Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why vegeterianism ? some points to ponder

What do George Bernard Shaw, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Leo Tolstoy, Leonardo Da Vinci, Paul McCartney, and Pythagoras have in common? If your answer
is they're all towering figures of European culture, you're only half right. The answer is: they've all been passionate promoters of vegetarianism. While Pythagoras dealt with three straight lines, McCartney sang about the long and winding road. Indeed, the effort to promote vegetarianism has been a very long and very winding road. But with the former Beatle's initiative of meat-free Mondays, and the Belgian town of Ghent pledging to go vegetarian one day a week to do its share for the planet, the only direction that road is heading is forward.

While these laudable actions are finally grabbing headlines in the West, in India vegetarianism has quietly been a way of life for centuries. But, whereas in Europe and America vegetarianism goes hand in hand with liberalism and progressive values, the opposite seems true in India. It is almost as if meat eating is seen as an act of rebellion against 'orthodox' society, a sort of status symbol drawing on western ideals. With many Indians upwardly mobile, increase in purchasing power has seen a parallel rise in meat consumption. Unfortunately those who have turned non-vegetarian are often unaware of the direct causal relationship between what they eat and the poorest having nothing to eat. Put simply, over-consumption of meat directly contributes to world hunger.

India, where precious national parks are already under threat from illegal cattle-grazing, is the world's eighth largest producer of meat. Despite the sacred place cows occupy in Hindu culture, and despite the importance of buffaloes in agricultural work, India continues to churn out an annual 4.9 million tonnes of meat. Statistics compiled by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) show that the total number of animals slaughtered for meat in India nearly doubled from 66,299,600 in 1980 to 106,239,000 in 2000. In a world increasingly facing scarcity with regard to basic human requirements, as evidenced all too clearly in last year's global food shortages, increasing meat production looks to be progressively unsustainable.

Rearing animals for human consumption is a grain-intensive process. According to Kaushik Basu, professor of economics at Cornell University, as the populations of India and China begin to consume more meat, an increasingly greater strain will be placed on grain supplies, exacerbating world hunger. It's a point also made very clearly by David Pimentel, professor of ecology at Cornell University: "If all the grain currently fed to livestock in the United States were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million."

Ksenia Glebova, a member of the Finnish Green Party turned vegetarian after volunteering in India. "The meat industry wastes huge quantities of food and water which are required to raise animals. Instead these resources could be used far more efficiently and equitably," comments Globova. Her call is supported by research from Cornell University, which reveals that for every kilogram of grain-fed beef, 100,000 litres of water are used. This finding is nothing new to animal rights organisations that believe alleviating the suffering of animals also helps alleviate human suffering.

Most crucially, as governments around the world struggle to lower their dependence on fossil fuels responsible for pumping millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we must also recognise the part played by our diet. The FAO has found that global livestock production constitutes 18 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions. This figure is expected to more than double by 2050, precisely because of increased meat consumption in developing countries such as India.

"In terms of immediacy of action and the feasibility of bringing about reductions in a short period of time, going vegetarian clearly is the most attractive opportunity," says Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

There are various compelling ethical reasons to abandon animal slaughter. The conditions of animals in slaughterhouses are heart-wrenching. They led Bernard Shaw to highlight the key point that slaughterhouses are kept far away from human eyes because that makes meat much easier to digest. As Jane Goodall so succinctly said: "Thousands of people who say they 'love' animals sit down once or twice a day to enjoy the flesh of creatures who have been utterly deprived of everything that could make their lives worth living and who endured the awful suffering and the terror of the abattoirs."

Perhaps the next time we sit down to dinner, we should think about what we are doing. Not just to the animals, but to the planet too. It may be a long and winding road to a green future. But there's only one way to go.
Source :- TOI

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The puzzle of surroundings that soothe...

The puzzle of surroundings that soothe...

Say you are living in less than optimal surroundings. Your upstairs neighbour routinely rearranges furniture at midnight. The dog next door is bored and lonely and loud. His owner snarls as you pass by. Your living room is the wrong shape, the windows are in the wrong place, and the paint colour that seemed so creatively chic five years ago is getting on your last nerve.

GREEN TRANQUILLITY: Why do certain colours and surroundings calm our minds and soothe our nerves?Say you are living in less than optimal surroundings. Your upstairs neighbour routinely rearranges furniture at midnight. The dog next door is bored and lonely and loud. His owner snarls as you pass by. Your living room is the wrong shape, the windows are in the wrong place, and the paint colour that seemed so creatively chic five years ago is getting on your last nerve.

Then you move. And as you bask in silence and symmetry, with pleasant neighbours, a soaring view and soothing white walls, you feel something in your brain click on. Or does it click off? Either way, you feel very good. What is doing the clicking, and why? These are the deceptively simple questions Esther Sternberg tries to answer in ‘Healing Spaces’, an exploration of environmental influences over the brain, the body and (all due respect to your new living situation, but there are more important issues at hand) the course of mental and physical disease.

Sternberg, a prominent neuroimmunologist at the National Institute of Mental Health, has given herself a gigantic assignment, incorporating architecture, aesthetics, psychology, neurobiology, physiology and aromatherapy, among many other disciplines. She can't quite pull it off, but her effort does define the complex parameters of what may well be one of the biggest remaining mysteries of medical science.

After all, if your brain can make you miserable in your living room, think how much worse things are likely to be in a standard-issue hospital room, surrounded by noise, confusion, bad smells and highly unscenic views. You would think that a science so adept at scanning the brain could figure out how to soothe it with equal dexterity.

But the neural circuitry responsible for mental ease, primal though it may be, is still staggeringly complex. Furthermore, the science describing the links between aesthetic and physical well-being — the infamous mind-body connection — is tentative and controversial, and most treatments have yet to be rigorously assessed.

Bricks and trees
It all begins with the five senses, which is where Sternberg begins, too: "If you were a patient in a hospital bed, just waking up from surgery, what would you prefer to see when you opened your eyes — a brick wall or a grove of trees?"

You may think you know the right answer and why, but consider all the variables scientists must consider to analyse your decision. Among them are the position of the bricks and the trees (different parts of the brain handle near and far objects) and the colours involved (our yellow-green vision was the first to evolve; is that why greenery pleases us?) Individual patients may have different conditioned responses to bricks and trees.

Further, do garden views really help abdominal incisions heal? A few small studies suggest they may, but can the findings be generalised to all patients, all bricks and all trees? How about nearsighted patients, sunny brick walls and dying trees? And that's only the beginning. Sound and smell must also be considered, and then there is the sense of place, spatial orientation and direction, a composite experience so finely tuned that losing your way in a strange dark place (like a hospital basement on the way to radiology) can bring on the worst sort of stress, but walking slowly and deliberately along the hedge-lined corridors of a garden is a recipe for tranquillity.

It is sobering to consider that among all the great minds who have explored these phenomena, Walt Disney was probably the most successful at the large-scale manipulation of the environment to soothe and cheer the brain. Even the scary rides at Disneyland — Sternberg deconstructs the Pirates of the Caribbean ride from a scientist's perspective — are carefully designed to click the brain's switches in all the right directions.

And so a new nursing home has a Disneyesque Main Street to calm the deteriorating neurons of its residents. Then it is only a small neurologic step to Lourdes in France, home of miracle cures, where a host of environmental cues may switch suitably prepared brains to a state of rapture, releasing a flood of potent neurochemical mediators that may well relieve suffering. Thus Sternberg outlines a tentative biology of the miraculous, which, as she hastens to point out, "would not diminish the wonder of the phenomenon."

Science Times

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dance of Monsoon

Even though monsoon is delayed, it has not disappointed us in the end. Monsoon is in full vigor in the malnad region. It is raining heavily over there in the Sharavathi valley. Water level in the Linganamakki reservoir raised of about 15 ft in a week !!!. As it is raining heavily, all streams are full so the water falls !. We had not seen the such a fury in the falls which are there in sharavathi valley before. Last weekend we had couple of treks, it was an amazing monsoon treks.

When it rains , Sharavathi valley becomes like a bride draped in green sarees and wearing jasmine flower on her pony tail !. Here green saree is the lush green grass and the jasmine flower is the cloud !!.

The landscape around kattinakar is so awesome to see as there are beautiful grass land and cloud kissing mountains around this place. This place is the main point for our all treks. The seen in the monsoon in this area is really treat to all nature lovers eyes.
I thought of sharing those visual treats with my fellow trekkers. Here are they,

Photos courtecy:- http://www.flickr.com/photos/wmsuperman/

While crossing a stream at Basavana baayi to reach the falls

Basavana baayi water falls

Belligundi Water falls

Up close

Goodana Gundi water falls (Nayagara of our state !!!)

Fore more visual treat, click on the fallowing

For blog by Vineeth on this trek,

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Very Interesting Interview of a Dynamic Central Environment Minister

The conflict between development and environment should not cause unnecessary delays, says Union Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh

Over the last five years, the Environment Ministry was seen as being on the defensive on actions that were projected as harming the environment. How can you change that?

I am aiming at transparency and working within the framework of the law, yet within a time limit, rather than making the conflict between development and environment cause unnecessary delays.

Since I have taken charge, I have sent back 10 to 12 proposals which required diversion of about 1,000 hectares of land in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh review. These were highway and railway projects, and of course the Navi Mumbai airport project, which would have meant removal of mangroves.

I have written to the chief ministers in all these cases. I have written to the Karnataka chief minister about projects in the western ghats, which is a very eco-sensitive place. About 1,900 acres of dense forests are being cut for a 400 Mw hydel project. I have said this can't be done.

All rejected proposals come back and get accepted in due course.

I am not a policeman. I can only work within the framework of two laws, The Environment Protection Act and the Forest Conservation Act. I have to implement these. I can do it like TN Seshan, who was once the environment secretary, or I can let everything pass.

I'm like an umpire. I will not favour either individuals or non governmental organisations. I will weigh issues for their merits. For instance, when NGOs opposed something, I did not bother because what was going to come up in the area was a school. But I put my foot down when I found that the Jabalpur-Nagpur six-lane highway would divide the tiger corridor. If we don't take a stand, all is gone. But I am helpless if decisions are taken at the political level.

What about foundation stones being laid before environmental clearances are given? Views of the people at public hearings don't influence the decision of the ministry.

There is all that. We can only try to change this. There is an attempt to get a new independent regulator. We are trying to see if independent bodies should conduct public hearings.

What is your priority now?

Cleaning of rivers and lakes. For 20 years, the Ganga Action Plan has spent Rs 1,200 crore. People can ask what happened. Most of the funds went into setting up sewage treatment plants, most of which are lying idle as the municipalities don't have the money to pay electricity bills.

How can the rivers be cleaned?

We need a new approach. We spend Rs 350 crore annually and distribute it among 164 towns. Each town gets a small amount and nothing gets done. Instead of looking at it from a town perspective, let us look at it from a river perspective.

Is there a model for this?

The Rhine was the dirtiest river 25 years ago, but today, six countries draw water from it for drinking.The Ganga basin authority, chaired by the prime minister, is a priority with the government. It has five chief ministers as members and we are expecting something for it in the Budget.

What about lakes?
I visited the Wular recently. There is no lake there. Only 2 million willow trees. I will have to uproot these to revive the lake. As for Dal lake , all you need to do is watch a 1960s Hindi film and visit the lake now to gauge the work ahead of me.

What is your strategy for afforestation?

Our green cover is 23 per cent of our total area and we want to increase it to 33 per cent. We manage to increase it by eight to nine hectare annually. To get green cover in a third of the country, we need to add 2.5 million hectare per year. We will start the Green India programme soon.

Plantations won't get you the bio-diversity that forests have. It would also encourage logging of more forests.

There is no substitute for forest cover. Compensatory forestry programme will give priority to regeneration of existing forests. Cutting forests and replacing them with eucalyptus plantations is no option. There is a difference in how we view forests. In the 1970s and 1980s, forests were seen as a source of revenue. But today, we see them as absorbing carbon, a source of rainfall. There is a proposal to amend the Indian Forest Act, 1927, to change the whole perspective about forests.

You have been talking about changing gross domestic product to green domestic product. How will you do that?

Your GDP growth might be 9 per cent but how you used your natural resources might get you a score of 5 per cent or even less. Our policies should be such that they are not a drain on forest resources.

You recently openly disagreed with Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal on scrapping of board exams and bringing in the Foreign Universities Bill.

I never said that. But I have always maintained that I am opposed to the Foreign Universities Bill. It will finish Indian universities while we will never get the best foreign universities here. And nor will it stop Indian students from studying abroad.

In the last three years, you had the ministry fighting on the side of industry against the tribals in Niyamagiri in Orissa. Why is the ministry not insisting on alternative sites, even when they are pointed out?

In India, 250 million people live in forests and depend on forests for their livelihood. Hence, bio-conservation of the western ghats and the north-eastern regions is very important. What is Project Tiger about? All 37 tiger parks are in areas rich in bio-diversity. They cover 6 per cent of our forest area. If we protect them, we achieve a lot more than protecting tigers. Two weeks ago, I went to Corbett and I was so angry when told that there was once a proposal to locate Uttarakhand's
there. That would have finished it off much earlier. Tiger is only a symbol of bio-diversity.

Yet, do you have means to stop such intrusions, especially mining?

The truth is that we pay lip service to environment protection. There is only one example when a political person decided to give importance to environment over industrial development. That was Indira Gandhi 25 years ago, when she stopped the Silent Valley project, which could have finished off the rich rain forests. We must learn to say no. Unless governments
take a firm position, we will keep making compromises.

As power minister, you were allowing power projects in forests and now you are learning to say no.

If I say there is no contradiction, I would be lying. We must make choices. Al Baruni, who came here with Mohammad Gazni, spoke of Hindus as people who cannot choose. If given two options, they would take both, he said. One has to take a clear stand.

What about the hydel projects in Arunachal, the Renuka dam in Himachal, and several dams on the Teesta in Sikkim. We don't seem to be ready for compromises when it comes to energy.

That is horrible. I am talking to them. If I say no to one dam, others will get a signal.

The chairman of the Environment Impact Assessment Committee was found to be on the board of several power companies.

He has quit. Other committees are also being revamped. The chairman was on the board of Lanco, which got many projects in Sikkim.

Can these projects be reversed now?
Let us see.

Courtesy : - rediff.com