Is the environment really in danger ?

Maldives – The sinking paradise

A treat for the eyes.. but only for some time now..

Maldives – the place of unrivaled luxury and pristine beaches. A dream destination for every traveler to enjoy few days of complete relaxation. But unknown to the bedazzled tourist, this wonderland is undergoing a ‘sea’ of change. The global rise in the sea levels is slowly eating up the coasts of Maldives.

Maldives, one of the world’s most low lying areas, is one of the few places where we can see the effects of global warming so strikingly. The coastline of the Maldives is being taken up inch by inch every passing day by the rising waves. The pearl of the Indian Ocean might not remain on our maps anymore. To have a chance of preventing this, we can resort to the well documented ways of reducing energy usage and carbon footprints. But primarily, we need to reform our mindsets about climate change and nature. Here are some of the ideas which we think are very interesting in that aspect.

Jurassic Park – Let’s save ourselves !

When dinosaurs ruled the earth..

We all know about Jurassic Park. Michael Crichton’s epic novel and Spielberg’s breathtaking movie has captured the imagination of people all over the world. But Jurassic Park  is so much more than just scary dinosaurs. It  has some very crucial lessons on the relationship between man and nature.

The idea of the park’s creators was to re-create living creatures who have been extinct millions of years ago and try and fit them into a restricted park setting. The point that they missed was that dinosaurs weren’t some species that disappeared because of deforestation or hunting. They have had their shot at dominating this planet. Nature selected that they become extinct. Trying to bring back the past amounts to playing around with nature’s rules which never yields success. This was demonstrated in the end where the dinos broke out of their cages and wrecked havoc on the whole system. If one tries to control nature, then nature will hit back.

Surprisingly the novel also emphasizes on the notion that even in difficult circumstances, life finds a way to survive and thrive as the dinos did even if the humans there didn’t manage to do so That gives us another very important lesson. When we say that we are damaging the “environment”, we should understand what that means. Even if there are catastrophic events on the earth, somewhere, in some tiny place on the planet, life will remain. And given enough time, nature will once again regain its full splendor. It’s not nature which is being put into danger by our actions; it’s us. We do not wield any power over the Earth. The faster we grasp that fact, the better we can plan for saving ourselves from extinction.

Siberia’s Happy people !

Survive in Siberia

How do you think life would be in the hellish cold of Siberia ? Quite taxing, right ? 

Werner Herzhog, the famous German Film director, gives us a very different perspective on one such Siberian community in his documentary “Happy People”.

Bakhtia is a region in the Siberian Taiga known for its extremely cold weather where a group of villagers have been living for centuries in their traditional way. Every year in winter when the Yenisei River freezes, the men of the village go hunting in the woods where they live a life of solitude. Every hunter has his own cabin and has to be completely self reliant in order to survive. Most hunters carry dogs that are tremendously helpful in hunting. Other than using some modern technology such as guns to kill larger prey and motorized snow sledge to cover vast distances of the Taiga, these hunters rely mostly on traditional traps to catch small animals. They then carry their game back to the village during spring time to sell and/or eat. Even after these hardships, they are quite content with this lifestyle and are glad to have their life so intertwined with nature.

Now these people who are dealing with natural uncertainties for centuries using more or less traditional methods are better equipped in dealing with climate volatility than people living in urban areas who are mostly just exposed to a constant controlled environment through their lives.

For most part of human history majority of human population has been living in rural societies that were more in touch with nature than ours. These communities have developed basic age-old methods to solve many problems nature poses them whereas urban societies have grown disconnected from natural forces. With the growing disconnect comes more and more dependence on technology that works best in normal times but it has forced us to keep our natural survival instincts aside.

Lets survive!

We have to realize here that there are parts of climate change that we can affect and there are parts that we cannot control or predict to a certain degree, but humans have tackled climate change all the time and what has been a powerful tool for our survival is our ability to think about and plan for the future.

Human behavior has been shaped by variations in climate change and the question of our survivability on this planet still remains, but we have a chance to answer it. For our own good, we better take it.  

Reference for the documentary: 
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1683876/

 

Evolution in Everything !

We are standing in the dense forests of Ranathambore in Northern India. This iconic national park is renowned for its tigers. Yet now, the forest guide has taken us to the edge of a big clearing.

He asks us to stay quiet and points to a herd of deer drinking water at a pond. The deer look nervous. Some are drinking, while some are looking around.

The guide makes a gesture towards one of the deers who is looking around. We follow the gaze of that deer and suddenly from some distance away, a majestic yellow and black striped animal jumps out of the grass and gallops towards the herd. But the watching deer had anticipated that. The herd of deer instantly take off and gallop away. It’s now unlikely that the tiger will get deer meat for lunch. The naturally developed survival tactic employed by the deer saved them.

Darwin’s Natural Selection

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Galapagos Islands – The rich ecological diversity here influenced Darwin’s ideas

Many years ago, a British naturalist, Charles Darwin observed countless such animal interactions on his voyage to the Galapagos Islands and formulated his now famous theory of natural selection or evolution.

Natural selection is often known in popular culture as the “survival of the fittest”. Well, what do we mean by the “fittest” ? Is it the most strongest fellow around ? Generally it would indicate something like that. But in ecological terms, “fittest” has a whole different meaning.

Lets consider the example of a peacock. The peacock has a quite astonishing set of colored feathers. These don’t help it to gather food; but they do perform another very important function – attracting a mate. For a species to survive, it is extremely essential for it to mate and produce offspring. So an animal that may be fit for its environment in every other way, but fails to pass along its genes to the next generation has no effect on the future of its species. That’s how evolution by natural selection works – the species which prosper are the ones which develop the best genetic mutations to aid the cause of their gene pool growing. The rest just die out.

Evolution in sports

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More interestingly, Darwin’s landmark theory not only applies to ecology, but also to various spheres of human life. Competition is an integral aspect of most areas of human interaction.

This competition is as ruthless as the one we see in nature. The ones who develop ways to keep on changing and adapting to the environment around them will ultimately prosper.

Lets look at a recent example in the world of English football. The champions of the last two seasons (Manchester City in 2011-12 and Manchester United in 2012-13) failed to recruit top class players in the summers following their titles and both failed to retain their crown next season. Of course there were other reasons like the retirement of United’s iconic manager Sir Alex Ferguson. But inactivity in the transfer market was a vital factor.

Manchester City lost their title to United whose capture of talismanic striker Robin Van Persie proved to be the difference between the two sides. But United repeated the same mistake in the summer of 2013 when they failed to make any world class additions to their side. Now they are languishing in the 7th spot in the league while City are flying high in the top 3 positions due to their decisive signings in the summer of 2013.

The last two years in the English Premier League have been stark examples of the fact that even the most mighty teams need to keep on evolving and bringing in fresh blood in order to keep on prospering.

Evolution in the business world

When you think about investment the first thing that comes to your mind is probably growing your wealth over a period of time. Now we classify time as past, present and future, three distinct things. Hence when we think about investment we are thinking about how our investment would last over time. Now how does one grow wealth over time? By investing in assets that are growing in value over time. Businesses are a source of investment.

But the key idea here is that, if we look into the past we can observe that businesses have evolved much like species have evolved on this planet by competing in business and economic environment. But history only gives us retrospect. So when asking the question, how much would a certain investment in a certain business yield over time, one must consider how effective the business model and the management would be in the future and how would the business withstand potential extraordinary changes in its environment.

The analysis is similar to asking whether a group of organisms would grow in population over time or be able to survive a potential catastrophic event . If the tiger population in a forest increased, it will probably lead to a decrease in deer population. Can that much be said with some degree of confidence? The organism’s survival depends on its ability to withstand change, which involves changing behavior as well as physical changes over generations that are favored by nature. In a company’s case it survival depends on how good a company is at having a durable competitive advantage. Now what may be durable in the future can be deduced from looking at past scenarios. But there will always be uncertainty.

Evolution is wonderful !

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The mighty dinosaurs !
Courtesy:National Geographic

Some truly awe-inspiring species like the dinosaurs have roamed our Earth for millions of years. Yet, despite being so successful, they died out because nature didn’t generate enough mutations in their bodies for them to co-exist with the changing environment. They have never really died out though. They have evolved and are all around us. When you see a bird flying majestically in the sky, feel privileged. You have just seen a descendant of the great dinosaurs of the past !