Burning Issues

Greenhouse Gas and Containment

Greenhouse gases and global warming

Controlling the build up of greenhouse gases is a priority we cannot neglect, says S.Ananthanarayanan.

The earth is a greenhouse.  The temperature in outer space, even near a source of heat, like the sun, is just a fraction above absolute zero. This is because space is a near perfect vacuum and there is nothing to absorb heat. The sun-facing side of a body in space would be unbearably hot, but the opposite side, being in its own shadow, would cool to the fraction above absolute zero seconds after ‘sunset’! But things are more comfortable on earth because our atmosphere keeps us safe from the scorching direct heat in the day, and then acts as a warm blanket during night!

Greenhouse gases
The atmosphere is able to do this because it contains gases that can absorb and retain heat, appropriately named greenhouse gases.  In a simple gas like hydrogen, whose molecule has just two light atoms, the energy is almost all in the straight motion of the molecules. But in complex molecules like methane, any heat supplied has first to set up rotational motion, which consumes a good deal of energy. Methane thus takes in a lot of heat before warming up. And similarly, when it needs to cool down, it takes longer, to give up all the stored
energy. Like an energy sponge!

This is also true of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, which are simple molecules, but consisting of heavy atoms, making them behave like flywheels! Relative dimensions of molecules.

Is the earth getting warmer?

In the natural state there is a balance of production and breakdown of greenhouse gases. But with the industrial revolution and the burning of fossil fuels, these gases began to build up.  The result is that the earth now gains more and loses less heat. Studies show that in the last century the mean temperature of the earth has risen by about a degree C.  The effect on rainfall has been an increase of about 1%, with increase in the higher latitudes and decrease in the tropics.  Another effect is that the polar icecaps have begun to melt and the water has begun to raise the sea level. Apart from the rise due to the expansion of seawater on getting warmer. The last century has seen a rise of 6 to 8 inches in the sea level and this continues at about 3.3 mm per year.  
One new approach Emission from powerhouses and motor vehicles, reduction of the earth’s greencover and less methane from decomposition of organic wastes are the prime culprits. Another cause is the extraction of natural gas from gas-fields in the seabed. The natural gas needs to be ‘scrubbed’ of CO2 impurity before it is piped.
A recent, novel method to deal with this last cause is to simply store the carbon dioxide wastes under the sea! Statoil, a firm that mines natural gas in the North Sea purifies the natural gas right there and then pumps the CO2 into a sandstone formation 1 kilometre beneath the bottom of the sea.  The solution has great potential, because just 1% of the sandstone formation that Statoil is using could take the full CO2 emissions from all Europe’s power plants for three years!

Photo courtesy geophys

Gardening for wildlife

Bird friendly garden

Bird friendly garden

If you're a bird lover like me, and want to draw a diverse range of bird life to your yard, you'll need more than just a birdbath or bird feeder.  
You need to attract birds the way a natural habitat would.  Creating a habitat for birds in your yard is not as difficult as it sounds.  It just takes some planning, a combination of dense, diverse native vegetation for shelter, as well as water and food sources.  Check natural areas and preserves in you area.

Think like a bird.

To create a bird-friendly habitat, you'll need to forget about having a well-manicured yard.  Birds are attracted to natural, dense growth, so let an area of your yard or garden grow uninhibited.  You'll also need an area for abundant bushes, a tree or trees and flowers that attract and make local birds feel at home.  Birds thrive on the seeds and fruits from these plants.  

Parakeet on Red Silk tree
Native plants also offer food for insects.  Dead leaves, old brush and long grasses attract birds because they provide good nesting material and food, in the way of insects.  Your bird habitat should be made up of plants native to your region.  The reason for this is two-fold:  
Local birds are accustomed to local plants and the plants will thrive in their natural habitat.  Native plant species are adapted to local rainfall amounts and other weather patterns, as well as soil type.   They require less maintenance, less assistance from chemical fertilizers and less watering, which makes it easier on you and the environment.  Birds will flock to your habitat if they are comfortable with the plants there.

Birds recognize regional trees and shrubs as sources of food and shelter from predators.  Choose plants that produce seeds, berries and nuts.   Native Trees, Shrubs for the Wildlife Garden, and Native flowers.  Use a variety of plants densely planted in layers to attract a variety of birds to your habitat.

House sparrow with insect
Create these layers, or tiers, in your habitat by creating a gradual "step down" effect from tallest to shortest.  Plant trees, surrounded by shrubbery, and then border this with flowers or grasses, for example.  Some bird species may be attracted to flowers and some prefer perusing grasses for seeds, worms and insects.  Others like to feast on berries and other fruits from bushes and trees. Different species may also visit separate areas of the habitat for particular functions, for example, feeding versus nesting.

The density of the habitat's vegetation provides shelter and protection and opportunities for nesting.  The more wide-open the space in your yard, the less protection there is for birds which decreases the chances of them visiting for long periods.

Sunbird on orange trumpet creeper
Birds have many predators, larger birds, snakes, cats or other animals.  Dense foliage hides or otherwise provides barriers from these predators and allows birds to thrive and nest in your habitat.  Good locations for your habitat are corners of your yard, such as those adjacent to an already wooded area, or areas around buildings or other structures.  The main objective is to cut down on wide-open spaces where birds feel unprotected.

Building a Bird Garden.

When choosing plants, consider their natural cycles and what they provide to birds in particular seasons.
Flowers and flowering shrubs provide nectar and thus insects for birds to eat.  Nut or fruit trees provide food sources in late summer and fall.

Hoopoe in kitchen garden
Evergreens provide shelter all year long.  Sources of water and food to attract birds will complete your bird habitat.

Offer clean water by supplying a classic pedestal birdbath, fountain, a combination of water-filled saucers or a water garden.  
A water garden or small pond is a great way to attract birds.  Ponds can be stocked with fish, frogs, and insects and other critters that are attractive food sources to birds and small mammals.

oriental white eye on bird bath
No matter what kind of water source you provide, it's essential if you want birds to stick around.

Photos Susan Sharma
Text Courtesy
Gardening For Wildlife. http://www.gardening-for-wildlife.com/

Press on environment and wildlife

Press this week

4  city schools make it to Nat’l Science Congress
Save Aarey team creates tree map to press officials
Call for adopting green technology
Urbanisation Nips Noida Botanic Garden in the Bud
No green nod required for 74 coal blocks to be auctioned in February
Museum in Mysuru to document flora and fauna in Cauvery belt
Now, ‘green’ certificates for operation theatres in Mumbai
Puducherry School Bags Change Maker Award
Waste-to-wealth formula takes slumgirl to Lima
Read details at 

Press on environment and wildlife

Press this week

1. Rajkot one of 40 global cities to cut carbon emissions 
2. 5 lakh solar pumps to be installed in a year's time: Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis 
3. Indian metropolis subject of climate change case study  
4. As Japan burns more coal, climate policies under pressure
5. Asiatic lions in Gir facing threat from poachers
6. Farm production in Himalayan states affected due to climate 
7. ‘Goa river water quality has deteriorated
8. High time we go green 

Read details at


Urban Wildlife

Mobile Apps for Climate Change

Mobile Apps for Climate Change
-Dr. V. Shubhalakshmi
Three mobile apps on urban birds, butterflies and trees of four metros; Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkatta and Hyderabad has been developed by Dr. V Shubhalaksmi, Founder & Director at Ladybird Consulting LLP.   These apps include information about 50 common species that are mostly found in these metros. The idea is to bring urban biodiversity information on the fingertips of the users. These apps will be FREELY available on Android platform.  The mobile apps are developed by LycodonFX Pvt. Ltd.

Besides, the development of mobile apps, the project includes a School Citizen Science Programme titled as Urban iNaturewatch Challenge wherein 40 city schools would take up local biodiversity studies as part of their project work. These apps will be helpful in identifying local trees, birds and butterflies which the students need to report back to the project website www.inaturewatch.com. The project is expected to develop 3000 student citizen scientists across the cities. The project partners include Greenline of Don Bosco Development Society in Mumbai and WWF-India for other three metros. 

The idea of mobile apps has been inspired from U.S. based Audubon Society eguides. The apps are aptly named as iNaturewatch which is the environmental citizen science initiative of the Navi Mumbai-based social enterprise- Ladybird Environmental Consulting.
The project which started in July 2014 has now completed its first phase wherein the mobile apps and website are being launched across the four metros. The applications have already been launched in Mumbaiand  Hyderabad.  Kolkatta and Delhi launches are scheduled for next week.  

Every year , the United States Department of International Alumni Exchange announces Alumni Innovation Engagement Fund which is a global funding competition to aid their exchange alumni to implement innovative projects in their countries. This year more than 1000 proposals were submitted world wide, of which 53 proposals were selected as finalist and Dr. V.Shubhalaxmi,  was the sole winner from India. She and her 5-member team won 25000 USD grant support for their year long project- Mobile Apps 4 Climate Change.


Quiz of the week

Attempt a quiz

agrisubin@gmail.com has answered all ten questions on the quiz "Quiz on Bears"  correct  and his submission was the first to reach us.  Congrats Subin.  You will get a surprise gift soon.

Now, attempt a  "Quiz on elephants-Part II" at
You can try the quiz more than once.  The first all correct answer to reach us wins a prize. 


Quiz of the week

Attempt a quiz

sabinajayapalan@gmail.com    has answered all ten questions on the quiz "Quiz on Apes?"  correct  and her submission was the first to reach us.  Congrats Sabina for a second time.  You will get a surprise gift soon.

Now, attempt a  "Quiz on Captive Bears" at


You can try the quiz more than once.  The first all correct answer to reach us wins a prize. 

Painting on house wall-M.P -Photo Susan Sharma

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