Hotspots of Biodiversity

September 20, 2006 at 2:05 pm | Posted in "new species", biodiversity, bird, Bugun, liocichla, Stott | 2 Comments

The recent discovery of a completely new species of bird from the remote Arunachal Pradesh (Himalayan foothills) in India reminds us that where man has not interfered much, the wilderness still can thrive.

Bugun liocichla is colourful. Initially it was mistaken for a Chinese species, the Omei Shan Liocichla, and it was assumed that a different race of that species had survived in a pocket over a 1000 km South of its known range.

Now that would be very unusual. The other possibility, that the species had spread South from the Shan would be even stranger!

With the world warming rapidly we are seeing the opposite! Temperate species are creeping North as the winters become milder while tropical creatures are extending their ranges. The nightmare for medical authorities in temperate countries is that very soon, tropically transmitted diseases, such as Malaria and Dengue will be commonplace in North America and Europe. The reason being that their vector – the mosquito – is already establishing populations much further North than ever before – simply because winter has become so much milder. In fact, the trend is so pronounced that the hottest specialty in medical colleges is now…Tropical Medicine!

Getting back to Bugun, the new species has coexisted with a small tribe of the West Kameng district, quite naturally called the Bugun (or Khova) and hence the new name.

We have a common, noisy and gregarious cousin of this rare “babbler” in my area and we call that “the seven sisters” as they are always found in hyperactive bunches.

My own fascination for birds bloomed very late and I have to thank many people for having introduced me to the “world of birding”not least of whom is the amazing Dr. John R.W. Stott


Suffer the CHILDREN

September 12, 2006 at 7:09 am | Posted in BBC, children, education, modern warfare, war, women and children | Leave a comment

The BBC reports an estimated 43 million children in the war affected hotspots around the world that are now being denied a chance at education (data from Save the Children).

Horrifying, but not nearly as bad as this statistic: The proportion of women and children among civilians injured or killed in war is approximately 80% (according to Unicef).

In countries like India, where industrialisation is growing apace, the greater danger comes from poverty. Society is becoming more stratified.

The absolute number of kids getting a primary education seemingly increases as a result of the ‘growth’ of the middle class.
But, the poor are getting poorer – and sending their kids out to work. Staying alive has a higher priority. Privatisation of education only means that the government, which should be helping the poor, quietly turns a blind eye.

Getting back to the question of who really suffers in war, one wonders, do the perpetrators of war ever think through the consequences?

What benefit is there in supposedly engaging one enemy but ending up killing only women and kids?

Is this a new sort of tactic ?

– stop fighting me…

or I will decimate your women and children?

Remember: Modern warfare kills 10 TIMES more civilians than combatants!


Raining and Pouring

September 9, 2006 at 7:51 pm | Posted in deforestation, displaced persons, earthquakes, flood, Mahanadi, mega dams, MODIS, monocultures, NASA | Leave a comment

Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite.

Will we never learn? In the dry season and during periods of drought, many parts of India resemble a desert. But if it should rain, behold we have floods. The photos compare the Mahanadi estuary just one month apart. About 2 million people were displaced over that one month along the course of just this one river – 2,000,000!

Climate change has been rapid in India what with the massive elimination of forests over the last century. The land’s ability to ameliorate the extremes has disappeard. The water table has dropped precipitously making it unlikely that the forests will ever come back even if we do try to allow aforestation. We replant with monocultures promoting bioinversity, we pollute. Is there anything left for us to make worse?

the people suffer

The government builds mega dams and the flooding worsens. The likelihood of catastrophic earthquakes increases – Latur, Bhuj and Kashmir all in the space of 10 years are not enough of a warning.

the people suffer

Loving Community

September 9, 2006 at 6:28 am | Posted in communal insect, intolerance, pest control, Polistes, Polistinae, pollinator, Vespidae, wasp | 2 Comments

For a short while, we had shifted to a new home that had been lying vacant for quite some time. It was full of interesting creatures like geckos, roaches, 6 species of ants, at least 10 different types of spiders and two communities of paper wasps. The wasp nests were nestled into the air vents in the house’s two bathrooms. As they were well out of easy reach, we decided to wait on “dealing with” the wasps and got on with clearing out most of the other house guests. The nearby vacant land had a few trees with a resident family of purple rumped sunbirds and even a rarely seen green agama lizard sporting an impressively long, brown-tipped tail.

A little research on our wasps revealed that these were members of the family Vespidae, subfamily Polistinae and probably of the Polistes genus (though no entomologist am I).

The adults feed on nectar while the young are given a diet of other insects’ larvae making the wasps very important both as pollinators and as pest controllers.

After a week we realised that the wasps were not causing any problems – no one had been buzzed and though the bathrooms were in use, the wasps seemed to be minding their own business. As days went bye, we spent more time just watching them work. Superbly organised, there was daily progress on nest construction and we started to notice the young ones emerging and merging with the family community. there was even a powerful but gentle discipline maintained by the senior wasps. Juniors who did not get on with their work could be seen sitting just outside the nest area facing away from the nest for a few hours at a time till one of the older ones would come and nudge them gently back into the mainstream.

My son (about 13) had always been terrified of anything that carried a sting. Even he came round to taking bath without an upward glance! Soon he became the resident expert in capturing and releasing the few wasps that got confused at night by the tubelights and ended up in the living room or in one of the bedrooms.

When we shifted out after about 4 months of peaceful cohabitation, we (carefully) covered the vents up from the inside to try to protect the nests from whoever came in after us. The attempt was unsuccessful. When I returned to pick up the last few odds and ends after about a week, I found the netting removed, no wasp nests, and evidence of fire on the walls round the air vents.

Aligning with TERROR

September 6, 2006 at 4:35 am | Posted in allies, extrajudicial incarceration, global warming, JFK, Manmohan Singh, neocononialism, non-aligned, preemptive strikes, racial profiling, rendering, spying, terror, torture, Wolfowitz | Leave a comment

“To those new states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom–and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.

To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required–not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” from JFK’s inaugural address!

That America no longer exists…

Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power. These regions include Western Europe, East Asia, the territory of the former Soviet Union, and Southwest Asia…we must maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.” (Paul Wolfowitz, then under-secretary of defense, way back in 1992)

In the context of the future of our world, alignment with perpetrators of war will result in terror. Just yesterday India’s Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh , issued a warning that India was going to be targeted by terrorists. He went on to say that he had reliable information that our nation was riddled with secret terrorist cells that are just waiting for a chance to create mayhem. I have no doubts as to the origin of that”intelligence” and even less doubt that it will soon be backed up by some attempt to drive us in fear to the neocon doorstep!

Here then is the NEOCONONIAL vision for Asia

Common sense should tell us that those who find it easy to kick their 50-year-old most favored ally + bosom buddy (Pak) out overnight are not fit to be considered as potential friends.
I like Manmohan Singh and he has been a good Prime Minister – so far. But, the day that our government decides to align with the creators of ‘the war on terror’ is the day that we destroy India’s security. There will be no peace of mind, there will be no peace. We will henceforth become paranoid for that is the price of being allied to:

A country that is willing to do anything in order to hegemonise the world’s oil supply…

  • A country that ‘renders’ human beings to torture.
  • A country that raises taxes for the poor while lowering taxes for the rich.
  • A country that promotes racial profiling.
  • A country that maintains prisons outside its own jurisdiction deliberately to avoid due process.
  • A country that believes it can preemptively strike anytime, anywhere.
  • A country that denies its own citizens of the freedoms guaranteed by its constitution.
  • A country that spies on everything including what its own people do.
  • A country that hires mercenaries to do its dirty work.
  • A country that provides its ally with cluster bombs to murder civilians.
  • A country that is committed first to its corporations and considers its citizens as the fodder of big business.
  • A country that allows thousands to die in a hurricane because they are poor.
  • A country that lied to create a war.
  • A country that encourages global warming.
  • A country that systematically coerces other nations to either support it or shut up.
  • An administration that repudiates the Geneva Convention and is desperately trying to legalise torture

I and all those that love our nation – and our world – would not want to have anything to do with such as these.

Whatever inducements the U.S. has used, whatever be the cost of refusing their allures, please say NO!

We have always been non-aligned, let’s stay that way.

“We in this country, in this generation, are — by destiny rather than choice — the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore that we may be worthy of our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time the ancient vision of ‘peace on earth, good will toward men.’ That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain”

Let’s pray that the most powerful country on today’s earth does come back to its roots and regains its sense of equilibrium!

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