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Earth Day has come and gone, and most people, if they even participated in any activities, have probably moved on with other things.  It’s great to celebrate Earth Day, but the time has come for something beyond just a single day.  Something that will make a lasting difference.

(image: visibleearth.nasa.gov)

(image: visibleearth.nasa.gov)

What would make a difference is recognizing rights of nature. There is a growing movement in support of this right, especially as environmental degradation worsens, the impacts of climate change become more severe, and more people are calling for healthy and empowered communities.

The city of Santa Monica, California just passed by unanimous vote a Bill of Rights for Sustainability, which authorizes the city to “recognize the rights of people, natural communities and ecosystems to exist, regenerate and flourish.”  What this really does is empower citizens to sue on behalf of their local environment.  According to Mark Gold, chair of Santa Monica’s Task Force on the Environment, “It was time to shake things up, recognize the existing environmental laws just weren’t doing the job and that sustainability wasn’t actually possible as long as we treat nature as a thing to be exploited.”

This is a step in the right direction that more communities and countries should consider.  As noted in previous posts, Ecuador, Bolivia, and over three dozen U.S. municipalities have passed rights of nature laws.

In India, the rights of nature movement is coalescing around cleaning up and protecting sacred rivers such as the Ganga (Ganges) and Yamuna.  The National Ganga Rights Movement has formed over concern that over 3 billion liters of pollution – namely toxic chemicals and sewage – are dumped into the Ganga River.

One-third of India’s 1.2 billion people live near the river, and most depend on it for drinking, cooking, and washing.  It is also home to the Ganges river dolphin.  According to World Wildlife Fund, the river dolphin “is threatened by removal of river water and siltation arising from deforestation, pollution and entanglement in fisheries nets.”

Despite being one of the world’s most polluted rivers, in Hindu mythology the Ganga is the embodiment of all sacred waters, and therefore to bathe in it is a holy act.

The Ganges River (photo: commons.wikimedia.org)

The Ganges River (photo: commons.wikimedia.org)

The National Ganga Rights Movement is calling for a National Ganga Rights Act which would, among other things, establish, secure, and defend the inalienable and inherent rights of the Ganga River, its tributaries, and watershed, and the rights of the people of India to a healthy, thriving river basin.  And, it “establishes the rights of the people of India and their governments to defend and enforce the rights of the Ganga.”

You can read more about it at Avaaz, and sign a petition in support of the Ganga and rights of nature.

Lest you think there is no precedence, last year New Zealand granted the rights of personhood for the Whanganui River.

In the U.S. we accept corporations as people, so why not extend rights to nature?  If we are to truly protect ecosystems in India and around the world, we need to start thinking outside the proverbial box, as well as for the long-term.

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[While the post below, originally written for my work blog 6 Degrees of Population, isn’t specifically on India, it does highlight the increase in poaching of endangered species around the world that must be stopped.]

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During that 15 minute coffee break you took this morning, somewhere across the ocean an elephant was killed.  It is estimated that every 15 minutes an elephant is slaughtered, about 40,000 annually.

It makes you wonder how much longer wild elephants will roam the earth.  Because at this rate, with high global demand for ivory and high levels of poverty for people that live near these creatures, they won’t be around for much longer.

Elephant

The New York Times recently ran an op-ed by Carl Safina of the Blue Ocean Institute called “Blood Ivory” that highlighted the forces at play.  Certainly consumption and poverty are drivers, but Safina pointed out how international policy has failed elephants.  A loop-hole of sorts in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES – an international agreement that regulates the trade of endangered plants and wildlife), allows for one-time sales of ivory stockpiles, resulting in skyrocketing demand for ivory.  Ironically, a CITES ban on ivory in 1990 was successful in increasing elephant populations, yet this same multilateral environmental agreement is now feeding demand for ivory.

It is undeniably a bleak situation, yet there are some solutions – beyond ending the CITES loop-hole – that can begin to address and hopefully change the situation for the better, for both people and elephants.  Two solutions are empowering women and recognizing rights of nature.

Solution: Empowering Women

Addressing the needs of women can benefit communities and the environment.  Women are on the frontlines of coping with the effects of environmental degradation. In most countries around the world they are the main providers of food, water, and other resources for their families. When women are empowered, they can better support their families and adapt to environmental impacts, including climate change.

A woman’s decision on when and whether to have a child and her access to reproductive care, as well as education, are key components of a healthy and sustainable society.

In Tanzania, for example, family planning use has increased among married women since the early 1990s, yet it is still relatively low in the country, rising from 10 percent in the early 1990s to 34 percent in 2010, according to Population Reference Bureau.

Part of empowering women is addressing inequity.  Tanzania currently has 46 million people, estimated to increase to 82 million people by 2050. Most poachers are driven by grinding poverty, in a country where nearly 70 percent of the Tanzanians live on less than $1.25 per day. When people’s basic needs are met, they choose to invest in their families and communities.

Tanzanian Woman

Empowering Tanzanian women and families with reproductive rights, healthcare, education and sustainable and secure livelihoods can and will improve the situation and enable them to overcome challenges.

Of course, poachers tend to be men, and males with little education or few job prospects need to find ways to survive and feed their families.  Men need to be invested in and empowered too, to overcome poverty and a lack of quality jobs, and to have the right to an education.  Ultimately it comes down to empowering all people.

Solution: Rights of Nature

Earth does not exist for our species alone. Elephants and species all over the world are at grave risk due to human development and demand. The planet is undergoing its sixth mass extinction. Despite global conservation efforts, more species are lost every day. Worse, some like elephants and rhinos, are poached only for their tusks and left to die.

Given this situation, there is a growing movement around recognizing rights of nature that acknowledges that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles. This is another solution for protecting elephants. Under this thinking, nature is not viewed as property and something to be exploited by humans.

There is precedent. Ecuador has included rights of nature in its state constitution, recognizing the legal right of ecosystems to exist. Bolivia has passed a law of Mother Earth, mandating nature legal rights, specifically the rights to life, regeneration, biodiversity, water, clean air, balance, and restoration. Rights of nature has been upheld in Ecuadorian court.

Considering Tanzania again, which still has a somewhat viable elephant population, recognizing rights of nature could be one way to protect remaining numbers.  The country recently rescinded a proposal to sell a stock-pile of ivory under the CITES loophole.  If rights of nature laws were in place, then selling ivory could be found illegal.

Natural laws should be constructed to be in balance with the needs of local people; as stated above, even poachers need education and sustainable economic alternatives.  Currently though, neither elephants/nature, nor people, are winners in this terrible situation.

Ensuring a Brighter Future

Not to be overlooked is the role of consumption.  Educating and empowering women and girls, promoting economic and sustainable livelihoods for local populations, and pulling people out of poverty must be top priorities.  But if there are no consumers for a product, or if there is a ban, then the market theoretically disappears, as happened with the earlier CITES ban.  A ban on ivory trading must be reinstated across the board, no exceptions.  And consumer education must also be made a priority.  Buyers of ivory need to fully comprehend – and care – about the true costs of ivory.

It is estimated that Africa has lost close to 90 percent of its elephants in the last fifty years.  There is still a small window of opportunity to change this picture and protect elephants and the people who share the land with them.  This is not negotiable; this is how a civilized society should function.  The global community knows what to do – fully implement a ban on ivory, invest in people’s rights and livelihoods, and protect and respect nature.

(Elephant photo credit: Derek Keats, http://www.flickr.com/photos/dkeats/6026172562/sizes/m/in/photostream/)

(Tanzanian woman photo credit: NewsHour, http://www.flickr.com/photos/newshour/3724432128/sizes/m/in/photostream/)

A recent story on BBC News epitomizes some of the challenges for balancing conservation efforts and the needs of people.

The news article of note addressed wildlife, endangered species, development, and population growth in Nepal. Titled Attacks Prompt Nepal to Cap Wildlife Growth, the BBC reports that “Officials in Nepal have said they will now have to put a cap on the growth of wildlife including endangered species like tigers and rhinos.”

Yes, it actually says that a cap on wildlife is needed. In a world where endless growth is held up as the standard to attain, it turns out that this doesn’t apply so much to nature.

nepaleserhinoAccording to Krishna Acharya, spokesperson for Nepal’s Forest Ministry, “The number of rhinos and tigers are increasing in the national park and they are moving out in search of food and space. Meanwhile, the increasing human population needs more of the natural resources available, and that competition creates conflict.”

Unsurprisingly, wild animals don’t respect human boundaries and may feel compelled by instinct to migrate. Conservationists underscore the importance of creating wildlife corridors in addition to protected areas, for species that need to roam.

In the late 1960s, an estimated 65 Indian rhinos survived in Nepal, but due to increased conservation efforts, the total population was up to 534 in 2011, according to data from World Wildlife Fund.

However, despite that success, many scientists believe the Earth is undergoing its sixth mass extinction. For example, the Bengal tiger is close to being poached and encroached out of existence. In 2000, Nepal was home to over 350 tigers, but by 2008 numbers plunged to 121.

Every effort should be made to protect all wildlife. Human encroachment all over the planet has wiped out an unknown number of species since the dawn of man. That doesn’t mean that it’s okay to have leopards running around attacking children or elephants rampaging villages. Yet somehow, a balance must be found between people and nature.

There are a few ways to attain that that balance – by investing in rights-based approaches and conservation efforts that involve local people.

Women’s Empowerment

Empowering women and girls is a big factor in protecting the environment. A woman’s right to decide when and whether to have a child, and her access to reproductive care, are key components of a healthy and sustainable society.

Women are on the front lines of coping with environmental degradation. In most countries around they world they are the main providers of food, water, and other resources for their families. When women are empowered, they can better support their families and adapt to environmental impacts.

In Nepal, the total fertility rate (average number of children born to a woman during her lifetime), currently at 2.6, has been declining. In terms of contraceptive use among married women ages 15-49, forty-three percent use some modern method of birth control (compared to the world average of fifty-six percent).

A United Nations Population Fund report found “issues of equity in access to resources (e.g.,land, water, forest, etc.) and women’s meaningful participation in resource conservation and management, land development and infrastructure projects have not been addressed effectively so far.”

The country is also not doing eradicating poverty. Seventy-eight percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day. Bringing women out of grinding poverty and reducing gender inequality should be a priority.

Rights of Nature

There is a growing movement around recognizing rights of nature. Rather than treating nature as property under the law (as women and slaves once were), rights of nature acknowledges that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles. Rights of nature laws eliminate the authority of a property owner to interfere with the functioning of ecosystems and natural communities that exist and depend upon that property for their existence and flourishing.

Nepaltigers

It is seeing the natural world as something other than a resource for human exploitation, and that humans are part of nature, not separate. It may be a difficult concept for some to acknowledge, but humans depend too much upon the ecosystem to not consider how we disrupt it to the detriment of others, and ourselves.

Acharya, of the Forestry Ministry, “hinted” that his country will now not commit to protect more wildlife than the amount its protected areas could sustain. Comments such as this reflect the urgency to find ways to value and respect the web of life.

Continued Conservation Efforts

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), like most conservation organizations (and governments), wants to involve locals in conservation efforts, which can provide livelihoods and income. In turn, people become invested in preserving their local environment and culture. It is also important to implement education and awareness programs for both tourists and the local community.

The IUCN also states how critical it is to reduce human-wildlife conflicts, and suggest this might involve fencing. Yet there have been few studies on its effectiveness. One study on elephants and electric fences found that “electrified fences can alleviate human-elephant conflict when well maintained and vigorously enforced.” However, it also found the cost of constructing, maintaining and enforcing is high and that “this approach may only be applicable in well-resourced conservation areas.” Given Nepal’s conservation successes, it seems fencing might be worth undertaking.

Future Outlook

Nepal has made great strides in protecting its wildlife. Yet instead of celebrating this fact, wild species appear to be more of a burden than benefit. In a country slightly larger than Arkansas, with a population of 30 million, there will continue to be challenges between humans and nature.

Nepal is not alone in striving to meet the needs of its people and wildlife. Only by educating and empowering people, and respecting rights for all – wherever we live – can we hope to live sustainably and in harmony with the natural world with which we share the planet.

[Note: This is slightly off-topic, but it applies to how we call structure our societies and address human well-being.

Just released, Enough is Enough is a visionary and actionable blueprint to transition from a global economic system dependent upon unsustainable and endless growth to a steady-state economy.

I hope you find it as interesting as I did!]

 

[H]ere’s the deal: forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done. ~Paul Hawken

 

This quote by Paul Hawken epitomizes the ideas and initiatives reflected in the new book Enough is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources, which lays out a path for overcoming so-called impossibilities in our world. The book constructs a realistic and actionable plan that should guide all of us as we confront increasingly dire and critical issues facing the planet. There will always be naysayers yelling out “impossible!”, but clearly we are way past listening to them.

 

The basic question that Enough is Enough asks is how we can transition from a global economic system dependent upon unsustainable and endless growth to a steady-state economy. According to authors Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill, the purpose of the book is to show “how to establish a prosperous yet nongrowing economy.”

EnoughIsEnough

 

A steady-state economy is defined as an economy which “aims for stable or mildly fluctuating levels in population and consumption of energy and material.” Even Adam Smith realized there were limits to economic growth. He predicted that eventually natural resources would become more scarce, population growth would depress wages, and division of labor would approach the limits of its effectiveness.

 

For some people, a steady-state economy is a radical idea. For others, it makes perfect sense in a world of finite resources with gross inequalities and a lot people stuck in the daily grind and not so happy, despite the latest got-to-have-it technology.

 

Enough is Enough actually builds the groundwork for moving towards a society that lives within its means and focuses on the things people want – happiness, well-being, economic security, food security, good health, clean environment, strong communities, and so on. Perhaps most importantly, it does so in an straightforward and reader-friendly manner.

 

The book suggest an actual blueprint of policies that could create a sustainable economy. Proposed solutions include: establishing more worker-owned companies, prohibiting banks from issuing money as debt (essentially preventing banks from creating money “out of thin air”), local currencies, and work-time reduction (to help reduce unemployment and improve citizen well-being).

 

Dietz and O’Neill believe the following policy directions would serve as pillars of a steady-state economy:

  • Limit the use of materials and energy to sustainable levels;
  • Stabilize population through compassionate and non-coercive means;
  • Achieve a fair distribution of income and wealth;
  • Reform monetary and financial systems for stability;
  • Change the way we measure progress;
  • Secure meaningful jobs and full employment;
  • Reconfigure the way businesses create value.

 

Enough is Enough also positively and pro-actively deals with the often taboo subject of population growth. Just as with the economy, a steady population is needed in a world of finite resources. Most importantly, Dietz and O’Neill recognize that “hidden in population numbers are real people”, something that often gets lost in the discussion of a world of 7 billion people, and likely to grow to between 8 to 10 billion by 2050. Unless compassionate, non-coercive policies are devised, any population policy will ultimately not work. Successful policies include actions such as educating girls, empowering women, and providing family planning services.

 

The two authors bravely wade into the immigration debate, also a tumultuous issue. They are in favor of honoring current U.S. immigration policy of accepting refugees and reuniting families. As for admitting workers with specific skills to fill jobs (also U.S policy), they suggest that the U.S and other wealthy countries are tapping the best educated and skilled foreign workers, which results in a “brain drain” for the developing countries from which these workers mainly come. Developed countries want top talent to spur more economic growth. Yet in doing so, the wealthy (and high-consuming) countries increase population growth to the detriment of less wealthy nations.

 

It’s a sensitive subject, yet if you look past the emotional arguments around immigration, as the authors do, you’ll see that their position is one where, in their words, “Instead of recruiting educated and entrepreneurial people from abroad, wealthy nations should cultivate talent at home and encourage nations abroad to retain their most capable workers.” In a sense, it’s localizing the workforce, for the good of societies in both developed and developing countries.

 

The world is facing many critical issues, yet for the most part stubbornly continues with business as usual, to the detriment of society and the planet. Enough is Enough effectively tackles issues too many people want to ignore. Moreover, it not only provides fodder for lively discussions, but practical ideas for achieving a sustainable economy and healthy communities.

In 2012 I was very fortunate to attend several prominent international conferences where population issues – including human rights, the environment, and the global economic reality – were discussed. These events were the Aspen Ideas Festival, the Rio+20 Earth Summit and the Montreal International Conference on Degrowth in the Americas.

iStock_000014852074XSmall Earth

My current work is writing on many issues related to population, especially rights and the environment. We live in a world with 7 billion people that is predicted to be between 8 to 10 billion by 2050.  And we face many pressing problems that need solutions grounded in fairness, equality, and respect for life.

After attending these conferences, along with other events, experiences, and research, I decided to write a report on inclusive, holistic approaches to covering this subject. The result is People’s Rights, Planet’s Rights: Holistic Approaches to a Sustainable Population. It recommends focusing on the following issues to create a path to a sustainable population:

  • Women’s Rights – providing voluntary family planning services to the 222 million women in developing countries who want access to family planning services but do not have access to contraceptives;
  • Youth Rights – providing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education to the nearly 3 billion young adults under the age of 25;
  • Rights of Nature – recognizing the legal right of ecosystems to exist;
  • Rethinking the Economy – accepting that endless economic growth is unsustainable and more efficient global indicators of human and environmental well-being should be adopted.

While there has been much focus, and rightly so, of the need to empower women as the answer to stabilizing population numbers, I think that other issues are sometimes overlooked. One is recognizing the rights of youth to reproductive health and education. Another – the need to reassess our endless growth economy – isn’t often mentioned as a solution in conjunction with human rights. Lastly, the concept of rights of nature is barely mentioned at all.

This report is my attempt to bring these issues together as a way to craft policies to better our communities and our world. Certainly it could have a big impact on India, which is soon to have the world’s biggest population. Balancing human rights with nature’s rights would help tigers and other endangered species. Creating local, sustainable economies with quality livelihoods would help people and the environment.

The same applies for the U.S. and developed countries. The situations might be slightly different, but in the end, they are not really so different; after all, we all share the same planet.

In my opinion, implementing policies based on the points above are worth undertaking and we have nothing to lose by doing so. It just might make the world a better place, which is what most of us want.

Mention India and many contradictory images are often conjured up – poverty and Rajput castles, rich and exotic foods and begging mothers and children, the Himalayan mountains and Rajasthani deserts.

But there is no contradiction on the importance of the Indian monsoon. Indian agriculture and much of Indian culture are intertwined with the seasonal rains. And the future outlook on the reliability of monsoons does not look promising.

The monsoon months of June to September bring three-quarters of India’s annual rainfall. Yet alarmingly, more experts are predicting that due to climate change, the coming decades will bring erratic monsoon seasons in South Asia. This is bad news for Indian farmers, especially rural farmer communities. It is also bad news for food and water security in a country destined to be the world’s most populous by 2030.

A study in the journal Environmental Research Letters from researchers at Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany found that the monsoons are likely to be 40-70 percent below normal levels and fail more often over the next two centuries. And between 2150 and 2200, the study predicts the monsoons could fail every 5 years.

Specifically, the study’s authors found that rising temperatures and a change in strength of a Pacific Ocean circulation pattern known as the Pacific Walker circulation in spring could cause more frequent and severe changes in monsoon rains.

In 2009 monsoon rains were 22 percent below average and Indians faced widespread drought. The country had to import large amounts of sugar, pushing global prices to 30-year highs.

India is a predominantly rural country, with over 600 million of its 1.2 billion citizens relying directly on agriculture. Nearly two-thirds of Indian fields are fed only by rain.

Krishna Kumar Kanikicharla, a scientist with the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, told the Yale University blog Environment360 that in a country where more than half of the population works in agriculture, “Livelihoods, water security, and energy security are all tied to volume and timely arrival of monsoon season.”

Women will feel the brunt of changes to the monsoon the most. In India, nearly eighty percent of women work in agriculture (mainly as smallholder, rural farmers) and will have to cope with droughts, floods, and erratic rains.

Adding to the water scarcity concern is the status of aquifers, a heavily relied upon source of water in India that is at risk. The groundwater is being pumped primarily for irrigating agricultural lands and as a source of drinking water; aquifers are being depleted faster than can be replenished by nature.

The past 200 years of ever increasing reliance on fossil fuels is altering the climate in ways yet unknown. The pattern is not likely to change unless the world commits to renewable, alternative energy sources and less carbon intensive solutions. So much already exists and only needs the will of governments to push new energy policies forward.

The time to act is now. The International Energy Agency just issued its annual World Energy Outlook 2012 report that states the world is failing to move towards a more sustainable path for energy, as it continues its addiction to fossil fuels in the face of climate change and growing water scarcity.

There are organizations in India working to empower communities – especially women – via small-scale and organic farming methods, as well as traditional measures to cope with droughts. One example is the Green Foundation, a grassroots organization that works to empower south Indian women to build resilient communities in the face of climate change and sustain rural livelihoods without damaging the ecosystem.

Another example is GRAVIS, based in the state of Rajasthan. The organization promotes sustainable rural development via capacity building, community and women’s empowerment, social justice, and protecting the environment. GRAVIS empowers rural desert communities via a traditional source of water storage, called taankas.

The consequences for continuing business as usual are great. In 2012 the monsoon came late, threatening the livelihoods of millions of people. Imagine if it doesn’t come at all. The effects of an erratic monsoon season would be felt beyond India of course, from creating climate refugees to a decline in tea production to threatened global security. Empowering communities and implementing local efforts are a key part of the solution. The overall solution though, is reducing global fossil fuel usage and emissions, which is the challenge facing the whole world.

[Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/friskodude/1177241/]

Original posted at 6degreesofpopulation.org

 

photo: indiapicks.com

On the same day that India’s Supreme Court lifted its ban on tourism in the core areas of the country’s tiger reserves,  the Indian government committed $50 million toward conservation efforts during the Convention on Biological Diversity summit.

Regarding tigers, tourism will now be permitted in 20 percent of the core areas of India’s 41 tiger sanctuaries.  The Court asked state governments to draw up conservation plans that follow the guidelines prepared by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

Under the new rules, no new tourism infrastructure would be created and all permanent structures would be gradually removed from the core tiger habitat.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority has also just proposed the creation of six new tiger reserves. Which would range from Uttar Pradesh to Goa to Tamil Nadu.

As for the $50 million pledge towards biodiversity efforts by Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh, it will be invested both domestically and shared with other developing nations that are struggling to cover the costs of protecting their own biodiversity.  It is also hoped that this will spur similar commitments from rich countries like the U.S.

For now, it seems like things are proceeding in the right direction for tigers.  But the pressure on tigers and other species are enormous.

Below is an excerpt from an op-ed in The Hindu newspaper by Tarsh Thekaekara, who is a biodiversity conservation researcher in India.  I think it succinctly captures the challenges facing India, and until the country comes to terms with its development priorities, the future may not look so bright for animals, or villagers:

India is home to three of the world “biodiversity hotspots,” the Western Ghats-Sri Lanka region, the Himalayas and the Indo-Burma region. The Western Ghats are currently being ripped apart by large-scale legal and illegal mining, large development projects and even private hills stations like Lavasa. The hills have recently witnessed a very comprehensive conservation prioritisation and planning exercise by the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), which suggests an intelligent and democratic zonation plan with varying levels of exploitation. But most politicians object to the recommendations of the panel, arguably driven by kickbacks from the extractive industries or a short-sighted approach to “development.” Vast tracts of the Indo-Burma hotspot will be submerged by a series of dams, supposedly to cater to India’s ever expanding power needs. 

…India’s two main flagship programmes ― “Project Elephant” and “Project Tiger,” have been in place for a few decades now. Though their success is debated, they have been doing a reasonably good job of protecting these two species. But India Inc is now catching up with our charismatic beasts. Central India, globally recognised as one of India’s best metapopulation of tigers, is being carved up for coal mining. A proposal for an Elephant reserve in Chhattisgarh never saw the light of day since there is coal under the elephant forests. India’s Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) and the Minister of Environment and Forest (MoEF) have been fighting desperately to stop the indiscriminate industrial expansion into India’s natural forests. But both the FAC and MoEF were chastised for “slowing down India’s galloping economy.”

Thekaekara ends by saying that in terms of biodiversity loss (what he refers to here as an underlying driver),  “The question now is whether India is going to honestly identify what this underlying driver is and make a serious effort to balance the development versus nature battle.”

He seems hopeful that the government is indeed making serious efforts at this.  Of course, time will tell if this is true.  The fate of tigers, other species, and a way of life for many people are at stake.