Saturday, 24 August 2019

An Usual Funeral

Big changes don't happen overnight. There are different stages of it and it starts with acceptance. To solve any problem we first need to acknowledge it. Only when we accept the problem, we begin to understand it more, gain knowledge, awareness and finally act on it.

Climate change is a problem which needs immediate action. But how many of us even accept the fact that it is a problem? We are seeing evidence all around us but we keep denying it. So it is hopeful to see at least a tiny group of people starting their journey towards change by accepting it as a problem.

Okjökull glacier in western Iceland is the first glacier to lose its status as a glacier to climate change. Warned by this historical event, Iceland held a funeral to commemorate this once huge glacier. “A letter to the future”...the inscription says on the bronze plaque that was mounted on a bare rock on the barren terrain once covered by the glacier. “In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it,”

This doesn't ease the climate change problem, at least not yet. But it certainly takes the first leap towards big change, acceptance. Are we ready to take that first step?

Friday, 23 August 2019


The other day I was talking to my mother about the rainforests and how it is being cut and the impact this will have on the environment. In one place, I referrenced "Amazon" and she asked me what do you mean Amazon? I told her Amazon forest, the river... didn't exactly understand what I should be saying to explain. Then she laughed and told me, oh I thought you meant the Amazon company from my phone. Utterly flabbergasted I laughed as well.

But later on, it dawned on me that my 60 year old mother is thinking about a company when I talk about the rainforests, then what will be the case for younger generation. Nothing against naming the company, but it made me realize how far we have come from nature. It made me realize that if we want people to care about these issues it's not just important to say it once but we have to keep repeating it till the time it sinks in. We have to encourage people to travel and experience nature so that they understand the cost of losing it.

P.S. - The forest in the picture is not Amazon Rainforest. But is the story too different for all other forests?

Thursday, 22 August 2019

The Bleak Future

One of the reasons why many of us are not involved in this fight for our environment is that it is difficult to think about future. All of us experience this when we turn a milestone year and feel how did this happen to me? Even though we have had 30, 40, 50, 60 etc. years to prepare for this, we still struggle to accept the change in the decade.

Applying the same idea when the environmentalists are talking about impact which we will feel in 2050, it's not possible to imagine what that would be like.

When I think about it, I will be about 60 and considering I live in coastal area, mostly I will be looking for a new house as the area will soon going to go underwater. Due to increase in population and lower habitable land, mostly I will end up finding a small shanty, if I am lucky. As the number of natural disasters have increased, I will be struggling for food and clean water. With the increased diseases with pollution, my health would have deteriorated. But I will still have to continue to work otherwise I will not be able to afford water, food and shelter. My country will be at war for water, we will be looking at world war three, with an eventuality of death of whole mankind.

All of this I will be seeing in 2050 if I am not dead already. Looking at this future, I am not sure I want to live towards it as well.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019


It makes me so thankful that I have always been a vegetarian, due to my family's habits. When I started making my own food choices, my parents never restricted me from eating meat but by then I knew of my own love of animals and never willfully deterred from the path of vegetarianism.

When I think about it, wasn't it such a smart thought to actually create a community which would restrict themselves from eating meat and in return maybe, they were given a special status in society.

The same idea seems to be in play when it comes to saavan. Many people in India will refrain from meat and fish. It is difficult to procure these in the monsoon months and gives time for the species to reproduce and recuperate.

The thought actually shows a care and understanding of nature and environmental balance. It shows the need for control and balance which is even more relevant in today's day and age.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Keystone Species

Some species are called the keystone species because of their role in the ecosystem is so crucial that their extinction (or even a significant shift in their population) can collapse the whole ecosystem. One such example is sea otters from the Pacific coast.
Let's look at the ecosystem here. Kelp forests are the breathing, feeding and breeding ground for a number of species. Fish come to these kelp forests to take refuge from bigger predators like whales, sharks, sea lions, seals etc and also to feed on micro organisms thriving on kelp forest. Sea birds then feed on these fishes. Sea urchins are voracious eaters of kelp. They eat through the holdfasts that anchor the kelp to ocean floor and then kelp is washed away to open sea or land.
Sea otters are large weasels flourishing on giant kelp forests. They generally prey on sea urchins, shellfish, crabs and some fishes. Sea otters need a lot of food (upto 9 kgs per day) to fuel their fast metabolism to counteract energy loss due to cold environment. This in turn keeps the sea urchin population in check. Not many other sea predators can feast on sea urchin so easily because of their protective shell and thorny exterior.
Sea otter's fine fur was in high demand in Chinese market. Within 40 years Russian, American, Spanish and British hunters reduced sea otter population from half a million to merely 1000-2000. With the sea otters gone, no other species could keep the sea urchin population in check. The growing sea urchin population ate through the entire kelp forest. When the kelp forest disappeared, so did all the other micro organisms, fishes and birds depending on them. The entire ecosystem collapsed. Even though in the interim, sea urchins flurished in absence of sea otter, in the end, nothing remained, not even sea urchins.
"The fact that the fashion tastes of Chinese 200 years ago, met by traders from the other side of the world, are impacting in bald eagle populations 7,000 kilometres away on the BC coast indicates the complex interactions between biophysical and human systems."
Kelp forests don't just sustain marine ecosystems, underwater forests provide as much as 50% oxygen to the environment. With the kelp forests gone, eventually we will follow, may be not long after. Our science is not yet advanced enough to know functions of each species and interconnection of all species in the ecosystem. This is high time to control before we cause one such major collapse which is irreversible.
Environmental Change & Challenge by Philip Dearden & Bruce Mitchell

Monday, 19 August 2019

Organic Farming

Until a few months back, I didn't know all the ways even agriculture can have devastating impact on our planet. Agriculture leads to deforestation, biodiversity loss, toxicity due to pesticides, water pollution due to fertilizers and many more. But with a growing population, expansion in agriculture is inevitable. After all, we need to eat to survive.

But let's not forget that we are a very large population with seemingly infinite demand in a very finite world. Earthly resources are limited. So we cannot abuse the environment and expect to grow in number and prosperity at the same time. We have to figure out a way to consume but sustainably, so that we don't run out of food anytime soon.

One of the best sustainable methods of agriculture is organic farming. It uses natural processes and eco system services to produce food while maintaining the environmental integrity. Let's forget the environment for a while. Organic farming is better for our own health as it doesn't use harmful pesticides which have the potential to push us towards a slow agonizing death.

Even then, organic farming products are not that widely popular in most of the countries around the world. The reason is demand and supply both. In absence of consumer demand, farmers don't get enough reason, governments don't provide enough policy incentives or subsidies to farmers to make the switch. And in absence of adequate supply, consumers turn to the easily available products from traditional farms even at the cost of their own health. Only our conscious effort can change this status quo. If we as buyers buy more and more organic products, government and farmers will be compelled to make the necessary changes to meet the increasing demand. 

Sunday, 18 August 2019

The Economics

Over thousands of years, we have gradually established ourselves as the dominant species on the planet, thanks to our intelligence. We have achieved so much, pushed so many boundaries. Once we were at the mercy of nature but we evolved, started using the available resources in our favor. First we took advantage of the available resources for our need, but we didn't stop there. We started transforming nature, disrupting natural processes to satisfy our ever increasing needs. We started 'ruling' nature and exploiting its resources for our benefits.

This sense of apparent victory has led us to believe that we are superior species and we are above nature. All nature's resources exist for our benefit and we have the right to use them or destroy them as we please.

Let's forget about the nature's contribution to everything else. Even if we consider only the economic perspective, how many of our occupations depend on nature and its wellbeing? Fishery, forestry, agriculture, animal husbandry, tourism to name a few industries directly depend on nature and indirectly, pretty much every other industry.

If we were really superior to nature, a collapse in any of these resources wouldn't be disastrous to millions of human lives. Unfortunately, human history has proved this notion wrong over and over again. At the end, we always learn that nature is the true ruler and we are at its mercy.