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Biodiversity meets the bottom line

Joel Makower, WorldChanging
It’s become axiomatic to state that the future of life on earth is directly linked to maintaining a healthy diversity of plants, animals, and other species. But what about the future of business? How directly, and how severely, does it suffer when our planet’s biodiversity erodes?

For companies in the forestry, mining, energy, fishing, or other sectors linked directly with natural resources — or tourism, which relies in part on nature’s bounty to attract customers — the links between biodiversity and business success are pretty clear. But what about others: manufacturers, retailers, and other purveyors of products and services? Where, and how, does biodiversity impact their bottom lines?

Not long ago, such questions were largely academic. But no longer. Biodiversity is entering the corporate mainstream through a variety of organizations and initiatives. And companies are finding that, at minimum, they must understand the topic, if not take direct action.

The evidence of mounting loss of species continues unabated. Just last week, researchers reported that unless the destruction of tropical rainforest on private land is curtailed, about 40 percent of the Amazonian forest will be lost by 2050. The study was published in the journal Nature.
(26 March 2006)

Brides shun Orissa’s beach boys

Rajesh Behera, The Pioneer (India)
Kendrapara — Young men in coastal villages of Kendrapara district in Orissa [a state on the east coast of India] increasingly appear to be doomed to spend their lives as beach boys. Thousands of them are in the prime of their youth, but they can’t find women who are willing to marry them.

The reason: The sea is fast swallowing their once prosperous villages and pushing them towards penury. Parents of young women are loath to consider these men as prospective sons-in-law as they fear their daughters can only look forward to a bleak future if they marry them.

In better times, when the sea – actually the tempestuous Bay of Bengal – was less menacing, Sanjaya Padhihari of Satabhaya village would have been long married with children running in his yard. But at 29, he is still a bachelor, hoping against hope that he will yet find a bride.

Provided his village is not literally washed away by the encroaching salt water in the next couple of years. Once that happens, he, and thousands of young men like him in villages along the Kendrapara coast, will have to migrate to an uncertain future.

The sea has been pushing inwards, nibbling at the coastline, for the past three decades. Many feel that rate of erosion has gathered speed since the killer ‘super-cyclone’ of 1999. The house in which Sanjaya Padhihari lives, and many others in his neighbourhood, is now on the verge of being devoured by the sea.

Old-timers recall that 40 years ago, the villages and the sea were separated by a three km stretch of buffer land. Today, there is a thin strip of land that separates them.

Every time there is a high tide, seawater laps at the walls of the picture postcard thatched homes of traditional prawn farmers battling the sea that dot the coastline. It’s a losing battle as the sea becomes increasingly menacing with each passing day.

“It has become a daunting task for the parents of young men to find brides for their sons as no one wants to push their sisters or daughters into an uncertain future,” says Prafulla Rout of Satabhaya. In this hamlet alone there are 60 bachelors for whom time is running out fast. In adjacent Kanapur, it’s the same story. According to Sridhar Behera, a marriage broker, says “it has become a difficult task to find brides for young men from villages like Satabhaya who are educated and make a good living.” Finding brides for those who have already migrated, in comparison, is easier.

Dukhi Mahalik, another marriage broker, recounts how he had almost negotiated three marriages between men of Satabhaya with prospective brides from Dhenkanal, Korei and Salepur. “At the last minute, the to-be-brides’ families refused to go ahead,” he adds. Meanwhile, Sanjaya Padhihari and his friends while their time staring at the sea and pondering their brideless future.
(23 March 2006)
One of many stories of human loss due to climate change that probably won’t make it to the media of Europe and North America. Thanks to RM for finding the story, which does not seem to be available online from the Pioneer website. The Pioneer is a daily newspaper, based in New Delhi and established in 1864. -BA

Science fact or science fiction?

Bryan Farrell, The Nation
It’s bad enough that science has taken a back seat to politics under the Bush Administration, but even more disturbing is the way some GOP lawmakers are trying to make science out of fiction.

Senate Environmental Committee chair James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who famously described global warming as “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” turned to science fiction writer Michael Crichton for expert opinion during a set of hearings on climate change in late 2005.

Then, as the New York Times recently learned, President Bush invited Crichton to speak to a private audience at the White House last year about his techno-thriller State of Fear, in which a group of eco-terrorists undertake a phony global warming scheme to earn government grants. Someone who attended the event said President Bush and his guest “talked for an hour and were in near-total agreement.”

If that wasn’t enough to prove Crichton’s science is sketchy at best, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists saw fit to give Crichton its 2006 Journalism Award, despite the book’s appearance on the New York Times list of best fiction sellers. Meanwhile, the Bush Administration tries to muzzle real scientists, like James Hansen of NASA, who have spent their lives researching the threat of climate change and are telling us that earth is approaching a point of no return.

Politicians, however, can’t be given all of the blame. In his new book The Winds of Change, journalist and author Eugene Linden describes the media’s coverage of climate change as “timid and fitful,” focusing too much of its effort on the dissenting opinion, despite the overwhelming consensus in the scientific community.
(27 March 2006)

BuzzFlash interview: Elizabeth Kolbert

Mark Karlin, via WorkingForChange
Field Notes from a Catastrophe takes us down into the trenches of global warming research

Few of us have the opportunity to camp out on the Greenland ice sheet or gaze at mammoth icebergs floating lazily in the bay. But journalist Elizabeth Kolbert has, and her report to the rest of us is both awesome and unsettling – which is her intent. Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change truly sounds an alarm. Kolbert visited key research sites herself. She questioned the scientists, as well as local residents, and observed not only the data, but the land and seascapes firsthand. Her report tells us in layman’s terms what the world’s top climate researchers are already seeing. She wants us all to understand global warming, and why we can no longer ignore or deny it.

…BuzzFlash: You’re a journalist, but you went out like a scientist. You did, in essence, field research on this problem, looking at the problem in a variety of locations, with a variety of people studying it. What did you find?

Elizabeth Kolbert: I chose the scientists I followed quite carefully. They’re very eminent people, all of whom were doing very important research. But the one thing that I hope comes through is that every single one of these people was looking at very serious changes that are already occurring. And the ways they are looking toward the future are not at all speculative. Any global warming scientist will tell you, this is not a field rife with speculation. As one person put it to me, this is basically Physics 101. And they are all very, very concerned.

One of the scientists put it to me very well. He made the point that in many fields there’s a scientific opinion and a lay opinion, and the lay opinion is more hysterical than the scientific opinion. But in the field of climate science, the climate scientists are the ones who are saying, wow, wake up, this is really serious! If there’s one thought I’d really like to get out to people, it is that the scientists are really, really worried.
(28 March 2006)

Global warming: Your chance to change the climate

Michael McCarthy, The Independent
Four senior ministers today made one of the most embarrassing admissions of the Labour Government’s nine years in office – that the official policy for fighting climate change has failed.

Yet, as they did so, a group of MPs will offer a different way forward in the struggle to combat global warming, one which they think is the only alternative. It will mean turning established principles of British economic life upside down. It will mean sacrifices from everyone. Therefore, they say, it will have to be taken out of politics.

In The Independent today, their leader, Colin Challen, the chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group, sets out the case for abandoning the “business as usual” pursuit of economic growth, which has been the basis of Western economic policy for two hundred years. Instead, he says, we must concentrate our efforts on putting a limit on the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from power stations and motor vehicles that are causing the atmosphere to warm.

To do this, Mr Challen and his colleagues believe, carbon will have to be rationed, for companies, individuals and, eventually, for countries. And only a full cross-party consensus would allow such a departure to be implemented without being destroyed by the political process.

Today, the group announces a climate change inquiry, inviting evidence from any interested parties, and readers of The Independent are invited to join in the debate. We will forward your responses to the committee.
(28 March 2006)