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How to plant trees for development

Issue Date: May 31, 2015
Today, in India, forest protection happens against all odds. There is no economic value seen in forests, but there is value seen in the development project for which forestland is required. Clearly, this is not the way to go. We need a value to be paid for standing forests; it needs to be shared with people who inhabit these lands; we need to grow trees in ways which bring money to the poor; and we need to learn how to protect, regenerate and grow trees, all at the same time.

The Earth for you

Issue Date: May 15, 2015
Down To Earth is a product of our passion for change. But it would not have made it to its 23rd anniversary without your continued commitment. Our desire is to bring you news and perspectives on the state of the environment and explain why it needs attention. It is clear to us that as we produce each issue—this is 552nd edition—the struggle for a green, but prosperous, world is getting more intense, contested and difficult. It is also clear that if we do not have independent and credible sources of information, we cannot even begin to move towards resolution.

Games people play

Issue Date: Apr 30, 2015
Debates are essentially polarised and noisy. But for resolution and movement in life we need to go beyond the absolute positions. In an ideal world there should be enough trust and confidence that once we begin to move ahead, there can be reviews, assessments and course correction. But this is difficult in the current scenario where the polluters, miners and dam builders wield more power than the rest. Institutions that would help resolve conflicts and take credible decisions have been weakened. Trust is lost and the worst defence plays out.

Act locally, benefit globally

Issue Date: Apr 15, 2015
This is a real life story of the world’s three wicked problems, one opportunity and a new way to confront global challenges.

How power can be cleaned

Issue Date: Mar 31, 2015
Coal is an environmentalist’s bugbear. The use of coal to generate energy is the key reason the world is looking at a catastrophic future because of climate change. Recognising this, global civil society has given a rousing call for coal divestment, asking companies, universities and individuals to stop investment in coal thermal power plants. They want coal to go, renewables to be in. And in the interim, clean gas, also a fossil fuel, to be used as a “bridge fuel”. In this scenario any talk of “cleaning” coal to make it less damaging is untenable.

Walk the talk on carbon tax, Mr Finance Minister

Issue Date: Mar 15, 2015
Budget 2015, presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, has a first. In it, India has accepted that it has a de-facto carbon tax—on petroleum products and dirty coal. Arguably, the only big green initiative of this budget is the increase of cess on coal—from Rs 100 per tonne to Rs 200 per tonne. But the question is: is this carbon tax, imposed on the carbon content of fuel, doing what it should—reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are responsible for climate change?

Straw in the wind

Issue Date: Feb 28, 2015
What does the decision to save groundwater in Punjab or Haryana have to do with air pollution in Delhi? Plenty. We need to know this because many actions have unintended and deadly consequences.

Time for new environmentalism

Issue Date: Feb 15, 2015
2014 has brought India’s environmental movement to a crossroad. On the one hand, there is a greater acceptance of our concerns, but on the other hand, there is also growing resistance against the required action. More importantly, every indicator shows that things on the ground are getting worse. Our rivers are more polluted, more garbage is piling up in our cities, air is increasingly toxic and hazardous waste is just dumped, not managed. Worse, people who should have been in the front line of protection are turning against the environment.

Real pride of ancient indian science

Issue Date: Jan 31, 2015
I write this with considerable impatience and one question. Do we really have the time to waste on controversies like what ancient India did or did not achieve by way of scientific discoveries? This is when there is the huge unfinished agenda to use the best of science to tackle current challenges and crises.

India’s climate strategy needs revision

Issue Date: Jan 15, 2015
Climate change negotiations are by now predictable. The already-industrialised come to each conference of the parties (COP) with a clear game plan, that is, to erase their contribution to the emissions already present in the atmosphere, thereby effectively remove the differentiation between their responsibility and that of the rest of the world to act. This would rewrite the 1992 convention on climate change and let them evade the obligation to provide funds and technology for action in the developing world.
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