Archive for the ‘climate change’ category

Climate change and butterflies

23 March 2010

This report appeared in the Statesman on 19 Mar 2010. For the first time, cause-effect relationship between climate change and a living organism has been shown with regards to a butterfly, the Common Brown, Heteronympha merope in Melbourne.

Common Brown (Heteronympha merope)

Image Credit

Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints!

10 January 2010

Chief Seattle, whose letter warns us of the need to hold nature dear in our hearts.

At a time when the people of the world cannot agree what to do about climate change and when England is completely covered with snow as if replaying the events of the 2004 film  “The Day After Tomorrow“, it is pertinent to remember the words of a very famous Native American, Chief Si’ahl (anglicised as Seattle).

Chief Si’ahl (c. 1780 – June 7, 1866) , the leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes in what is now the American state of Washington, allegedly wrote the letter in the 1800s to the United States Government.

It is less important to know whether he wrote it or not, than to know what is said in it.

Chief Seattle’s Letter

“The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.

We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the dew in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family.

But how can you buy or sell the sky? the land?

The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each glossy reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father.

The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give the rivers the kindness that you would give any brother.

If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life that it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.

Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.

This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

A minimal footprint on nature – Native American girls gathering berries.

One thing we know: our God is also your God. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.

Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted with talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is to say goodbye to the swift pony and then hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.

When the last red man has vanished with this wilderness, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?

We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it, as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children, and love it, as God loves us.

As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you.

One thing we know – there is only one God. No man, be he Red man or White man, can be apart. We ARE all brothers after all.”

This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth.

This letter, a famous speech and many quotations (including the title of this post) are alleged to have been quoted by Chief Si’ahl.

Read more about Chief Si’ahl here and his quotations here.

Credits Clouds over hills image (author : vsz/Victor Szalvay, CC-BY-SA 2.0), Palouse fields (author : Dsdugan, public domain)- all these images are of Washington State where Chief Si’ahl lived with his tribe. The image Native American girls picking berries (author : Edward S. Curtis, 1868-1952, public domain) as well as the other images, are from Wikimedia Commons. Chief Seattle’s image though public domain and available in Wikimedia Commons was selected from a website using Google Images.

Whither India on climate change!

6 December 2009

Snigdha Kar

This blog is graced by guest articles from its readers from time to time. We have already seen articles by Sarabjeet Singh and Shyamal. The guest writer is free to choose from any of the subjects with which this blog is concerned and the topic post is also of his/her choice.

This time, on the eve of the Copenhagen summit, we have a guest post from a young climate change activist – Snigdha Kar who chose to write on the subject closest to her heart – Climate change and India!

Here is a short biodata :

Snigdha Kar is a Zoology graduate who has worked as an Environment Educator with BNHS. While working in Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, she was fascinated by the importance of each species on earth and how each species is interdependent on the other. This experience has motivated her to work for saving the nature specially biodiversity conservation. She believes that awareness is one of the solutions for climate change, a major threat to biodiversity which has not received adequate recognition from the Indian wildlife community. Presently pursuing masters in Geographical Information Systems, Snigdha is a keen birdwatcher and photographer. Snigdha is an active member of the Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN), a coalition uniting Indian youth and Indian youth-oriented organisations who are concerned about climate change.

Whither India on climate change!


Snigdha Kar

There has been considerable discussion on COP15 arising out of the meetings at Bangkok, Bonn, Barcelona and elsewhere. So many bilateral dialogues between countries, especially the debate between India, China and the global community, their follow-through the net, I am left wondering what exactly is it that we will be discussing at Copenhagen? More specifically, what will India be speaking and expecting : Will it be India’s stand of the developed world taking stringent emission cuts? Or Will it be the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012? Or Will it be common but differentiated responsibility? And Continuing with Annex I and Annex II definitions? Being part of Indian Youth Climate Network, I had the privilege of meeting some of the present and past negotiators like Mr. Shyam Saran, Mr. Surya Sethi, Dr. Nitin Desai, Ambassador Dasgupta and, best of all, informally with our Minister Mr. Jairam Ramesh as well.

We discussed and debate over lots of issues with these honourable negotiators but I am still very, very confused on how Government of India will approach the global negotiators. Obviously, they are not opening their cards at this stage but even after following and tracking the actions in detail over the last few months, I am unable to second-guess them. Right now I feel that our Prime Minister Dr. Singh might participate in the COP15 and through one of my contacts, I have learned that Mr. Pranab Mukerjee will be visiting Copenhagen for a day. (Current news reports have proved my belief right.)


The discussions have led me to believe with growing certainty that is a tangible difference in opinion between our negotiators. So would Dr. Singh be participating in COP to balance the two sides or will he pass on clear lucid instructions to guide the negotiators’ work?

Or to put it crudely, what’s the deal India desires?

If the US absolutely refuses to do things as we expect, which is quite possible then are we going to keep at it like the tongue reaches for a sore tooth? Will our preoccuation with the US monopolize our focus to the point that we say chuck the whole world, we will work within our borders to become the one developing country which did the best with the resources
available to us?

What are the chances of getting a fair and equitable deal at Copenhagen?

Many experts are predictably pessimistic; but being young, I don’t share their gloomy worldview. Today’s youth has a responsibility to make the policy makers accountable for their actions as whatever they do today will affect our future drastically. I sincerely hope that some kind of sane and positive political agreement will be made at the end of this year.

This is really a crucial time; the effects of global warming are very visible and the developing countries like ours are more vulnerable to the adverse effect of temperature rise. Our agriculture depends on monsoon; change in rainfall pattern has decreased our crop yield. We have a long coast line and will suffer if the sea level rises.

Sad to say, most of us should be aware of these likely consequences and their effect on our lives. I should not need to say too much on this.

Needed – A New Paradigm

Part of our problem is that we are hypocrites! When we talk about inequity in global climate dialogue, our policy makers conveniently forget about the inequity within the nation?

One of the leading Indian negotiators has said:

“I know there is inequity within India but this does not means that I will accept inequity in international forum.”

My question to him is what are you doing to reduce this inequity within our own country? Is it fair to dislocate thousands of people from the area they are living for years to build a nuclear plant? Must people living next to a thermal power plant need to experience the silent and deadly mercury poisoning but not reap any benefits of the electricity as they are not connected to grid?

Whom is this energy security for? The industries or the people who are rich and lives in cities like Delhi or Mumbai? Is it not the correct time to redefine the word “development” for which we are fighting in such global negotiations?

Its not that difficult to shift the paradigm of development toward a low carbon pathway. The National Action Plan on Climate Change has set very ambitious targets but I don’t any action or political will to push for action to meet those targets.

When nothing happens on ground, how can the result be anything but a big ZERO? The solar mission has set high targets which give us hope that poor villages will get clean, cheap and reliable domestic power supply. But once again, no steps has been taken. There is lack of communication between two ministries. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy was not aware about the solar mission until the PM’s document was released.

Similarly the Ministry of Railways doesn’t quite know how to mitigate the overcrowding in the transport sector by multiplying India’s freight capacities manifold! So what the pessimists feel appears to be true! With so much institutional neglect, lack of political will and the myriad complications in Indian politics, what can any citizen of India reasonably expect from Copenhagen?

If the powers that be recognise the essetial need to address energy inequity in our country, then and then alone will our nation be secure even if we get the most favourable terms in Copenhagen.

Can the discussion at Copenhagen be about realising that its the duty of each one of us to save Nature from catastrophic effects of climate change and by each one of us I mean every country of the world. Rather than playing a blame game of who is responsible for what percentage of damage, can we agree on a common responsibility of protecting our future?

We are sailing in one boat, now whomsoever has made the hole, its the responsibility of everyone to repair it otherwise all of us will sink. Somebody will have to come up with material to block the hole and that’s what the developing countries are asking for technology and financial transfer but it doesn’t mean that the developing countries can’t do anything without support. If someone put fire on your house, would you wait for him to support you to reduce the fire, come on its your home and you will have to save it.

There are ways in which each one of us can contribute to save the earth. Yes, I am talking about lifestyle change. I have done this and hope many of you are doing so. We still have the responsibility to make our policy makers accountable. I would like to request you all to raise your voice against issues which you think are critical. We have chosen our leaders and we can, must, will ask them what they are doing for our country.

About the Copenhagen deal, why worry about what America does or doesn’t, KP or not, common but differentiated or not? Are resources really a problem? If India just restructures its leaking and completely illogical subsidy structures then we could be in a position to fund not only our carbon sequestration but also projects in our neighboring countries. So the question of requiring funds from the West is gone. Are we going to have the guts to take leadership on dismantling our subsidies and creating resources within the country for everything from efficient and intelligent public transport to a spread of renewable like never before?

Are we talking technology for doing all this? I thought we had the best brains in the world? And anyway when we have the money from the source above then we can import the best solutions.

Sadly, the discussion in Copenhagen is not about climate change – its about the economics and politics of nations only. Whatever is the result of that deal, the fact remains that every leak has to be plugged in, every little done. There is no respite from responsibility in case of climate change. No sweet Lethe to bemuse us into procastination.

The time is Now for all of us – Copenhagen or not!

I would like highlight Anupam Mishra’s focus on ‘philosophical’ angle to the climate problem. So far, our emphasis has been on scientific solutions, which has caused more problems than it solves.

Science appeals to the mind, but philosophy fills the heart; both approaches are complementary for the optimal solution!

Lets try our best right now so that our descendants may live to see a clean, green world.

Yes we can, So they did!

16 February 2009

Paraphrasing poorly from Thomas Friedman and Obama, I found this looking me in the face when I looked up the Sunday e-paper from New York Times.

Thomas Friedman met two young foreign women in India during an energy conference. They came all the way from the US to India to organise a climate-change solution publicity caravan. They got some Reva electric cars, put up a solar panel roof, inspired others to join them and are safari-ing around India! They did this because they felt that India was so large, so much innovation was going on but people didnt know what was going on at other places, so they resolved to do something about it, and they did!

And you know what, they are right! I had to learn about this from a NYT E-paper op ed. My local copies of newspapers did not carry this news to me! Boy do we need networking!