Tuesday, 23 March 2010

1,411 tigers left

1,411 tigers, and unanswered questions

1411 tigers left. So says the latest advertisement campaign of a new telecom company and the WWF. It is powerful. It plays to our emotions. But it does not tell us what is being done, or should be done. It does not tell us how we, the consuming classes, can be part of the solution to safeguard the tiger.

The reason is simple. One must gloss over the bitter, inconvenient truth that India cannot have more than 1,411 tigers—this figure is the mid-range of the last census—unless we re-imagine conservation differently, very differently. In fact, if there are these many tigers, that’s amazing. Forget more.

Let me explain what I have learnt from some remarkable wildlifers in the country. Tigers are territorial. They literally need land to roam. With the birth of a male tiger, this search starts. Either the old tiger gives way or the male has to look for new ground. But where is that ground? All around our parks, forests are destroyed. People who live close to tiger reserves resent this animal, which kills their cattle. They have no use for the reserve forest, which protects the herbivores and wild boars that eat the growing crop. They get nothing in return for living around tiger land. They want no tigers in their land.

In Kanha tiger reserve, for instance, I learnt how field managers keep a count of tiger cubs. They know there should be an increase of 10 tigers each year to maintain a viable and healthy population. They do much to protect the tigers inside the park. But the numbers do not increase. The young tiger in search of territory moves beyond the protected—and now increasingly guarded—area. When the outside world was forested, the tiger could expand its space. But now the forests are degraded. The people who live there are poor and angry. So what usually happens is a tragedy, as happened in Ranthambore, where two young tigers were poisoned just this week.

Nobody wins in this bloody battle. This is why we have to make peace—between the tigers who need to roam and poor people who need benefits from conservation. This is why we must practise coexistence.

The numbers are stark. Irrefutable. Over the past many years the tiger census revealed many more tigers lived outside reserves. The 2001 census put the number at about 1,500 tigers inside and as many as 2,000 outside. But nobody quite believed these numbers. In 2005, the task force I chaired to look into tiger conservation suggested the method of counting be changed to be more accurate. This was done. The next census found the number of tigers in reserves was about the same, between 1,165 and 1,657. But between the two censuses, the tigers outside (if they ever existed) just disappeared. This is why numbers fell. This is why we cry for the beloved tiger. Paper tiger.

Look at it another way. The total area of what is called the ‘core’—a national park mostly—is some 17,000 sq km. Tiger conservationists will tell you the animal needs a minimum 10 sq km territory to roam, mate and live. Add it up and you will see that’s roughly why we have so many or so few tigers.

This is not to say poaching is not a problem, or to deny the sheer lack of protection because the guards are so few. These are crucial, as the task force report Joining The Dots showed. But the crisis of numbers will not go away unless we practise conservation differently.

Till now, policy has ensured people outside the reserve get nothing from protection. Over the years, with little investment and even less understanding of how to plant trees that survive cattle and goats, the tracts of land outside the reserves stand denuded. People have no option but to use the protected areas to send their cattle for grazing. At the same time, as the ruminants move into forests, the herbivores—deer and other animals—move out to farmers’ fields to forage and destroy. It is also an inconvenient fact that the tiger often survives on easier and slow moving prey, the cattle, buffalo and goat of the farmer.

The conflict is growing. In villages adjoining Bandhavgarh people told me they were worse off than birds. At least birds could sleep a few hours at night. For them the vigil to protect crops from wild animals is unending and fruitless. What an indictment of conservation.

So, if we want more land to safeguard more tigers we must learn this reality. The answer is in, first and foremost, paying people quickly and generously for the crops destroyed or the cattle killed. Currently, this does not happen. Second, we need to ensure there is substantial and disproportionate development investment in areas that adjoin a tiger reserve. People should be benefited to live in the buffer of the reserve. They must want to secure the tiger. Third, people must get direct gains from conservation. They must be preferred in jobs to protect. They must be partners, owners and indeed earners from tourism the tiger brings.

This is the agenda for tiger conservation: for 1,411 and many more. Otherwise, the media campaign will be nothing more than noise, drumming up support with more frantic chest thumping that leads nowhere.

—Sunita Narain


Friday, 19 March 2010

Life Killer Series 7: "Botany of Desire - A Mono-culture insight"

Life Killer Series 7:
"Botany of Desire - A Mono-culture insight"

Dear Friends,

I have explained manythings in the life killer series (Livelihood killer series) in my previous posts. E.g. Sugarcane and its voracious nature for water, Meat eating habit, Prosopis's nature of super propagation, coffee, etc.

Here in this post, I would like to bring up a documentary which explains very detailedly about the human desire in various forms towards certain plants (Apple, Cannabis, Tulip and Potato) and how it drives up environmental problems and risks upon humanity.

Finally, the author ends with a smart and easy solution for all complex problems, on which most of ours would convinced. Its very good and highly appreciable work from Michel Pollan. I have uploaded certain part (Case of Potato) of his documentary in youtube, whose links were given below.

Please kindly spend some 30 minutes to watch the part of the documentary in youtube

Botany of desire Introduction http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksq-IGxxVR0

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Life Killer Series 6: Could Less Meat Mean More Food?


The logic—articulated by groups that include the Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom and the United Nations Environment Programme—goes like this. From chicken cordon bleu to bacon double cheeseburgers, people in the developed world eat a huge amount of animal protein. And consumption of meat, eggs, and milk is already growing globally as people in poorer nations get richer and shift their diets. That’s a problem because animals are eating a growing share of the world’s grain harvests—and already directly or indirectly utilize up to 80% of the world’s agricultural land. Yet they supply just 15% of all calories. So, the argument goes, if we just ate less meat, we could free up a lot of plants to feed billions of hungry people and gain a lot of good farmland. Some food-security researchers, however, are skeptical. Although cutting back on meat has many potential benefits, they say the complexities of global markets and human food traditions could also produce some counterintuitive—and possibly counterproductive—results. “It’s not this panacea that people have put forward,” says Mark Rosegrant

of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFRPI) in Washington, D.C. One provocative forecast: If people in industrialized nations gave up half their meat, more Asian children could become malnourished.


Scholars on all sides of the meaty issue agree on one thing: Just as the rich use more energy than the poor, they also eat more meat. The United States, for instance, has just 4.5% of the world’s population

but accounts for about 15% of global meat consumption. Americans consume about 330 grams of meat a day on average—the equivalent of three quarter-pound hamburgers. In contrast, the U.S.department of Agriculture re commends that most people consume just 142 to 184 grams of meat and beans daily. In the developing world, daily meat consumption averages just 80 grams. Those numbers suggest that people living in the United States and other wealthy nations could increase world grain supplies simply by forgoing that extra burger or chop. But it’s not that simple. Figuring out the full impact of meat consumption on global food security requires sophisticated computer models that can track how buying decisions ripple out across farming systems, global supply chains, and food markets.

One of those models is called IMPACT, and in 1998 IFPRI’s Rosegrant and colleagues used it to study what might happen in 2020 if rich nations cut their per capita demand for meat to half of what it was in 1993. First, the simulation found that as demand for meat fell, prices declined and meat became more affordable worldwide. As a result, in the developing world, per capita meat consumption actually increased by 13% as poorer consumers could buy more. That’s good news for what could be called “meat equity,” because increasing animal-protein consumption among the very poor can provide substantial nutritional benefits, particularly for children. Surprisingly, however, when the rich halved their meat habit, the poor didn’t necessarily get that much more grain—their largest source of calories. According to the model, per capita cereal consumption in developing nations rose by just 1.5%. That’s

enough grain to ease hunger for 3.6 million malnourished children—but nowhere near the kinds of gains many expect from curbing meat consumption. One big reason is the mismatch between human and animal diets. In rich countries, farmers usually feed their livestock corn or soybeans. When the farmers produce less meat, demand for corn and soy drops and the grains become more affordable. That’s good for people in the parts of Africa and Latin America where corn is a dietary staple. But people in many developing countries, particularly in Asia, don’t eat much corn; they eat rice and wheat. So falling corn and soy prices don’t directly help them. (It’s true that as demand for corn drops, some farmers might start growing wheat instead. In general, however, climate, soil, or water availability often limit a farmer’s ability to switch crops easily. Iowa soybean growers, for instance, can’t start growing rice, which requires heavy irrigation.)

Eating less meat could even backfire and make food insecurity worse, suggested the simulation, which was published in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. For instance, when consumers in developed countries replaced meat with pasta and bread, world wheat prices rose. That actually increased malnutrition slightly in developing countries such as India that rely on wheat. “It’s a big deal when wheat prices go up,” Rosegrant says. When all the pluses and minuses are added up, Rosegrant is confident that cutting meat consumption could ultimately help improve global food security. But “it’s a small contribution, like changing to fluorescent light bulbs” to fight global warming, he says.

Changing appetites

Given the world’s voracious and growing appetite for animal products, however, how could people be persuaded to eat less? One approach, scholars say, is to raise the price to reduce demand. If meat prices reflected the true ecological and climate costs of raising farm animals, for instance, many people would buy less, suggests Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. He’d like to see taxes that are tied to meat’s carbon footprint. Beef might get higher taxes than chicken or catfish, he says, predicting that such levies “would free up grain for those further down the food chain.”

A similar approach calls for removing subsidies—both obvious and hidden—for meat producers. Beef exporter Brazil, for instance, indirectly subsidizes meat consumption by not charging consumers for the tropical forests destroyed by ranching, argues Sjur Kasa, a sociologist at the University of Oslo. Ending subsidies would be “the most powerful tool for curbing meat consumption,” Kasa says, but it would be “a very difficult battle.” So far, however, the battle hasn’t been joined. “There are really no big victories when it comes to making people eat less meat for sustainability reasons,” he says.

Campaigns directed at consumers, emphasizing the health benefits of reducing calories and animal fats, could prove a winner, says Danielle Nierenberg of the Worldwatch Institute in Washington, D.C. She notes that concerns about health care costs and a greater focus on preventing disease have helped spur a number of innovative efforts. In 2003, for instance, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health started “Meatless Mondays,” an initiative to reduce U.S. meat consumption by 15%. The organizers were inspired in part by government campaigns during World War I and II to ration meat for troops. In May 2009, the city council of Ghent, Belgium, proclaimed that its citizens should avoid eating meat on Thursdays. And last fall, Baltimore became the first city to serve only vegetarian meals 1 day a week in public schools. So far, it’s hard to know if these small-scale efforts have had any significant impact. And Rosegrant has an overarching concern: “What worries me is that people will think that’s all we need to do.” To truly ensure global food security, he says we’ll also need much greater investment in agricultural research to boost yields and more economic development that increases incomes in poorer nations. “We have to go beyond personal responsibility,” he says, “to policy action.” –ERIK STOKSTAD

Reference: SCIENCE VOL 327 12 FEBRUARY 2010