental concerns.
Q. When we have all the Environmental laws, what’s the problem?
It’s execution. Often colored by political ambitions.
For any Law to function, in any (or most) countries in the World, there should be Rule of Law and not Rule of Man or Role of Money, etc. Rule of Law is like being principle centered. Meaning, The Rule (Law) has the supreme power. Now, that’s clearly theoretical because all the rules are ultimately executed by us, human beings. So if any country isn’t governed by Rule of Law, the laws are just ‘something’ written on a paper. It means nothing. Such is the case of Environmental laws in India.
Q. Does everyone love Wild animals and to what extent?
As I mentioned earlier, we all love nature, but its extent and degree varies. The issue I want to point out here is, wherever there is human-animal conflict people start to dislike wild animal’s presence in the vicinity or their proximity. This ultimately leads to violence from both the sides. ( Remember the last time a Snake or a Monkey dropped by for snacks?)
This is where we need to understand that a forest in their home and if we destroy it and reduce its size, we are increasing the chances of human-animal conflict and also risking our lives and much more.
Maybe it’s also the time to show some more love and respect for the environment we live in; and clicking selfies and clicking pictures and uploading on Instagram and Facebook doesn’t count. How about refraining from throwing chocolate wrappers, etc on the roads/parks/ etc. Birds confuse them with food, eat them and die! Tell about it to people around you. Persuade them to not do it again.
Q. What’s the role of religion in environment?
This is one very interesting thing I’ve learnt from this book. Religion and Indian environment have a connection. For instance, Sarus Crane, the state bird of Uttar Pradesh is sometimes a nuisance from the farmer’s perspective because they damage their crops, yet the farmers tolerate them and ignore all the damage because in Hindu mythology it has some importance.
I think animals which people find cute or are worshipped or are starred in a cult movie have better chance of survival. But this argument is also valid to an extent only as the river Ganga, which is also Indian’s National River and considered so pious is also one of the most polluted rivers.
The Author, Bahar Dutt has written about the ground reality. There are many books which academically analyses environmental issues and laws, but what actually happen at the ground level is usually hazy. This book has twelve chapters ( real stories); each of them covers a different aspect about Environment. This work is also an inspiring reflection of the author’s dedication and passion for environment. The book also introduces the reader to a number of wild animals and a lot of interesting things about them. For example, Hoolock Gibbon is also know by the locals as the dukhi bandar (sad monkey) because of its expression. So just for fun, you can call you friend Hoolock Gibbon instead of dukhi bandar! hehehe…
The book is an easy read and it’ll leave you with a much better understanding of your environment. So, please find time to read it.
Green Wars, dispatches from a vanishing world is written by Bahar Dutt. She is an animal lover, (also) an environmental journalist, a conversation biologist who has actually done some serious conservation work in India and around the world (and not just a degree holder). Being an environmental journalist isn’t so easy and romantic as it may seem. It’s very challenging. Tight budgets, pressure from the producer to dramatize the issue, strict deadlines and animals don’t show up easily in the thick forests, vulnerability to zoonotic diseases (transferred from animals to humans), travelling to remote places, sometimes too dusty, too hot or too cold and not falling sick.
In the end, I’d say, it’s easier to call environmentalists anti-national, anti-developmental, etc but things not so simple. Making developmental decisions which are sustainable and inclusive is very tricky and even more difficult is their execution.
Once I was studying about plastic pollution in South Asia and as I studied it I discovered that Plastic is a wonderful invention. Most of the things we use, carpets, fleece, pens, paint, phones, car accessories, clothes, cosmetics, face scrubs, etc are all made up of plastic. Now if we decide to get rid of plastic from our lives, economies will collapse, half of the things we are using will disappear forever; we just cannot life without plastic.
Scientists are also trying to invent biodegradable plastic made up of farm waste or corn juice. But when we are already facing food security issues, how can we grow corn just to make biodegradable plastic. Plus, it also have other practical issues.
So all we can do it use plastic responsibly. Educate people, consumers, manufacturers, etc as to how to use it. And scientists are already in the process of devising a method to effectively recycle it.
Likewise there are various environmental issues which are difficult to solve and we have to choose the middle path.
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