Amita Baviskar writes: Pranay Lal’s Indica, describes the first 4,600 million years of the subcontinent, comprising a cast of fascinating characters in a drama that begins with the Big Bang and closes with the arrival of Homo sapiens, present-day humans, in India some 70,000 years ago. But along with sparking appreciation, it also raises apprehensions.
From The Hindu: An afforestation initiative led by naturalists and locals, with support from forest and revenue department officials, has resulted in the Arunachala hill in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, shedding its barren, brown visage. Lalitha Sridhar reports on the decade-plus-long turnaround of a damaged fragile, semi-arid ecosystem by successfully harnessing scientific expertise and local knowledge.
Will Falk writes: Just like an owl on a chain is no longer an owl, and an elephant in a zoo is no longer an elephant, humans cut off from the nature are no longer human. We are animals and animals are an ongoing process of relationships. When those relationships become impossible, we lose ourselves.
From The Hindu: Straddling six states, the 1600-odd kilometre-long Western Ghats is home to an astonishing diversity of life and supports innumerable communities and cultures. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the remarkable 100-day ‘Save Western Ghats March’, a landmark event in Indian environmental activism, which became the model for numerous campaigns to follow.
From Hindustan Times: Man’s best friend has become a growing threat to India’s wildlife. As canine numbers rise in cities, towns and villages, entire ecosystems are being affected.They’ve attacked endangered stags in Kashmir and preyed on livestock in the Himalayas. Wild ass, gazelle, nilgai, blackbuck and deer have died of dog attacks in our sanctuaries.
In the 1960’s David Bamberger owned a successful fried chicken business with over 1600 outlets in the United States (For perspective, there are less than 400 KFC’s in India today.) Then he decided to sell off his business and put the capital into buying some 5500 acres of the most degraded land he could find
Will Falk writes: I’m an environmental activist. I have depression. To be an activist with depression places me squarely in an irreconcilable dilemma: The destruction of the natural world creates stress which exacerbates depression. However, acting to stop the destruction of the natural world exposes me to a lot of stress which, again, exacerbates depression.
Heera Bai reports: Across the Tribal Belt of Central India, indigenous communities are constantly being evicted from ancestral lands to make way for development projects, industry, tourism and government-sanctioned conservation initiatives. In the states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the Baiga community have faced a legacy of evictions that dates back more than 30 years.
From The Guardian: According to Paul Kingsnorth, environmentalism’s increasingly urban mindset means that instead of defending wild places we now spend our time arguing how to best domesticate these wild places –deserts, oceans, mountains– to generate the “green” energy needed to fuel things that, until recently, we couldn’t even imagine, let alone claim to need.
The Axial Age, which refers to the historical period between the eighth and third centuries BC, was a period of profound transformations, which created “the foundations upon which humanity still subsists today,” a period of collapse from which emerged new ways of seeing and being… We may be living through a second Axial Age now…
Anuja Mital writes: A year ago, on this day, a young 23-year-old wildlife researcher and my classmate, Prashanth Ettaboina, passed away. Ever the optimist, and crazy about tigers like no one else, the news of his suicide shocked us all –although till date there has been no satisfying inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his death.
From The Guardian: Indian winners of this year’s prestigious ‘green Oscars’ are Purnima Barman, who has been inspiring women to protect Assam’s greater adjutant stork and its habitat, and Sanjay Gubbi, who has been working on reducing deforestation in Karnataka’s tiger corridors. Whitley Awards are donated by the Shears Foundation in memory of Trevor Shears.
“You can’t get this experience of listening to these birds second hand through a screen, or through an MP3 player, or YouTube.You get a simulacra.You get something similar but not in any way the same. Because it is a shallower engagement, the result of that is a shallower wish to act on behalf of it.”
From The New York Times: At 82, the anthropologist T. N. Pandit passes his days in the gentle occupations of old age: poetry, a Buddhist study circle, a daily walk in the park. It is rare for anyone to ask him about the years he spent with the hunter gatherer tribes of the Andaman Islands.
A recent raid at the Meerut house of a retired Colonel and his national-level shooter son unearthed a shockingly large cache of animal skins, parts and meat, apart from over 100 illegally imported firearms. This feature by Down to Earth analyses the magnitude and international nature of the flourishing illegal trade of Indian wildlife species.
From The Wire: Compared to farm, fishery and factory work, Himalayan porterage is rarely the subject of labour scholarship. For that matter, the forest protection and conservation labour of Adivasis and Dalits too rarely occupies the labour scholar’s interest… The biologically and culturally diverse eastern Himalayas are an apt geography to locate this labour-conservation conundrum.
From The Indian Quarterly: Strange things happen in this forest. A bug sucks and then pees. Droplets of bright water shoot out of its bum and fall rain-like on the forest floor. I saw it today with my own eyes. Orange and black bug on a Heliconia leaf, shadow-spangled, tumbling in the gusting wind, peeing.
Excerpt from Islands in Flux, by Pankaj Sekhsaria: These communities of thousands of individuals with a living lineage going back thousands of years have been brought to this sorry state in a mere 150 years. It began with the British and their policies, which have been kept up with clinical efficiency by modern, independent India.
From Yale Environment 360: Ecologist Suzanne Simard, now at the University of British Columbia, has pioneered research into how trees communicate. She has shown how trees use a network of soil fungi to convey their needs and aid neighboring plants. Now she’s warning that threats like clear-cutting and climate change could disrupt these critical networks.
The services provided by Nature mostly bypasses markets, escapes pricing and defies valuation. Consider this. A 50-year-old tree provides services like oxygen, water recycling, soil conservation and pollution control worth Rs 23 lakh. Cutting and selling it fetches only Rs 50,000. Yet due to ignorance olf its ecological services, felling a tree seems more profitable.