EcoUniv Weekend Reads : July 2020

EcoUniv Weekend Reads # 21

5 July 2020

Species: A new monkey species is found in SE Asia. “Three Southeast Asian leaf monkeys are distinct species, new research shows, which makes two of them some of the rarest, most endangered primates.”

Conservation: Helping Namibia’s wild horses survive.

Human impacts on environment: An article that details Indian railways’ impact on wildlife like tigers and elephants, during the British India period and beyond.

EcoUniv Weekend Reads # 22

12 July 2020

Species:  The rare Indus dolphin is rebounding in Pakistan.

Man and nature: Indigenous trackers in the Kalahari desert are teaching scientists about wildlife and conservation. Do watch the slide show of species in this desert and associated information.

Climate Change: There is now a 24% chance that global average temperature could surpass the 1.5 C  mark in the next five years.

EcoUniv Weekend Reads # 23

18 July 2020

Research – Population Science: A recent and extensive modelling of population in195 countries predicts that the global population will peak in 2064 at 9·73 billion.

Interact with the data visualizations. E.g. India’s population is expected to peak at 1.60 billion between 2043-2055.

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.

A dialog with the authors:

Sustainable Construction: A civil engineer from Brazil has designed a new type of brick which has 1/10th the energy use and CO2 emissions from regular bricks.

Wildlife: Possible causes for the recent deaths of 280 African elephants in Botswana.

EcoUniv Weekend Reads # 24

26 July 2020

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.

A dialog with the authors:

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.

EcoUniv Weekend Reads : June 2020

EcoUniv Weekend Reads # 17

7 June 2020

Paleobotany: A 110 million old dinosaur fossil is exceptionally well preserved. And in it’s stomach are fragments of the vegetables and leaves it ate as it’s last meal.

Agriculture: 75% of farmers in India own less than 1 hectare and they sign up for a _negative_ monthly income of Rs. 1500. Read why it does not pay to be a small farmer in India.

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.

Research paper abstract:

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.

Sustainable Business: Unilever plans to make all its 70,000 products biodegradable by 2030 and have a ‘deforestation-free’ supply chain by 2023.

But what about the environmental costs ‘externalized’ by all such companies so far?

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.”

A dialog with the authors:

Play the online game developed by the authors to know how savanna is different than other landscapes.

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.

A dialog with the paper’s authors:

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.

EcoUniv Weekend Reads : May 2020

EcoUniv Weekend Reads # 12

1 May 2020

Farming: How to grow 26 types of veggies in a 60 sq ft space.

Bats: They carry coronaviruses. They are mysterious. We have discovered only 25% of their species.

Ecosystems:  Succulent Karoo, a desert in S. Africa, has “6,300 plant species — thousands of which are found nowhere else on Earth…including a third of the world’s succulent species”

Economics: Three articles which pose questions relevant during today’s civilization-scale pause: 1. Can we go back to a circular, sustainable, bottom-up, local-first economy after Coronavirus or do we want to go back to the same old economy and be it’s victims?  2. The plans that the city of Amsterdam has for a _Doughnut Economy_ and  3. An article which appeals that Post-COVID economy and governance for India must be bottom-up, not top-down

EcoUniv Weekend Reads # 13

10 May 2020

Industry: Read about the many environmental impacts of the global apparel industry, particularly ‘fast fashion’, and the _greenwashing_ done by brands to show they are working on ‘sustainable ideas’.

Research – Climate Change: A new paper projects that “depending on scenarios of population growth and warming, over the coming 50 years, 1 to 3 billion people are projected to be left outside the climate conditions that have served humanity well over the past 6,000 years”.

History indicates that the ‘have’s adapt to such catastrophic changes, but the ‘have not’s may get wiped out.

Research – Species: Genomic Analysis of lions makes the lions’ family tree clearer.

Species – Bats: A bat expert talks about “societal behaviour, human prejudice amid increasing vilification of bats for novel coronavirus”.–70900

Environmental Education: A 2014 Marathi essay by me, originally published in Shikshanvedh magazine, which delves on the holistic point of view and environmental education rooted in such a holistic viewpoint.

EcoUniv Weekend Reads # 14

17 May 2020

’Development’ in Western Ghats: The story of a road being widened through Western Ghats and another about a rail link between Karnataka and Goa. It tells us all that is wrong with our environmental governance.

Research:  According to a recent paper in Lancent Planetary Health, the number of lives saved (due to zero air pollution) during the recent lockdown in Wuhan was higher than the deaths due to Coronavirus. The irony of modern life!

Villages :  “खेड्यांबद्दल” या माझ्या नवीन लेखमालेत भारतीय खेड्याचा भूत-वर्तमान-भविष्यकाळ, खेडे व पर्यावरणस्नेही समाज, अशा मुद्यांबद्दल विचार-मांडणी केली जाईल.

या लेखात गांधीजींच्या संकल्पनेतील खेडे नक्की कसे होते ते बघू या.

Photos: The disappearing rivers of Iceland

EcoUniv Weekend Reads # 15

24 May 2020

Ecosystems: What are keystone species and why are they important?

Scientists: Three articles about Robert Paine, the scientist who discovered keystone species — each article has it’s unique insights.

Scientists:  Robert May, who died recently, was a theoretical physicist by training and one of the founders of complexity theory. His mathematical models influenced diverse fields such as ecology, epidemiology and finance.

खेड्यांबद्दल: गांधीजी आणि रिचर्ड केसी यांच्यातील चर्चा – एक नवीन लेख.

EcoUniv Weekend Reads # 16

31  May 2020

Energy: The air-conditioner’s design has not changed for over a century. It has an energy efficiency of only 14%. India will go from 14 million AC units today to 1 billion units in 2050. Read about a R&D competition to propose alternative, energy-efficient designs for the AC.

The eight finalists for the Global Cooling Prize, whose prototypes are being tested for 60 days in Delhi summer of 2020:

Botany: Pencil Pine, a conifer endemic to Tasmania is a threatened species. Though it can live for a 1000 years, it produces seeds only sporadically. It happened last in 2015. Now it is happening again, in the middle of the Pandemic. Read about the ongoing efforts to monitor the flowering and collect the cones.

Conservation: Roughly midway between the southern tips of Africa and S. America is a group of remote islands called Tristan da Cunha, named after the explorer who found them. Here, on the Gough Island, the Yellow-nosed albatross and Tristan albatross are at risk from giant mice, who eat their chicks alive, endangering their population. UK’s RSPB has started a conservation program at a remote location such as this.

Read about the conservation work and watch a related video.

EcoUniv Weekend Reads : April 2020

EcoUniv Weekend Reads # 8

5 Apr 2020

Hominins:  Multiple new studies have been reported about our ancestors in the past few days. The Homo Erectus is now thought to have existed 150K-200K years earlier than previously thought. It also co-existed with the Austraolpithecus and Paranthropus. New studies done on fossils of what could be children of Australopithecus afarensis and Homo Naladi tell us they were somewhat similar to us. This, and more.

Environmental Education: A new article by me to start filling in the details of EcoUniv’s environmental education framework. We start by understanding the learners at various ages and this week we start with kindergarten kids.

EcoUniv Weekend Reads # 9

11 Apr 2020

Coronavirus and Inequality: In the face of the pandemic, nations are collaborating. But they are also competing. In this article, read how poor nations have to fight with rich nations for scarce medical resources like masks and test reagents.

Coronavirus and animal farming: A majority of the meat that is eaten by Homo Sapiens now comes from animal farms. What is the likelihood of these animals catching viruses like Covid-19 and what does it mean for animal farming practices?

Amazon Fires: The topic of fires in the Amazon basin has gone in the background due to other headlines. This in-depth article talks about how this problem was in making over a long term, including complex issues like broken deals, livelihood from cattle ranching, and ‘cattle laundering’. “The Takeaway: A supply chain can only be as green as its least eco-friendly link.”

Economics: Due to the pandemic-caused recession, unemployment threatens to reach double digits in many developed economies. Ideas like Social Security and Minimum Monthly Income for all, are sure to get revisited. They will also make the global economy more humane and less cut-throat. Read this profile of the architect of US social security, Frances Perkins, the first female member of a presidential cabinet.

Environmental Education: A new article by me to fill in the details of EcoUniv’s Environmental Education Framework. We are looking at learners of various ages and this week we focus on six-year olds (first grade).

EcoUniv Weekend Reads # 10

18 Apr 2020

Botany: Sometimes, a single study can start a new field of scientific research: in this case, phytoacoustics. Plants can ‘hear’ and respond. “Within three minutes of exposure to these [bee] recordings, sugar concentration in the plants increased from between 12 and 17 percent to 20 percent.”

Coronavirus and Poaching: Ever since a lockdown was announced in S. Africa, poaching is on the rise, as game reserves are empty. A report from the field.

Environmental Education: A new article by me to fill in the details of EcoUniv’s Environmental Education Framework. We are looking at learners of various ages and this week we focus on seven-year olds (second grade).

EcoUniv Weekend Reads # 11

26 Apr 2020

Coronavirus and plastic pollution: There’s a deluge of discarded masks and gloves into our oceans, and it is adding to the already serious plastic pollution.

Photos: This time, photos from space: NO2 tropospheric column density in major European cities, March/April 2020, compared with the year-ago period. Due to the lockdowns, air pollution is down significantly. We should use this time to reflect on our needs vs. wants in ‘normal’ times, which are a source of pollution.

Pollution: Can we use Coronavirus lockdowns as an opportunity to “reset” our emissions? Can we declare “Peak Carbon”?

Environmental Education: A Basic Ornithology course is available online from the experts at IISER, SACON, NCBS, and NCF.

EcoUniv Weekend Reads: March 2020

EcoUniv Weekend Reads

8 Mar 2020

Climate: Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the Westerly winds and Southern Ocean waters are connected in complex ways. And we may be at a tipping point where less and less CO2 will be absorbed by the ocean and will stay in the atmosphere. Read to know a lengthy yet rich scientific review.

Biosphere: In quantitative terms (kilograms), how much of our biosphere is made of animals, plants, and other living things? How much by human being vs other animals? Read these estimates and charts in this paper.

Conservation: Reading about lab-based conservation is often dejecting, because it is the final frontier of conservation of a species — it is explored when a species has gone extinct, or about to go extinct in the wild. Yet, it needs to be recognized as an effort by the human race to right it’s wrongs using the tools of science. If you have read Lawrence Anthony’s ‘The Last Rhinos’, you might be following the efforts to conserve the Northern White Rhino. Read about the last-ditch efforts to rebuild their population from the last 2!

EcoUniv Weekend Reads

14 Mar 2020

This is a Coronavirus special. But in a different way! It has no bombardment about the ‘what’s of Coronavirus. Rather it poses some ‘why’s.

Animal Behavior and Virus: Developing better intuition on the ‘connectedness’ of all things, raises our ability to ask difficult questions. E.g. this paper connecting animal behaviour, land use, and spread of pathogens. Researchers studying the African mongoose found that “complex landscapes may influence host behavior, modifying pathogen transmission dynamics across land type, potentially creating super-spreading areas, or hotspots, of environmental disease transmission”. Spreading of virus-based diseases may have root causes in changes in the animal world, which, of course is getting impacted due to habitat destruction.

Debt and the Virus: After the 2009 financial crisis, you’d think that the financial wizards in corporate castles would have learnt their lessons about high amounts of unsustainable debt. But no! Over the last 10 years, non-bank corporates in the US, China, and elsewhere have built a large mountain of debt, particularly in industries like Oil, Aviation, and Hospitality, which, you guessed it right, was predicated on growth in consumerism. As oil crashes and planes and hotels go empty due to Coronavirus, there is the ugly prospect that the world will find itself in the bursting of another debt bubble. There is no such thing as ‘sustainable development’.

EcoUniv Weekend Reads

22 Mar 2020

Evolution: One of Darwin’s hypotheses, that a species belonging to a larger genus should also include more subspecies, is proven using modern data modelling tools. Further, the models show that Species/Subspecies Richness (the number of species in a genus) is stronger in mammals that don’t live on land — bats and whales.

Animals, Virus, and Man: An article that sheds light on “zoonotic spillover” — areas at the edge of wild animals habitats, where animal-breeding virus can get transferred to man. More habitat destruction may result in more such virus transfer and its eventual spread among humans.

EcoUniv Weekend Reads

28 Mar 2020

Animals, Virus, and Man: A 2012 article from NYT which talks about the Ecology of Disease. It talks about potential epidemic scenarios, as wildlife-hosted virus make it to human populations when natural landscapes get degraded. “Just an estimated 1 percent of wildlife viruses are known.”

Grasslands: An eco-travelogue exploring 51,000 acres of protected Tallgrass Prairie in Oklahoma, US.

Coronavirus and the environment: We all know the lockdowns have resulted in sharp reductions in global emissions. This article compares the emission impacts of past pandemics and economics crashes.

Coronavirus and Globalization: With the controls on reckless global travel here to stay, and supply chains being re-tooled to reduce dependence on China, are we entering a period beyond ‘peak globalization’?

Coronavirus and Climate Change: Our response to Coronavirus, compared with our fight against climate change – a policy analysis article.

EcoUniv Weekend Reads: Feb 2020

EcoUniv Weekend Reads

15 Feb 2020

Population Science: 20+ states/UT now have a fertility rate that is below the ideal 2.1. Should we celebrate? A long article that discusses many trends and forecasts of global population.

Ecology: India plans to import the African cheetah in a national park in MP. Is it worth it? An article on the cheetah’s ecology and the massive home range it needs.

Video: China’s reindeer herder community.

EcoUniv Weekend Reads

22 Feb 2020

Ecology: State of India’s Birds 2020, a comprehensive report warns that many Indian bird populations are already facing significant population declines.

Full report:

Marathi summary:

Botany: News about a 2014 paper that challenges the assumption that older, bigger trees grow slower and absorb less carbon. A paper like this has its own controversies. Botanists/forestry enthusiasts may find the comments below the article interesting (follow the ‘Nature’ link to paper and click on Comments). My take-aways: 1. We should protect all old, big trees no matter where they are. 2. Growing younger forests is important too, as they grow faster as a whole.

Map: Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) maintains an interactive map about “Litter on Indian beaches”. Check it out:

EcoUniv Weekend Reads

29 Feb 2020

Technology: In this interview podcast from MIT, Oxford’s Carl Frey, author of the book ‘The Technology Trap’, argues that resistance to all new technology is futile. Do you agree?

He also accepts that technology often comes with unforeseen problems, mostly in the short term. I find that to be an understatement. Is technology really beneficial to all even in the long term? What dimensions of technology’s negative impact are missing in this interview?

Biodiversity: Dolphins in the Indian ocean may now be only 13% of their population in 1980. The cause: Overfishing for tuna (dolphins and other marine animals get caught in the nets)

Where do we go from here?

I am driving through a nondescript dam catchment in Northern West Ghats. They all look the same to me now, even though they are not. Mature forests, surrounded by dense shrubbery, with patches of scrub and open areas, as landscape ecologists would call them. We are told that the scrub and open areas represent a degradation of the forest and the forest needs to be saved.

It’s true. It is possible that several hundred years ago, clans of sustenance farmers or pastoralists moved from the Deccan Plateau to the Western Ghats and settled themselves into tiny villages all over these tough mountains. Their subsequent generations cut forests for firewood, grazing, and agriculture. It is indeed possible that a lot of these forests were cleared by those who live here.

But that’s only a partial truth. It has been well documented that many trees in these forests were felled for making coal to satisfy urban demand. The ring roads built around dam catchments increased urban access to these hilly areas and demand for timber was satisfied from these forests. The mountains lost a lot of shrubbery and grass to grazing. The cattle were grown to satisfy insatiable urban demand for milk and milk-based products. The dams were built to meet urban demand for water in the first place.

Thus, the urban way of living and demands of urban man have at least partially been responsible for forest loss in these pristine ecosystems. Urbanites are parasites.

It makes me contemplate after I return to Pune: What is a civilization? What does it mean to become civil?

To me all that civilization means today is to yield to a much more complex set of social norms as compared to our ancestors the hunter gatherers, pastoralists, tribal farmers, and sustenance farmers. It means increasing our intensity of natural resource use. It means modifying nature in ways that cannot be reversed or replenished easily. It means creating large volumes of waste and not taking responsibility for it. It means becoming a slave of technology at the cost of sustainable values.

Nature has always been generous to man. Thankfully, the needs of hunter gatherers, pastoralists, tribal farmers, and sustenance farmers were something that nature could fulfill easily. But when the intense agriculturalist and the industrial man arrived on the scene, things started changing drastically, with nature paying a heavy price. And this mode of living is not new. It started with the densely populated cities of the Harappan civilization.

So, is this civilization of ours something to be proud about? Is civilization without sustainable values worth cherishing at all?

Those big pursuits we chase in our lives, whether a great house, car, education, careers, mobility, travel, fame, money, recognition, even mastery of knowledge and the arts: Are these not mere minutiae in front of this grand, yet failed equation between nature and man?

So where do we go from here?

It is actually a miracle that the other sustainable modes of living, mentioned earlier, are still in existence. That we can observe them, we can study them.  The question is: Are we going to learn anything from them?

Photo: Sustenance farmer working on her rice farm in W. Ghats, waiting for the arrival of monsoon.

EcoUniv’s Environmental Education Framework

What should be the core elements of an environmental education framework?

Most educational frameworks describe three elements:

  • Aims
  • Content
  • Pedagogy

At EcoUniv, we feel that an educational framework should also demonstrate a deep understanding of the learner as an additional element. In our diverse, dynamic world with a lot of variation among learners, educational frameworks cannot be rigid blueprints. They need to be living documents, customizable by the teacher/facilitator depending on the cultural context, language, and the background of learners.

The aims of EcoUniv’s framework for environmental education are

  • At the outset we recognize the societal need for transformational change towards sustainability and the framework will aim to meet this need. The vision is to participate in creation of human capital that meets the challenge for sustainability (the need imperative)
  • At the same time, it will not be about ‘social programming’ or brainwashing. The focus will be on the deep connection between human beings and nature, e.g. us being a part of nature’s biodiversity and not above it, nurturing our naturalistic intelligence, our connection with land, water, climate, and communities. The framework will help the learner find a meaningful existence within this context (the humanistic imperative).
  • As outlined in the previous posts, it will help the learner develop a holistic perspective towards the environment, consumption/lifestyle, and economy.
  • In addition to national and global challenges, it will emphasize local ecologies and climate, local resources, economy, and land use, local biodiversity, local aspects of man-nature relationship and it’s linkages with culture and language.
  • It will consider parents and teachers as key stakeholders in environmental education. It will coach teachers about the holistic perspective, the rapid erosion of natural resources, sustainability concepts, and the transformational change required. In our vision, parents and teachers should not be blind followers of an educational framework or any particular educational thinker’s directives. They should be co-creators, designers, collaborators, and owners of the framework’s pedagogy and content.
  • Appreciation of nature’s beauty will be a key theme in the framework. This is similar to the way a learner appreciates beauty when experiencing or expressing through art. Learners need to ‘wander around’ in nature and develop a lasting emotional bond with it. We believe this can be achieved by: (1) Absorbing nature through the five senses. Visiting local and regional wilderness/ecosystems (e.g. rivers) frequently and thoughtfully to experience nature’s colors, shapes, touch, sound, flow, events, seasons, and cycles. (2) Expressing such “absorbed nature” through writing, speech, art (e.g. drawing), dance, and acting. (3) Appreciating nature’s beauty as expressed by others e.g. peer learners, teachers, painters, musicians, mathematicians and scientists. Advanced level learners can also appreciate nature as an artist, engineer, architect, and mathematician. This can be done by analyzing materials, structures, form, proportion, symmetry, and mathematical expression in nature.
  • The framework will aim to combine disparate science education streams as far as natural science education is concerned. It will impart learning of sciences in a holistic way, including ecology and economics. More on this in a future post.
  • It will touch upon the entire spectrum of man-nature relationship in space and time and hold it as the core around which to discuss ideas like technology, industrialization, land use, agriculture and food, environmental economics, environmental justice, gender equity, resource equity, and socio-economic equity. This will need understanding the chief modes of man’s living on Earth (e.g. hunter gatherer, cultivator, pastoralist, industrial man), understanding reasons for collapses of past societies, and understanding tribal and other societies living in harmony with nature.

The next several posts will describe our understanding of the learner. Eventually we will explore content and pedagogy.

Example: An image of salt workers in salt panes in the Rann of Kutch. A holistic study of this ecosystem will include

  • The unique geology and climate of the Rann
  • The marine and land ecosystem and its flows, including seasonal changes
  • The unique biodiversity of the Rann and threats to it
  • The communities living in the Rann and their dependence on natural resources. This includes history of communities, their culture, migration, skills and vocations, economics, aspirations, and so on.
  • Studies of equity and natural resource exploitation. In case of salt workers, this will mean studying the entire supply chain of salt in India, and its economics
  • Imbalances in social equity, gender equity, natural resource equity, threats to the ecosystem and current balance of human-nature relationship

On Educational Frameworks

As a precursor to developing EcoUniv’s environmental education framework, we would like to visit the overall concept of educational frameworks.

We believe educational frameworks are created from one of these two driving factors:

  1. A societal need or problem, or the society’s structure needs a particular type of education imparted to a person, and the educational system is either set up or gets created to fulfill that. Let’s call this need-based educational frameworks. In such a system, it is more likely that the individual become more compliant to the society’s norms and is less likely to challenge them. Fresh thinking and innovation may happen, but within larger set boundaries.
  2. An educational thinker or philosopher thinks about one or more of the deeper questions of what it means to be a human being, what is a fulfilling life, what is personal growth, how should children go through an educational experience towards being a complete human being, and so on, and develops an original theory and framework of education. Often such a thinker sets up experimental schools as a demonstration of his/her ideas. Let’s call this human-centric educational frameworks.

Examples of need-based educational frameworks are

  • The rote educational system which has become commonplace after industrialization in most countries, feeding specialist professionals to the world economy, e.g. engineers, doctors, accountants, scientists, business managers, etc.
  • The modern vocational, particularly technical, skills education systems in place in most countries, which is meant to feed skilled but low to mid-salaried workers to the industrial and consumer economy. E.g. carpenters, plumbers, electricians, gardeners, shop floor workers, etc
  • When a society like USA realizes that to keep up its technological leadership, it must come up with systems and processes to encourage STEM education (Science, Tech, Engg, Mathematics), which in principle is no different than similar such educational processes set up in cold-war era Soviet, or post-1990s China.
  • The vocational schools in pre-colonial Indian villages. To an extent they preserved the social structure articulated in the Chaturvarnya concept. Thus access to comprehensive worldly knowledge was not freely available to all groups except the privileged ones, but nevertheless the system served the resilient agrarian village economies by preserving specialist vocational skills over generations.

Examples of human-centric educational frameworks are

  • Montessori system
  • Waldorf system
  • Krishnamurti schools
  • Schools driven by the overall philosophy of constructivism
  • Unschooling movements

Once in a while there is a framework, which aims to fulfill BOTH the society’s needs (especially economic needs) and attempts to be human-centric in its own way while offering new ideas. Examples include

  • Gandhi’s Buniyadi Shiksha.


When we delve on these educational frameworks of past and present, we at EcoUniv wonder, what is it that we can possibly contribute, in our own little way?

Our proposed environmental education framework at EcoUniv is borne out of these pressing observations:

  • The economic system we have today exploits natural resources at a much faster rate than they can be replenished. The system also creates intense inequality, and worse, accepts it as a necessary evil for growth. Human actions have polluted local and global commons, often to a point beyond repair, threatening all biodiversity, natural ecosystems, and human survival itself.
  • The pressing need of the hour is that of human capital which recognizes the above and tries to reverse the damage. This will be possible only if education includes the holistic perspective towards the environment.
  • Environmental education as taught today in schools is in bits and pieces across science and geography classes. It does not serve the objective of transformational change. For this, we need to review the entire spectrum of man-nature relationship in space and time and impart learning of natural sciences in a holistic way, including ecology and economics.
  • Education itself is getting rapidly globalized, be it content, language of instruction, or teaching tools. The portion spent on local ecologies and climate, local resources and land use, local biodiversity, local aspects of man-nature relationships is on decline.
  • Indeed, most education, including that coming from humanistic education frameworks mentioned above, still supplies human capital to the industrial economy, rather than attempting to create or strengthen the paradigm of sustainability.
  • Excellent efforts have been done by NGOs and other government-funded projects to introduce environmental content in school education. But considering the scale of the challenge, they are still weak. Most of the work has been around teacher training and creating activities, which are essential but not sufficient in view of the challenge. In particular, no attempt has been made to coach teachers about the holistic perspective, the rapid erosion of natural resources, sustainability concepts, and the transformational change required. Secondly, parents’ involvement is still not considered a serious component of environmental education. Thirdly, these activities do not always link environmental concepts to livelihood and economic changes needed to realize sustainability.

At EcoUniv, our aim will be to address the above shortcomings by creating a more comprehensive framework.

Environmental Education: The holistic point of view

At EcoUniv, we have started work on a comprehensive framework for environmental education for Class I to XII.

As a precursor to this, we will start sharing key elements and the foundation for such a framework. Most of this has been covered in a long Marathi article by Yogesh Pathak in Gram Mangal’s ShikshanVedh magazine in 2014.

We believe a comprehensive framework for environmental education should be based on the holistic point of view.

What is the holistic point of view? The original ideas are synthesized in an essay by Prakash Gole, titled “What can be the holistic point of view?” Below is a summary and interpretation by EcoUniv.

  • Appreciating nature’s complex and cyclic nature and fragility
  • Appreciating the flows of matter and energy in nature
    • Ensuring common citizens are energy literate, matter literate, and ‘think systems’
    • Understanding the value held in nature’s ecosystems and using their services without disturbing their form, function, flows, and richness
  • Appreciating impact of man’s actions and short-termism on nature
    • Agriculture, Industry, Housing, Roads, Pollution,….
    • Realizing that the rapid erosion of natural resources due to our development model is happening much faster than what nature can replenish
  • Understanding sustainability and environmental ethics
  • Understanding the role of economics as it as and as it should be
    • Man is a part of nature and our economics should contribute to preservation of nature, not destory it
  • Understanding nature’s diversity — it’s evolutionary history and present diversity in totality.
    • Appreciating linkages between nature’s diversity and our cultural and language diversity and economics
  • Learning from societies that have conserved nature e.g. tribals
  • Envisioning a new economic and social order around sustainability, including land use and natural resource use, conservation, local production and use, and ecological restoration
    • e.g. Revisiting agriculture and food: Managing land and water use, cropping decisions, and fertilizer and pesticide at a local level to conserve nature. Improving biodiversity in our food, stopping land erosion, sustainable farming practices through constant experimentation