Have your luxuries, but spare a thought for the environment

Is there a way to live extravagantly and still save the planet?

Extravagance. Amazing cars with powerful engines and huge exhausts and half a kilometre of unleaded petrol per litre, air cons anytime everywhere, huge houses, lots of servants, expensive furniture, real leather, fur, mink, how many of us are drooling as we read this?


Let us admit it. We love extravagance. Unless we have religious reasons to stay away from something or the other, we just have to have everything. Let us just admit it; we are all not the Mahatma. That requires an extraordinary strength of mind, and more than a little madness in the blood. How many of us can boast of these characteristics?

But we all would like to see a green world, a clean world, one where you see natural beauty everywhere you turn, where breathing is a healthy and a pleasing thing to do, rather than a necessity you would avoid if you could (how many times do we walk the city with our hands over our noses?).

So how do we achieve both? How do we achieve that elusive balance between extravagance and environmental-friendly living? How do we enjoy our luxuries without feeling guilty, or wondering whether we are contributing to global warming?

By being aware, of course. You want to buy that car? That incredibly expensive car that people will stare at every time you take it out (or rather, try to spot it, because you are not driving below a hundred when you take that car out)? Go ahead, then, buy it.

But also include walking into your routine. Sure, if you want to zip on the highway, that car makes perfect sense. Sure, if you want to show off to your gym buddies, take it there. But to the grocery store? I am pretty sure those people at the grocery store really couldn’t care for the car you come in to buy your milk. Walk. Walk to your grocery store. In fact, why don’t you chart a mental map? Walk to all those places that are from a ten to fifteen-minute walk from your house.

When you go shopping, try parking your car five minutes away from the mall and walk. Saves that much petrol, and stops that much pollution. Five minutes. Can’t kill you. And even if you do have really heavy bags to carry, you could always come back and drive your car to the entrance to take them in, or ask the shop boys to help you. If for no other reason, they will help you for ten bucks out of your pocket.

Can’t be bothered to turn all lights and fans (sorry, a/c) off when you are not using them? All right, don’t. Can you turn one light off? By turning off that one light, you save that much energy. Just a pinch, maybe, but saving that pinch is better than wasting that pinch, don’t you think so?

Too cool to carry your own cloth bag to the grocery store? Ok, don’t. But you can at least make sure they put everything in one, or two bags, rather than using too many bags, cant you? I am sure that is not much of a sacrifice. But it saves that much plastic.

Too lazy to find a dustbin on the road? All right, don’t. But as you are walking, or driving, you will come across garbage heaps on the side of the road. Throw your garbage there at least. That way, you are still showing some civic sense, aren’t you?

Oh yes, go ahead and spend all the money you have on all the luxuries you can buy. Just make sure that you save wherever you can. That is all you need to do. So stop feeling guilty about all the harm you are causing society, and get involved in some any planet-saving activity. The smallest gesture makes a difference. And the word is awareness.

Sophia Yusuf – From THE HINDU

Munia birds rescued

Munia Bird

Coimbatore: Following a tip off from a nature enthusiast, Forest officials on Monday rescued four Munia birds (small finchlike Asian birds) from a person and fined him for the offence.

The team deputed by Conservator of Forests, Coimbatore Circle, R.Kannan and District Forest Officer, I. Anwardeen and led by Forester S.M. Natarajan apprehended P. Murugesan (35) of Dharmapuri, currently working in Tirupur, after he was found in possession of four birds belonging to Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act.

Preliminary enquiries revealed that a house owner in his area in Tirupur gave the birds to Murugesan asking him to either free them or sell them. Murugesan was trying his luck to make some money by selling them.

The birds were found in iron cages.

Based on his information, Forest officials have asked the officials in Tirupur to ascertain the source of these birds from the house owner to track down the primary seller of Munia birds. Murugesan was fined Rs. 1,000 for the offence.


Nature’s gift

A treat:Drops of rainwater that cling to flowers in Coimbatore. — Photo: S.Siva Saravanan


Lizards succumb to global warming

Climate change is already sending reptile populations extinct worldwide.

By 2080, global warming could result in one-fifth of the world’s lizard species becoming extinct, a global study has found.

Even under the most optimistic scenarios for curbing carbon dioxide emissions, the analysis by an international team shows that one-fifth of the globe’s lizard populations, corresponding to 6% of all lizard species, may go extinct by 2050.

“We’ve committed ourselves to that,” says Barry Sinervo, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who led the study. He and his colleagues found that climate change has already driven 12% of the populations of Mexico’s colourful Sceloporus lizards extinct since 1975.

If emissions continue at current levels, he predicts that by 2080, 39% of the world’s lizard populations will have vanished, corresponding to a 20% loss in species. The study is published in Science this week1.

About one eighth of Mexican populations of Sceloporus lizards have died out since 1975. F.R.M. de la Cruz

It’s a stunning finding, says Raymond Huey, an evolutionary physiologist at the University of Washington, Seattle, who wasn’t part of the study team. “Lizards are animals that should be very tolerant of climate warming,” he says.
Wave of extinction

Sinervo wasn’t intending to study extinctions. Rather, he had planned to use a Eurasian lizard, Lacerta vivipara, to examine the role of coloration in lizard evolution. But when he went to sites in France, Italy, Solovenia and Hungary where Lacerta had been studied, the lizards weren’t always there. A few years later, he found that Mexico’s Sceloporus lizards were also vanishing.

Concerned, he assembled a team to examine the issue globally. Studying reports of extinctions on five continents, the scientists concluded that the problem is widespread.

“It’s happening really, really fast,” Sinervo says. “We’re seeing a massive extinction wave sweeping across the planet.”

Huey warns that not seeing lizards doesn’t mean that they’re not there. They may just have been overlooked. “Populations go up and down,” he says. Still, he notes, Sceloporus is very conspicuous. “It would be hard to miss.”

“These kinds of studies take a lot of work, and people have just recently started to do them,” says Anthony Barnosky, a palaeoecologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of Heatstroke: Nature in an Age of Global Warming (Island Press, 2009).

Of the handful of similar analyses, a 2008 study found population losses in amphibians living in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming2, and another found that small mammals in Yosemite National Park in California had tracked warming temperatures in the past century by shifting their range3.
Feeling the heat

Lizard disappearances in the areas the team studied can’t be due to habitat destruction because they’re occurring where habitat has been protected. Rather, hotter sites close to the equator or at low altitudes are most likely to lose their lizards.

To see how hotter climates damaged the reptiles, Sinervo’s team created a dummy lizard, set it out in the sun at sites in the Yucatán peninsula where Sceloporus is found and where it had gone extinct, and monitored its temperature. Like all organisms, lizards must avoid overheating and keep their body temperature within a certain range to survive.

The problem, the team found, seems to be warmer springtimes, rather than higher maximum temperatures at midday or in midsummer.

Higher temperatures in spring mean that the animals spend less of the breeding season out foraging and more time in the shade. “That is the time of year that females need the maximum amount of food,” says Huey. “If the temperature gets higher in the spring, then the lizards restrict their activity. They simply may not have enough active time to catch enough food.”

Underfed females do not have the resources needed to make young, causing populations to crash.

The ecological consequences of lizard extinctions are unknown. “If Barry’s right or even close to right,” Huey says, “the world as we know it will be very different. Lizards are primarily insect eaters. So if a population goes extinct, that will affect the insects living there. Lizards are also prey for many snakes, birds, mammals and some other lizards. But how serious those [effects] will be is going to be very difficult to predict.”

By Richard Lovett From Nature

Stringent action for illegal felling of trees: Minister

Selvaraj inspects a private area near Geddhai where trees have been allegedly cut

Udhagamandalam: Steps will be taken to to prevent illegal tree felling, said Forest Minister N. Selvaraj while speaking to presspersons near Geddhai on Tuesday.

Pointing out that the amount of fine imposed does not match the offence, he felt that it should be increased.

Stating that the purpose of his visit was to inspect on the orders of the Chief Minister a private area near Geddhai where a large number of trees including valuable ones had allegedly been cut and a road laid to transport them, he claimed that it had been found that no valuable trees had been felled and the road was in existence for many decades. Only some trees used for fire wood had been cut.

District-level panel

Pointing out that there is a district-level committee to deal with applications for felling trees, Mr. Selvaraj said that stringent action would be taken against those who brought down trees without the clearance of the committee.

When asked about the proposed elephant corridor at Sigur near the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, he said that the government will give its report to the High Court only after ensuring that the corridor was properly identified and the people are not affected.

Boar menace

He added that efforts would be made to tackle the wild boar menace in agricultural fields.

Among those present were the Khadi Board Minister, K. Ramachandran, the Conservator of Forests, R. Kannan, and the Field Director, Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, Rajiv K. Srivastava.


It is time to act now and do something to save agriculture

A Mechanical Engineering degree from an Indian Institute of Technology is a passport to a wide horizon of opportunities for any student. But for R. Madhavan, who passed out of IIT-Madras in 1986 and took up farming as an industrial enterprise, it was a means to redefine the role of engineers. From being considered a fitting candidate for psychiatric counselling to an inspirational figure, he has come a long way. He spoke to Ajai Sreevatsan recently about his journey.

“In India, food is so expensive. Nobody can afford food. Poor families spend 70 per cent of their monthly earnings on food,” says R. Madhavan. “Technology has to be used to improve productivity. The cost per unit has to come down. Educated youth should take up agriculture as an enterprise and start value adding in villages through processing centres. Best of the brains should look at agriculture.”

But unfortunately in India, he says, agriculture is considered a lowly occupation and lack of technological intervention means we produce less than other countries in spite of our natural endowments.

“Agriculture is a science. Each plant is an industry. It is a life,” he added. Having left his well paying job with ONGC in 1993 and using all the money he had saved to buy six acres in Chengalpattu, he set out to prove exactly that – with the application of science, much of the drudgery and misery associated with farming can be overcome.

“At first, it was extremely difficult. There was no technology and nobody had practical information. All that the university departments could offer me were photo copies of books. How do you do farming with that?” asks Mr. Madhavan.

Eventually he learnt his ropes through trial and error and by devising a concept which he calls e-farming. He corresponded with an agronomist based in California – sending him pictures of crop growth, putting queries about pest control and then adapting solutions to Indian conditions.

The experience was an eye-opener he says. “I never realised so much of science is required in farming.” For example, 13 elements have to be properly balanced for a particular soil to be suitable for cultivation. I religiously sent samples to the district soil testing laboratory. But I soon realised that without even analysing, they were giving me a photo report copy assuming that soil samples from a particular district will have the same composition. That is like saying if you come from Tambaram, you have cancer.”

According to him, the disconnect between agricultural universities and farmers is vast. “Students are not being taught how to farm. They are being taught how to get a certificate. Farmer does not know why agriculture universities exist.”

Pointing out that 46 per cent of children in India suffer from malnutrition and we are worse off than Sub-Saharan Africa in child malnutrition he says the time to act is now and something urgent must be done to agriculture for the sake of future generations.


WWF: 2009 Public Service Announcements

Don’t Wait Till It’s Gone !

We have reached a moment in the history of Earth where the actions we take will determine whether or not our children will live in a world with magnificent animals such as the polar bear, swim in an ocean filled with iridescent corals and marine life, or stroll through a dense forest.

While issues such as climate change, scarcity of freshwater, overfishing and deforestation are covered in the news, many people don’t understand how these things can affect their lives. In response, WWF has launched a new Public Service Announcement campaign to make these connections and show what is at risk if we wait to, or worse do not, take action. 

At WWF, we’re working harder than ever before to save threatened species and the habitats that sustain them. Learn more about our work to protect the future of nature.

For More Informationa and Video