Greeeeeeen

3 minutes per post or free!

   Jun 03

The Tiger and your glass of milk

Everyone seems to wants to save the tiger

Of late, tiger conservation is all over the news. The tiger population in India has fallen down by around 96% from what it was in the beginning of the 20th Century. The number of tigers in India was around 1400 4 years ago and according to this year’s census it has increased a bit to around 1700 [1]. Lots of celebrities have been desperately campaigning to save the tiger by making awareness videos advising the civilian viewers not to hunt tigers. Others have posed open questions to the public in their campaign to save the tiger and have raised Crores of Rupees for the cause, the open question being, “what can we do to save the tiger?” What can we, the urban population do to save the tiger?

Poaching is not the only problem tigers face

The tigers of India have faced a hell of a time with the Indian royals and British administrators hunting them. Even after a ban on poaching of wild animals was imposed, the tigers have continued to face problems either directly because of blokes like Sansar Chand or indirectly due to a decline in the number of herbivores, again due to hunting. The main causes of the decline in the numbers are poaching and habitat loss. There is a limit on how many tigers can live together in a given tiger reserve. At high densities, alpha male tigers end up killing other smaller tigers bringing down the density. The area of forests have shrunk over the years and the tiger numbers have risen[2], giving us a false hope of success in tiger conservation.

Habitat loss is still killing the tiger

The main reason for  the decrease in the number of tigers is habitat loss. The total tiger area is just around 7 million hectares out of around 329 Million hectares of Indian land. Tigers once used to roam around most of India and today, today they are restricted to a tiny 2.1% of it. The forests continue to shrink intensifying the problem further.

Save the tiger <=> save the forests

The tiger is considered to be an indicator of forest health. An abundant tiger population indicates a sufficient prey base of herbivores like antelopes. An abundant herbivore population indicates a forest with a well balanced fauna with grasslands and trees. With Cheetahs extinct and the asiatic lion nearly driven to extinction, tigers are at the apex of the food pyramid that constitutes to the forest eco system and are hence very vital for the well being of the forests. We all know how important forests are in moderating the climate, purifying the air, holding the soil together, storing water, protecting life, promoting rains and yet preventing floods. The extinction of the tiger can lead to a collapse in the forest ecosystems. In several cases, man has disastrously attempted to moderate nature leading to chaos. The coyote outbreak in North America, the Dingo in Australia are just few instances of the failures of humanity in these attempts. In summary, Tigers = Forests = Water = US. Tigers = Forests = Water = US

The world map above taken from http://www.worldmapper.org/display.php?selected=314 shows that the maximum forest depletion has happened in the Indian sub-continent.

Our current lifestyle has a high Ecological-footprint which can be reduced

It is clear that our forests need to be preserved for our own well-being. Floods and famine have had terrible impacts on human civilization despite the apparent mastery of humans over nature. Lumbering is not the only reason for the destruction of forests. We just don’t seem to have enough space, no matter how much we expand, for us to create settlements, to raise our crops, for our cattle to graze. Leaving the Carbon debate aside, we need a lot of land even for our basic needs of food and shelter. In India, around 60% of the total land area is used for agriculture[3]. This amount is a clear reflection of the extent of our consumption. It clearly wasn’t always this way. Our population has risen from 340 Million at the time of Independence to 1200 Million today (~ 65 years) and the consumption activities probably more than linearly. There has to be a compromise on our lifestyle to save ourselves from destruction. There is a huge cattle population in India of about 281 Million[5] which exist only to support human consumption. Our footprint not only includes the amount of land we need to grow our crops but also the land needed to sustain the cattle. In 2007, we had around 300 Million bovines and 530 Million total livestock[6]. We feed the animals so that they can give us milk, eggs and meat back to feed ourselves. The secondary production causes a lot of losses in the ecosystem. It is estimated that half the food that is grown ends up feeding the cattle[7]. The United Nations Environment Programme recommends a vegan diet to save the environment.

Civilizations have collapsed because of abrupt cut-off of nature-lifelines

In India, at around 2800 BC, emerged one of the most famous civilizations of the ancient world, the Indus Valley Civilization that used the fertile lands of Sindhu, Ghaggar-Hakra and a once rich Saraswati river as its cradle. The civilization abruptly ended at around 1900 BC and today, climate change is attributed as the main reason for the fall of this mighty civilization. The Saraswati river that once gave birth to this civilization seems to have dried out over the years and caused a collapse. If we do not save our forests, our civilization which heavily depends on agricultural produce (and hence rains/forests) may collapse. The issue now is no longer saving the tiger but more about saving ourselves. No amount of shifts in other  aspects of our lifestyle, like shifting to renewable energy, will save the shrinking forests. Changing small parts of our lifestyle may be the easiest way to save ourselves.

Veganism – The way of low-footprint life

People hate problems and love solutions. I end the first part of my post to start the better part. An organic vegan diet is considered the most environmentally friendly diet. The avoid of unnecessary chemicals could save many lives in critical parts of the eco-system where as a vegan diet reduces the losses due to secondary production (plant -> cows -> humans => plant -> humans) and decrease our footprint. It is also estimated that the life-stock contribute to around 56% of the green house gasses. I feel it is easier for a vegetarian to convert into a vegan than for a non-vegetarian as all I had to do to change my lifestyle was to replace cow’s milk with Soya/Almond milk. There possibly cannot be an easier solution than this to save ourselves. There are lots of replacements for animal milk and I list out a few

Soy milk
Pros: No cholestrol, lactose intolerant people can consume it, surprisingly prevents cancer formation in various parts of the body, low fat
Cons: Doesn’t have Calcium, Considered bad for consumption for people with hypothyroidism, without adequate Iodine intake.

Almond milk
Pros: No cholestrol, lactose intolerant people can consume it
Cons: Doesn’t have Calcium, Costly

There are plenty of other alternatives: Dal (pulses in general), dry fruits, baked beans etc as a source of protein, as a replacement for milk.

Given all the facts and figures and the simple suggestions to change lifestyle, what will you do?

  • live in doubt?
  • live in denial?
    Living in denial
  • live in inaction?
  • Save the world!

Of course, flying away to safety is difficult and needs a lot of effort but ultimately we survive. There is no captain planet, so the responsibility is yours!

Constructive criticism and productive feedback are most welcome. Please leave a comment and help by sharing the link and spreading the word.


   Jun 03

No future

An interesting video. Tells us about the state we are in.

The summary of the video: We must change our lifestyle to a simpler one where we consume much lesser amounts of energy sooner or later.


   Nov 02

The Story of Stuff

Here is a video I found in the site called http://www.storyofstuff.com/ which highlights the evils of consumerism to the environment and its unfairness to the human society. I found it very insightful and it changed the way I think. I decided to share it here.

You can download the video here http://sosvids.s3.amazonaws.com/StoryOfStuff.mov


   Jun 26

Avatar

Homo Sapiens as we all know are the self proclaimed centre of the universe. They haven’t really managed to make themselves sustainable yet. There are a lot of other animals which have managed to do quite well.

some animals are naturally meant for sustainable survival. They can survive in any kind of weather, any kind of food intake or no food intake at all for a month. They will live even if some parts of their body is cut off (including the brain). They are invulnerable to a lot of chemicals. They have no natural predators. They can face a nuclear explosion and yet manage to survive. When there is a shortage of males, the females can manage to reproduce in their absence through a different biological process. This is how they have managed to survive for over 200 Million years and span every part of the globe and will probably survive long after the humans are gone.

They however have one small weakness…

They can’t get back up when they are upside down and could prove fatal for them. What a flaw in design!


   Jun 04

World Environment Day

Today happens to be the World Environment day, the theme of this blog being ‘green’ gives me the perfect opportunity to make another post.

Most of today’s world’s fate is in the hands of policy makers in the government. There are however a lot of things that a civilian can do to contribute to the environment. Simple things that we do, simple changes we make to our lifestyle, can make our species sustainable. Here are a list of things that us normal people can do to protect the environment right in our offices/colleges.

OR ?

On the left you see something that is used once and then discarded and on the right you see something that is reused. The container on the left requires over 10 times more plastic compared to the one on the right to carry the same amount of water. Which one do you use?

OR OR ?

In a day, we make several trips to the water dispenser. Each time we end up using a paper cup or a plastic cup which are both bad for the environment. A steel tumbler however should be much better as you don’t dispose it after use. This can be extended to plates, spoons and other utensils.

So how do you dry your hands after washing them?

OR OR ?

Again paper is disposed and a hand-dryer consumes 2 KW of electrical power. A hand kerchief however solves both problems.

What kind of food do you prefer?

OR ?

Here is the life-cycle of packaged food.
The raw materials are transported from very specific places to a factory where manufacturing takes place.
The factory consumes energy to manufacture the product whatever it is.
It adds chemical preservatives to the food and residue chemicals are discarded to the rivers and seas.
It is then packaged probably in plastic bottles, covers, wrappers and so on.
It is then transported to its destination, probably exported.
It is then preserved in refrigerators/vending machines in a place where you can collect it for consumption.
After consumption, it is either recycled which again consumes energy or it is dumped in landfills, polluting the environment.

Packaged food is always bad compared to regular readily available food from an environmental point of view.

So do you print documents and later shred them?

AND ?

35% of all the trees felled are for the manufacture of paper. Every 6000 A4 sized papers, you consume, you kill a huge tree! Not all paper is made from grass/bagasse. Over-using recycled paper is no good either because it has a high opportunity cost and can be used else where. Besides, it takes a lot of energy to recycle paper. Reuse before you Reduce before you recycle!

Your Desktop computer can contribute as well. Here is how you can save some precious calories in your computer.

  • Auto shut-down in firefox. You can find the plugin here. For other browsers, you can find alternatives. You don’t have to keep your computer on all night waiting for it to download stuff.
  • Turn of your monitor, when not in use. The CRT monitors consume a lot of electricity, around 100 Watts. You can save a unit in 10 hours.
  • Turn of screen-saver, change it to a blank screen. A blank screen serves the purpose of a screen saver and also saves energy.
  • Hibernate instead of suspend/sleep. Hibernation consumes no energy at all.
  • The most obvious one, shut down your computer when not in use. A PC consumes around 50 Watts even when idle. It takes time to boot but is it more important than the environment?

A simple compromise of a bit of your convenience can do a lot for our environment. Save it before its too late. Please drop in your comments! Debates are welcome!


   May 31

Kaziranga

I am about to make my first post in this blog and I want it to be a quick and a happy one. There are just around 1400 tigers left in India according to estimates. This is sad news for us as the numbers are dwindling down year by year as poachers continue to haunt the national animal of India. Once upon a time, the asiatic lion found in the Gir forest of India was the national animal of India. After its numbers fell, the tiger took over its place. Will the number of tigers continue to fall? Will the national animal of India change again? Only time will tell. There are however instances in our own history where miracles have happened because of fruitful efforts. The remaining part of this post will be about one such miracle.

The Kaziranga national park is a park located in Assam, North East India; Its One of the most famous parks of India because it has three of the biggest land animals in the world. The Indian Elephant, the Great Indian One Horned Rhino and the Wild Water Buffalo. Bengal Tiger is one of the predators found there. It also has a wide variety of birds and is an ‘important bird area’. Around two thirds of the Indian horned rhinos are found in Assam (2006 out of around 3000 estimated).

In 1905, according to estimates there were just 12 rhinoceros left in the forests there. This was largely because this magnificent creature used to be hunted for its thick skin and horns. Immediate action was taken and the forest land was declared as protected. It was extended in the following years however hunting prevailed. In 1968, it was declared a designated national park by independent India. Since then the number of rhinos and elephants have grown exponentially and today there are around 2000 rhinos in the park. Poaching continues, however the numbers have continued to rise. This is a great example that shows nature can restore itself when left alone undisturbed. There is plenty of hope for tigers in our country and we need not change our national animal yet again. As promised, this has been a short and a happy blog. Please leave a comment as it you liked this post and want more.

[ Source Wikipedia ]