Monthly Archives: July 2010

No Bugs On Me: The Rap Guide to Human Nature

http://static.ak.fbcdn.net/rsrc.php/zCWZ4/hash/4giowbux.swf

That is a preview of a track from the latest (peer-reviewed) project from the highly evolved rapper Baba Brinkman:

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As Baba announced on his Facebook page earlier today:
Human Nature Tracks are now available for preview on my Facebook page. Full album available for download by donation August 1st.
So what are you waiting for? The rhythmic key to human nature is in your virtual hands (or will soon be) – start with the other songs previewed on Baba’s Facebook page!
 
Meanwhile, I’m hoping he brings this show to Fresno, perhaps for the next Rogue Festival.

Greed and Cowardice: two old friends who will accompany us as we drive off the global warming cliff

Who or what eventually killed the (weak to begin with, and further weakened through the legislative “process”) climate change bill in the US congress? Asks Paul Krugman, and identifies the same age-old enemies who keep us from practicing responsible planetary citizenship:

The answer is, the usual suspects: greed and cowardice.

If you want to understand opposition to climate action, follow the money. The economy as a whole wouldn’t be significantly hurt if we put a price on carbon, but certain industries — above all, the coal and oil industries — would. And those industries have mounted a huge disinformation campaign to protect their bottom lines.

Look at the scientists who question the consensus on climate change; look at the organizations pushing fake scandals; look at the think tanks claiming that any effort to limit emissions would cripple the economy. Again and again, you’ll find that they’re on the receiving end of a pipeline of funding that starts with big energy companies, like Exxon Mobil, which has spent tens of millions of dollars promoting climate-change denial, or Koch Industries, which has been sponsoring anti-environmental organizations for two decades.

Or look at the politicians who have been most vociferously opposed to climate action. Where do they get much of their campaign money? You already know the answer.

By itself, however, greed wouldn’t have triumphed. It needed the aid of cowardice — above all, the cowardice of politicians who know how big a threat global warming poses, who supported action in the past, but who deserted their posts at the crucial moment.

Read the rest of his column. And, as usual, try not to get depressed… but here’s another article from the same paper of record to nudge you further in that direction:

IF President Obama and Congress had announced that no financial reform legislation would pass unless Goldman Sachs agreed to the bill, we would conclude our leaders had been standing in the Washington sun too long. Yet when it came to addressing climate change, that is precisely the course the president and Congress took. Lacking support from those most responsible for the problem, they have given up on passing a major climate bill this year.

Lee Wasserman, of the Rockefeller Family Foundation, goes on to identify four threads that were woven together to produce this tapestry of legislative inaction. Do you know which thread your are clinging to? Might I suggest thread #4 (presuming readers of my tiny blog are not very likely to overlap with the first three)? What are we going to do about it?

Mitticool: now that’s a truly cool earth-friendly refrigerator!

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Wouldn’t you want the above cool fridge, instead of the electricity guzzling, ozone-hole-punching (hopefully not, but they’re still out there), global warming behemoth you may have in your kitchen? Well…

Rediff has the story and slideshow of the entrepreneur who has developed this indigenous appropriate technology for rural India.

[Tip o’ hat to Arvind Says via Facebook]

Is it really this strange to see Indians camping?

And I mean real Indians, like me, from the country of India. Not Native American Indians, whom you expect to find camping in teepees anyway – right?!.

I ask because, on the second evening of our recent camping trip in Rocky Mountain National Park, an American neighbor walked into our site wearing a t-shirt from India (which he used to strike up the conversation), and started talking about his travels in India and so forth. Both our families hit it off so well that we ended up roasting s’mores together by the campfire that night. But one of the first things he remarked upon was how unusual it was to see an Indian (i.e., from India) family camping at all!! Which is why I felt we must invite them over for s’mores later – because how often is that going to happen, right? Eating s’mores roasted on a campfire by Indians? 🙂

Funny as that struck us all, I wonder how much truth there is to the observation that Indians don’t go camping much in this country. I mean, I know some who do – but that’s my friends. What about the rest of them(us)? Case in point: in our 17 days on the road when we visited / camped at 5 National Parks/Monuments through Colorado and Utah, we only ran into one other Indian family (not counting our friends whom we had invited to join us in the Rockies) camping – an astrophysicist from Bombay and his mom who was visiting him; i.e., another academic, whom we might as well count among the small circle of our friends who camp. What about “regular” Indian immigrants in the US? How many are “outdoor nature freaks” – as another young Indian friend (a not-camping type of fellow) teased us on this trip?

Anyhow, I was reminded of this:

http://player.ordienetworks.com/flash/fodplayer.swf

Come to think of it, we didn’t see too many Black folks on this camping/road trip through the wilderness either!

The remarkable story of the Himalayan Snowcock in Nevada

There’s been an interesting discussion thread developing on delhibirdpix about Indian birds introduced to America, and someone mentioned the snowcock brought from the Himalaya to the Ruby mountains in Nevada. So I figured I should repost the following I’d written last year when I couldn’t find a way to embed the video on my old blogger blog. Here it is again, this time with video:

http://aba.org/birding/snowcock/player.swf

via aba.org

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A Himalayan Snowcock (Tetraogallus himalayensis) in the Ruby Mountains in Nevada.

Via the American Birding Association comes a remarkable, ancient, video about the introduction of the Himalayan Snow Partridge (as the film refers to it, although the actual species is the Himalayan Snowcock) into the mountains of Nevada by the Nevada Fish and Game Commission’s Exotic Game Bird Introduction program, a sustained effort to populate what they thought were “game-deficient” areas of the state. Astonishing to a modern conservation biologist to see how cavalier, nay gung-ho, government agencies were about moving species around in those days (the snowcock was brought over in the 1960s), well before introduced/invasive species became bêtes noire for conservationists. But that program was successful and there is now a small but established population of these snowcocks in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada! Check out the video on the ABA website.

Holding government and politicians accountable to save nature gets you killed in India

In a democracy, citizens are supposed to have access to information about what their government is up to, so that the said government and its elected officials can be held to account. In the world’s largest democracy, India, however, the sun has rarely been allowed to shine on the goings on of politicians who “represent” the people, the bureaucracy that is supposed to run the country for the people, and the police and military apparatus that is supposed to protect the people, from threats within and without. This huge democracy took a lumbering step in the right direction in 2005 when the Right To Information or RTI Act – a sunshine law – was passed by parliament to provide a mechanism for the public to find out what was being done in their name, and to hold those in power accountable.

Of course, having laws passed on paper is one thing – actually implementing them is another, especially in India. While the RTI law has definitely provided quite a powerful tool for citizen activists to hold this democracy to account, invoking it can still leave these brave citizens exposed to deadly retribution, which itself can be covered up by the nexus between politicians, bureaucracy, and police. As the environmentalist and RTI activist Amit Jethwa found out this week. He wasn’t the first (and likely won’t be the last, alas) to put his life on the line to exercise this basic right (RTI).

As the reports below indicate, in this case, a local Member of Parliament is a prime suspect in Jethwa’s murder. An MP from the Bharatiya Janata Party, which isn’t exactly known to shy away from violence to achieve its ends. Or from using the state apparatus to both commit violence on some of its citizenry, and to cover it up. I don’t know what the likelihood is that the Gujarat police will bring the murderers to justice, especially when they are so politically well connected. Their track record during and in the aftermath of the 2002 “communal riots” doesn’t inspire much confidence. I just hope that the media continues to keep a spotlight on this murder to bring some justice to this brave young man who martyred himself for the environment. And may his sacrifice inspire more young people in India to push the country towards true democracy.

 

The conservation battle takes another young activist’s life in India. RIP: Amit Jethwa

Bloody sad news from the conservation battle front in Gujarat, India: Amit Jethwa, a young wildlife activist whom I knew only through his occasional postings on Nathistory-India about one or other of the conservation issues he was tackling, was shot dead right in front of the Gujarat High Court in Ahmedabad! He was there to take on the mining mafia threatening the last natural home of the Asiatic Lion at Gir National Park, which Amit had dedicated his young life to – now literally soWildlife conservation remains a dangerous business in India (as indeed elsewhere) – perhaps more so now than ever, and my (academic conservationist’s) hat is off to people like Amit who take on these real battles in the trenches despite the risks.
 
Here’s a message from Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India announcing the sad news:
Dear All,
 
Amit Jethwa, former President of the Gir Nature Club who recently took on the mining mafia operating around Gir National Park in Gujarat with a public interest lawsuit, was tragically murdered outside the High Court in Ahmedabad on Tuesday night. Amit had just left a meeting with his lawyer and was getting into his vehicle when he was shot. Although seriously injured he managed to grab his two assailants from their motorbike. He died on the spot, while his assailants fled from the scene. 
 
A former member of the Wildlife Advisory Board of Gujarat, Amit ran numerous campaigns for the protection of the Gir lions and other wildlife, and to stop illegal mining in Saurashtra. In 2007, he fought an unsuccessful election to become a member of the Legislative Assembly under the banner of a Green Party.
 
In sorrow, Belinda
More news coverage of his activism and death herehere (with video), and at Sanctuary Asia (as also on Nathistory-India, which you should be subscribed to if you aren’t already).
 

Good to be back in the land of 4 bars… or is it?

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Not that we did any fishing. But, as you may know, I’ve spent most of the past 2.5 weeks in places with no bars at all, let alone 3G coverage! And it was the most fun, relaxed, refreshing perambulation (if one can use that word for a road trip) of the erstwhile Wild West I’ve ever been able to do with the family. Our first real vacation in years! So, no, I did not miss being offline and off the net at all – and am glad to have reaffirmed (not that I had any doubts even if you might have) that we haven’t become so hopelessly addicted to the web as to be unable to enjoy being away from it.

And what a vacation it was indeed – as you might know if you’ve been following the occasional tweet/facebook update from me whenever we happened to be in wifi zone. I will share some of the gazillion pictures I took (bless digital photography!) of some remarkable places and creatures via and here over the next few days/weeks as and when I manage to do so (curse digital photography! now I’ve got to sort through/process these gazillion images?!). Watch this space…