What's with the Climate?

Voices of a Subcontinent grappling with Climate Change


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Inspiring Action through Art – ft. Niharika Rajput

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On World Sparrow Day, we had caught up with Niharika Rajput,  a bright young artist/entrepreneur who is using her passion and art for spreading the message of bird conservation through her initiative ‘Paper Chirrups’. On the occasion of World Migratory Bird Day, we share her journey off the beaten path and what inspires her, in her own words. Read on !

 

 

 

 

“Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark” – Rabindranath Tagore

Birds are intriguingly referred to as God’s messengers as they traverse all the five elements that constitute life: Water, Earth, Air, Fire and Space, literally and in mythological metaphors. They traverse the length and breadth of this planet without having to acquire a passport or visa. Nationality doesn’t define their colour, race or character, whether it be the tiny Humming birds flying from Alaska to Mexico or the Black-necked cranes flying from Tibet to Ladakh, they all become bearers of diverse nationalities.

My love for the winged species is not recent, I’ve had a deep admiration for birds and wildlife in general since I was young. Growing up, life caught on to me and I didn’t realize when I stopped observing them, until I saw a flock of 10 to 12 Red Billed Blue Magpies in Himachal Pradesh. The idea of doing something creative always made me feel very comfortable. At the time, I was struggling to find the subject I connected best with to build my pieces. After my sighting of the Magpies, I was certain that Birds will be my focus. However, it didn’t end there. That was just the beginning.

Black necked crane workshop

Black – necked cranes workshop, Druk Padma School,  Ladakh

The more I delved into it the more I learned about what was happening to them. Climate change, loss of habitat, hunting, poisoning, illegal trade to name a few, really opened up my eyes to the plight of birds. So I started using Art as my channel of communication. With the support of many conservationists and nature centres, I have been successful in conducting Art for Wildlife Conservation projects in India and all over the world. From Delhi to Ladakh to British Columbia my focus has been various species of birds.

Birds of Ladakh , workshop , Satho Govt school , Ladakh

Birds of Ladakh Workshop , Satho Govt School , Ladakh

I’ve conducted workshops with almost 1500 children, men and women through my projects which tend to be educational, entail discussions, hand building activities, bird watching trips and introduction to Bird Guides. These workshops are a step towards getting people excited about the birds found in their region and help train them to be ‘bird sleuths’ and ‘citizen scientists’.

Birds of Paradise workshop, Alan Brooks Nature Centre( British Columbia)

Birds of Paradise workshop, Alan Brooks Nature Centre, British Columbia, Canada

“From being a farmer’s best friend for protecting the crops against pests and insects, to helping in cross pollination and proving to be true custodians of the environment by cleaning up most human waste, birds are capable of doing it all”.

I have always believed that the natural world has the most magnificent and sophisticated mechanisms. Every creature big or small has a significant role to play in the ecosystem and in our survival. From times immemorial birds have played a significant role in preserving and balancing various ecosystems. From being a farmer’s best friend for protecting the crops against pests and insects, to helping in cross pollination and proving to be true custodians of the environment by cleaning up most human waste, birds are capable of doing it all.

However some of these chirrups are rather feeble and perishable. For example, the humble Sparrow (also the state bird of Delhi) holds great significance in our lives. They have always nested in our homes, helped study Earth’s magnetic fields and are great indicators of climate change. Modern infrastructure lacking the curves and crevices, change in climate, habitat loss and lack of adequate food sources are some of the many reasons why the House Sparrow is on a constant decline.

We should work together to keep the natural world alive, whether it be birds or our oceans or our forests. They need us the most now, to fight the battle of survival for them.  Choosing this path has its ups and downs but the cause also motivates you to keep at it because the eventual result is always very fulfilling.

To read more about her projects, you can visit the ‘Campaigns’ section of her website.

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whose fault ?

Doesn't he deserve a better meal ?

Doesn't he deserve a better meal ?


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A Tale of Two Villages

       “If we don’t save our forests, then our livestock will starve. Where will the rain come from if the trees aren’t large enough to store water?” exclaimed Kapoori, a young woman living in the small village of Bhoanta-Kolyala, Rajasthan. “That’s why we only use dry wood and leaves that have fallen to the ground. We rarely take anything from the tree itself.”

  I was amazed by the amount of ecological knowledge that this woman possessed about the forests that surrounded her village. Reflecting on my own education, I realized that I did not understand ecological theory until I took upper-level biology courses in high school. However, here was Kapoori, a woman without a high school education, lecturing me on the concepts of sustainable harvesting and watershed regeneration.

Bhoanta-Kolyala, a small pastoral community set in the Aravalli hills of Rajasthan, has been working together to conserve its surrounding forest cover and water resources for the past twenty years. With the help of the NGO Tarun Bharat Sangh, Bhoanta-Kolyala formed a village governing body, termed a gram sabha, to create rules on how to preserve the village’s natural resources as well as to serve as a forum for village discussions. Through these gram sabha meetings, Bhoanta-Kolyala was one of the first villages in the region to institute a set of laws to preserve its natural resources.

Vegetated forests of Bhoanta-Kolyala, Rajasthan

For one, the village has prohibited the cutting of any trees that fall within its jurisdiction; fines ranging from 101 INR to 1500 INR, depending on the frequency and level of lopping, are charged to anyone who is caught chopping down trees. Second, villagers from Bhoanta-Kolyala are only allowed to use and remove dry branches and leaves that have fallen to the ground; they are not permitted to cut any leaves or timber for their daily livelihood needs. Thanks to these restrictions, most people in the village agree that the forests have significantly improved in quality over time. Instead of an almost barren landscape with a sprinkling of trees, Bhoanta-Kolyala has transformed its land into a healthy forest that provides enough dry wood and leaves for all of its citizens’ livelihood requirements. In addition, with help from Tarun Bharat Sangh, Bhoanta-Kolyala has built multiple dams and wells, which provide an abundant supply of water for both household needs and crop irrigation.

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Loss of Tigers & Climate Change: Two Sides to One Coin?

After recent tiger survey results were released (1,411 tigers left in India), it is obviousTiger Pug Marks–the main source for census taking until recently that the entire species is on the brink of extinction. While the threats to tigers are manifold, including poaching and habitat loss, one of the emerging threats to future conservation programs may be climate change. At the same time, preserving India’s forests could help both the tiger preservation and climate mitigation. While conservation biologists have addressed the impact that climate change will have on wildlife refuges and wildlife preservation in other parts of the world, by recognizing that global warming will shift the climatic conditions in remaining wildlife reserves, the plight of the tiger still has not gotten the attention that it deserves.

It is now common knowledge that seas level rise is threatening the coastal areas of the world, particularly low-lying regions like Bangladesh and the Sunderbans. Increased submerging of the Sunderbans would threaten the stability of the world’s largest mangrove forest, increase the loss of habitat for the remaining tigers in the Sunderbans, and put further pressure on inland zones in future storm surges. The IPCC identified in as early as 2001 that sea level rise would greatly threaten the Sunderbans and the remaining Royal Bengal tigers living in that area.

Furthermore, other tiger reserves in India, including Corbett National Park, have also been identified as zones whose hydrological conditions will be transformed by glacial melt and changing precipitation patterns. Wildlife organizations have reported that tigers are being found farther north and in higher elevations now, not only because of climatic changes, but also because of development patterns that are forcing them out of traditional habitat in the lowlands. These changes in habitat and in available land will force the limited number of tigers to adapt to new ecological conditions, a difficult task for a threatened species.

Sanctuary Asia has also started a campaign to raise awareness that tiger preservation can also be a form of climae mitigation, in the sense that destruction of forests will not only be reducing tiger habitat but also releasing more carbon emissions to fuel climate change. Furthermore, Sanctuary points out that the the preservation of these forests will also be protecting India’s waterways, saying, “More than 300 rivers originate in tiger reserves.” India’s water and food security will be seriously threatened by climate change; the more that existing waterways can be protected, the more able India will be to cope with future climatic changes.

We cannot solve the problems of ecological destruction and the threats to tigers without addressing climate change, yet at the same time, our methods to address habitat preservation may also aid in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Neither climate change nor species loss are easy problems to deal with. But the implications of both and the solutions to both must be considered holistically if we are to solve either.