Archive for the 'Environment' Category

Tour de Pondichéry

Janice Valdez on her Tour of India

Our friend Janice Valdez is a woman with a mission… or at least an adventure… or perhaps both. She is in the midst of a two-month tour of India to promote an extremely cool machine: the Stromer electric bicycle. Unlike the old mopeds, which used peddle energy as a way of forcibly jump-starting a motor, or electric scooters, which use no human power whatsoever, the Stromer uses an electrical drive to augment the rider’s contribution to forward motion.

Back home in Vancouver, Janice cycles everywhere and her (non-power-assisted) bike is her principle form of transportation within the city. With a strong commitment to sustainable, low-carbon-footprint living, Janice is a contributor to isCleaner.com, a web portal of news and ideas on clean energy. So she was, perhaps, a natural ambassador for this tour of India to show-off the Stromer.
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The End of an Era in Cleanliness

Shuddham Door-to-Door Watse Collectors

Shuddham, the remarkable volunteer-run NGO doing solid waste management in the heart of Pondicherry’s French Colonial district, has ceased operations, effective 1 January 2011. After eight years of going door-to-door, teaching households and businesses the importance of segregating waste streams into compostables and recyclables at the source – and slowly building compliance to an astonishing 80% among households – Shuddham has fallen victim to the incessant corruption of local officials and the negligence and callous indifference with which the government performs its obligations to the public.

Continue reading ‘The End of an Era in Cleanliness’

Born Orphans, Died Childless

Mating Pair of Sockeye Salmon, Adams River, BC, October 2010

Sockeye salmon have a four-year life cycle. The hatchlings spend their first year in the streams and connected lake systems of their birth and three years roaming far-and-wide in the northern regions of the Pacific Ocean. In the late autumn of their fourth year, they return to the streams of their birth – by imprinted sense of smell for the terroir of the natal drainage, perhaps along with some combination of sensitivity to magnetism and light polarization, or other Hogwartsian capabilities – to spawn and die.

In British Columbia, approximately half of the annual sockeye run occurs in the Adams River, 12 kms of class II water in the heart of the Shuswap, 450 km upstream of the sea. The fish make this arduous journey in five or six days. By the time they reach their spawning grounds they are exhausted, having taken no nourishment since leaving the ocean. They have also turned color, from silver to brilliant crimson.

Because the return of the sockeye is cyclical, the runs are not of equal proportions each year. One year in four is an enormous run, followed by a lesser run, and then two small runs. This year was a big year in the cycle. How big? Perhaps the biggest run of sockeye in 100 years.

Continue reading ‘Born Orphans, Died Childless’

The Frogs Are Croaking

It’s fun having brilliant friends; and all-the-more-so to have brilliant friends who can express their brilliance through talent. Jennifer Sohn is one of those special people.

This evening I was lucky to attend an art exhibition at SOMAarts Cultural Center, called “Blue Planet”. The show was the demonstrative element in a week-long conference dedicated to the ways in which art enhances our understanding and appreciation of the environment, and inspires activism on behalf of the ecological systems impacted by human activity. Jen’s latest work, Toxic Habits, a portion of which is pictured above, was featured in the exhibition.

Continue reading ‘The Frogs Are Croaking’

Let Me Run This by My Accountant

The Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, His Excellency Govind SIngh Gurjar

I was among those invited last week to the Raj Nivas by the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, His Excellency Govind Singh Gurjar, to discuss new initiatives for creating environmentally sustainable growth in the Pondicherry region. After the meeting, the LG greeted me warmly and teased, “So, are you an Indian citizen yet?”

“Excellency,” I smiled, “I cannot begin to imagine the bureaucracy involved with attempting to become a citizen. I cannot even manage to get a PAN card issued so that I can pay my income taxes.”

“You don’t need a PAN card!” he lightly chided me. “I will give you my PAN card and you can pay my taxes.”

Accidental Environmentalism

Birds on Ousteri Lake

When the Government of Pondicherry takes decisive action in favor of environmental protection, one thing is for certain: there is more to the story than meets the eye.

Here is the astounding-but-true story of the designation of Ousteri Lake, Pondicherry’s largest water body, as an “Important Bird Sanctuary,” thereby providing a significant legal tool to stop the industrial development which is ravaging its watershed.

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The True Face of Heroism in India

Probir Banerjee and Amitabh Bachchan

This morning, in a Republic Day ceremony with only a smattering of the brainless pomp that usually characterizes Indian public events, Lieutenant Governor Govind Singh Gurjar honored our dear friend and colleague Probir Banerjee for his extraordinary devotion to voluntary service to the people of Pondicherry.

It is shameful that I am only now, upon the prompting of this recognition, writing about Probir. He is not only one of the extraordinary people who cause me to call Pondicherry “home” for half of each year, he is very much the ringleader of that inspiring clique.

Continue reading ‘The True Face of Heroism in India’


Blasts from the Past

Man Up!
Man up you pussy!

... because the idiocy of manliness is an evergreen topic.

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Talking Turkey
how to cook a perfect turkey in half the time

... because Canada and the US will celebrate their Thanksgiving holidays and, regrettably and preventably, not 1-cook-in-10 will serve a decent turkey.

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Filial Piety Awareness Day
Kaki Tusler, Mother's Day Celebrant

... because everyday is Mother's Day.

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America Dreaming Small
American Dream

... because the American Dream seems but a distant memory, given the country's dominant ethos of small-mindedness.

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Serenity and Gratitude to Bring in the New Year
New Year's Eve at Tibetan Pavillion

... to remind us that not every mix of Tibetans and Western spiritual seekers has to be nauseating.

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Incredible Vision
Infinite Vision

... to celebrate the new edition of Infinite Vision published in India.

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Expelliarmus! Harry Potter and the Path to Gandhian Nonviolence
Expelliarmus, Potter, Gandhi, Nonviolence

... reprised because military strategy seems more cruel and less effective than ever -- and certainly there is a better way.

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India Going Nowhere Fast
Nano in Flames

... because cars are ruining Pondicherry, where I live. How badly are they fucking up your Indian town?

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Understanding the Gift Economy
Gift Economy Explained

... reprinted because more-and-more people seem want to understand the gift economy. (Yeah!)

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