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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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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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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Back in the U.S.

After almost 22 months of working abroad (and traveling and volunteering, too), I’ve officially moved back to the United States. For the next two months, I’ll be based in Champaign, Ill. There’s lot of catching up to be done with family and friends, and plenty of errands, studying, packing and preparation for the next stage.

I’ll move to Washington, D.C., mid-August; graduate school at American University begins at the end of that month.

The blog will go into stasis for some time while I am busy, but I’ll power up again in July with my latest ocean/biodiversity photo series, taken during three weeks of divemaster training and certification in India’s Andaman Islands earlier this year.

Catch you on the flip side.

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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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And we’re back… tanned and tired but a certified divemaster

Descent

This week I’ve returned to the dusty, human crush of Delhi after more than three weeks on Havelock Islandtraining as a divemaster. I spent my time interning at a dive shop — the very one where I learned to dive a little more than a year ago.

That meant long hours — 12-hour days — of managing divers, helping lead dives, sorting/cleaning/lugging gear, skills tests, timed swimming trials, science and protocol exams and, thankfully, a fair bit (more than 40 logged in the three weeks) of diving. I’m now a certified Enriched Air diver and one posted envelope away from being a card-carrying, certified PADI divemaster.

The above photo, by the way, is my reflection in another diver’s bubble’s on a descent 100 feet or so to the bottom at Johnny’s Gorge, one of our celebrated dive sites.

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So long, 2010; it’s been nice knowing ya…

Well, hello there 2011. You’ve got a hell of a lot to live up to.

As most people know, I started my whirlwind trip in late summer of 2009 and things haven’t really gone bad yet.

I started 2010 in the remote paradise of the Andaman Islands, far off India’s coast. I had just learned to dive and fell in love with the sport. Fish are friends, not food.

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