- Book launch: Agenda Unlimited to be released at the Frankfurt Book
- Jobs: Copy editors needed
- Editorial: Climate change denial must stop
- Cover story: Tracking the chikungunya trail of destruction
- News: Barmer will remain thirsty
- News: Draft EIA notification biased
- Features: All's not well with employment scheme
- Features: The man responsible for Andhra's only pesticide-free village
- Science: Concerns over carbon dioxide sequestering under oceans
- Gobar Times: How forests sustain life on Earth
- Publications: A scholar once said that books are like time bombs.
Here's a chance for you own one
Book Launch - Agenda Unlimited
Agenda Unlimited is a compilation of key Down To Earth stories that
chronicle the variety of grassroots initiatives undertaken by individuals
and communities, both urban and rural, to protect or revive threatened
or degraded local environments.
This CSE publication will be launched at the Frankfurt Book Fair
on October 4-8, 2006. Please visit us at the book air to see all our
or call +91-9810245353 for more details
For more on the Frankfurt book fair>>
Jobs: Copy editors needed for Down To Earth
Down to Earth, our fortnightly news magazine on science and environment
requires resourceful individuals with excellent communication and
rewriting skills, a basic understanding or willingness to deal with
scientific issues, efficiency at the craft of copy editing and 5 years
of experience working in a similar capacity in the publishing industry.
Working under high pressure and meeting challenging deadlines will
be the norm.
To apply, send your resume to
Editorial: Climate change denial must stop
Just imagine: floods in dry Rajasthan; drought in wet Assam. In
both cases, devastation has been deadly, with people struggling to
cope. But are these natural disasters or human-made disasters - signs
of change of the world's climate systems? Or are these simply the
result of mismanagement so that people already living on the edge
of survival, cannot cope with any variations - small or big - in weather
events? In this multiple choice question, all answers are correct.
In other words, this is a natural disaster, as monsoons in our region
are highly variable, unpredictable and known to cause both floods
and droughts. It is also a fact that these natural events are being
exacerbated because we have forgotten how to live with nature. So,
we build cities without drainage; we build settlements in low-lying
areas; we fill up our water bodies, which would store and recharge
water for the dry season. We do everything which will make us more
vulnerable when disaster strikes. But it is equally true that our
climate is changing so that natural variations of weather events are
becoming more extreme.
The problem is that the science of climate is not simple. But scientists
are beginning to come out of the woodwork to tell us that the future
is much more uncertain than we thought. The draft report of the Inter
governmental Panel on Climate Change confirms that climate change
is a reality and predicts that global average temperatures this century
will rise between 2°C and 4.5°C as a result of the doubling of carbon
dioxide levels in the atmosphere. The US National Academy of Sciences
has said the last few decades of the 20th century were warmer than
any comparable period in the last 400 years. NASA says that 2005 was
the warmest year ever.
This 'warming' of the climate, scientists predicted, will lead to
the melting of glaciers, rise in sea levels, changes in precipitation
patterns worldwide and increased intensity of extreme weather events.
But what they had not predicted was that all this could happen very
fast. For instance, scientists had modelled that it would take over
10,000 years for melting at the surface of ice sheets to penetrate
to the bottom. Hence, the pulse of warming would be slow and gradually
melt 2-3 km thick ice sheets and slowly raise sea levels. Now, they
say the speed could jump, as melting ice would lead to water accumulating
in crevasses, which in turn could lubricate and break joints of ice
The future is here. Greenland, one of the world's biggest repositories
of glaciers, is beginning to crack. This summer, gigantic lakes of
melted ice formed in Greenland. Scientists found icebergs breaking
off and falling into the Atlantic Ocean. There is similar evidence
that glaciers in other regions - from Antarctica to the Himalaya -
are melting. Scientists have revised their estimation of sea level
rise, which they now say could be more imminent and serious. Research
also suggests that the warming of oceans could lead to intense hurricanes
and storms. The world has already begun to feel their effects.
What will global warming do to the lifeline - the true finance minister
of South Asia, the monsoons? We know that the monsoons are perhaps
the world's least understood natural phenomena. They are already variable
and unpredictable. It also seems apparent that something is changing.
The monsoons are becoming more freakish - more cloudbursts like Mumbai's
extraordinary rain in 2005 or Barmer's devastating showers in 2006
- eem to be happening. We also can sense that the rains are much more
variable - some places drown while others thirst even as rainfall
stays within normal average ranges. In other words, the variations
are becoming more unnatural, with the intensity of rains increasing,
but the number of rainy days decreasing.
I say all this with extreme caution. The simple fact also is that
we do not know if any of this is happening in our part of the world.
We do not know, because our met department refuses to entertain the
possibility that things could be changing. Its refrain is that these
freak weather events are in the range of normal variations. This,
they tell you, is not the result of climatic change. In support, they
pull out from the records instances when such events occurred. "Nothing
unusual," they say. "Nothing to worry about," they mean.
But worry we must. This is not time for complacency and bad science.
Something is happening to our lifeline. A recent paper, which modelled
the impact of global climate change on the Indian summer monsoons,
says that it is being destabilised. On the one hand, aerosols - particles
in the atmosphere because of fossil fuel and biomass burning - could
well lead to cooling and reduced rain. On the other hand, global warming
could lead to changes in the moisture and heat regimes which keep
the monsoon circulatory patterns active. In other words, this could
lead to increased variations in rainfall patterns, increased incidence
of droughts and increased intensity of floods. But our scientists
refuse to move with the times.
The fact of the matter is that if climate science is not simple,
it is also not neutral. This science, when it establishes the effects
of changes in global climate patterns, will also indict the world's
richest countries for creating the problem that threatens the survival
of millions. It is about victims and villains.
This is why this science, must belong to all - the rich and the
poor. This is why our scientists must be engaged in this investigation.
Their climate change denial game must stop. They must get out of their
ostrich mentality so that they can tell us with more certainty if
the signs we are reading are as ominous as they seem. They must tell
us, so that not only can we be prepared but we can fight to substantially
reduce pollution by the rich. Science must be the tool to drive the
- Sunita Narain
Read the full editorial online>>
Cover story: Tracking the chikungunya trail of destruction
Chikungunya, a viral disease borne by the Aedes aegypti mosquito,
has crippled its victims in Karnataka -- the state with the maximum
number of cases -- both physically and economically. Now, even as
the disease spreads and wreaks havoc in other parts of India, systems
to monitor it and infrastructure for its prevention, control and cure
remain a distant dream.
Read online (subscription required)>>
More in Down To Earth magazine
News: Barmer will remain thirsty
Perennially parched Barmer in Rajasthan was deluged in 750 mm rainfall
in the last week of August. But there's little to cheer about as the
rain has claimed hundreds of lives, destroyed the area's rainwater
harvesting structures and washed away crops worth crores. To top it
all, residents now face the threat of epidemics.
Read complete article>>
News: Draft EIA notification biased
The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has amended the draft
environment impact assessment (EIA) notification without consulting
green bodies. Therefore, NGOs and people's organisations are now trying
to garner support against the draft, which overtly favours the industry
by including controversial clauses on public hearing and decentralisation
of the clearance procedure.
Features: All's not well with employment scheme
Six months after the launch of the National Rural Employment Guarantee
Act, the government and civil society organisations are warring over
the "success" of the scheme. While the government claims that jobs
have been provided to a majority of the people, NGOs say implementation
of the scheme is marred by crucial faults.
Feature: The man responsible for Andhra's only pesticide-free village
Farmers in Andhra Pradesh's Penta Srirampuram village grow paddy
and sugarcane but do not use pesticides and chemical fertilisers during
cultivation. Yet, every year the yield is good. Their secret: Vijaya
Kumar, the man who realised that the village's soil was high on organic
matter and was home to friendly insects that feed on pests.
Read online (subscription required) >>
Science: Concerns over carbon dioxide sequestering under oceans
British and Norwegian oil companies say they will bury carbon dioxide
under the bed of the North Sea in a bid to stop climate change. Experts
fear this is a guise for increased oil and gas exploration, and will
endanger the marine ecosystem.
Read online (subscription required)>>
Environment for beginners: Gobar Times
How forests sustain life on Earth Long time ago, forests were worshipped
by everyone. They were of immense value as they sustained life on
the planet. Later, there was a change in attitude. The easiest way
to place a value on forests was to look upon them in monetary terms
as timber producing factories. This selfishness led people to destroy
forests without realising the real worth of this valuable resource.
The continent dodders as the automobile industry hardsells cars
as the key to a lifestyle of wealth and freedom. Asia can survive
only if it reinvents the idea of mobility. Builds cities based on
public transport. Leapfrogs vehicle technology and fuel quality to
cut exposure to killer fumes. Finds its own unique way out of the
haze. Presents the complex Asian challenge and ten years of action,
learning and impacts.
Down To Earth's work on health and environment have been brought
together as a comprehensive book "Body Burden", which talks about
eight key issues that affect the developing world - infectious diseases,
air pollution, water pollution, toxins, lifestyle diseases, regulations
and a special report on the industrial disaster in Bhopal.
CSE is an independent, public interest organisation that was established
in 1982 by Anil Agarwal, a pioneer of India's environmental movement.
CSE's mandate is to research, communicate and promote sustainable
development with equity, participation and democracy.
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