Small fishing is beautiful

Small is beautiful

Above: A Panamanian boat man.

I’m in the final throes of my thesis writing; the topic: Explaining poverty in Indian fisheries.

However, for the last week and a half I’ve been writing the history and evolution of fisheries globally, which has me constantly thinking about the stratification of fisheries and the multiverse of fisheries development paths.

In case anyone is interested, a good bit of straightforward reading on fisheries — other than my thesis, of course — is DeSombre and Barkin’s Fish. More encyclopedic but also helpful is the stupidly expensive Handbook of Fish Biology and Fisheries Vol 2.: Fisheries, edited by Paul J.B. Hart and John D. Reynolds.

Note: There are plenty of problems with small- and intermediate-scale fisheries, too. But when compared to fully industrialized fishing and considering the plight of the increasingly depleted ocean, it’s difficult not to argue for the small-is-beautiful model.

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Open letter to [school of your choice] president

I wrote and sent roughly this same letter to the president of American University this week. Fill in the blanks and send one on yourself.

President [so-and-so]:

The campus has been crawling with prospective students this fall. Many a day, I watch tour guides roving from building to building with hordes of high schoolers and parents in tow. I overhear all the usual chatter about history, scholarship and community — in short why they ought to attend [school of your choice].

As well we should tout what we have to offer. I just hope that maybe, when the conversation turns to our school’s principles, values and efforts toward justice and sustainability, the university might consider a new talking point. It would be great if we could tell prospects, “And because we value everyone on this planet — including all those unable to access the privileges of [relevant institution], we divested our financial portfolio from fossil fuels.”

I’m guessing this isn’t the first time you’ve heard of this concept — fossil fuel divestment — and if you’re well versed, then you can feel free to

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Semester research: India’s engagement with the global economy

India is one of the fastest growing major economies in the world. After the past two decades, that’s something of an old story.

Yet such a blanket statement also washes over questions about what that growth rate actually means for issues of sustainable development, broadly define. India certainly has something to be proud of, yet it also faces serious hurdles in supporting its claim to a narrative of newfound power and prosperity.

My third large semester research project involved analyzing India’s link’s with the global economy, a phenomenon that really only began in the early 1990s when India shed its autarkic ways. Though “liberalization” started with steps taken almost a decade earlier, it was the serious risk of debt service default that spurred policy makers in 1991 to adopt austerity measures, devalue the rupee and begin a steady if slow process of external economic opening.

The paper looked at four core areas of engagement — trade, investment, debt and aid — and examined implications for sustainable development. A final section offers several policy recommendations for the future.

The ultimate conclusion is that while India has liberalized its economy it has also continued to protect key sectors, producers and businesses when it sees fit. India is far from a free-market economy but it has opened doors when in the name of national interest, which has both positive and negative implications for sustainable development. Its enviable growth rate will only continue to be a valid goal if policy makers also begin to consider measures to ameliorate some of the severe negatives that come with this capitalist economic development.

UPDATE: A trimmed down version of this paper was published by the Journal of International Service in the Spring of 2013. My submitted draft can be read here. The full issue can be found here.

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Semester research: The (de)evolution of Hindu environmental ethics

Pollution

I spent the semester tracing the evolution of Hindu orthodoxy and orthopraxy as it pertains to conservation, resource consumption and environmental stewardship from Vedic times to modern days through several key texts. Of course, the Hindu canon is much too large for any definitive conclusions, but these texts were selected by my professor as representative of the larger (vastly larger) body of texts.

You can read the full draft paper here. The academic abstract would go something like:

This paper examines Hinduism’s evolving attitudes toward nature and prescriptions of ethical environmental practice during the history of the religion. The paper critically considers eight texts that represent major trends in Hindu philosophy and practice, through the Vedic, classical, medieval and modern periods. In early times, Hindu society associated divinity and worship with natural processes. This was soon challenged by a renunciation theology that rejected the material/natural world entirely. Yet as polities and kingdoms swelled and expanded, social organization and material well-being became chief concerns of philosophers; the natural, wild world took on a negative connotation. Hinduism’s complex and changing cosmology further muddied the waters for questions of right action in environmental dilemmas. Nonetheless, there have been various counter trends with religious roots that may serve as a starting point for a Hindu-centric discussion of environmental protection.

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Semester research: The effects of agriculture on India’s forest cover

One giant poster

I spent the semester conducting a statistical analysis to explain variation across Indian states in forest cover change from 2000 to 2009. After a preliminary literature review, looking at deforestation across the world, I compiled a database of more than 200 relevant variables. From that I computed and tested more than 100 variables (averages, percentage change, raw change, etc.) before narrowing my regression to several key indicators of an individual Indian state’s economic reliance on agriculture and the presence of alternative lifestyles and livelihoods.

This culminated in a series of univariate, bivariate and multivariate analyses; I presented the research in a spring quantitative analysis symposium at American University. The poster is viewable here.

The ultimate conclusion from the research: Agricultural output value is strongly and negatively associated with forest expansion, coinciding with slow forest cover growth or even powering forest cover loss. In the alternative, a number other variables — all of which represent diversity in economic opportunity, livelihoods and lifestyles — have positive associations with forest cover growth. This all appears in several models of an OLS regression.

I’ve written a draft paper of the analysis that needs to be refined, edited and combined with an introduction, abstract and the results of my literature review — a summer project to be sure.

Anyone who wants some heavier reading can read that draft here. I’d welcome any and all feedback, even from complete strangers. (Forgive the writing. This was done in pieces and certainly is repetitive in phrasing.)

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Quiero hacer contigo lo que la primavera hace con los cerezos

Spring

A season for Neruda.

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Finals blogging hiatus and “I wish I were here…”

The view from Namchi

In between fevered bouts of studying for Environmental Economics and Environmental Science, I’ve been dreaming of the himalayas. Here’s an old favorite photo.

I’m officially powering down the blog for a while (possibly until after the new year, but I almost never succeed at leaving it alone). Happy holidays to all.

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Panchayats the answer to India’s environmental woes? Not yet…

I spent much the past semester debating all the various ways society and individuals might protect the environment. What else would you expect from a policy program?

One answer I stumbled upon and investigated is India’s traditional form of local government, made constitutionally secure not quite two decades ago: the panchayat — literally the council of five.

Panchayats represent India’s attempts at decentralization, the supposed transfer of powers from the central and state governments down to village-level actors. For the environment, this theoretically promises that resource, conservation and protection decisions are made at the level where they are actually felt. In reality, panchayats today are hardly robust institutions of local governance. They’re mostly used as implementing agencies for India’s development agenda. Meanwhile they face competition from other less than secure or democratic institutions specifically designed to manage resources.

I’m not promising it’s the most riveting read; and I’m not certain I like the final product. This issue could be a much longer paper involving substantial field work. But click here if you really want to know.

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Newsflash: I’ll be moving to our nation’s capital…


…in August to attend American University in Washington, D.C.

As many of you know, over the past several months I’ve been applying to graduate schools. Though I distinctly have cursed some elements of the process with Saturn’s baleful glance — mujhe chahiye ki GRE pe shani ki buri nazar shap denge — I’m generally pleased with the results. Out of my seven chosen schools, I withdrew my application from one and was accepted at the remainder. All offered various financial aid packages in varying degrees of generosity.

In the end, American’s program — highly respected in my future field: international environmental policy — and the school’s offer of a graduate assistantship won me over. It had been my first choice when I first started looking at schools more than a year ago. And though Yale’s environmental program and scholarship offer were attractive, I believe American will provide me better opportunities given my interests.

(I also received a good bit of support/attention from American staff/faculty, something that definitely helped in my decision.)

I’ll be studying environmental policy and specializing in India. That will, ideally, involve research trips and possibly even a semester or more of study/work back here in Delhi and elsewhere in the country.

As much as I can, I’ll focus on topics like coastal environmental policy and sustainable development. The goal is working to preserve the ocean — which I love — and people — to whom I feel obligated.

I’ll be leaving India in mid- to late-June and spending some time between various haunts: Champaign, Chicago, St. Louis, Colorado and elsewhere, before arriving in the District sometime in August. Classes start at the end of that month.

Huzzah to the next chapter!

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