What are you reading this Earth Day?

http://www.earthamag.org/stories/2017/4/6/11-delightful-childrens-books-on-nature-and-environment

11 delightful children’s books on nature and environment

Here’s a list of books that are must-haves on your children’s bookshelves. And we wouldn’t be surprised if you ended up borrowing them to read as well.

 The Honey Hunter

Karthika Naïr and Joëlle Jolivet

Young Zubaan

This marvellous book done in pop colours takes you to the Sundarbans, introducing children to mangroves, the honey hunters, and the tiger. Karthika Naïr’s prose is eloquent, while Joëlle Jolivet’s illustrations will make you want to linger over each lavishly produced page.

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Baaware Beej

Vishakha Chanchani

Tulika Books

Tree babies, as a friend calls seeds, are magical things. And if there was a book that would make you love Hindi and prose, it’s Baawre Beej (roughly translates to wild and mad seeds). This picture book by Vishaka Chanchani is about farmer Beeju Bhaiya and talks about seeds, earth and soil. The tempo of the prose makes it a perfect read aloud story – at the end of which you will be giddy with joy and itching to go and plant some seeds.

Talking of seeds, also check out Deepa Balsavar’s The Seed (Tulika Books), a wonderful bilingual book which will make the young ones toddle off to garden.

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Nature and Environment STEM Books

Various

Pratham Books StoryWeaver

For the last couple of years, the Pratham Books’ StoryWeaver platform has been creating STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math – books. I got the opportunity to edit a set of books on nature and environment for them. There are books on a range of subjects, including climate change, littering, green heroes, environment and migration, seeds, seasonal foods, and canopy forests. Many of these books are also available in multiple languages! You can read about them here: http://blog.prathambooks.org/2017/04/have-you-seen-all-our-latest-green-books.html.

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When I grow up I want to be a Tiger

Prerna Singh Bindra and Maya Ramaswamy

Speaking Tiger

Meet T-Cubs, a darling little tiger cub who does what tiger cubs do. He plays, he frolics, and he learns to hunt alongside his mother. All is well in his forest, until one day his Ma disappears. Suddenly the threats that face T-Cub become alarmingly real. Will T-Cub get to grow up to be a tiger? Maya Ramaswamy’s gorgeous illustrations plunge you into the marvellous forests of India. And it’s a joy to learn about the tiger’s characteristics through Prerna Singh Bindra’s writings.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQhj4pfFlgV/

Birds from my Window and the Antics they get up to

Ranjit Lal

Scholastic

When it comes to nature writing for children, Ranjit Lal’s books are a wonderful gateway into that world. He writes with his characteristic dry wit and astute understanding of animals. In Birds from My Window, he writes about the everyday feathered friends he observes – from the little brown sparrow to the jungle babblers. Budding ornithologists will love this book. Also, check out The Tigers of Taboo Valley (Red Turtle) by Lal. It’s the story of a Rana Shaan-Bahadur, the alpha-male tiger of Sher-Kila National Park, who finds himself lumped with the care of four tiger cubs. It’s a hilarious story with some hard truths about the perils our forests face today.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BI_u-rZAbD1/

The Sea in a Bucket

Deepa Balsavar and Priti Rajwade

Eklavya

In just ten pages, The Sea in a Bucket tells the story of the water cycle. Sonu is heading to the community tap to fill up a bucket of water, but he ends up learning about its journey from the sea to his bucket. Deepa Balsavar’s illustrations make for a lovely pullout poster at the end of the book with the entire ecosystem on it.

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Trash! On Ragpicker Children and Recycling

Gita Wolf, Anushka Ravishankar and Orijit Sen

Tara Books

In the note to Parents and Educators, the authors explain that the book “evolved from a series of workshops” that were conducted with rag picker children. “We decided to write this book on the complex issues of child labour and the environment because we believe that problematic themes have a place in children’s literature. Books can deal openly and honestly with the harsher realities of life, which children see around them every day”. Trash! tells the story of Velu, who runs away from his home and comes to Chennai, a city in South India. Here he is befriended by Jaya, a ragpicker. The book is peppered with exercises such as Houses from Trash – where readers have to observe a slum settlement and think “what some people throw away as waste is valuable to others”. They then also have to identify the waste that often goes into the making of slums.

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Our Toxic World: A guide to hazardous substances in our everyday lives

Aniruddha Sen Gupta and Priya Kurian

Sage Publications and Toxics Link.

Our Toxic World is a graphic novel co-published by Delhi-based NGO Toxic Link. The book is divided into 12 parts that look at Construction, Automobile pollution, Environmental laws, Industrial pollution, chemicals, Electronic waste, Plastics, Heavy metals, Food, Household waste, Recycling, and Festivals.

The story is told through the eyes of a family and in the form of a graphic novel. The comic form works very well, making a complex subject easy to understand and accept. Further, panel pages alternate with fact sheets that talk about hazardous substances and also offer solutions for non-toxic everyday products.

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Alphabet Books

Various

You are never too old for alphabet books, especially for fun ones like these books. Prabha Mallya looks at collective nouns in The Alphabet of Animals and Birds (Red Turtle). Learn about a pride of lions as well that a group of owls is called a parliament! There’s also the wonderful Book of Beasts (Duckbill) by M Krishnan, with some beautiful illustrations by one of the country’s most beloved naturalists.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BEcqlAdFAqY/

The Six Spellmakers of Dorabji Street

Shabnam Minwalla

Hachette India.

Journalist Shabnam Minwalla’s charming book is based in Mumbai. Nivi and Nikhil move to the city with their parents and quickly befriend other children who live in Cosy Castle on Dorabji Street. However, Nivi and her new best friend Sarita find that their lovely hideout, a gigantic tree in the community garden, is going to be felled by two evil neighbours. Using their wit and with a little bit of magic, they set about foiling their plans and saving their beloved tree.

Farmer Falgu series

Chitra Soundar and Kanika Nair

Karadi Tales

If you’re looking for a book where a farmer is the protagonist, then turn to Chitra Soundar’s Farmer Falgu series. In Farmer Falgu Goes to the Market, the farmer must get his produce to the market. Off he goes on his cart, but the journey is filled with lots of disasters! Will he get to the market in time? In Farmer Falgu Takes a Trip, the farmer takes a holiday from his farm and heads off on his cart. Does he find the solace he wants? Farmer Falgu Goes Kite Flying is also part of the series.

 

Ten ways to observe World Earth Day

http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/ten-ways-to-observe-world-earth-day/article18187308.ece

Happy Earth Day everyone! April 22 is celebrated across the world to remember the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Over time, it has become one of the many green days, on which we are besieged with pleas to save the planet and sharing breathtakingly beautiful photos of flora and fauna and talking about how there’s only one planet, yada yada yada. In keeping with the spirit of things, I just wanted to start off the celebrations with a checklist for our children. Here’s a list of things that our kids can definitely use for Earth Day.

1. Long walks in the park, when we can find them. Stopping frequently – not to check our mobile phones – but to examine a seed pod or a fascinating bug.

2. Stories that inspire and tales that remind us about the gorgeous planet we live in. And storytellers to write and draw them.

3. Clean-up drives, but ones attended by grown-ups as well. Why do children keep having to pick up their trash?

4. Broadcasts from Slooh, the online astronomy service, where NASA astronauts Stanley Love and Tracy Caldwell Dyson will share “what they missed most about Earth when they went into space, and how they felt to be looking down on our “pale blue dot.”

5. Clean, fresh air, water, food, soil, and you know, essential stuff like that.

6. A nature journal, and access to nature to observe and record it.

7. Logging on to NASA’s Adopt the Planet website and virtually adopting a piece of Earth as seen from space. They will even get an adoption certificate and get to mine Earth science data. More exciting, inclusive science.

8. Introduce them to a tree – let them befriend it, adopt it, even write a thank you card to it.

9. David Attenborough, Arati Kumar-Rao, Bittu Sahgal, Rachel Carson, Claude and Norma Alvares, Prerna Singh Bindra, Jane Goodall, Vidya Athreya, Ullas Karanth, Rohan Chakravarty, and many more inspiring people. Media outlets that give them space to be heard.

10. Climate-literate parents and peers.

And then, here’s a list of things our kids don’t need for Earth Day.

1. Policies that greenlight forest clearances and then speeches on going green, along with coffee table book launches on the many splendours of the planet.

2. Realms of newsprint dedicated to the colour green. Everything green – from the font to the masthead. But little coverage on environmental matters.

3. Advertisements that jump up and down and clamour to be heard because, well, their agency gave them a green makeover for the day. Especially for that day. You know, to win awards later in the day as well.

4. Brown paper packages and plastic bags (from all that shopping) that clog up our landfills. And all their contents, which scientists believe, may become technofossils (technology that will fossilize), and add a distinct geological layer upon the Earth.

5. RJ/ Broadcaster/Listicle-writer speak on how green is the new black.

6. Bleached coral reefs and species extinction.

7. Boring environmental education text books.

8. ‘Meri Desh ki Dharti’ on loop. No thanks.

9. Hyper-processed foods concocted in labs or ingredients flown half-way across the planet, racking up food miles. Local produce does very nicely.

10. Never-ending talks to children, as to how it’s their responsibility to save the planet. No, it’s not. They have lots of homework to do. It’s the grown-ups’ responsibility, and we are failing miserably. In fact, if we were in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, we’d get a T for Troll.

Tigers are people too

http://www.thehindu.com/books/tigers-are-people-too/article17343177.ece

All T-Cub wants to do is grow up to be a tiger. And really, it shouldn’t be this hard — he is a tiger cub already. And that’s when we meet him, in When I Grow Up I Want to be a Tiger, a picture book by Prerna Singh Bindra and Maya Ramaswamy, where he is splashing about in water, jumping at his copy-cat tiger reflection, learning to hunt through play. Life’s good for T-Cub, until one day, his mother vanishes, and the cub and his sibling are left to fend for themselves. Which makes you wonder, with all the threats that the species faces, will T-Cub grow up to be a tiger?

Joys of childhood

Published by Speaking Tiger, the picture book brings together the wonders of the forest and the magnificence of the tiger, along with the many threats this animal faces today. At the same time, it’s a book about the joys of childhood, and the wonderful bond between parents and their children. Beautifully produced, When I Grow Up is designed by Pranav Capila, editor of Second Skin Media, an editorial and design agency focused on wildlife conservation.

As a journalist, Bindra has written over 1,500 articles on nature and wildlife, and authored The King and I: Travels in Tigerland and Voices in the Wilderness for adults. When I Grow Up is her first book for children. “I ran a nature column for children for maybe a year. I did it for The Asian Age,” said Bindra, who has also worked with Sanctuary Asia. “See, the world of conservation is a grim one. Full of ‘bad’ stories of forests being destroyed, elephants being crushed by trains, tigers and pangolins being poached, leopards being beaten to death, rivers being dammed and polluted… you get the drift? It’s a constant battle, and the despair hits you. So, I sat back, and thought, why do I do this? And the answer is: Because I care! Because nature is magical, mysterious, it inspires wonder, and awe. I decided to pen this book… to revive that little bit of magic.”

And the book inspires wonder, more so because of Ramaswamy’s illustrations — they are lush and awe-inspiring. A hornbill flies out of one page, and on another, a tiger’s tail disappears around a verdant corner. Ramaswamy, who is known for her wildlife art, conjures up a forest with her brush, the animals and birds rendered with painstaking detail. “Maya got the pulse of the story,” said Bindra, “and she has made T-Cub and his ma, and his sister come alive… the illustrations are gorgeous, and I fell in love with T-Cub all over again.”

T-Cub is the amalgamation of the many tiger cubs that Bindra has met over time, during her trips to the forests of India. Snippets from fellow conservationist and forest staff have gone into the book, making it a veritable trove of information about tigers. “I remember when I went to Bandhavgarh, I saw a tigress sleeping with her three cubs. One of them, the forest guard told me, was a male and a curious kid. And bold. The cub got up to take a closer look. As her got a little too close, the mamma got up in a second, snarled, and gave him a sound whack which had him scurrying back to her! She was disciplining him, just like our mothers do!

Wildlife faces a crisis

There’s a sense of beauty, followed by a feeling of urgency in the story. Bindra’s work — she has been a member of India’s National Board for Wildlife and its Standing Committee from 2010 to 2013 — has always fuelled the discussion around wildlife conservation. “There is a sense of urgency in the wildlife scenario today,” said Bindra. “Wildlife is facing its worst crisis ever; we are in the age of the sixth extinction. How can one ignore that, or not care? It’s intrinsic to the work I do, it is why I do what I do. And yes, the sense of urgency, or the conservation message does weave in my writing, whether it be travelogues or for children. The sense of beauty moves you to care for the tiger, the forest and what you care for, you fight for.”

But mostly for Bindra, this book is important because she feels the need to share the tiger’s story with children. “It is also because I find children increasingly very removed from nature, the outdoors, these days,” she said. “I hope it will bring tigers alive for them, show them that tigers are people too (only better!), that animals, even tigers have personalities.”

Making sense of violent times

http://www.thehindu.com/children/Making-sense-of-violent-times/article17024938.ece

As a journalist living in Srinagar, Majid Maqbool is no stranger to violent conflict. But he was caught by surprise when his three-year-old daughter saw a newspaper with photos of children blinded by injuries and asked, “Isko eyes main pellet aaya hai?” “She had picked up the word from the afternoon news my parents watch,” speculated Maqbool, who until then thought his daughter was insulated from the events around them. Noorain is only a toddler, but she is increasingly curious about why her school is shut for long periods because of curfews and is familiar with words such as tear gas and how to cover her face and hide in a corner to avoid the smoke from tear gas shells.

We live in a time when we are witness to terrible occurrences across the world, whether it’s the situation in Kashmir, Bastar, or Syria. Even our cities are no strangers to violent conflicts — whether it’s the Babri Masjid communal riots of 1992, the siege of Mumbai on 26/11, or conflicts sparking over water issues like in Bengaluru. Children are particularly vulnerable and susceptible to what is happening around them or even far away from them. It can cause extreme trauma and stress.

“Children are not adults-in-waiting,” says Shreya Jani, managing trustee at Standing Together to Enable Peace Trust. Jani says, “They see the world and sense it pretty deeply in my experience. When exploring any idea with children, or adults for that matter, one needs to inculcate a scientific temper along with compassion. Ask them questions about what they think they are hearing or seeing. How does it make them feel? Why is it happening, according to them? Push them to seek their own answers and guide them through this inquiry though compassion.”

As a child, it’s often hard to make sense of what is happening. The television is always on at home, newspapers, websites and radio bear graphic images and videos of violence. Last year, when Bengaluru erupted into violence to protest against the Cauvery judgement in September, a friend narrated an incident — a child, as she was being ushered home from school, asked her mother the purpose behind actions like burning buses or harming public property. Given the easy access to media, most children can easily find answers in one quick Google search, but they may not always be the most appropriate ones.

According to clinical psychologist Sonali Gupta, if your child asks about a particular conflict, it’s crucial to have a conversation, because otherwise they may end up building their own narratives in their head. “Even if you’ve not spoken about it to your children, they have may have heard about it from other children, or at school,” says Gupta, who is a practising therapist and has worked with clients from Afghanistan who were exposed to conflict.

Gupta’s daughter, who is now seven years old, heard about the 2015 Paris attacks in school during the morning prayer and later, she heard versions from older students in the school bus. “She came home and said I want to read about it,” recounts Gupta. Instead of handing over a newspaper or turning on the news, Gupta encouraged her daughter to ask questions and she tackled them. “First, find out how much they know about it,” she recommends. “Once you know, have a conversation about it. Explain to them in a very fact-based manner. And allow them to share their feelings about it.”

For Maqbool too, it’s crucial to explain to his daughter what is happening in Kashmir. “I think as a parent I would want her to understand what is happening around her,” he says. “As children ask questions and then maybe get answers to their questions in bits and pieces, they understand. I would be uncomfortable telling such a young child everything since it can be confusing. But at the same time, I find that they are often quick in finding out when some harm happens,” adds Maqbool. Gupta says that in cases where a child is not aware of the conflict situation happening in remote place at all it’s okay not to talk about it. However, parents need to foster spaces where children can feel comfortable talking and sharing.

Peace education in schools is one way of helping children navigate the world they live in. “Peace education is very important as the world has becoming more apparently interconnected,” says Jani, who has a Masters in the subject from University for Peace in Costa Rica.

Gupta adds that it’s crucial to inject hope into the conversation with your child. “There is violence, yes, but talk about non-violence and compassion,” she says adding, “How there’s hope. Talk about community building efforts, for one, how the law works, and how the situation can be resolved eventually.” Jani agrees. “Engage children,” she stresses, “Make them think at the same time feel and share these feelings. Always channelise it towards a positive action response that they can take to overcome these negative emotions and foster compassion and reflection and inquiry.”

Why did the leopard cross the road?

https://www.natureinfocus.in/page/why-did-the-leopard-cross-the-road

Here’s a riddle.

Why did the leopard cross the road?

Because she was hungry, and she saw a zebra crossing.

Actually, that’s not true. Unlike us, leopards don’t understand that you need to look first left, then right, then left again, before crossing the road. They don’t know the rules behind the zebra crossing stripes on the road either (honestly, who can blame them, motorists also don’t seem to know that they shouldn’t stand on the zebra crossing; pedestrians have the right of way there). All these rules are made by humans, and it is silly of us to pave a road in the middle of a forest, and then expect leopards or elephants or other animals to know road crossing rules.

Nor do animals get boundaries. Your house or apartment block must have a wall and a gate to mark its perimeter. You know that you can’t just jump into another person’s house (unless you know them) because one, it’s not polite, and two, it’s not safe, and hello, it’s trespassing. But these are man-made boundaries. We don’t ask for permission from forest animals before mowing their trees down to build houses, grow crops, or mine for minerals. According to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report 2016, the Global Forest Resources Assessment reports that since 1990, on a gross basis, we have lost a total of 239 million hectares of natural forest!

This means that there is lesser forest cover for animals to call their home, and it’s not that surprising when you hear news of a leopard coming into a school on a Sunday. After all, we can’t expect them to know these man-made boundary walls.

Further, our roads are becoming a point for human-animal conflict. Roadkill — that is wildlife killed on the road by motor accidents — has become a major threat to conservation. A study conducted by Panthera showed that 23 leopards were killed in Karnataka between July 2009 and June 2014 because of road accidents.

In a research paper titled Roadkill Animals on National Highways of Karnataka, by Selvan et. al, the authors conducted a survey to understand how many animals were killed on National Highways NH212 and NH67, which pass through Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka in 2007. They found that 423 animals of 29 species were killed between January and June. Isn’t that awful?

According to the Wildlife Conservation Foundation (WCF), at least three large animals are killed in accidents on these highways. And these include tigers, elephants, leopards, deer, sloth bears, snakes and birds. The good news is that in 2010, the group, with the help of the Wildlife Trust of India and the High Court, was able to ban night traffic in Bandipur. A good thing because 65 per cent of wildlife roadkills until that time were being documented at night.

This is, of course, only Karnataka. But there are so many instances of leopards and other animals becoming victims of accidents — either road or rail — across the country. What can be done about this? Plenty. For instance, not allowing roads or rail networks to be built inside forests or corridors, which animals use to pass from one jungle to another. Many forest departments now have installed neon boards and speed breakers to slow those hurtling vehicles going at top speed in the night. Or like the WCF managed to do — restricting vehicular traffic at night.

The good folks at the Nature Conservation Foundation – India have come up with a fabulous strategy in Tamil Nadu. They have installed seven canopy bridges in the rainforests of the Valparai region — aerial bridges (high up above the ground) that connect tree canopies that were otherwise too far apart across the roads. And it’s already showing results — lion-tailed macaques can cross the road without having to look left, right, and left again, and they don’t have to get down from their trees and dodge passing traffic.

What else do you think can be done? We’d love to hear from you with your ideas. Write to us at comments@natureinfocus.in

Leopard in Gurugram: How The Media Made A Mess Of A Tragedy

https://www.newslaundry.com/2016/12/05/leopard-in-gurugram-how-the-media-made-a-mess-of-a-tragedy

Did you know leopards actually prefer to stay away from human settlements rather than prey on them? The recent killing of a leopard in Gurugram shows how damaging sensationalist reporting on the wildlife can be.

On November 25, horrific photographs and videos of a leopard in Mandawar village in Gurugram made headlines across India. Many, including The Times of India, showed a particularly disturbing image of the villagers dragging the leopard by its tail, its head bludgeoned to bloody pulp. Some blurred out the head. Others, such asIndia Today, chose to carry a video of people posing for photos with the dead leopard, and a disclaimer of “disturbing content, viewer’s discretion advised”.

There’s something almost obscene about the show of human triumph in those photographs and an unspoken reiteration of the idea that wildlife and humanity must have a relationship of animosity. Leopards, incidentally, are solitary animals and humans are actually not their traditional prey. So despite the fact that we call them “predators”, as far as we humans are concerned, leopards are not actually bloodthirsty. This is probably why many local legends in different parts of the country see leopards and tigers as protectors rather than predators. Yet, look at the press reports, the story of progress is one of clashes like this one, between man and animal – it’s a war, and humans won this battle.

Sensationalising human-animal conflict in the media serves no purpose, except to make matters worse. If we’re being shown these images for higher ratings or more views and shares, it is a poor excuse. The Ministry of Environment and Forests’ Guidelines for Human-Leopard Conflict Management 2011 edition clearly state, “Media should contribute to diffusing the tense situation surrounding conflict with objective reporting aimed at highlighting the measures to mitigate conflict. Reporting mainly aggressive encounters with leopards can erode local people’s tolerance and worsen the situation by forcing the Forest Department to unnecessarily trap the wild animal due to public pressure.”

Many headlines played a blame game – “Gurgaon villagers beat leopard to death: How the forest department failed to save the animal’s life”, “Leopard enters Gurugram village, attacks 8, beaten to death”. The Hindustan Times headline read, “Leopard killed: As villagers discuss tales of courage, fear of police action looms large” and then went on to say in the body copy, “In the two days since the incident, the event has been embellished with ‘snippets of valour’.” So was encountering the leopard really an act of courage or was it “embellished”? Your guess is as good as mine.

As writers, our lexicon is everything. Bandying about phrases like “leopard on loose” or “beastly attacks” alter perceptions, often dubbing the animal as dangerous and fearsome. “The media has to stop imagining that the mere sighting of a leopard is like a terrorist in the neighbourhood,” said wildlife conservationist Prerna Bindra, who is also a former member of the National Board for Wildlife. “It does not represent conflict, in all probability the cat was living in peace for years, before it was unfortunately spotted. The cat lived in peace, home sapiens couldn’t. What’s appalling is not just beating the creature to death, but posing-in-glee for pictures as though it were some kind of trophy.”

The Indian Express was one of the few outlets to offer restrained reporting, including this story by Jay Mazoomdaar, titled “Spotted a leopard? Back off, stay calm, let it slip away”. Mazoomdaar elaborated that “leopards traditionally live close to people and just because one is sighted does not mean the animal means harm.” As did The Wire, taking an in-depth look at policy decisions when it comes to human-wildlife conflict. “Leopards tend to live near people,” wrote Neha Sinha for the The Wire. “In modern times, on the other hand, they have vanished from more than 60 per cent of their historic range worldwide. Thus, of all man-animal conflicts, leopards have borne the worst brunt, and the story is no different in India.”

This is not the first instance of man-animal conflict that has been reported in the media. It will also not be the last, in fact climate change will possibly exacerbate it. As will policies such as the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change declaring certain wildlife species as vermin if they are “damaging human life or property”, and translocating leopards (which stresses them further) or projects that mow down forests to make way for roads and highways.

As India moves rapidly towards an economic growth that is bolstered by unchecked development paradigms that shrink forests, it also unravels the fragile bond that humans and wildlife share. What was once a relatively peaceful existence is now marred with violent conflict. In a story, Learning to live with leopards, ecologist Vidya Athreya who has done substantial research on the subject, said “…we are finding that we can share our space with leopards when we know how they behave and we understand how we should behave. In rural India, wildlife is a fact of life; by learning to live with it, we can minimise trouble.”

Efforts are being made to inculcate better understanding in the media. In 2015, the Wildlife Conservation Society India held collaborative workshops with the media on reporting human-wildlife interactions accurately and responsibly. There are numerous documents and publications available online about standard operating procedures as well as guidelines. That can propel nuanced journalism which takes into account multiple perspectives, facts, and relies on wildlife experts and scientists to report on incidents such as this.

Unfortunately, there’s an ingrained sense of fear towards the creatures of the wild that gets exploited in sensational reporting of the kind we saw in the Gurugram leopard case. But this fear mongering doesn’t actually help us come to an understanding of how we’re going to share space with wildlife. And as we bludgeon our way to progress, we’re going to have to figure out a better way to achieve an equilibrium.

Fantastic Beasts shows muggles there’s no magic in a world without the wild

http://www.dailyo.in/arts/fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them/story/1/14153.html

Newt Artemis Fido Scamander reminds us that without animals, Earth isn’t a place called home.

Newton (“Newt”) Artemis Fido Scamander went down in wizarding history for many of his achievements, including writing the seminal Hogwarts textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and bringing about the ban on experimental breeding. But after the biopic on him, I think Scamander will, perhaps, be best remembered in the muggle and No-Maj world for his wildlife conservation beliefs.

In the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, magizoologist Scamander (played by Eddie Redmayne) comes to New York in 1926 with a suitcase full of magical creatures. Things begin to unravel when some of these fantastic creatures escape into the city, plus there’s an inexplicable force wreaking havoc at the same time. Fantastic Beasts is a charming film, full of wondrous bits. It’s set in the familiar world of magic, but with a new narrative that also makes a strong case for conservation.

A suitcase packed with wild things

In the eponymous book that JK Rowling published as a Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry textbook in aid of Comic Relief UK in 2001, we first learned about Scamander who, at the age of seven, “spent hours in his bedroom dismembering Horklumps” and then went on to travel across dark jungles, marshy bogs, and bright desserts to learn more about the “curious habits of beasts”. I couldn’t help but imagine Scamander as a cross between David Attenborough and Gerald Durrell. More so, when we got to examine the contents of his suitcase in the movie.The suitcase (spoiler alert) is a world unto itself for magical creatures, and it’s reminiscent of the many animal rescue and rehabilitation centres around the world. Such as the Wild Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre on the outskirts of Pune, managed by The Indian Herpetological Society (IHS) that offers specialised care for injured and orphaned animals, and helps rehabilitate wild animals back into their natural homes. Or Wildlife SOS’s Agra Bear Rescue Facility, a centre for rescued sloth bears. Like Frank – the thunderbird, many of these animals have been trafficked or chained up and some will be returned to their homes in the wild.

Unpacking speciesism in the Anthropocene

In his book, Scamander questions the wizarding world’s earlier attempts at designating non-human magical creatures as “beasts”, as compared to “beings”. “Being”, he says, is a creature worthy of legal rights and a voice in the governance of the magical world. A stark contrast to the idea of speciesism, an idea that humans have greater moral rights than animals.

These are concepts we should reflect upon – as the planet hurtles towards a warmer period that is hastening the loss of biodiversity, as the green light is given for forests (home to the muggle fantastic animals) to be cleared for “development” projects, and as we enter the Age of Extinction for many species. The destruction is apparent, as are its consequences. The year 2016 is set to be the warmest in temperature records since 1880; climate change may be the reason behind the extinction of the small mammal Bramble Cay melomys in the Great Barrier Reef; and in India, we are already looking at horrific pollution levels and unprecedented weather patterns.

In a paper titled “The New Noah’s Ark”, research scientist Ernie Small pointed out that “Most of the world’s species at risk of extinction are neither particularly attractive nor obviously useful, and consequently lack conservation support. In contrast, the public, politicians, scientists, the media and conservation organisations are extremely sympathetic to a select number of well-known and admired species, variously called flagship, charismatic, iconic, emblematic, marquee and poster species.” Another thing that we can take away from Fantastic Beasts.

A friend pointed out that she loved that not all that animals in the movie were cute or even attractive. “Because it sort of drove the point home that you don’t preserve animals just because they’re photogenic,” she said. Whether it’s the enormous erumpent, the luminescent ashwinder, or the fragile bowtruckle, they are all as important for Scamander, like the tree frog, the grey hornbill, and the royal Bengal tiger are for wildlife conservationists.

A case for conservation in the muggle world

In fact, as Scamander writes, “Imperfect understanding is often more dangerous than ignorance”, and that’s often what determines our interactions with nature. Superstitions about unlucky owls, myths of the potency of the rhino’s horn or the fallacy of speciesism has led to owls being injured by stones, birds being imprisoned in tiny cages, and rhinos being poached to near-extinction. When it comes to his fantastic creatures, Scamander says that he hopes to, “rescue, nurture and protect them”, and gently attempt to educate his fellow wizards about them. And let us hope, some Muggles along the way.

Which is what Fantastic Beasts really manages to do – remind us that without these animals, the world would be a much drearier place to live in. Scamander writes that magizoology matters because it ensures that “future generation of witches and wizards enjoy their [fantastic beings] strange beauty and powers as we have been privileged to do”.

Kind of like what Attenborough once said, “It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.”

Our planet would be a poorer place without house sparrows taking a dust bath, a funnel web spider spinning her web with a funnel at its centre, or a mother elephant protecting her calf by gently pushing him behind her trunk. Without them, Earth isn’t a place called home.

 

Watch, absorb and act upon Leonardo DiCaprio’s dire warnings on climate change in ‘Before the Flood’

http://thereel.scroll.in/820593/watch-absorb-and-act-upon-leonardo-dicaprios-dire-warnings-on-climate-change-in-before-the-flood

The Hollywood star uses his fame to ask tough questions about global warming, fracking, and alternative energy sources.

There’s a point in the richly informative documentary Before the Floodwhen actor Leonardo DiCaprio is in conversation with Sunita Narain, the director general of Centre for Science and Environment. He explains that while he doesn’t see the North American lifestyle changing any time soon, he hopes to see renewables such as solar and wind becoming cheaper and solving the problem of fossil-dependent consumption. DiCaprio breaks off when Narain starts to shake her head vigorously and listens as she talks about how both India and China are investing more in solar power than the USA and urges them to take up leadership on renewable energy.

This is the vein in which Before the Flood is presented. The Hollywood star, as the United Nations Messenger of Peace on Climate Change, is on a mission to see “how far we have gone, how much damage we’ve done and if there’s anything we can do to stop it”. DiCaprio asks some hard questions at times and at others, steps back and lets the experts do the talking. The 95-minute documentary, directed by Fisher Stevens, was premiered on the National Geographic channel on October 30 and was released online simultaneously.

In many ways, Before the Flood feels like a follow-up to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth – it runs with the science, but backs it with real-life examples, making the facts less abstract and more tangible. The film feels a lot more real as it examines the impact of climate change on the ground rather than poring over models or newspaper articles. Show, rather than tell, is what makes Before the Flood different.

DiCaprio deploys his stardom to make people listen to many uncomfortable truths. “As an actor, I pretend for a living,” he says during a speech at a UN Assembly. “I play fictitious characters often solving fictitious problems. I believe that mankind has looked at climate change in the same way.” Like he does in his films, DiCaprio heads off to locations across the world (all offset by a voluntary carbon tax) to explore a subject that he humbly explains “the more I know, the more I realise how much I don’t know”.

The actor’s quest takes him to Alberta in Canada, Greenland, Baffin Island in the Arctic, India, China, Pulau, Kiribati and the Sumatra islands – all places that have been affected by fossil fuel extraction and climate change. He uses his celebrity pull to interview Barack Obama and meet the Pope. He also talks to corporate bosses, policy makers, scientists and environment activists.

“If we have to fight climate change, we have to start by acknowledging most of our economy is based on fossil fuels,” says Michael Brune, executive director of the environmental organisation Sierra Club. Brune goes on to explain how the world is employing extreme methods to remove these resources, including fracking, offshore drilling for oil, and tar sands. “There is not thing such as clean fossil fuels,” Brune adds. Proof of Brine’s statements emerges in footage of the devastation wreaked by crude oil extraction in Alberta. What were once boreal forests are now barren potholes of oil.

At Baffin Island in Canada, DiCaprio listens as Arctic guide Jake Awa guide tells him that the solid blue ice is melting faster than ever before, like ice cream. In Kangerlussuaq in Greenland, climatologist Jason E Box warns that climate change projections are actually conservative, and that the effects will be far worse than imagined.

DiCaprio then jets off to Asia and the Pacific. He looks at alarming pollution levels in China, the impact of unprecedented rainfall on farming in India, the future of island nations such as Palau and Kiribati, and the devastation caused by the palm oil industry in Sumatra. Back home, DiCaprio heads to Miami in Florida, a state susceptible to flooding as the sea water level rises. Mayor Philip Levine says that the City of Miami Beach is investing 400 million dollars on a project to put in electrical pumps to drain out the water and to raise road levels. This adaptation measure will only last for 50 years. This from a state that in 2011 stopped the Florida Department of Environmental Protection from using the words “climate change” and “global warming”.

American public opinion on climate change has been adversely influenced by the nexus between policy makers and fossil fuel industries and climate change deniers, many of whom are in the media. Levine puts it succinctly, “The ocean is not Republican. It’s not Democrat. All it knows is how to rise.”

The film also questions reckless fossil fuel-addicted consumption while touching on climate refugees and livelihood and food security. Some solutions emerge out of the thicket of warnings: the filmmakers advocate the enforcement of the 2015 Paris Agreement – a deal in which world leaders agreed to limiting global warming to well below 2°C – substantial investment in renewal energy, and carbon tax.

The overall impact is undeniably powerful. Before the Flood invokes a sense of urgency when it comes to protecting the earth’s biodiversity. There is room for wonder too at nature’s riches. At Baffin Island, DiCaprio looks on in awe at a group of narwhals. Enric Sala, National Geographicexplorer-in-residence, says, “I don’t want to be in a planet without these animals.” Moments like these demand that Before the Flood be watched, absorbed, and acted upon.

Corrections and clarifications: The article has been edited to reflect the fact that the City of Miami Beach is the entity investing $400M on a project to put in electrical pumps.

Food on the go

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/Food-on-the-go/article16087522.ece?ref=tpnews

Over the last few weeks I have been on a whirlwind series of travel for work and vacation — and I have taken all sorts of transport — flight, rail, bus, car, hikes, the works. For me, food and travel are inherently connected, like so many of us. And so, I found myself abandoning my Kindle to observe just how the nature of food we eat as we travel has changed.

A toddler ambled across our coach’s corridor, his beaming face crumpling when he saw his brother tucking into a packet of Kurkure. “Kudkude,” he yelled, his hand outstretched, trying to grab at that packet. His brother sulked as he was forced to share his precious stash, while the toddler settled into someone’s lap, happily nibbling at his Kudkude. He couldn’t say “Delhi” — his uncle was trying to get him to say that, but he could say “Kurkure”. Priorities!

On another train journey, a pair of tweens switched on their MacBook, attached a dongle, and promptly ordered themselves Domino’s Pizza, after a fairly intense discussion about the toppings. The pizza, it seemed, was scheduled to reach home about the same time that we would all get home. Not to mention, it would be washed down by the accompanying bottles of cola. At the hotel we stayed in Binsar in Uttarakhand, a mother proudly told the wait staff that her son just loves Uncle Chipps, and no meal is complete without it. On another flight, the cup-o-noodles were what most families were ordering for their children.

Our cities and villages are now dotted with little kiosks, where traditional local food such as podi idlis or banana chips are shoved aside by shiny packages of processed foods of all sorts. Our trekking guide at Binsar in Uttarakhand kept stopping to pick up remnants of such packaging that were littering his beloved forests, even though there were dustbins inside the sanctuary. Our walk in beautiful Andretta in Himachal Pradesh was strewn with packets of Uncle Chipps, Lays, and Kurkure, wrapped around plants and trees. All of this only underscores the many studies and research floating about — that Indians, including children, are taking to packaged and hyper-processed food with gusto. This, at great cost to our collective well being, including our children’s health.

Many of us un-millennials (is that a word?) have fond food travel memories. Our family summer vacations would almost always commence with us lugging Milton flasks filled with ice and water onto the train. As the train trundled on, mum would produce crisp aloo nu shaak, potatoes cooked in their jackets Gujarati style, along with methi theplas, a dab of mango pickle, and of course dahi. In intervals, sev mambra would be produced, carefully stored in ziplock bags ordered from the USA aunt, as well as sliced fruits, and godpapdi. Yet now that we’ve grown up and have our own families, we don’t always do that.

Of course, as I grew older, I would often be embarrassed by this stash of food we carried along with us — whether it was to Baroda or to Cape Town. It’s only now that I have come to appreciate the hard work that my mum put in, in the form of hours in the kitchen, to ensure that we would be well-fed through the trip.

But then let’s face it — all of this eating well takes effort and the burden almost always falls on the women of the household, unfairly so. I cook almost every day, but even the thought of producing that quantum of food is daunting for me. And it’s getting harder to trust street food — you don’t know what oil or water it was cooked in, cut fruits and vegetables are a strict no-no, and it is often deep fried starchy food such as samosas, kachoris, or vada paos.

It’s not surprising that hard-pressed for time and with fewer healthier choices on sale, we are choosing to pick up ready-to-eats, convenience foods, outsourcing our food decisions to corporates. The difference is evident in the way we travel. We can’t even be bothered to carry our own water bottles, preferring to buy plastic mineral water bottles instead. Who wants to lug about a steel water bottle when you can use and throw a plastic one. Never mind the environmental impact.

Yet does it have to be all packaged, salty, additive-laden food that we need to pack into our travel schedule? Many of these food labels read like a sci-fi movie, undecipherable, straight out of a lab, rather than a farm. Now when I travel, I pack myself a sandwich or get my cook to make me a stack of theplas. Add some fruits and you’re sorted for the journey. A friend carries homemade granola with her, another carries packets of puliyogare to mix into rice. On a trip to Madhya Pradesh, we looked at the unappetising train fare (no it wasn’t the Shatabdi) and cheered up when a friend produced luchis and aloo sabji for dinner from her bags. Really, who needed chips?

Growing up with 400

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-mumbai/growing-up-with-400/article9186570.ece

That’s it then; scientists have confirmed that the carbon dioxide level in the Earth’s atmosphere has crossed 400 parts per million. And the way it looks, it’s probably the point of no return. According to the Scientific American, the last time the world saw carbon dioxide levels above 400ppm was some 3.6 million years ago, a period that was known as the middle Pliocene.

So how do we understand the crossing of this threshold exactly?

Imagine the planet is a car. All of us — you, your friends and family, colleagues, and strangers — have been driving about for a while. Some, more than others, have heated up the car by driving it recklessly (pumping fossil fuels and greenhouse gases deliriously into the atmosphere). The temperature is soaring, and it’s getting hotter inside the car. It doesn’t matter that we know, like climatologist Dr. James Hansen has said, that 350ppm is the optimum amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. But now that we’ve crossed over to the dark side of CO2, we realise that turning the ignition off isn’t going to change anything. We’ve got to keep driving in that hot car full of seven billion people.

What’s growing up in a world with 400ppm of CO2 going to be like? It’s not going to be pretty.

Already, 2016 is slated to be the hottest year on record. We have all, in some form or the other, been witness to the impacts of climate change. Unpredictable weather has wreaked havoc in different parts of the country and the world, threatening livelihood and food security. Droughts, famines, air and water-borne diseases are proliferating.

Worse, when it comes to climate change, children are the most vulnerable. The UNICEF report ‘ Unless We Act Now: The Impact of Climate Change on Children’ puts it succinctly: “There may be no greater, growing threat facing the world’s children — and their children — than climate change.”

Another UNICEF report, ‘ Children and Climate Change: Children’s Vulnerability to Climate Change and Disaster Impacts in East Asia and the Pacific’, explains further: “The types of climate risks confronting children are diverse, ranging from direct physical impacts, such as cyclones, storm surges and extreme temperatures, to impacts on their education, psychological stress and nutritional challenges.” The report mentions that soaring temperatures are linked to “increased rates of malnutrition, cholera, diarrhoeal disease and vector-borne diseases like dengue and malaria”.

“For me, growing up in a warmer world means that each month is likely to be warmer than the next, and the weather is going to be extremely uncertain (erratic monsoons, increase in typhoons),” says Payal Parekh, the programme director of climate group 350.org. “When these storms hit, children have the least resources and abilities to survive them, especially children in the poor villages along the coast; they suffer when there is drought in the form of malnutrition and we know that often means girls are the first to get less to eat,” adds Parekh. The organisation 350.org is named after the optimum amount of CO2 level in the atmosphere.

The good news, of course, is that on Gandhi Jayanti, India ratified the Paris agreement, right on the heels of the USA and China. India became the 62nd country to ratify the agreement, which looks to keep global temperature increase between 1.5 to 2°C. These may seem like small degrees of temperature change, but the repercussions are far-reaching. A World Bank Report, Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4 °C Warmer World Must be Avoided, warns that a “4°C world is so different from the current one that it comes with high uncertainty and new risks that threaten our ability to anticipate and plan for future adaptation needs”. This includes higher malnutrition rates, unprecedented heat waves, and loss of biodiversity.

As Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s executive director writes in the foreword to the Unless We Act Now report, “No human responsibility runs deeper than the charge of every generation to care for the generation that follows it. For current and future generations of children, and for us all, the stakes could not be higher.”