Category Archives: Nature

Modernization and Loss of Biodiversity

In the city and the villages that surrounded it where I grew up,  almost anything that one throws away grows (Plants and Seeds) on its own provided they did not rot away due to too much water.

There was no need to water plants and like a clockwise fashion rain did come in 10 to 14 day cycles even in the dry season.

Inter-monsoon rain was regular and now I understand and believe that the vegetation itself fashion this rain and its cycles. 

More trees mean more regular  inter-monsoon rain. 
Less trees means less rain, for sure, inter-monsoon period.

I lived for short period in Kurunegala and we moved there since doctors advised my father to move out to reduce the recurrence of wheezy episodes I had in Kandy, when very young.

I moved back and never had any problems and the problems were probably, related to growing up and poor nutrition, I ponder now.

That is just to restate the damply state of affairs of my city, yesteryear.

Even Kurunegala the weather, then, when compared to as it is now with lot of vegetation and coconut trees was very mild with more frequent dry spells than in Kandy.

Now we are going through perennial failure of rain and even the rain fails in the upcountry regions where the most of the hydroelectric  power plants are located.

All these are related to modernization and clearing up of scanty vegetation for what we call development. It is going to get worse and there is no master plan to arrest it except adding more vulnerable projects including coal power plants.

Coal Power Plants will cause irreversible damage to our eco-system and by the time it is recorded by scientific pundits I would have been long gone (Dead wood sitting on a cremation site) but I hope somebody will trace back to year 2005 where I started voicing this on a regular basis in the web.

It would have been earlier had it not been for the slow pace of development of the web but the slow pace of the printed paper of course accelerated my efforts.

Now I have made it a pastime and I study what I call the “my sphere of activity” (very limited indeed) and its observation and I want everybody who is versed in biology (or not) would contribute to this type of observations and record since we cannot believe the government and will never make any worthwhile consideration (except pass legislation they, themselves violate with political patronage and impunity) to this effort since politicians and their stooges won’t understand their policy impact on mother nature.

Like the mess we have inherited with cricket after 1996 and filling up an ancient tank and building a cricket ground on it is the classic example of the idiocy of our policy makers cricket or otherwise.

We are set for power cuts in spite of thermal power added to the system.

Now if I do not water the plants including water plants they will dry up and wilt away in as short as three days.
Unfortunately there is nobody to help me with a little background knowledge in biology to look after my plants.

If I go out for a short holiday for two weeks abroad all the plants I have collected over the period of a decade will be no more.
I am late in using my power of observation since when we were young we did not have to worry about plants wilting away.
The observation period is over 25 years.
This started rapidly from 1975 when plantation section was nationalized.
Everything I observe is in the direction of loss of bio-diversity.
The little exotic (I have lost all the orchids) plants I have now if I do not replant will be lost, if not in the wild, but in my garden which is very very tiny.
Lot in my neighbourhood has changed and except for the remaining jack-tree and the breadfruit tree (which is gradually dieing) which stand tall, all the other trees have been felled by the owners and all the tree shade/s we have now is / are less than 20 years old.
Glad to say I have contributed to many of the remaining ones with a few exotic palm trees in that lot.
None of them were for commercial value but for shear beauty of their presence in my garden.
Now I have to make a significant observation and this writing was prompted by need to emphasize that.
We live in a small hill (in the middle) not very step but the road now we use is where the waste water ran down and I believe there was a little stream trickling (probably during the heavy rainy season) down and the underground water table is very near the surface with solid rocks on top and we were without pipe born water and we had to dig a well for our daily use.
It took another 10 years to get the pipe born water and with my friends who were engineers (they worked hard) were instrumental in the Nilambe Project from which present politicians in the city steal water when they come for a respite from Colombo.
Particular president made sure he gave connections only to his partisans and I had to wait till he died for everybody in the area to get a regular water supply and that was the only time we had a president from the hill country.

Now what they do is surreptitiously divert our water to Kandy and elsewhere and depriving us at times of greater need.

Suffice is to say they never started a new scheme for a long period of time.
There was a natural shallow well at our level which we used liberally during the construction of the house and I used to take a bath on some days for pleasure.
There were plenty of fresh water crabs there (they are gone now) and I had saved couple of big crabs who landed on our low roof to safety who had escaped on flight from birds of prey. 
You should not believe that the crabs could fly on to my roof. Way our politicians travel by air I have to believe even frogs and crabs would learn to fly if they happen to be partisan with politicians, with or without wings.
The whole place is dry now in spite of ancient minor stream long long time ago.
We came to this area when water was becoming scarce but there was still some underground water, left.
Now to my point and re-directing my thoughts and the reason why I came this far.
1. I said I live in the middle.
2. The road was once where there would have been a minor stream now totally dry.
3. Unlike those days which I drove a car I walk up the road for my exercise which is my workout and the day I cannot walk up the road I would retire from this world for good and do not need a bypass or a borrowed organ or two to live
as a living destitute.
4. Unlike those days (it was a brisk walk,then) now I take my time to watch the flora and fauna (now dogs and cats only and a few birds).
5. I one day notice the flowers of the seeds I tried to grow in my plot but could not on the wayside at the beginning which is the ground zero level.
5. Seeds that I used to get sometimes from abroad are germinating in not my plot of land but in the plot of land at the bottom.
6. All the seed I put at the middle level could have got washed away and settle at the lowest level.
7. Strangest of my observations was a white flower (I got the seeds from botanical garden and tried to grow in our plot but never succeeded). Very pleasant surprise and the owners had left to Canada over 20 years ago and that house is still empty and once in 5 years somebody cleans it up and there was no way the cleaner (not a gardener) had planted it.
Few of them are still there.
8. Same day I went to the botanical garden from where I got the seeds (from the hanging runners coming over the fence). To my horror those runners have all gone, no flowers and dried up stems were seen in a tall tree.
I think I did some honours to the Botanical garden for picking few seeds (which I never was able to see  flowering in my garden) and spread in my garden which had got washed away and landed on a foreign soil where nobody was living now.
9. The sense of sympathetic joy was overwhelming and that is why I have to pen it down here.
10. I now remember, just couple of meters away there was an exotic plant and on a rainy day dug up the yams and I now have an enormous collection (personal favorite) of it in my roof garden.
This Sunday when I walk up I will be picking up some seeds from that flower and then try again to germinate them, and perhaps I might even donate it to the botanical garden chief (previous one was a good friend of mine and I never asked him for any exotic plants except those on sale.
The present one when I met, I suggested  he should start selling water plants (which has become a monopoly of a selected few) and I am glad to say he has obliged and there are a few new guys doing water plants in Kandy now.
I should now go for cuppa tea and wind up after stating from whom I learned the secret of throwing seeds all over the foot path (by accident) where I walk, now, though ambling.
It was my wife’s grandma.
She had the habit of spreading the seeds all over the garden and I used to pull most of them out to get some order in the garden. She was a sweet lady and she needed flowers for her daily offering to Buddha and we had at least 5 varieties almost everyday.
Now she and her daughter and my mother all gone we cannot pluck two varieties on a single day.
Strangely enough my roof top garden has three to six including three varieties of Jasmine which I grow (a trick I learned from her) in the memory of my mother who died well past 90 (and the other two ladies too I fondly remember when I see these flowers).
I wish I should not live that long since then there won’t be any birds or wild flowers to smell in this blessed island.
But as long as I could walk up the footpath (any footpath, for that matter) I am going to pluck dry flowers and spread the seeds like birds do.
I don’t care where they start germinating and like a good Buddhist I have to lose attachment to any worldly thing including flowers from now onward.
In this scenario I differ slightly from Buddhist virtues.
I want our great great grandchildren to have a reminder of the old times not of my photographs but some beautiful and fragrant flowers which we are losing by the day.
We do not have bees and the the little innocent black variety which were there for over 20 years and they come collect honey from my tiny water plants.

20 years ago there was a seed i tried to germinate by various mean but never could.Then one day I asked the lab assistant who was a keen gardener and my patient till he died when nearing 90 told me that the seeds crack when there is intense heat and then when the rain comes it germinate and if i soak the seeds it will rot.
Just today I picked up three of those plants to pot before they are run by the three wheelers. The road now finished with concrete to lure the voters get heated up and the seeds on either side crack and germinate.
Suffice it to say all the seeds coming from a plant / tree my mother in law planted.
When generation take the exit pathway like in America we will have only commercial growers and mono-culture.

Advertisements

When not to help or interfere

I have been doing few irrational things lately with industrial action going into the 8th week in total.
That included climbing the roof and striping the casing of the the internet cable /wire and enclosing the same in a sturdy tube where it is exposed to Ceylon civets (KalaWaddas) to chew accidentally at night.
Strangely enough the Ceylon civet also has his routine walkabout (pathway) along where I have laid the internet cable.
Once it chewed the wire leading to the Monitor which was extending little outside the open corridor.
Now this incident was related to squirrel who visited my bed room through the open door.
My dog was sleeping under the dog, it is no secret that I was oversleeping, on that day and got up with shrieking noise of the squirrel who was frightened by the dog who advanced from under the bed.
I was up in seconds and landed a big pat on the head of my dog, just giving enough time for the squirrel to find a hiding place, which it did behind the waste paper basket.
My dog when little had the habit of catching rats and one day caught a squirrel too and I had a long drawn out training period to wean him from this habit which is natural for a dog rared totally inside the house.
He listened to my command but refused to leave the room, knowing that when I leave, he will have a another chase to catch the young squirrel.
I had to do lot of coaxing to get the dog out of my room and he refused to drink the milk to state his annoyance with me in no uncertain terms.
I closed the door and finished the work of burning the iso image downloaded overnight and the little squirrel went three time between my legs not knowing what to do.
This must be the first time he had ventured into a house and trapped inside and he was not good at climbing and finding his way back outside.
If he comes out the door now already annoyed with me will pounce on it and I made sure I closed the door several time with a big noise to show he was not welcome inside.
Then I had to go out and closed all the doors so that the squirrel is safe from my dog and the cat from the next door who is resting in the balcony.
Idea was to restrain the dog and catch it if he remains in my bed room when I return home.
Luckily for the squirrel I had three cable going in three different directions from the router and if it wished it is the matter of climbing to the table and  find its way to the roof and out on the cable.
Having said that finding the way was almost impossible, the way the things are laid in my room. 
My guess was it will never find its way to the cable.
I returned home early to see he was gone.
To my surprise it had found his way  out and unlike rats they are extremely clever and look at from where the light comes (unlike rats) and work their way to outside world.
To his horror the cable was loosely hanging and he would have struggled to reach the window which for his luck was very high and the cat outside could reach.
My internet cable does save life apart from sending messages.
The reason I climbed the roof was to tighten the cable a bit in case he ventures again from outside to build his nest and it is sturdy enough to hold his pregnant wife and subsequently kids.
Not only civets I have to worry now (protecting the cable) but probably an army of squirrels.
As I stated earlier elsewhere they use power lines to come and go and if you lay internet cables make sure they are weather and squirrel safe.

Major part of the cable which is leading to my son’s room is now inside a tube and these cables are (weather proof ones) are very expensive.

Patterns in Nature

Patterns in Nature
I recently watched a video on modern architecture which try to design miniature environment on a massive artificial structure.

It looks very impressive from the outside with some semblance of life in it.

But on entirety it is static landscape eye catching from a distance but more and more you come closer to it one find oneself at a loss.
Nearer one gets to the structure more artificial it becomes.

It looks a miracle but that miracle has no life.

We would like to imprison ourselves within four walls and it is some comfort to our very selfish desires and way of life.

However, nature is not designed to be selfish but for all and sundry.

Everything that is designed biologically is part of a whole and one is connected to the other and to the physical elements and the moment one sits down and watch one feels the beauty of it unravel before ones own eyes.

It is dynamic and full of life.

The patterns of nature are made to be part of whole life.

I was watching the leaves of the coconut move gently with the oncoming wind upward and directing the wind upward. As they do that the shadows of the leaves on top falls on the leaves that are not moving making shadows on top of the leaves and making some undulating movement as they were living creatures moving on top of the leaves (call them shadow of the moving creature).

Leaves of the bread fruit tree (taller than the coconut tree) stay in tune with the wind and move it gently upward and the bamboo leaves breaks the wind in endless direction and when the wind touches me it has all the softness that one could never get from a ceiling fan.

There is not a moment a pattern remain same, it changes and changes but giving infinite variety with the rustle of the leaves making subtle musical note one could barely hear.

With this background music comes the birds resting for moment bit of a chatter with rest and making a bit of a symphony orchestra before leaving for another kind of bird to take the chorus.

Then come the squirrel giving some note or alarm by its very watchful eyes focusing on events around it.

None of these patterns can be seen in the gigantic structure with very still shadows.

The cup a tea I was sipping was over it tasted nicer even though I forgot to add some sugar.

That taste I will never have in luxury hotel suite.

Hotel suite isolate me form the living world.
No wonder all the crimes happen inside closed doors.

Why we hate our environment and built more and more skyscrapers is beyond substance or rationality.

It makes us more and more selfish. Self imposed prisons.

We want to close our doors to everything the living planet has to offer.
If this is called development I do not want it.
They are not miracle structures but monsters where life freezes for ever.
I wish I could bring them down.
Even if I do not wish them demolished certainly earth quakes will do that to bring some equilibrium in nature.
Which sensible company would take the risk rebuilding on a devastated land?
I wonder?

Raindrops on Coconut Palm

I asked some of my students to list 10 important points about coconut tree as a creative thinking exercise and I couldn’t get anyone of them to think it as related to mother nature.

Then I told them we are the only animal species on planet earth who behave like aliens.

The coconut tree purifies the water and present us a drink superior to saline that we inject as a life support in an emergency. In the second world war it was used as saline substitute when things were in short supply.

It gives us water to drink.

It clears the carbon foot print of ours by taking in CO2 and releasing out O2.

The two most important things animal life need for its survival but yet we forget to mentioned them but obsessed with coconut milk and coconut oil.

Why?

We tend to think we are the only important living animals on this planet.

We are the only selfish animals on this planet.

That is true and will remain true for the current century unless we open ourselves to creative thinking and awareness of our mother nature.

We build houses.

We build roofs to protect us from rain and sun.

If we take the plant kingdom.

The story is different.

It lives by the day under sunlight but rest by night but never sleeps.

It takes rain as survival god never complains if there is snow or frost

They are in constant touch with nature and the air currents of change and wind

They are in harmony with all physical elements.

Remain and stay put for another day come sun or rain what it may.

 

When rain drops fall on the roof and runs through the gutters it makes a constant and a big racket and and I even  find it difficult to sleep at night.

But when rain drops falls on tree tops and leaves there is no rackety pitch.

We only hear the wind blowing but raindrops hardly make a noise. They gently touch the leaf surface and trickle down gently to the soil. No big gush and the roots soaks in as much so that the water that seeps through is clear.

But on a rainy day in a city we see all rubbish and mud that comes out of the gutters and finally minor floods all over the place till the rain ceases.

There are no tress with roots to soak the extra water.

Coming back to coconut tree it leaves take the water in a peculiar way not sen in other smaller leaves. The peculiar way it handles water make it and excellent covering for roofs and thatched coconut leaves that used to cover the village huts did not make a big racket on a rainy day but the asbestos sheets that cover us now are totally different and alien to mother nature.

Mind you the coconut tree takes all the shocks of thunder and lightening too.

If not many of us would be dead by lightening.

The golden rule was not to rest under a tall tree in a thunder storm.

None of these came out of my students’ creative thinking exercise.

What the hell the education system is doing to them in schools and university?

I do not know.

It is said that even in America in the first two years in the university they do not gain any extra incites or creativity.

Why?

Education is now a money spinner.

No more creativity left in it now.

Make money when going is good but leave the students without opportunities.

Majestic Elephants

This is a country run with Mega Mania Memorabilia (3 Ms) but unable to look after our majestic elephants.

Three years ago one of the tuskers was dead due to negligence and dehydration after a so called majestic pageant that paraded the hill country.

Then recently a giant tusker was dead in captivity and the popular story circulating round is he was let to die to get the tusks for ornamentation in high office.

Then comes the floods in the East.

A young dead elephant is trapped in a tree. First of a kind of news item and quite relevant in context.

That tells the sorry story of our majestic heritage and how we care.

It is an eye opener for the world if not for this blessed country.

We had 90% forest cover at the beginning of the last century and had over 60,000 elephants.

By mid last century the estimate was 6000 in the wild.

I do not believe we have 600 left in the wild now and the the forest cover is less that 20% now not enough to sustain vegetation let alone elephants.

We are going to commission two mega coal power units in the near future.

The forest cover will be reduced to 10% within a decade of their operation due to acid rain and the environmentalist are hiding behind the saffron clothed M.P.s.

Very soon we won’t have a place in the jungle to meditate in quiet solitude.

Mega mania development will sacrifice the rest of the trees in the name of development efforts.

Very soon we have to import coconut timber with coconuts on top.

Last tsunami a few people survived by climbing on top of coconut trees.

We have mega floods after 53 years in the East and there are no coconut (palms) trees grown for 6 years after the tsunami to climb onto.

But we have election after election to elect representative who ruin this country.

Mega Mania Memorabilia at its best!

The carnival goes on!

Why man and a women responds diffently to to a same stimulus?

This is my personal experience and should not be extrapolated to any other living experience any man or women.

Beware!

This is the kind you see in real life but never in films like Jurassic Park.

You see in Jurassic Park film the lady studies the scat of the dieing dinosaur that resembles an elephant. She is a scatologist rarely seen among females of the species. 

In simple SriLankan English scat is shit, the word scat is the scientific terminology we keep close to our chest specially doctors.

In the third world if there is no shit to throw about there is no jobs for doctors and politicians.

Doctors and politicians are the experts in scatology in the third word.
One thrives on it the other lives on it. The distinction is barely visible.

So if you want to be a scatologist (two in one job; one can learn about like a doctor and then dispense the extra scat on contract basis like a modern commercial vendor to the politicians) see my note elsewhere in the web.
Mind you all the scat came out during the recent floods in Colombo (no ethnic issue or differential issue here, all the scat smells like hell including that came out of the parliament building).

They should appoint a Select Committee/s to address and study this scat that comes out of the parliament/s globally.

By now 90% of the females would give up reading this recipe for men and that is the typical differential response what I am going to talk now.

I hope the men of the species would continue to read and write some satirical recipe for SriLanka which is a Hate Country now but used to be Maithri Country before.
We have people with names like Maithri / Manthrie but who act like Thovil Devils here now.

Sadly we lack humour too which is the best medicine man can invent.

Our deferential response is regarding a real Kalavadda (Ceylon Civet) Family that frequent us almost on weekly basis. This time I (thanks to Linux-100- I was up in the night and saw all four of them- mother with three young ones- that is the third time I saw them in 12 years- these nocturnal visitors) saw four of them in one night, just briefly. I never saw the male which I think is cute and much more agile. I missed it.

Now back to scatology.

These fellows dirty our neighbourhood with (mostly Kithul Ata and Kos Ata) including my fish tanks.
I discovered this a decade ago and put a mosquito net over the tank.
They come to drink water and I think they are good at catching fishing too.
But I was indifferent.
What’s the heck, the have the right to drink water from anywhere including my fish tanks.
I fact i keep some buckets of water open if they wish to enjoy and partake.
This is the only nocturnal visitor we have (all the others including wild pigs have vanished-trapped and eaten by very Buddhists who live here) now except for the thieves who frequent and alert the dogs in our vicinity.
We have inadvertently build our house quite close to their foot paths and with houses coming up (It is like WnathaMulla now) in numbers they have no place to loiter.
I encourage them to come.
My wife discourages them but thank god she has not studied biology and and all her efforts are in vain.
My children are neutral in this activity, that is the way we have brought them up. They get very excited when they see them in close range.
Sadly when (I specially- there is nobody to offer a pale of water during dry months- when springs dry up in the semi jungle environment) I go, they also will disappear for good, like the dinosaurs and nothing will be written about them in Buddhist Chronicles.