Consumerism: The average carbon footprint of a billionaire is 8190 ton/year, compared with 15 ton/year for an American and 5 ton/year as the global average. Most of it can be traced to yachts and private planes.
Economics: To provide a fillip to markets after Covid-19, governments borrowed mountains of money ($16.3 T to be precise), in the name of fiscal and monetary stimuli. But as we know, there is no free lunch.
Green Finance: An invention of market-liberal environmentalism, Green Bonds / Sustainability Bonds market is expected to grow 13X this year. The question is: Is it really green? Are countries and companies getting away with greenwashing and cheating?
Earth: 42,000 years ago, the Earth’s magnetic field is thought to have reversed. During this period, the magnetic field vanished for some time, letting solar winds in, and causing climate change and extinction.
Man & Wildlife: We are getting Covid-19 under control after it caused severe damage to our ‘advanced’ civilization. But what were the root causes and what’s the guarantee that zoonotic diseases won’t recur?
Collapsing nation states: A book chapter exploring the failure of nation-states. Most thought so far has seen collapse of nation-states in binary terms. However I feel more nuanced, multi-dimensional yardsticks are needed. A nation-state may do well on some parameters (e.g. technology or lack of corruption) while fail on some others (equity or care of natural resources).
Green business: Tesla, whose market value is more than the 12 largest car companies combined, does not make profits selling electric cars. It makes more money selling regulatory credits to other companies.
Green Business: Nestle reveals a plan to get to net zero emissions by 2050. It involves working with over 500K farmers and 150K suppliers to support them in implementing regenerative agriculture practices. The company also plans to plant 20 million trees every year for the next 10 years in the areas where it sources ingredients.
Research – Ecology: Introducing herbivores into a landscape may actually improve ecological function. They “restore trait combinations that have the capacity to influence ecosystem processes, such as wildfire and shrub expansion in drylands.”
Extinction & Conservation: In an update from IUCN on the status of 130,000 species of plants and animals, 31 species were found to be extinct, while some degree of conservation success was reported for around 25 species. All of the world’s freshwater dolphins are now threatened.
Climate Change: Joe Biden’s win in US increases hope that USA will re-join the Paris Climate Accord. This may also trigger positive policy changes in countries like Australia, who are behind the curve.
Wetlands: The world’s largest wetland, Pantanal, straddles Brazil and it’s neighbouring countries. It’s unique habitats rely on flood pulse and support thousands of species. They are now threatened as the ecosystem is suffering from the worst wildfire crisis since records started in 2002.
This is a “market-friendly environmentalism” special. We bring to your attention some unconventional perspectives.
Environmental Reporting by companies: “Environmental-Social-Governance” reporting by companies is projected by them as an indication of sensitivity to environmental issues. But how accurate is it? And is it possible, that it is just plain bullshit?
Agriculture: Vertical farming is being projected as a solution to environmental problems, because it will need less land. Netherlands’ lead in food production, partly driven by vertical farming was acknowledged in a recent environmental documentary. But a Dutch ecologist points out the fallacies.
Diverse Societies: In this section, we will feature links to snapshots/videos of diverse human societies with values different than the industrial man. It underscores the fact that despite the onslaught of monoculture and industrialization, many of our societies have hung on to their roots.
Video: The Mennonites, a traditional, religious society in Central America shun modern technology and amenities.
Economics: This article looks at Prof. Amartya Sen’s work as a “great critique” of capitalism and discusses ideas like material critique vs. moral critique, the value of Prof. Sen’s work in the discourse on inequality, and moral degradation associated with capitalism.
Consumerism and Psychology: Does the explosion in choice, fostered by capitalism, actually help us? In this video, Prof. Renata Salecl talks about anxiety and dissatisfaction inherent to today’s choices.
Protecting Uncontacted Tribes: In Brazil, a public servant who worked for 30 years in protecting uncontacted tribes was killed by one of their arrows, probably by accident. “Upholding the no-contact policy is the responsibility of the National Indian Foundation, or FUNAI, the federal agency where Mr. Franciscato worked for more than three decades. Its mission has become increasingly hard in recent years as loggers and miners have invaded Indigenous territories in violation of federal law”.
Communities and Languages: As schools open in the province of Inner Mongolia, China’s government sends an official order that Mandarin be used to teach history, politics and literature. In protest, ethnic-minority parents kept their children at home.
Such news reports raise more questions than we can answer. Have we allowed indigenous communities a say in preservation of their art and the national art discourse? Have we identified their heritage sites and helped to protect them? Have we done enough to protect their language heritage and help them preserve it? Do we understand all the ways in which the modern agri-industrial civilization invades their space and do we understand the implications? Why do we take false pride in diversity when we don’t have the commitment to protect it in all its forms?
Industry: Some 60% of the world’s disposable glove supply comes from Malaysia (1/3 of this goes to US alone). We have already seen the potential environmental costs of the millions of gloves and PPE equipment coming to trash. This article talks about worker’s conditions where these gloves are manufactured.
Pollution: Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, a concept that was pitched more than 25 years ago, were seen as a harbinger of sustainable mobility. A recent report shows their actual carbon emissions to be much higher than official test results.
Research – Palaeontology: Exactly 10 years ago, a notable amber deposit was found in the Cambay Shale in Gujarat. Analysis of the 50-million-year-old fossil insects in it showed a diversity of insects, associated with tropical forest trees covering much of India at the time.
Environmental Education: In part 2 of the “Painting the college green” series, we present a six-course framework of required courses for college students, and suggested syllabi for the first two courses.
Green Energy: Is renewable energy really green, if manufacturing it’s equipment on a massive scale is anyway going to need fossil fuel based energy and disturbing the environment in other ways? A documentary film, and an article in response to it.
Research – Species: Why are aquatic mammals much larger in size than those on land? The previous thinking was they don’t have the constraints that land-based mammals face. Research in recent years however shows that their large size is a trade-off between trapping enough body heat and finding enough food.
Research – Climate Change: “Greenland’s ice sheet has melted to a point of no return, and efforts to slow global warming will not stop it from disintegrating….. It dumps more than 280 billion metric tons of melting ice into the ocean each year, making it the greatest single contributor to global sea level rise,”
“…widespread retreat between 2000 and 2005 resulted in a step increase in discharge and a switch to a new dynamic state of sustained mass loss that would persist even under a decline in surface melt.”
Research – Pollution: We know that microplastics pollute soil and water. But they are also a major source of air pollution and they eventually make it to the oceans and terrestrial ecosystems via air. Tyre and break wear particles emitted from the global road traffic are a primary source of this.
Ecosystems: Vreni Häussermann is a Marine Fellow with Pew Charitable Trust and scientific director of the Huinay Scientific Field Station located in the Comau Fjord in Chilean Patagonia. Read about their work focused on this highly bio-diverse, nearshore marine ecosystem.
Research – Species: Why do mosquitoes specialize in biting humans? There are 3500 species of mosquitoes on Earth, both in man-made surroundings and in the wild. Yet, recent research, focused on Africa, highlights that mosquitoes’ preference for humans is associated with intense dry seasons (probably due to climate change) and rapid urbanization.
Pollution: A recent report from Systemiq and Pew Charitable Trusts worries about marine pollution due to plastics. “the annual flow of plastic into the ocean will nearly triple by 2040, to 29 million metric tons per year… equivalent to 50 kg of plastic per metre of coastline worldwide”, unless we all take action today.
Land: Some of the leading universities in USA are “land-grant universities”. i.e. they benefited from the Morrill Act of 1862, which appropriated land to fund agricultural and mechanical colleges. The land originally belonged to native Indian tribes.
पर्यावरणवादाबद्दल: पर्यावरण दिन २०२० च्या निमित्ताने माझी एक नवीन लेखमालिका. यातील पहिला लेख:चार प्रकारचे पर्यावरणवादी
EcoUniv Weekend Reads # 18
13 June 2020
Species: Eeels from rivers in both Europe and North America migrate to a unique place called the Sargasso Sea (within the North Atlantic Ocean) to reproduce, and they do it just once in their lifetime. Read about this migration.
To learn more about the Sargasso Sea, watch this video
Economics: Professor Thomas Piketty’s latest book, Capital and Ideology was published in 2019. Below are slides from a talk he gave at the London School of Economics in February, which capture key ideas from the book.
Resources: Researchers analyzed weather data to assess soil moisture during the period of six major famines in British India. It was found that the Bengal famine of 1943 was ”…completely because of policy failure. Policy lapses such as prioritizing distribution of vital supplies to the military, stopping rice imports and not declaring that it was actually a famine were among the factors that led to the magnitude of the tragedy.“ The Bengal famine claimed 3 million lives. Winston Churchill was Britain’s Prime Minister during this period.
पर्यावरणवादाबद्दल: या मालिकेतील नवीन लेख – पर्यावरणवादी दृष्टिकोनांचे विश्लेषण
EcoUniv Weekend Reads # 19
21 June 2020
Species: Pythons eat large and infrequent meals. What kind of unique body adaptations do they have to manage such metabolism? Read about the research that has been going on for 25 years to understand this. “….snakes perform a genetic symphony, producing a torrent of new proteins that enable their body to quickly turn into an unrivaled digestion machine.”
Conservation: The Beas Conservation Reserve – a 185-km stretch of the Beas River is probably India’s only Protected Area which is along a river. Gharials were introduced there 2 years ago.
The water quality of the Beas has considerably improved during the lockdown. This has resulted in abundance of prey and Gharials spending more time in the waters.
Research – Evolution: “During animal evolution, the water-to-land transition resulted in a massive increase in visual range. Simulations of behaviour identify a specific type of terrestrial habitat, clustered open and closed areas (savanna-like), where the advantage of planning peaks…..The vertebrate invasion of land may have been an important step in their cognitive evolution.”
पर्यावरणवादाबद्दल: या मालिकेतील नवीन लेख – व्यक्तिगत पातळीवरील पर्यावरणवाद
EcoUniv Weekend Reads # 20
28 June 2020
Species: New research on butterfly wings shows that they are not passive tissue like toenails or hair, but “hold intricate networks of veins, sensory cells, and often scent pads for releasing and spreading mating pheromones.” Read for an entirely new understanding of those beautiful butterfly wings.
Research – Sapiens: The most ancient evidence of Sapiens using technology like bow and arrows in South Asia is from 48 KYA in the Sri Lankan site of Fa-Hien Lena. This predates evidence from both Europe and Southeast Asia. Bows & arrows are part of humans’ tools that were used in the Late Pleistocene (129 KYA – 11.7 KYA). In addition, symbolic and social technologies like beads were found.
Climate Change: It feels strange to read the words ‘boiling’ and ‘Siberia’ in the same sentence, doesn’t it? But this May, temperatures in Siberia were 10 degrees above normal – a temperature variation that would happen only once in 100K years, if it was not for climate change.
…and as the permafrost thawed, fuel tank at a power station sunk into the ground, causing 20,000 tonnes of oil to spill. I call this the Fukushima Pattern — catastrophic weather events hitting man-made complex systems in ways we had not imagined before.