A First-Of-Its-Kind Magazine On Environment Which Is For Nature, Of Nature, By Us (RNI No.: UPBIL/2016/66220)

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Dr Seema Singh Katiyar

TreeTake is a monthly bilingual colour magazine on environment that is fully committed to serving Mother Nature with well researched, interactive and engaging articles and lots of interesting info.

Dr Seema Singh Katiyar

Dr Seema Singh Katiyar

Dr Seema Singh Katiyar

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine!

Do I disturb the universe?’ asks Alfred J. Prufrock in the eponymous love song by T. S. Eliot. He posts this dilemma not as an expression of pampering his vanity, rather he knows that everything is connected, and that human actions have potency to alter the Universe. The life giving air that rushes into our lungs also carries the dead leaves to the ground to be dust again. The Sun that, along with air and water, creates a life sustaining biosphere, acts on the proteins in our body, and so does it upon the cells in the plants and gives them life. The clouds, sailing in the sky, were once a part ofthe sea. The distant sea, connected to our homes through the river is not so distant after all. The river, the intermediary between our homes and the sea, receives the refuse and sewage from our homes, and with a heavy heart, moves to the sea to unburden its laden bosom.

The industrial sector has long been looked upon as the culprit of environmental damage. It is believed that this sector has polluted the waterbodies beyond repair. Yet, we know that urbanization has killed the waterbodies, and concretization in the cities has caused further caused damage by inhibiting the recharge of the watertable. Somehow, over these years the humble household has escaped much attention except for the damage done by lack of garbage management and wastage of water.  But recent findings in marine life studies have sounded an alarm. This has put focus on our lifestyles in our houses, on what we eat, what we drink and what we flush- the sewage and the refuse from our homes. We can no longer deny our complicity and culpability in the act.

For years, research has shown that microbeads and nano plastic particles in house hold products especially beauty products, invisible particles washed off from clothes and car tyres constitute a third of the plastic finding its way into the ocean. This has been damaging water supplies, marine life and the ecological balance of the planet. This ‘plastic soup’that thus clogs the oceans constitutes abouy15-31% of the estimated 9.5 million tonnes of plastic released into the oceans each year, according to International Union for Conservation of Nature. As they find their way into the global food chain and water supply one can only shudder with fear at the damage they can cause to human health too. The Hindu writes that Carl Gustaf Lundin, the Head of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme acknowledges that though there are few studies so far of the impact of these tiny particles on human health, yet there is no doubt that because of their extremely small size they can actually move through our membranes hence pose great threat to all life including human. Further there has been a campaign for banning not just the microbeads but also all plastic beads as theyact like sponges and absorb many other harmful chemicals like pesticides and flame retardants, in their journey in the waterbodies. Marine life fails to distinguish between food and microbeads. According to the campaign, reports The Guardian, “Over 663 different species were negatively impacted by marine debris with approximately 11% of reported cases specifically related to the ingestion of microplastics.”

Is Beauty so important that we are willing to sacrifice our lives and our habitat? A seemingly innocuous act of washing ones face with the facewash, ubiquitously performed by most humans, now poses a potential threat to life on planet Earth. Of course it is time to ask ourselves “Do I dare disturb the Universe?”  It is time we looked into our homes to detect the culprits and assess the role of and damage done by our renunciation of traditional way of life, when we followed a sustainable way of living, but now abandoned it in favour of Modern lifestyle and modern, easy to use,chemical based products.Traditionally,products made out of natural ingredients were used as face scrub, bathing soap and hairwash. Do besan ubtan, Reetha Shikakai, awla or dried orange peel powder, turmeric and honey ring a bell? Lemon juice, rosewater or glycerin as skin care and coconut oil and mustard oil for haircare, datuns and manjans for oral hygiene and health–does anybody remember? When all these natural ingredients were discharged into the drains- they did not poison the water in the sewage. Similarly natural ingredients were used as dishwash, which again did not contaminate the water or render it poisonous. The kitchen too heavily relied on natural ingredients that were processed at home and hence were free from chemical preservatives and additives. Fresh ingredients were used and spices were ground at home. Aim was to maintain nutritive value of things. Oils from local oilmills, ghee made at home and freshvegetables were used. Hardly any Chemicals were used in the kitchen, neither for cooking food nor for washing utensils. The temple in the house was wheretwice a day during aarti camphor was burnt along with herbal concoction called dhoop- together they are known to be efficacious in keeping insects and mosquitoes away. Now we have switched over to chemical liquids for the purpose and despite the warnings about the harmful effects of these fumes we continue to use them.

Directly and in some cases indirectly, the overexposuretothe chemicals has taken its toll on human health. Our natural immunity is down and the instances of death by disease are going up. Consequently this has further led to our excessive dependence on chemical medication – whichfurther increases the concentration of chemicals in the household sewage.With so called progress we have moved away from traditional way of life and have blindly become a part of mindless race for modern products and modern living allowing ourselves to become pawns in the hand of consumerism propagated through advertising. Now everything can be had packaged and over the counter, ready for use. But we must remember that all the chemicals that have replaced the natural products in our daily lives in our home are being flushed through the drains and ending up in the waterbodies and rivers which in turn are polluting the seas. Yes, cities do have sewage plants but a lot many drains fall into the rivers directly.

What are the measures that we can take to control the menace? Firstly washing machines should be fitted with filters capable of trapping the microfibers and preventing them from finding their way into the drainage system. Car tyre makers can be motivated to use more rubber and we can do without facewash and toothpaste that contain microbeads! Is it too much to ask! Just going back to our traditional way of life and switching over to use of organic products will have a long lasting impact- not just on our waterbodies and our planet’s health but our health too-by reducing our dependence on drugs and medicines considerably and improving our health too. These measures would reduce the toxicity of the sewage from our homes. Perhaps someday our drains too will have filters to absorb and to sieve away all harmful chemicals and contents from our sewage. Better still perhaps in near future we may even have technology to clean this water to make it potable!

May 2017

May is the month of hope

Rough winds shake the darling buds of May: Wrote Shakespeare, while Ralph Waldo Emerson said, in admiration, about the month of May: “What potent blood hath modest May!”

May means Maia’s month- an Italic goddess of spring and known as Maia Maiestas or Fauna by the Romans. She was seen as a good goddess and the 15th of May was dedicated to her. The Greek goddess Maia was identified with the Roman era goddess of fertility, Bona Dea, whose festival was held in May. Despite such lofty associations May remains a modest month -the fifth month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian Calendars and the third month to have the length of 31 days and yet is the month with the shortest name. But it has potent blood which makes all things possible in May. It is resplendent with nature’s bounty as it is the month of spring in the Northern hemisphere. In the Southern hemisphere, it is autumn. May in the Southern Hemisphere is the seasonal equivalent of November in the Northern Hemisphere and vice versa. While the earth becomes bedecked in rainbow hues in the celebration of seasons, the skies are luminous with heavenly light caused by Eta Aquariids meteor shower which appears in May. It is visible from about April 21 to about May 20 each year with peak activity on or around May 6. The Arietids shower from May 22-July 2, and peaks on June 7. The Virginids also shower at various dates in May.

“The world’s favourite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May,” says Edwin Way Teale. May is the season of spring. Earth celebrates the arrival of spring with blossoms and blooms and hauls the hues from its heart, and recreates heaven on earth in which all life participates. It is a month of birth, renewal/ fresh start, return of migrating birds, blooms, marriage, etc. in a nutshell- a time for celebration. Late May typically marks the start of the summer vacation season in the United States and Canada but in India it is the beginning of hot summer months as well as summer vacation in all educational institutions. Having devoted themselves to rigorous schedule of dedicated studies towards preparation of final examinations, all look ahead towards the month of May to recharge their energies through rest in naturally beautiful regions. Travel and tourism becomes the defining activity of the month.

Year 2017 has been declared by the United Nations as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Sustainable tourism is the concept of visiting a place as a tourist and trying to make only a positive impact on the environment, society and economy. It can be related to travel for leisure, business and what is called VFR (visiting friends and relatives). There is now broad consensus that tourism development should be sustainable Tourism is a social, cultural and economic activity that offers unique opportunities to many people around the world to highlight the contribution of the tourism sector to the sustainability principles: balancing the environmental, economic, and socio-cultural aspects. Without travel there is no tourism, so the concept of sustainable tourism is tightly linked to a concept of sustainable mobility. Two relevant considerations are tourism's reliance on fossil fuels and tourism's effect on climate change. 72 percent of tourism's CO2 emissions come from transportation, 24 percent from accommodations, and 4 percent from local activities. Aviation accounts for 55% of those transportation CO2 emissions (or 40% of tourism's total). However, when considering the impact of all greenhouse gas emissions from tourism and that aviation emissions are made at high altitude where their effect on climate is amplified, aviation alone accounts for 75% of tourism's climate impact.

May 22 is sanctioned International day for Biodiversity. In this larger initiative of international cooperation, the topic of biodiversity concerns stakeholders in sustainable agriculture; desertification, land degradation and drought; water and sanitation; health and sustainable development; energy; science, technology and innovation, knowledge-sharing and capacity-building; urban resilience and adaptation; sustainable transport; climate change and disaster risk reduction; oceans and seas; forests; vulnerable groups including indigenous peoples; and food security. Recently, the Secretariat of Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) launched the manual "Tourism Supporting Biodiversity" aiming to help tourism stakeholders to take biodiversity into consideration when planning tourism development to provide an experience of nature to tourists, benefiting not only the visitors themselves but also many others who can gain from this process, including tourism businesses, indigenous peoples and local communities and conservation interests.

The other International sanctioned days include Wild Koala Day. The first Wild Koala Day was proposed by the Koala Clancy Foundation in 2016.The day coincides with the assumed birthday of Koala Clancy, a wild koala living in the You Yangs Regional Park near Melbourne, studied by the Koala Clancy Foundation. It aims to link the popularity of koalas with habitat protection. The aims of Wild Koala Day are: "Koalas are worth an estimated AUD$3 billion to Australia's economy every year, yet Australia spends very little on protecting them in the wild. Studies have shown that koalas are in decline in most of their Australian range. Surely it is time to invest in koalas before they are lost forever. To address this, a concerned group of koala conservationists Australia-wide have declared May 3rd - Wild Koala Day."

Another day relating to environment in the month of May is of Greenery Day. As a national holiday in Japan it stems from the celebration of the Emperor Shōwa's birthday on April 29 every year during the Shōwa era. In 1989, following the ascension of the current Emperor Akihito to the Chrysanthemum Throne, the name of the holiday was changed from "Birthday of the Emperor" to "Greenery Day". Officially, as its name suggests, it is a day to commune with nature and to be thankful for blessings. The day was renamed to "Greenery Day" to acknowledge the controversial wartime emperor's love for plants without directly mentioning his name. However, in practice it is seen as just another day that expands the Japanese Golden Week vacation. Wikipedia informs that in 2007, Greenery Day moved to May 4, and April 29 was changed to Shōwa Day in accordance with a 2005 revision of the law pertaining to public holidays. 

Those who wish to travel in India during the month of can visit the Moatsü Mong festival which is celebrated by the Ao people of Nagaland, India. Moatsü is celebrated in the first week of May every year. Various rituals are performed during this period. The Aos observe Moatsü Mong after the sowing is done. The festival provides them a period of recreation and entertainment after the stressful work of clearing fields, burning jungles, sowing seeds, cleaning up the Tsubu (wells) and repairs and construction of houses by elders of the Putu Menden, stretching over a week. The Moatsü festival is marked by peppy songs and dances. The whole festival full of merry making and fun is observed only for three days from May 1 to 3. During this festival one of the symbolic celebrations is Sangpangtu, where a big fire is lit and men and women sit around it putting on their complete best attire, the womenfolk serve the wine and meat. Village witch doctors forecast whether good or evil days are awaiting the people and the village by readings of the celebration of the Moatsü festival. This festival was also marked with ritualistic public fornication of a young virgin and a pubescent boy to mark the fertility of the land at the time. This ritual was stopped since the advent of Christianity to the land.

The month of May sees an International Flower Festival in Gangtok in the state of Sikkim. It is a very popular flower shows. This festival features some exotic varieties of flowers, plants and orchids of the state. During this time the state of Sikkim blooms with about 600 species of orchids, 240 species of plants and ferns, 150 varieties of gladioli and 46 types of rhododendrons etc. The flora displayed during this festival is a visual treat not to be missed.

Month of May also witnesses celebration of Buddha Purnima or birthday of Lord Buddha across all Buddhist sites in India. At Bodh Gaya, the temple wears a festive look and is decorated with flags and flowers.

The Mt. Abu Summer Festival is held in the month of May on Buddha Purnima. It is another festival that the tourist can savour and enjoy in the month of May. But remembering that 2017 has been declared the year of sustainable tourism, the travellers have to adhere to the guidelines declared, and abide by them. Bon Voyage!


March-April  2017

Biological phenomenon alter our ‘spring of life’

Literature is full of reference to spring as a season of hope and life. “If winter comes can spring be far behind” wrote Shelly. When Shelley wrote this he could not have imagined that someday coming of spring precociously will sound a warning, a foreboding of the imminent death – not just of human beings or of his dreams, but death of the entire human race, of his habitat – his blue earth to apocalypse, an event involving destruction or damage on a catastrophic scale.

A variety of sedge in Greenland that is “springing to growth, 26 days earlier than a decade ago is heralding an early spring in Northern Hemisphere. Spring arrived precociously in New York. This is seen as irrefutable evidence of climate change. A recent branch of study called Phenology has confirmed that climate change is for real and that global warming is a result of the consumption of fossil fuel.


The word Phenology was first used by the Belgian botanist Charles Morren around 1849. Phenology is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate, as well as habitat factors (such as elevation). It is a calendar record of first bud, first flower, first nestling behavior and first migrant arrivals. Phenology has been principally concerned with the dates of first occurrence of biological events in their annual cycle. Examples include the date of emergence of leaves and flowers, the first flight of butterflies and the first appearance of migratory birds, the date of leaf colouring and fall in deciduous trees, the dates of egg-laying of birds and amphibia, or the timing of the developmental cycles of temperate-zone honey bee colonies. In the scientific literature on ecology, the term is used more generally to indicate the time frame for any seasonal biological phenomena, including the dates of last appearance (e.g., the seasonal phenology of a species may be from April through September). Because many such phenomena are very sensitive to small variations in climate, especially to temperature, phenological records can be a useful proxy for temperature in historical climatology, especially in the study of climate change and global warming. For example, viticultural records of grape harvests in Europe have been used to reconstruct a record of summer growing season temperatures going back more than 500 years. In addition to providing a longer historical baseline than instrumental measurements, phenological observations provide high temporal resolution of ongoing changes related to global warming. Research says that the result from the plant world matches the findings of the instrumental record: Scientist conclude that 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded and human activities are seen as the culprit here.

What Is Weather?

Before we embark upon the task of understanding Climate change one needs to understand weather and climate and difference between the two. Weather can be understood as the changes we see and feel outside from day to day. It might rain one day and be sunny the next. Sometimes it is cold. Sometimes it is hot. Weather also changes from place to place.

What Is Climate?

NASA defines Climate is the usual weather of a place. Climate can be different for different seasons. A place might be mostly warm and dry in the summer. The same place may be cool and wet in the winter. Different places can have different climates. There’s also Earth’s climate. Earth's climate is what you get when you combine all the climates around the world together.

What Is Climate Change?

Climate change is a change in the usual weather found in a place. This could be a change in how much rain a place usually gets in a year. Or it could be a change in a place's usual temperature for a month or season. Climate change is also a change in Earth's climate. This could be a change in Earth's usual temperature. Or it could be a change in where rain and snow usually fall on Earth. Weather can change in just a few hours. Climate takes hundreds or even millions of years to change. Earth's climate is always changing. There have been times when Earth's climate has been warmer than it is now. There have been times when it has been cooler. These times can last thousands or millions of years.

Climate Change as Apocalypse?

People who study Earth claim that Earth's climate is getting warmer. Earth's temperature has gone up about one degree Fahrenheit in the last 100 years. This may not seem like much, but small changes in Earth's temperature can have big effects. Some effects are already happening. Warming of Earth's climate has caused the polar some snow and ice to melt. The warming also has caused oceans to rise. And it has changed the timing of when certain plants grow. These may not seem alarming to an ordinary person as these changes do not seem to affect us directly and immediately, but they are significant indicators of our planets health or lack of it.

What is Causing Earth's Climate to Change?

Many things can cause climate to change all on its own. Earth's distance from the sun can change. The sun can send out more or less energy. Oceans can change. When a volcano erupts, it can change our climate, but most of all humans can change climate too. We drive cars, heat and cool our houses, cook food. All those things take energy. One way we get energy is by burning coal, oil and gas. Burning these things puts gases into the air. The gases cause the air to heat up. This can change the climate of a place. It also can change Earth's climate.

What Might Happen to Earth's Climate?

Scientists think that Earth's temperature will keep on rising for the next 100 years. This would cause more snow and ice to melt. Oceans would rise higher thus threatening to inundate coastal metropolises leading to loss of life. Some places would get hotter, as reported above the temperatures at Antarctica were, on March 1, as high as that of Cairo. Other places might have colder winters with more snow. 2016, despite being the hottest year ever, also saw unprecedented snow fall not only in quantity but places such as Saudi Arabia have received snowfall too! Some places might get more rain. Other places might get less rain. Some places might have stronger hurricanes. This would put Man’s existence into jeopardy by disturbing the climatic and weather conditions, destroying hid habitat as well as affecting production of food. Unprecedented levels of pollution of the oceans have already poisoned the marine life.


Though we have started looking out in the universe for new habitat, we cannot afford to abandon the only one that we have for now. Measures have to be taken to heal the hurt that we have inflicted on the Earth. With the global population expected to increase from 7.4 billion to just over 11 billion by 2100 according to the UN, the urgency of balancing human prosperity with the needs of other species—of which half could be extinct by 2100—is high on the agenda .

We have to keep global warming less than 1.5°C, we have to keep the majority of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground. That's why there is a call for an immediate stop to leasing of public land to the oil, gas and coal industries. Nations have to switch over to other sources of clean and green energy like solar and electrical. Sweden has just set an example to the world. In Sweden, only about 3% of electricity production comes from fossil fuels.

Next measure could be Carbon Capture- It is the process of capturing waste carbon dioxide (CO2) from areas where there is excessive emission, such as power plants, and then safely depositing it in a place (generally underground) where it won’t enter the atmosphere. In what’s being touted as a breakthrough in the battle against climate change, two alumni from Indian Institute of Technology, Kharaghpur, have found a cheap way to capture carbon emissions. Their focus was on finding a feasible carbon capture and storage methodology.

Solar solutions are another area that has caught the fancy of the world and many countries, including India, have taken to it in a big way. But the real success will come when we, the people, make lifestyle changes and become a part of the movement with absolute commitment.


Feb 2017

Living in a world precariously poised

While the millennials were busy growing up, we the guardians and custodians of their habitat pandered our greed and plundered it and mined it in such a mindless manner so as to force it to a precipice –not just putting our future in jeopardy but endangering the existence of the entire human race! All around things are changing. Consequently new challenges present themselves every day. One such challenge is posed by the Natural Environment which is no longer the same as 80’s and 90’s. Flora and fauna is exploited to such an extent that animal and plants are becoming extinct in hordes. Who could contradict the poet when he sang “If winter comes can spring be far behind?” Today climate change threatens to prove the poet wrong .Yes there may come a day when winter may not be followed by spring. The risk to life is real. we have become a generation of people that is eating adulterated food, breathing air that kills, drinking water that causes death, that vacates on hills sans forests or dives into ocean’s that are full of plastic and oil! We can no longer ostrich like bury our heads and proclaim “God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world” Technology and natural environment have  guided the  development discourse and today the focus is on sustainable development for there is real risk to life – due to erratic unplanned development and environmental degradation.

The risk to life due to environmental disaster is massive and real for this generation. It is living in a world precariously poised. United Nations defines disaster as –a serious disruption of a community or a society functioning, causing widespread human, material, economic and/or environmental losses which exceed the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources. Natural hazards may be prevented through application of careful planning, preparedness and mitigation measures”. This definition has also been co-opted in National Act of Disaster Management2005.

We have heard these pearls of wisdom so often-A stitch in time saves nine or prevention is better than cure. So the next logical step is to manage risk of disaster. This approach means that “the underlying hazards and vulnerabilities, natural or anthropogenic, are assessed scientifically and necessary measures are taken to prevent the creation of risks ab initio. It also means that existing risks are reduced through a combination of various structural and non-structural measures including innovative mechanisms of risk sharing and risk insurance. But despite all the measures disasters happen. In such a case there is no other option but to be prepared for disaster.” Disaster preparedness means getting prepared to respond quickly and effectively when such a situation rises so as to save maximum number of lives, reduce human suffering as well as loss of property to the maximum extent possible. Measures like evacuation, research and rescue are employed along with shelter and relief. The focus thus shifts from Disaster Management to Disaster risk reduction to disaster preparedness. That disaster Preparedness pays is established by the fact that in 1999, during super cyclone in Orissa, more than 13,000 lives were lost and extensive damage to property was witnessed. But when cyclone Phylin thrashed down in 2013 with almost same intensity as 1999, the loss of life was much less, just 22 though loss to property was enormous. Recent Cyclone in Tamil Nadu registered death toll of just 14 though again the loss of property was enormous. And the same was witnessed in case of cyclone Hudhud. This shows that with concerted effort in making ex-ante investment in capacity building has reaped rich harvest by reducing the death toll considerably. It should now be our endeavour to bring down the loss of property too when disaster strikes.

Global community is commitment to the cause and this is proved by three landmark agreements signed in the Year 2015, where they committed themselves for achieving goals and targets set in all three agreements, namely- Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Paris agreement on global change-cop 21 and Sendai Framework Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-30.

Sendai Framework was by 188 UN members on 18th March, 2015, adopted at 3rd UN World conference on disaster risk reduction held in the Japanese city of Sendai. It is a 15 year plan and a first major UN agreement on the post 2015 development agenda consisting of four major priority areas along with seven targets to be met by 2030. The focus of the framework is prevention of new disaster risks and to sustainably reduce disaster risks. Sendai framework has four priority areas. They are- Understanding risk, strengthening risk governance, investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience and improving capacities for disaster response as well as building back  better after disaster. The 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development Goals contain 17 sustainable goals. Out of these at least 8 have disaster risk management embedded in them.  Paris Agreement for Climate Change, signed in december2015 focused on “understanding, action and support” for disaster reduction in 8 areas. They are Early warning system, Emergency preparedness, Slow onset events, Events that may involve irreversible and permanent loss and damage, Comprehensive risk assessment and management, Risk insurance facilities, climate risk poling and other insurance solutions, Non-economic losses, and Resilience of communities, livelihood and ecosystem.

Earlier, post-disaster response was considered as one of the most important activities for disaster management. So institutional system, policy, manuals, programmes were designed to address these concerns only. Entire governance for disaster management was developed to address post disaster scenario. But not anymore! In the past decade and a half India has set a new course for itself, which it keeps revising at regular intervals.


Jan 2017

Come to its midst & see how Nature nurtures

The New Year dawns like a dew drop – an eternity in a moment. The misty, miniature orb encapsulates the universe within it- reflects the clear blue sky above like a canvas waiting to be painted afresh in kaleidoscope  of rainbow hues of individual as well as collective dreams. The blue earth awaits –awaits in hope and happiness- in the deluge of New year resolutions one might just be about saving Mother Earth! The revellers retreat to their happy havens after eating, drinking, making merry and wishing each other a happy and healthy year ahead only to awake up with renewed hopes of prosperity and zealous vigour to pursue those goals. Between the cycle of Man’s waking and sleeping, the Earth waits…it waits …for its future to unfold.

The future of our planet is in our classrooms!  Is it? Are we educating our children to be ‘Environmental citizens’? Are we educating them to be ‘Global Green Citizens’? Are they familiar with Eco-justice? Are we educators inculcating in them the values and habits of ‘sustainable living’? Of late focus has converged on ‘sustainable development’. Myopically we had till now focused mainly on economic activity of production and consumption, which enjoyed pride of place in this postmodern era of globalization, without realizing that if we align our education with ecological curriculum and sustainable living, sustainable development would happen on its own.

“What do parents owe their young that is more important than a warm and trusting connection to the Earth?” asks Theodore Roszak in The Voice of the Earth. The purpose of education is “making links” and “it is fundamentally ecological. But reality is not ecological and current education barely ecological”. It destroys “natural’ links with experience, cultural heritage, Community and environment” states Jean Paul Hauteocueur in ‘Ecological Education in Everyday Life: ALPHA 2000” published by University of Toronto Press and by the UNESCO Institute of Education in collaboration with the Canadian Commission for UNESCO.

What are the strategies then that are available to schools and can be adopted for re-establishing these “links” and grooming students as “Global Green Citizens” or “Environmental Citizens”? Some of the Ecological curriculum theories and approaches available to us are – Environmental Education, Experiential/Outdoor Education, Place-Based Education, Education for sustainability, Holistic Education, Eco-literacy, Environmental justice, Critical Animal Studies and Eco-pedagogy. The schools have to opt for ecological curriculum as in this apocalyptic era we are staring at the imminent death of our planet. Lao Tzu said “A journey of thousand miles must begin with a single step.”  Hence I endorse “Environmental citizenship” for sustainable development. It means that each one of us is an integral part of a larger ecosystem and that our future depends on each one of us embracing the challenge and acting responsibly and positively towards our environment. It is about making changes in our daily lives to be environment citizens all day, every day. This concept was first developed by Environment Canada though it has spread all over the world.  Another strategy could be Eco-Justice –pedagogy for responsibility. The people fail to notice ecological crisis because they feel that the problems do not affect them directly. Eco-justice Education enables us to look at the root causes of this wilful ignorance and opens the doors to knowledge of social and personal consequences. Education without action is of no value.

“Let Nature be your teacher.” Said William Wordsworth, a poet, known for his pantheism. He saw a common spirit flow through the Natural world as well as the human. According to Martusewiecz et al the basic premise of Environmental Education rests on giving students basic knowledge of ecology and of ecological system, developing an eye for seeing and appreciating outdoor, keeping them abreast of ecological issues impacting our as well as our habitat’s future from an individualistic as well as scientific standpoint. In many countries, including ours, environmental studies have become an integral part of syllabi, both at school and at university. Yet the desired results remain elusive.

Perhaps because this curriculum fails to equip students to look into the in-depth problems that the society faces. The only way changes can be made if there is a real connection between the students and the natural outdoors world. Without continuous hands-on experience, it is impossible for children to acquire a deep intuitive understanding of the natural world that is the foundation of sustainable development. A critical aspect of the present-day crisis in education is that children are becoming separated from daily experience of the natural world, especially in larger cities.  Robin C. Moore and Herb H. Wong Conclude in Natural Learning, Creating Environments for Rediscovering Nature’s Way of Teaching. “If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it. If the purpose of the education is to bring the universe into the classroom by employing the latest technologies, travel, especially ecotourism, turns the universe into a classroom. School excursions, especially to places of natural beauty, are a good tool for restoring this connection. The International Ecotourism Society, TIES, defines it as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the wellbeing of local people”. The concept arose in the 1070s from the general global environmental movement. Ecotourism helps create a better appreciation of the world’s natural resources, such as landscapes, wildlife and coral reefs. Ecotourism educates visitors about environmental responsibility. The basic principles and good practices of ecotourism are slowly beginning to spread and schools can use the excursion as a potent tool to re-establish the lost connection between people and Nature. Here Nature and culture become the main attraction hand in hand with the unique travel experience. This sustainable type of tourism with low carbon footprint allows tourist to venture into unspoilt scenery, closer to Nature.  Taking students to places of significance, nestled away in the lap of nature, would certainly provide a reference point to young students to quantify what has been sacrificed at the altar of urbanization. This will also help them value what managed to survive despite man’s greed, and work for the restoration of what has been lost. It also showcases the truth that the technological paraphernalia, the gadgetry, is superfluous and can easily be done away with.

In early India, when education was imparted in Gurukuls, education and nature were not divorced as Gurukuls were always away from habitation, nestled away in the midst of nature. One automatically grew up in synchronization with Nature and venerated nature in both its role-as a giver as well as a teacher. They saw man as a part of nature and not its master. Today we have to look for strategies for action to establish bridge over this Gap. Let us understand that Ecological education is not a specialized discipline within the field of educational sciences that also studies the environment. On the contrary it is a lifelong practice of social learning and knowledge transmission that is carried out in all spheres of life. In other words: a community education, with the addition of ‘ecological’, which locates these learning practices in the space of our lives, in current ideological context of globalization, and in a dramatic perception of the future.


Dec 2016

Air Pollution: Clearing the Air

 Fresh air and sunshine are the two things that never fail to cheer a despondent soul. But, of late, fresh air has been so scarce that it has created a huge scare. Anybody who was born in a time when fresh air was abundant, and ambled a mile up and down the verdant path, felt the wind blow in his face and lungs swell up with joy, distracted by a chirp there or a wood sorrel here would understand what we have lost. But it is not just pleasures of idling and ambling in the benefic Nature that are being missed. The lament is about the life giver turning foe – threatening to invade the inside of our systems with insidious intent- to strike at the source of very life that it was supposed to support!

Diwali dealt a damaging blow to environment especially to the Air. After the lights darkness fell as a pall of fog cocooned the capital city of Delhi. Air Pollution in Delhi surged reducing visibility to 50 m .Toxic air made people and the government   hit the panic button calling for urgent and immediate action. Air-pollution saw new high levels of particulate matter finer than 2.5 mm searching to 900 mark. This was much higher than the permitted safe limit. In fact it was 15 times higher than the prescribed safety limit. It was seen as an emergency situation and immediately a set of measures were implemented included closing down of Schools for three days I'm shutting down Badarpur power plant for three days.

But Delhi is not alone and Lucknow followed suit. In fact all major metropolitan cities are grappling with the problem of surging air pollution .in Lucknow cheer broke out amidst winter lovers, who mistook smog but soon the cheer gave way to worry and concern for clean air is the basic right of each Indian.

What is smog? Why is it so dangerous? How does it materializeout of the thin air?According to Wikipedia the word itself was coined in the early 20th centuries as a portmanteau of the word smoke and fog to refer to the smoky fog, it's opacity and odour. The word was intended to refer to what was sometimes known as P soup fog.  It is an air pollutant. It is a cloud causing low visibility and for it to qualify as smog there should be enough pollution, smoke and moisture in the air. This kind of visible air-pollution is composed of nitrogen oxide, sulphur oxides, ozone, smoke or particulates among other things. Human made smog is derived from road emissions, forest and agriculture fires and photochemical reactions of these emissions. The smoke and other particulate matter combine with fog when there is high humidity and low temperatures to form smog.

Though modern smog as found in los Angeles according to Wikipedia is a type of air pollutant derived from vehicular emissions from internal combustion engine is an industrial fumes that react in atmosphere with sunlight to form secondary pollutants that also combine with the primary emission to form petrochemical smog. But Delhi's problems are further complicated and aggravated by the burning of stubble in the neighbouring areas.

Smog has serious impact on human health, but ground-level ozone, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide are especially harmful for senior citizens, children and people with heart and lung ailments such as emphysema, asthma, and bronchitis. It can inflame breathing passages, choke lungs, causing shortness of breath, pain on inhaling deeply, wheezing and coughing. Nose and eyes irritation can be caused leading to the drying out of the protective membranes of the nose and throat and even interfere with body’s ability to fight infection, increasing susceptibility to illness, rendering us vulnerable to death. What would be the harmful effects of prolonged, early life exposure to smog as air-pollution needs to be studied to arrive at any estimation of long-term damage to human health and impending death.

Wisdom lies in learning from others’ mistakes. China too had faced such apocalyptic air pollution just before Beijing Olympics. And again in 2015.There are lessons that we can learn from China’s approach to the problem.  Treating it as an emergency, it declared war on it. Smog  is the enemy, the particulate matter that was spewed from countless cars, power stations and steel plants. It shut down its schools, factories and construction sites and stopped half of its cars from plying on the roads. These measures helped in improving the quality of the air. But the gains were temporary and the measures ad-hock.

Dr Jim Zang, professor of global environmental health at Duke University writes “we have particles that have a diameter smaller than a virus, human hair is very big compared to these. The larger ones will be deposited into the lungs – that's the biggest worry. But recent scientific evidence shows that when the particles are small enough they go into the bloodstream as well and they can go directly into the brain too." In this study he found that even with temporary intervention the resultant improvement in air Quality percolated to the healthy young adults having a positive bearing on their cardiovascular and respiratory health indicators. Economic slowdown complicates the issue of environmental protection men home, and economist at the Harvard university China projects establishes relationship between economic slowdown and a negative bearing on air-pollution control. “It is a complicating efforts to continue to convince people to put in costly pollution equipment and to think about energy-saving technologies.”

India too has woken up to the threat of menacingly high levels of air pollution in its cities. Though it has not yet dealt a silver bullet to rescue the cities but red alerts have been raised. Last year Delhi mobilized its resources to implement Odd-Even formula to keep half its vehicles off roads in the month of January. This year too schools were closed, power house shut down, public transport buses running on fossil fuel being replaced by battery operated ones, extension of Metro services, ban on stubble burning, and recently a ban on manufacturing and storage of fire crackers.  Though the benefits reaped are only temporary and defy any long term consolidation yet the red alert is a positive step and is a sign of progress in governments understanding of how they should react and respond to these extreme conditions of threat to environment. Extreme situations demand extreme remedies. All stake holders have to cooperate in the implementation of well thrashed out, long term policies for the curtailment of surging air pollution seeing its impact on Human health as well as the health of our planet.


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