The fracas over water sharing has obscured the fact that the Cauvery itself is facing a major threat: two railway lines to be constructed through Kodagu, the forested hill district where the river originates. A river’s fate – and those of the millions that depend on it – now hangs in balance, writes Chirag Chinnappa.
“Is western civilisation on the brink of collapse?” the lead article in this week’s New Scientist asks. It’s a good question, but it seems too narrow. These pathologies are not confined to “the west”. The rise of demagoguery (and the pursuit of simplistic solutions to complex problems) is everywhere apparent. Environmental breakdown is accelerating worldwide.
A tribute to Romulus Whitaker, recently awarded the Padma Shri, among India’s highest civilian honours. Here, the acclaimed herpetologist talks about his decades of work with reptiles which led to setting up of six pioneering institutions including the famous Madras Crocodile Bank, apart from giving snakes and reptiles a positive place in the Indian public’s mind.
Peter Wohlleben, author of the best-selling ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’, explores the emotions and intelligence of animals in his new book. New scientific discoveries in this field have big moral implications, he says. A review and an excerpt, plus the video of an eye-opening talk by animal ethologist Jonathan Balcombe on the inner life of animals.
From The News Minute: These six environmental activists, not all of them well known, have been at the forefront of the fight against encroachment, destruction and contamination of the natural environment across Tamil Nadu. Also included is the video of a talk by one of the activists featured, Nityanand Jayaraman, on ‘A world without corporations.’
From Down to Earth: Kathalekan, in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka, is a relic forest with Myristica swamp ecosystem. It has remained unchanged for over 100 million years. It’s spread across an area of 25 square kilometres. Today this ancient forest is under severe threat from human interventions in the region, including a proposed highway.
From DNA: Under the leadership of PM Modi, governments pushed down the bar on environmental standards this year. At both Centre and state levels, there have been numerous reversals in environmental legislation. Today, there are 2357 applications with the Centre that were rejected approvals by state institutions or have nearly completed construction with no approvals.
From The Guardian: A series of fast-moving global megatrends, spurred by trillion-dollar investments, indicates that humanity might be able to avert the worst impacts of global warming. From those already at full steam, including renewable energy, to those just emerging, such as plant-based alternatives to meat, global trends show that greenhouse-gas emissions can be halted.
From The Guardian: Palawan is the Philippines’ last ecological frontier, home to most of the nation’s remaining forests and renowned as a global biological hotspot. But its also a magnet for those seeking to plunder the island’s natural wealth. PNNI, a small group of civilian para-enforcers are taking the rainforest’s protection into their own hands.
From The Third Pole: In 2004, the world’s second largest mangrove forest, Pichavaram in Tamil Nadu, helped moderate the tsunami wave and protected 18 villages. ‘Let mangroves recover’, a film on Pichavaram by Adarsh Prathap, a 23-year-old from Kerala, has won one of two prizes in the 2017 global youth video competition on climate change.
From Live Mint: In October 2012, Bano Haralu led a small group of conservationists to Nagaland’s Doyang reservoir to check on large-scale falcon hunting. What they witnessed that balmy October day shook them to the core. Nagaland was and still is infamous for hunting, but this was something even the conservationists had not bargained for.
The Wishing Tree is an inspirational film that tells the story of five children in a hill-station who come together to save their ‘wishing tree’ from being cut by vested interests. According to director Raajaysh Chetwal, “It gently nudges people to think about, and restore, the organic and utterly magical relationship between humans and nature.”
Catrine Jarman writes: Recently, the Easter Islands have become the ultimate parable for humankind’s selfishness; a moral tale of the dangers of environmental destruction. But 60 years of archaeological research and recent genetic data shows that this dark tale of ecocide and Malthusian collapse has more to do with Western ignorance and prejudice than facts.
Dr Latha Anantha, an expert on rivers and one of the first names to crop up in the struggle to protect them, is no more. The founder and moving spirit behind the River Research Centre, Kerala, she was best known for her efforts to save the Chalakudy river. She’d been diagnosed with cancer in 2014.
We tend to think that nature and cities are polar opposites. Delhi’s steadily worsening ‘airpocalypse’ only reinforces this binary. But this wasn’t always so. In her book ‘Nature in the City’, Harini Nagendra takes a deep dive into Bangalore’s ecological history, going way back in the past to the 6th century CE, with surprising results.
Jindal, Adani, Vedanta are the Big Three who are transporting most of the millions of tonnes of coal unloaded at Goa’s Mormugao Port every year. In a painstaking investigation carried out over four months, Smitha Nair of The Indian Express tracked three key coal routes to find a trail of health hazards and environmental damage.
Himanshu Thakkar writes: Can we expect any improvement in state of our water resources under the new minister Shri Nitin Gadkari? It was interesting that after taking over the portfolio from Uma Bharti, Gadkari’s first stop was Maharashtra, to offer the Chief Minister Rs 55 000 crores for same corruption-ridden irrigation projects in three years.
From The Guardian: Insects are multitudinous beyond our imagining, and have triumphed for hundreds of millions of years, in every habitat. This makes all the more alarming the great truth now dawning upon us: insects as a group are in terrible trouble and the remorselessly expanding human enterprise has become too much, even for them.
From Yale Environment 360: The wildfires presently raging in California are no exception. The increase in forest fires, seen from North America to Brazil, from the Mediterranean to Siberia, is directly linked to climate change, scientists say. And as the world continues to warm, there will be greater risk for fires on nearly every continent.
From Mother Jones: Most scientists now agree that we are experiencing a sixth mass extinction, but unlike before, humans are responsible for this one. Here are some of the highlights from the Red List, the most comprehensive roster of threatened species available, including three that went extinct last year and others to watch out for in 2017.