TRINet Newsletter June 2011

Friends, this month we have a report on the arrest of Ramesh Agarwal, a prominent environmental activist; Jairam Ramesh and the super sonic clearance of 40 projects in 3 hours; about the sinking of two islands in the Gulf of Mannar; about mysterious deep sea jets that alter climate; a brief history of plastic's conquest of the world; and videos on the wonderful world of bio luminescence, turning trash into toys, and the complete history of the universe in 18 minutes. If that's not enough, we have two book reviews -- one on Himalayan Biodiversity and the other on The Believing Brain.

Please scroll down for all this and much more.

Forests -- Nature at your Service 

World Environment Day 2011, India

Montane forests of the Palani Hills

The United Nations Environment Programme has chosen India, one of the fastest growing economies in the world that is embracing the process of a transition to a Green Economy, as the first time ever global host of World Environment Day 2011 (WED - 2011).

This year's theme 'Forests: Nature at Your Service' emphasizes the intrinsic link between quality of life and the health of forests and forest ecosystems, and also supports this year's UN International Year of Forests. India is a country of 1.2 billion people who continue to put pressure on forests especially in densely populated areas where people are cultivating on marginal lands and where overgrazing is contributing to desertification. (more)

Prominent environmental activist Ramesh Agrawal was arrested by the police early Saturday morning on charges of misbehaving and incitingviolence during a public hearing in Raigarh last year. He was produced before a court and sent to judicial custody till June 3, along with fellow activist Harihar Patel.
On a sunny January morning this year, I was in the vast floodplains of the river Siang in Arunachal Pradesh (AP). The river is called Yarlung Tsangpo in upstream China and enters downstream Assam to form the Brahmaputra after its confluence with the Lohit and Dibang rivers at a unique tri-junction. Accompanied by local friends, I was on a small country boat crossing over to one of the riverine islands in the midst of the braided river, 30 to 35 km. downstream of the proposed 2,700 MW Lower Siang hydroelectric project in the highlands upstream.

The Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority has urged buyers of apartments, villas, and other buildings in coastal areas to ensure that the project adheres to the provisions in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification of 2011.

The Environment Minister, Mr Jairam Ramesh, gave final approval to the Orissa Government for diversion of 1,253 hectares of forest land in favour of Posco. The proposed steel project in Orissa received a final clearance on Monday after a wait of almost six years.

The Government will soon set up a National Elephant Conservation Authority to protect and conserve Elephants in the country. While launching a new campaign, Haathi Mere Saathi aimed to protect elephants, in New Delhi today, Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said this campaign would provide a platform for exchange of views between Asian and African nations on elephant conservation. The eight participating countries-Botswana, Congo, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Thailand-will lead efforts in their respective regions to ensure the long-term survival of the elephant and its habitat 
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh’s mea culpa on bending the rules for clearing certain mega-projects has been well reported. Less talked about has been his ministry’s assembly-line approach to clearances by the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL), a statutory body for assessing the impact of projects in wildlife habitats.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has deferred the proposal for Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance to four new nuclear reactors at Kudankulam.
Two small islands in South Asia's first marine biosphere reserve have sunk into the sea primarily as a result of coral reef mining, experts say. The islets were in a group in the Gulf of Mannar, between India and Sri Lanka.

For the first time, scientists have discovered mysterious deep seat jets of water, which cause anomalies in wind, rainfall and sea temperature across the tropical Atlantic.
A Scientific American feature - an excerpt from Susan Freinkel's book, Plastic: A Toxic Love Story.
Disaster Management:
Search engine giant Google has taken the initiative for this, as decided at the Google Geo-community Summit held in Singapore recently. Efforts are on to achieve this with community involvement, Dr. C. N. Ramachandran Nair, who had attended the Summit, told The Hindu here on Tuesday.
One of the essays in ‘India Development Report 2011’ edited by D. M. Nachane ( looks at the financing of disaster management. “Rightful claims of compensations from negligent party responsible for causing a manmade accident face the severe hurdle of tedious litigations.
Book Review:

Protection of Himalayan Biodiversity: International Environment Law and a Regional Legal Framework.
Ananda Mohan Bhattarai.
Sage Publications, India, 2010,
Rs 1100.

by Dr.Ahana Lakshmi
Biodiversity refers to the variety of life forms that are found on earth. It has been found that there are certain regions on earth where biodiversity is very high. These are referred to as biodiversity hotspots holding especially high numbers of endemic species. As everyone knows, the Himalayas have the world’s tallest mountains. A diversity of ecosystems may be found in the Himalayas and it is no wonder that one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots are the Himalayas.  (more)

The Weird and Wonderful World of Bioluminescence
In the deep, dark ocean, many sea creatures make their own light for hunting, mating and self-defense. Bioluminescence expert Edith Widder was one of the first to film this glimmering world. At TED 2011, she brings some of her glowing friends onstage, and shows more astonishing footage of glowing undersea life.

Arvind Gupta: Turning Trash into Toys for Learning 
At the INK Conference, Arvind Gupta shares simple yet stunning plans for turning trash into seriously entertaining, well-designed toys that kids can build themselves -- while learning basic principles of science and design. 

The Complete History of the Universe in 18 minutes
Backed by stunning illustrations, David Christian narrates a complete history of the universe, from the Big Bang to the Internet, in a riveting 18 minutes. This is "Big History": an enlightening, wide-angle look at complexity, life and humanity, set against our slim share of the cosmic timeline.

Trinet DeBunk:
Book Review: 

by Michael Shermer
This book synthesizes Dr. Shermer’s 30 years of research to answer the questions of how and why we believe what we do in all aspects of our lives, from our suspicions and superstitions to our politics, economics, and social beliefs. In this book Dr. Shermer is interested in more than just why people believe weird things, or why people believe this or that claim, but in why people believe anything at all. His thesis is straightforward:
We form our beliefs for a variety of subjective, personal, emotional, and psychological reasons in the context of environments created by family, friends, colleagues, culture, and society at large; after forming our beliefs we then defend, justify, and rationalize them with a host of intellectual reasons, cogent arguments, and rational explanations. Beliefs come first, explanations for beliefs follow. (more)

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