Adventure

Opting for green

Opting for green
Redesign of how options of energy use are presented is found to help consumers choose the green route, says S.Ananthanarayanan.
Going green, or choosing to use energy generated from renewable or non-polluting sources comes with some costs, and the challenge is get consumers to make the more responsible choice even if it is expensive. Choosing the more expensive way because it is for the common good amounts to cooperation with society and surrendering a personal economy. The ‘natural’ or ‘logical’ choice may be to choose personal economy and not to bear higher costs which help others enjoy lower prices. This is the basis of market economy and there is always an ‘optimum’ mix of cooperation and selfishness which drives human behaviour.
But global warming has forced the world into a corner and it is time to use every trick and stratagem possible to get consumers, and the industry and states, to consistently go for the personally expensive but socially imperative option of doing things in the more sustainable way. In the context, the study by Felix Ebeling, from the University of Cologne and Sebastian Lotz from Stanford and the University of Lausanne, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, formally shows that a method of ‘nudging’ the consumer with a ‘default’ green choice at the time of exercising an option leads to a ten-fold increase in the number of consumers who do go for the sustainable but personally more expensive offer.
Green power 
The paper describes an experiment in Germany, where a nation-wide energy supplier offers two products, one the normal energy connection, and the other, electricity from completely renewable sources, but priced about 15% higher. The energy comes in through the same transmission line, of course, but if a consumer opts to buy ‘green’ power, then the supplier firm (the name is not disclosed) promises to increase the green component of the generation process used by the extent of the consumer’s contribution. The contract for supply of power is entered into by consumers through the supplier’s website, where they are two screens, one for the normal service offered and the other for superior service, at higher cost. And each screen offers further choice – power from the available sources or from fully renewable, ie, green sources, where the surcharge is added. If the consumer would like to take green energy, then she has to check the box that is provided.
Now, the experiment was in the way the choice of green energy was offered – the green energy check box was either left unchecked, in which case a consumer had to manually check the box (opt in) if she wanted green power, or the box came with a check mark, a default option – and the consumer had to uncheck it (opt out) if she wanted cheaper power. A total of 41,952 households participated in the trial, over the length of a month and each household was randomly assigned either of the two tariff presentations.
 

The outcome at the end of the month was that the default presentation, where the green option was pre-selected and could be regarded as a ‘nudge’, resulted in significantly more green selection. While only some of the website visits resulted in a purchase of power supply, in cases where green power had to be actually selected by ‘opting in’, only 0.62% of the total number of website visits were selections for  green power, against 5.58% where the green option was ‘pre-selected’, and the consumer had to ‘opt out’ if she so wished. This amounts to about nine times as many green selections where there was the ‘nudge’!  Considering only the cases where there was an actual sale, the figures are that 7.2% opted for green power where they had to ‘opt in’, but 69.1% stayed with green when they had to ‘opt out’. This also comes to a little more than nine times as many green options in the case where there was a ‘nudge’.
The results of the trial were also subjected to refinement, in terms of the choices depending on whether the consumer had chosen ordinary service or superior service and also where there were differences in the tariff rate itself. While there was a dip in the preference for green during periods of reduced electricity consumption or where the rates were higher, the main conclusion, that calling for a ‘opt out’ option favours a choice of staying with green, was robustly borne out.
Another analysis carried out was of how the manner of presentation affected persons who started out with political commitment to green energy. The way this was done was by considering the postal code of subscriber homes and the political party that had been returned by the majority of voters in that district. Absence of the ‘nudge’ results in the same, low rates of option for green energy, but with larger numbers (9.87%) where the ‘green party’was popular, and fewer (4.63%) where the party had less following. But where there had been the ‘nudge’, by way of the pre-selected option, the rates of choosing green energy rose sharply, to 70.19% and 67.06%  in ‘green party’ areas and areas with less followers, respectively..
Conscious choice
The next test applied is the more significant one – to see whether providing a pre-selected option somehow ‘fooled’ consumers into leaving it as it is, out of lack of awareness. In this test, the conditions that the German consumers faced while placing their contracts were simulated using US based volunteers, through an on-line crowd sourcing service called Amazon Mechanical Turk, where anybody can volunteer, for some small payment, to take part in surveys and other business exercises. AMT volunteers based in the US were thus asked to imagine they were entering into the power buying contract with the German utility. That they only imagined, and did not actually buy a contract, was the only difference and the screens presented were the same as used in Germany. The AMT volunteers were hence also offered the green option, at a higher power tariff, and in different sets, either with the blank, ‘opt in’ box or the pre-filled ‘opt out’ box. And then, the important part, after the exercise was over, a subset of the participants was asked to state whether they could remember what option they had chosen.
The results of the first part of the exercise were similar to the real life trial, with 34.16% and 93.8% of the participant opting for green energy in the ‘opt in’ and ‘opt out’ cases, respectively. But now, when participants were later asked if they remembered how they had chosen, all those who had ‘opted in’ for green naturally remembered, but so also did 84.13% of those who chose green energy in the ‘opt out’ option. This shows that those who chose green energy, by not exercising the ‘opt out’ option, had done so consciously.
 

Ebeling and Lotz observe that the experiment shows that using a default setting has a powerful effect on behavior, which gets households to opt for green alternatives without tax breaks or monetary compensation.  Suggestions for desired behaviour, in the form of non-binding defaults, which have their effect without infringing the right to free choice, have been found useful in different areas of social and economic policy, they note, an example being organ donation, where ‘opt out’ leads to high participation. The same method, they say, can now form part of the policy maker’s tool-box to deal with climate change.

Options for India
Germany is an environmentally conscious state, which has given up nuclear power and where private electricity utilities offer choices of sources of power.  But even in countries like India, there are a great many situations where there is need for people to make green choices. Examples are in water use, using public transport, reducing the use of plastics, even refusing to be overcharged.
A modified ‘opt-out’ option, where the consumer needs to actively choose the obviously less sustainable practice, would draw attention to the nature of the choice and, as the Ebeling-Lotz experiment has shown, should promote green behaviour.

Bird Watching

GREAT INDIAN HORNBILLS IN PERIL

  GREAT INDIAN HORNBILLS IN PERIL
   DIPANJAN GHOSH
Introduction
In my recent trip to Arunachal Pradesh, I spent a day at Sessa Orchid Sanctuary to grow my acquaintance with Himalayan orchids in their natural habitat.  Adjoining to Sessa, there is Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary. Eaglenest and the surrounding forest stretching across the river Kameng is known for diverse avian fauna, i.e., actually a birder’s paradise. It is also one of the best places to watch hornbills in India. Eaglenest is the home of six out of nine hornbill species found in Indian subcontinent, viz., Indian grey hornbill, Oriental pied hornbill, Great Indian hornbill, Rufous-necked hornbill, Wreathed hornbill and the illusive Brown hornbill. Among them the great Indian hornbill is the majestic one. Its impressive size and colour have made it important in many tribal cultures and rituals in India from long ago.

 Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary is a prime birding site of Northeast India and a repository of some rare and threatened avian species (Photo: Dipanjan Ghosh).

King of the forest
The great Indian hornbill (Buceros bicornis) is the largest and heaviest of the hornbill species found in India. Great pied hornbill, concave-casqued hornbill or great hornbill, etc., are the alternative names of this large bird. In Nepali, they are called ‘Homrai’, meaning ‘king of the forest’. Great Indian hornbill inhabit mainly in evergreen and moist deciduous forests of South and Southeast Asia. In India, they are found in a few forest areas in the Western Ghats and in the forests along the Himalayas. Their distribution extends into Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaya, and Sumatra.
A mature great Indian hornbill is 100-130 cm long, with a 150 cm wingspan and a weight of 2-4 kg. The body has black and white colouration with a black face, back and under parts, a white neck, wing coverts and flight feathers. Females are smaller than males and have bluish-white eyes instead of red, although the orbital skin is pinkish. Great hornbills have prominent eyelashes. 

Brightly coloured horny casque on top of a very large bill is the hallmark of
             an adult Great Indian Hornbill (Photo: Dipanjan Ghosh).

The most prominent feature of the great hornbill is its very large bill, which bears a sizable, bright yellow and black coloured, concave, horny growth – the casque. Though its bill looks quite heavy, is actually very light; it is made up of thin-walled hollow cells. The casque serves no known purpose, except sexual attraction. The back of the casque is reddish in females, while the underside of the front and back of the casque is black in males.  Unlike others birds, hornbills have highly pneumatised bones, with hollow air cavities extending to the tips of the wing bones.
The great Indian hornbills are long-lived, living for nearly 35-50 years, or more in captivity. They are usually seen in small groups, larger groups occasionally aggregating at tall fruit trees in the vicinity. Great hornbills sometimes fly at great height over the forest canopies.  The flight involves stiff flaps followed by glides with the splayed and up curled wings.

It is said that the flapping sound of a great hornbill can be heard more than a half
            kilometre away (Photo: Rupak Ghosh Dastidar).

Feeding habit
Great hornbills are predominantly frugivorous, i.e., their diet consists mainly of fruits. Even they obtain the water that they need entirely from their diet of fruits. An interesting fact is that they cannot swallow food caught at the tip of the beak as their tongues are too short to manipulate it, so they toss it back to the throat with a jerk of the head. 
Carbohydrate and lipid-rich fruits of Alseodaphne, Myristica, Persea, Vitex, etc., are eaten along with different types of figs. A mature bird is able to consume as many as 150 figs within one meal.Great hornbills fulfil their need of protein-rich food by means of eating small mammals like squirrel; birds like owl, jungle owlet; small reptiles and a huge number of insects. 
Breeding behaviour

These hollows on the tree trunk are the abandoned nests of great hornbill (Photo:
            Dipanjan Ghosh)
Large, tall and old trees, particularly emergent that rise above the canopy, seem to be preferred for nesting.  The great hornbills choose the highest branches with little foliage as roost site. They arrive punctually at sunset from long distances, following the same routes each day. Resting sites are used regularly, when feeling spent after the long flight, until late at dusk and later they sleep.
During the breeding season (from January to April), great hornbills form monogamous pair and live in small groups of 2-40 individuals. Once courtship and mating are over, the female finds a tree hollow and seals herself in with faeces and a plaster made up mainly of pellet of mud. The male gathers the pellets from the forest floor and then gives them to the female who stays inside the nest leaving a slit for a window big enough to receive food. The clutch consists of one or two eggs. The female remains imprisoned there for 6-8 weeks, where she incubates for 38-40 days relying on the male to bring her food, until the chicks are half developed. During this period the female undergoes a complete moult. She emerges after she has regrown fresh feather and her young are feathered. In the breeding season, males work hard. Some male hornbills are so exhausted after the nesting process that they may die.

Cultural and conservation status  
The great Indian hornbill is deemed as the state bird of two Indian states, such as Kerala and Arunachal Pradesh. Perhaps due to its impressive body colour, large size specially designed beak, great hornbill is considered important in many tribal cultures and rituals. Among the Sema Naga, Nishi, Zomi, Paite and some other tribes, a festival without hornbill feather in their head-dress is incomplete. Outside India, in Borneo also this is a common practice among aboriginals.
Unfortunately their population is declining rapidly in some areas of our country. Presently the great hornbill is evaluated as near threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is listed in Appendix I of CITES also. Due to indiscriminate hunting by aboriginals for its various parts, the future of the great hornbill is in real peril. The beaks and head are used in charms, feathers are used during dance and the flesh is believed to be medicinal. Young birds are also considered a delicacy. Thus to entertain man’s illogical beliefs, those winged creatures has been gradually decreasing. Moreover, habitat loss in the form of forest clearance for agriculture, such as the slash and burn method of farming in Himalayas and Western Ghats, is also likely to have contributed to declines. Decline is also probably impacted by the pet trade to some extent.

Please share your views and feedback to: dpanjanghosh@gmail.com 

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Tulsi-an alternative to cigarette smoking-part II

Tulsi-an alternative to cigarette smoking-part II
-Neelam Verma

Hello again, I am here to share my experiences after 23 months of smoking Tulsi / Basil cigarettes.
As per my dentist my oral health has improved. My gums are much stronger than before and there is no tartar formation on my teeth and hence no scaling of the teeth is required. 


More so, he said that, “ although there is no trace of  smoking, what about your lungs ? You are still inhaling smoke and that should be having negative effect. You must check on that. “ Soon, I got my lungs X-Ray taken, and the report turned out to be absolutely normal and there was no evidence of  smoking. May be Tulsi / Basil smoking since last 23 months had reversed the effect of smoking Tobacco for 40 years.  
Unfortunately, I had not taken any X-Ray before experimenting with Tulsi smoking and hence cannot compare the before and after effects.
Also, ever since I started off with Tulsi / Basil smoking,  I have tried to convince all Tobacco smokers I meet, to try out Tulsi / Basil smoking instead, and some of them have actually done so. 


Tipu, from Nainital, a mountaineer and an athlete who is 32 years old has been smoking Tulsi since last two months and he finds himself more energetic and lively. His observation is that when one smokes Tulsi, there is no formation of crease on one’s forehead ( i.e. there is no sign of stress /frown ), which you can clearly see on the foreheads of Tobacco smokers.  
 
Aman, from Dehradun, a guitarist who is 27 years old, used to find himself lethargic and tired all the time . But since he started off on Tulsi smoking on my advice, he finds himself energetic and relaxed. In just one month, he has started  going for morning walks, playing cricket and does 10 kms of cycling. His observation is that, “ since I have started smoking Tulsi, my urge to smoke has gone down considerably. Also people around me are not giving me bad vibes, may be because they like the smell of Tulsi. “

There are more people who have found Tulsi / Basil smoking a much better alternative to Tobacco smoking.  My suggestion to smokers around the world is to try out Tulsi / Basil smoking for a few days and experience the difference.

Read Neelam's earlier article at the link

 About Neelam

Neelam Verma runs a beautiful artifacts shop in Bandhavgarh and offers organic/nutritious breakfast to the visitors to Bandhavgarh National Park at her shop cum restaurant “ Malaya”.  Neelam can be contacted at +91 9407325100/+919428413002

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