Please, help me pay for future social ecology research on the Aghanashini like this…


I need your help!

I have an ongoing research project in the Aghanshini River estuary in southwestern India. I’m studying how people depend upon and feel about mangroves, as well as their understandings of and attitudes toward conservation, their environment and the forces of development. The above is the geospatial rendering of household surveys conducted by my team during about six weeks. We’re a tiny NGO but we’re attempting big, robust work.

The research is set amid a backdrop of looming destructive neoliberal development in an area rich in socially important biodiversity. In a related project, colleagues and I have estimated the estuary’s ecosystem service value at some $257 million annually.

My grant-funded research is drawing to a close, so I’m pleading with family and friends to help fund my NGO’s work into the future. At Panchabhuta Conservation Foundation, we do a lot with a little, and while I am writing new applications for grants, I am also running a crowd funding campaign in the interim.

Our campaign has struggled to get traction. For some $300, I could gamble on professional promoters to take over might be successful in raising funds. But for the same amount, I could pay one of my team members for another month.

That’s where you come in. If you make regular charitable contributions, please consider my campaign. And, as important, please spread the word and endorse us as a fundraising option in your networks. Our campaign — Eco-citizens and Green Communities of Aghanshini — will pay for environmental education, biodiversity monitoring, social ecological research and more. Visit our site at the international crowd funding platform Generosity and share this link:

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


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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Sea stars have their role to play

Big honking sea star

Sea stars (that is the correct name what for we commonly call starfish) are slow-moving relatives of sea cucumbers and urchins. They’re voracious eaters (though very slow) and will consume anything they creep across. Because of that, they’re often keystone species in an ecosystem, preying on other species that have no predator, to maintain ecological balance or stop an invasive species or pest.

This Panamic Cushsion sea star lives off North Seymour in the Galapagos Islands.

Humans, unfortunately, also find them beautiful when dried and place on a shelf, mantle, table or counter. So they’re sold on beaches the world over as souvenirs and decorative items. This leads to overharvesting of sea stars and disrupts entire ecosystems.

(Ironically, another sea star — the Crown of Thorns has thrived in places like Australia and southeast Asia because of the removal key stone species like mollusks and shrimp. The Crown of Thorns, however, is destructive to coral reef, which in turn can lead to ecosystem collapse.)

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Lingering devastation of the tsunami

Dead, bleached trees are the most visible legacy of the tsunami

Dead, bleached trees are the most visible legacy of the tsunami

Hut Bay, Little Andaman, which was struck by a 30-meter wall of water five years ago, still carries a few scars: now-empty beaches where homes once stood. But photographing that dramatically is a bit akin to taking pictures of something that isn’t there.

The most stark reminder: sun-bleached trees along the forest line (above) that were stripped of their leaves by the force of nature.

Continue reading this entry » » »

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Hello gecko

Caught (and released) by researchers from Croatia/Serbia

Caught (and released) by researchers from Croatia/Serbia

Presenting a native son of Wandoor, the Andaman Islands Day Gecko. (More on this adventure later.)

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