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The Birds

Originally posted on Ramble On:

Lately, my Dad’s been experiencing the empty nest syndrome – and it has nothing to do with my brother and me. (We wouldn’t leave if pushed!) It’s the little family of red-vented bulbuls that had become part of our family for a few weeks that he misses.

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It started with mamma bird and papa bird scouting the neighbourhood for the ideal spot for their home, however transient. And you know what they say about real estate – it’s all about location, location, location. Apparently, all the trees in the apartment complex weren’t as perfect as the curtain rods in my parents’ drawing room.

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They didn’t seem afraid of us, and flew rather confidently into the room whenever they pleased. My Dad welcomed them in by leaving the balcony door open almost all the time. On the rare occasion that it was shut, they’d patiently wait outside. We also had to…

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An interview with David Pimentel

Originally posted on Grist:

Any worthy idea can withstand and even be improved by naysayers; scolds and skeptics play the useful role of pointing out obvious flaws. The biofuels industry has no more persistent, articulate, and scathing critic than David Pimentel, professor emeritus of entomology at Cornell University.

David Pimentel.

Photo: Chris Hallman / Cornell University Photography.

In 1979, with the price of oil surging and a politically connected company called Archer Daniels Midland investing heavily in ethanol production, the U.S. Department of Energy invited Pimentel to chair an advisory committee to look at ethanol as a gasoline alternative. The committee’s conclusion: ethanol requires more energy to produce than it delivers.

That assessment didn’t stop the government from enacting a variety of subsidies for ethanol, which has since developed into a multibillion-dollar industry. Nor has Pimentel refrained from issuing a series of scholarly articles claiming to show that, after decades of steady government…

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Chernobyl’s birds are adapting to ionising radiation

Birds in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl are adapting to – and may even be benefiting from – long-term exposure to radiation, ecologists have found. The study, published in the British Ecological Society’s journal Functional Ecology, is the first evidence that wild animals adapt to ionising radiation, and the first to show that birds which produce most pheomelanin, a pigment in feathers, have greatest problems coping with radiation exposure.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-04-chernobyl-birds-ionising.html#jCp

 

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Coca Cola Draining Groundwater Stores In India

Originally posted on Global Truths:

Coca Cola is one of the most recognisable brands in the world today, arguably second after McDonalds; however it is also one of the most degrading to the environment. The company uses enough water every day to meet the worlds drinking requirements for ten days (The Ecologist 2009), a large amount of which doesn’t go into its drinks. Coca Cola is severely depleting groundwater supplies in several states in India, causing water famines and farmers crops to fail. 70% of Indians’ livelihoods centre around agriculture (The Ecologist 2009), therefore a drop in water can have fatal consequences for their business and consequently their communities. Coca Cola has invested around $1 billion in India, making it one of the country’s largest international investors, and employs around 7,000 people (CSR Asia 2005), in its 52 bottling plants (About.com 2012), all of which are depleting groundwater stores.

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Mehdiganj’s Groundwater Table

In the case…

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My conservation education experience with children

In 2013, I took up something I never did before. Though journalism is and always be my first love, there was something that was going on in my mind when it comes to conservation. How can we tell the children the importance of forests and its links to the water we get everyday?

In South India, almost 69 rivers originate from the Western Ghats. The mountains absorbs the rains during monsoon and reserves it. Then it slowly releases the water-drops of water form small rivulets, then a stream flows, and finally the river gushes, giving us our daily supply of water.

The film that portrays this in its best is Save our Sholas by Shekar Dattatri

A bit about the film:

Titled ‘SOS – Save Our Sholas’, the 24-minute film, narrated by celebrated conservationist, Valmik Thapar, showcases the rich biodiversity of the southern Western Ghats forests and the problems that beset this fragile landscape. The film lays particular emphasis on the immense water harvesting capacity of these forests, and underlines the fact that all the major rivers of peninsular India originate in the Western Ghats.

“We felt that a crisp film on the subject was sorely needed as an educational aid, particularly in schools and colleges, to introduce young people to the immense importance of shola forests. It is very gratifying that Delhi based Centre for Media Studies has selected the film for its ‘Greening Young Minds’ project, and is distributing the film to ten thousand schools across India”.

I was fortunate that I was screening this film across 19 schools reaching to 11,000 students last year in Chennai. 

The approach to conservation needs to be linked to human lives in today’s world. If we say, we need to protect the forests, why? We don’t care if forests exist or not? We live in urban areas. Some school principals even raised this question to me when I asked for a time slot for screening. I diligently explained the link and things fell in place.

Children come with such amazing questions. The film not just captures the link between forest and water but also explains the natural behavior of creatures that thrive in these sholas-Travancore Tortoise, King Cobra, weaver ants and even termites, which have a huge role to play in the forest. There was no tiger brouhaha here. It was about smaller creatures of the forest. 

Some pictures from my experience with children. 

I took this chance to screen the film in most of the government schools than the usual schools. These children seldom get such opportunities. It was a good opportunity for me to know the species of animals and birds in my mother tongue.

Children watching King Cobra in fear and excitement!

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That was one such moment! I watched their curious faces.

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At Bentick School where I addressed 1000 students. The screening and interaction session with children was done in Tamil.

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After repeated screenings (sometimes even 4-6 in a day) with no meal or rest, talking continuously, I never felt tired! I wanted to know what children felt about water and the need to save forests. 

A girl at Chennai government school answers my question (Class five)

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On the other side, children from BVM Global school were so enthusiastic and excited that I had to spend a lot of energy in raising my voice, despite the mike. They knew Cicadas (the insect that makes noise in the forest) and many other creatures!

They also asked many many questions.

BVM Bollineni Hillside

 

 

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She was petrified watching King Cobra swallow a rat snake (its favourite meal)

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Answering inquisitiveness :)

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At Chinmaya Vidyalaya, the most obedient and quiet children I have ever addressed

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The largest number of students I addressed was in Holy Angels school (1500 students, class 4 to 9). Many of them wanted to do more than water saving in school and home. They wanted to volunteer and that was inspiring. 

The maximum number of questions came from BVM Global (40 questions). I took them all and spent the longest interactive session of almost 90 minutes with them. There were some questions like what is anaconda comes face to face with King cobra, will they fight? 

Why are we humans so bad? We know its not right to destroy forest but why do we do it? I smile at them and say you can start making a difference and talk to others about it and together we change.

There was one unforgettable kid in my experience. Himanshu from LM Dadha School. He was phenomenal. A student of class 6, he knew already that 33% forest cover has to be maintained. He explained so many things to me, ants carrying geckos which are larger than their weight, the critical role of termites in decomposition, forest fires. I have an audio recording of his talk which I will post soon on this blog.

Change can happen in different ways, first, through awareness and when children are already aware, bring them to action, tell them what they can do, let them experience nature and rebuild their connection with the natural world. I am sure many of my students are spreading the word and embarking on a change. The experience of answering children (tougher than answering adults because they are so innocent and genuine and they ask the right questions) was amazing. I learned more than what I gave.

I was running this show alone. But it would not have been possible with the support of the National Green Corps Head, Mr Thangaraj, school teachers, principals, helpers, and the lovely children. Kudos to Shekar for making this film. Honoured to be knowing him and sharing my experiences!

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Study documents effects of road noises on migratory birds

Phys.org) —A first-of-its-kind study by Boise State University researchers shows that the negative effects of roads on wildlife are largely because of traffic noise.

Biologists have known that bird populations decline near roads. But pinpointing noise as a cause has been a problem because past studies of the effects of road noise on wildlife were conducted in the presence of the other confounding effects of roads. These include visual disturbances, collisions and chemical pollution, among others.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-11-documents-effects-road-noises-migratory.html#jCp

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SSTCN: 25 YEARS OF CONSERVATION by V. ARUN

Originally posted on Students' Sea Turtle Conservation Network:

Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network, commonly known as SSTCN, has completed its 25th consecutive year as a voluntary organisation. We have been working on the beaches of Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India since 1988. Olive ridley turtles nest in this region between January and April. We begin our walks each night around 1am, take a one hour break at 3am if we haven’t found a turtle or nest, and then continue monitoring the beach until at least 5am.
Since 2009, we have covered two stretches of beach, north (6km long) and south (8km long) of the Adyar River. The beaches north and south of the Adyar River have very different dynamics. Nesting on the southern beach begins and ends early in the season, while the opposite pattern is observed on the northern beach as nesting begins later and more slowly but lasts for longer.
In 2013, the southern beach yielded 120…

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