Research: How much is a healthy estuary worth?

wv3classification

No surprise: A whole heck of a lot.

Take the Aghanashini River estuary (classified above based on World View 3 multispectral imagery). Using a benefits transfer assessment with established global ecosystem service values, my collaborators and I have assessed the annual ecosystem service benefits at more than $250 million.

table

I presented these preliminary figures at an expert workshop last month; we’re now finalizing an ecosystem service valuation paper which we hope will see academic publication soon.

Of course, valuation of ecosystem services has its downsides. Many have reasonably asked whether environmental resources can truly be valued in monetary terms. One response is that such a monetary calculation is but one of many ways of considering the value of the environment. But they are important for policy and politics. And while many environmental goods may be in reality priceless, without a baseline value, too many policy makers may assign a zero value.

Is it a slippery slope? Yes. So we tread carefully.

Many thanks to Sharolyn Anderson, Paul Sutton and Michael Dyer for a lot of hard work and putting up with my only basic knowledge of remote sensing. Thanks also to the DigitalGlobe Foundation for providing the imagery as a grant.

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This crab ripped off its pants for the camera…

nudecrab

Twitter informs me there’s something called #NationalSendaNudeDay. Am I doing this right?

(Maybe the Post Office and/or Hotmail are desperate to justify their existence.)

Anyway… here is a recently molted crab we found during an early morning intertidal zone hike with students adventure travelers during our seminar adventure tour in the Andamans near Wandoor in 2015.

The one on the right is basically nude. A nude crab. And on the left… crab pants.

For a bit of background on why a crab would take off it’s pants, let’s turn to NOAA:

Crabs (and other crustaceans) cannot grow in a linear fashion like most animals. Because they have a hard outer shell (the exoskeleton) that does not grow, they must shed their shells, a process called molting. Just as we outgrow our clothing, crabs outgrow their shells. Prior to molting, a crab reabsorbs some of the calcium carbonate from the old exoskeleton, then secretes enzymes to separate the old shell from the underlying skin (or epidermis). Then, the epidermis secretes a new, soft, paper-like shell beneath the old one. This process can take several weeks.

A day before molting, the crab starts to absorb seawater, and begins to swell up like a balloon. This helps to expand the old shell and causes it to come apart at a special seam that runs around the body. The carapace then opens up like a lid. The crab extracts itself from its old shell by pushing and compressing all of its appendages repeatedly. First it backs out, then pulls out its hind legs, then its front legs, and finally comes completely out of the old shell. This process takes about 15 minutes.

Note: It pulls this off while leaving the original shell more or less intact. That’d be like getting out of a wedding saari without actually undoing any fold or wrap and leaving the hole thing standing. Could you do that, Ishani?

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Friends and friends of friends in SF Bay: Help! I need a place to live!

You’ve found what amounts to a personal ad wherein I ask for help in finding an apartment in the apparently cutthroat San Francisco Bay Area housing market.

However, I’m reasonably certain that good apartments are filled through word-of-mouth beyond the Craigslist free-for-all. So if you or someone you know or someone who knows someone you know is a good landlord looking for a good tenant, please pass along my contact info (right-hand side of the page).

A bit about me: I grew up in small-town Illinois and worked in St. Louis and elsewhere as a journalist. For five of the last seven years, I’ve been a scholar, teacher, volunteer and dive bum in India. Right now, I conduct/oversee social science research for multiple environmental NGOs; I also help manage a nascent permaculture farm/garden project. I’ll be starting a PhD in the Geography Department at UC-Berkeley in August 2016. In student mode, I’m pretty quiet and nerdy; I like statistics and maps. When not studying, I scuba dive, plant trees and occasionally sip bourbon. I’m also a mild cycling activist.

My CV has a more official version of me.

What I’m looking for: a small but individual apartment, studio, carriage house, in-law flat, yurt, Swiss tent, tree house, etc., in the area from El Cerrito in the north to Oakland in the south. I’m looking to move in during the first or second week of August. I would also be excited to trade permaculture work, gardening, urban farming, etc. in exchange for a discount on rent. At first, it will just be me on a grad student’s income, but my wife (a molecular ecologist and elephant geneticist) will likely join me in early 2017.

If this reads a bit like a dating advert, it’s because the process of finding an apartment in such a hyper-competitive area is fraught with nervousness, excitement, cold sweats, self doubt and uncertainty, not unlike young love.

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Dear mothers: Thanks, so, so much.

Mother, god mother and grand mother (right to left)

My mothers

I stand on the shoulders of many people, especially various mothers. Above, 17-year-old me looks like a dope with three women who have been instrumental in making me who I am. I will never give enough voice to my gratitude to Deborah Jadhav, my mother; Mary Rader, my godmother; and Mohini Jadhav, my grandmother/dadi (next to me, right to left above).

So dopey I was.

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Minerals from the sea: Problem closure, neoliberalism and ocean grabbing in the Indian EEZ and beyond

jadhav-oceanminerals-india-cover

For much of the past 18 months, I have worked part-time on a large review of ocean mineral extraction in Indian national waters as well as by India in the high seas. The present is oil but the future are a host of other minerals that often fall under the rubric of “seabed mining.”

In this mini-book, I propose that by framing development questions as an urgent race for resources (minerals, in this case) the government problem closes and narrows simply to the “next frontier” of mineral extraction: the ocean. This problem closure (i.e. narrowing the definition of the problem that also narrows the solution set) is problematic on its own, but it is further compounded by a penchant for neoliberal policy and ideology that has essentially set off another kind of ocean grab.

The subject matter is at times arcane, dense and, well, boring. But the way ocean mineral extraction fits into India’s larger development-at-all-costs narrative raises serious questions about the undemocratic nature of minerals governance.

So enjoy (if possible).

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The social and political economy of an estuary worth protecting

Oyster mudflats, a political space that also serves hundreds of households

Last week I presented another set of research findings / summaries of my work with Panchabhuta Conservation Foundation. This presentation casts the Aghanashini River estuary as a political economic space, affected by multiple external and internal optics and development trends. This review ultimately ends in a call for robust valuation of this critical ecology (from non-monetary and monetary perspectives).

To see the full presentation which may yet yield a paper, click here.

Note: There are serious critiques to be made of the ecosystem services valuation paradigm. Yet such valuations remain critical for much policy and management. A balance must be struck between pricing everything all the time and pricing nothing ever. On this I straddle.

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M. K. Gandhi: No one can claim a “monopoly of right judgment”

I have repeatedly observed that no school of thought can claim a monopoly of right judgment. We are all liable to err and are often obliged to revise our judgments. In a vast country like this, there must be room for all schools of honest thought. And the least, therefore, that we owe to ourselves as to others is to try to understand the opponent’s view-point and, if we cannot accept it, respect it as fully as we expect him to respect ours. Its is one of the indispensable tests of a healthy public life and, therefore fitness for Swaraj. If we have no charity, and no tolerance, we shall never settle our differences amicably and must, therefore, always submit to the arbitration of a third party, i.e., to foreign domination.

Source: Young Indian, April 17, 1924, p. 130.

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Nude lungs

nudibranch

The little fuzzy bits on top of the slug-like creature…

From December 2014 (wow, I’m that far behind on scuba photos)…

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When neoliberalism meets legal pluralism

Mangroves that will be lost if the state government has its way.

Mangroves that will be lost if the state government has its way.

Last month I presented an initial salvo of research findings on coastal development in Karnataka. The work primarily focused on my study in and around the Aghanashini River estuary for Panchabhuta Conservation Foundation.

The presentation will eventually be submitted as a journal paper, examining how classical development is clearly neoliberal and privatizing in nature, while so-called alternatives in the estuarine and coastal space are also quite neoliberal, when we consider the legal plural environment that is the coastal commons.

The thesis is still a work in progress, so if you’ve got feedback, e-mail me.

Click here to see the presentation.

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Our anniversary

Three years ago

Three years ago

…is a little difficult to pin down as we’re never quite sure whether we were married on December 22, which is what everyone else remembers, or whether it was on December 24, which is what the government recognizes.

Seeing how I failed to set a blog post to go live before we took off for holiday, I’m posting this today, now that we’re back home, on our legal anniversary.

Love you, darling.

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