Flotsam & Jetsam
Solar Living Center Flooded
Sea Shepherd Starts Ramming Pirate Whales
ZAP Set To Put Some Zip in Your Trip
2005: The Tiger Reappears

January 19, 2006

First the flood, then the fire. The geodesic living quarters at the Solar Living Center burns among the floodwaters that buried the work of decades. Credit: Photos courtesy of the Solar Living Center
Solar Living Center Flooded
John Schaeffer (john@realgoods.com)

(January 4, 2006) -- As many of you already know, on December 31, the Solar Living Center was hit by the worst flood in Hopland in over 50 years. While our interns were able to be boat-rescued from the site, the devastation from being submerged under as much as ten feet of water is staggering.

The geodesic dome that housed the Interns burned to the ground, destroying their personal property and their kitchen. Five submerged vehicles were destroyed, including a tractor. All the Natural buildings (including the strawbale structures) on site were damaged. Archives, tools, sustainable-living workshop materials, furniture and personal property were destroyed. The landscape, fences, dock and road all suffered damage

We estimate a minimum of $150,000 in direct damages (not including the lost of the Gaiam Real Goods inverters that were destroyed when their shipping container was submerged.)

The house of our veteran landscaper, Alberto Juarez, was flooded and he lost everything except the clothes on his back. For the time, being the interns and Alberto are staying at my house. Alberto needs help in the form of living supplies and clothing.

The good news is that no one was hurt. The bad news is our flood insurance does not cover any of the damage. Meanwhile, our nonprofit needs to rebuild and get back on its feet.

The floodwaters buried buildings, cars, solar panels and the Center's biodiesel station.
For those of you living locally we're organizing volunteer workdays to dig out of the mud. Call (707) 744-2017 for details. For anyone feeling generous, the Solar Living Institute needs your help now more than ever to get back on its feet. Donations will be heartily appreciated. An online donation site has been created at: www.solarliving.org/flood.cfm. Donations are fully tax deductible.

We're happy to report that today John Roulac from Nutiva Hemp Products has kicked off the donations with $1,000 and Jeff and Vicki Oldham have contributed $500, putting us at 1% of our goal of $150,000. Thank you in advance for your generosity!

Sea Shepherd Starts Ramming Pirate Whalers
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society believes it is time to escalate the confrontation with the Japanese whaling fleet and bring an end to the illegal and ruthless slaughter of whales in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary.

"What part of the word 'sanctuary' do the whalers not understand?" said Captain Paul Watson from onboard the Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat. "The whalers have assaulted whale defenders with water cannons and wooden poles. The whalers have rammed two Greenpeace ships and attempted to ram the Farley Mowat. With every attack, the whalers plead innocence. The whalers are far from innocent. They are criminals involved in a criminal operation and they must be stopped."

"I am tired of politicians being apologists for these criminals," said Captain Watson. "We sideswiped the whaling supply ship Oriental Bluebird yesterday and we intend to disable any pirate whaling vessel we find. We intend to uphold the laws protecting whales."

At 0030 Hours GMT on Jan. 9, 2006, Captain Paul Watson ordered the Japanese-owned Panamanian ship Oriental Bluebird to leave the Whale Sanctuary. The ship was waiting to rendezvous with the Nisshin Maru to continue off-loading whale meat for transport back to Japan. When they refused, Sea Shepherd backed up the message by slamming the starboard hull of the Farley Mowat against the Bluebird's starboard hull.

Each time the Sea Shepherd has caught up with whalers the whalers have stopped whaling and have fled. "They are afraid of us and we want them to be afraid of us." said First Officer Alex Cornelissen.

Japan has threatened to send the airborne police to defend its whaling fleet. "What do they intend to do?" asked Watson. "Strafe us, parachute onto our decks and arrest us? I hate to quote George W. Bush but hey, 'Bring 'em on.'"

New Zealand is threatening to send Orion aircraft to observe the situation. Australia is being asked to intervene militarily. "We've got quite a situation down here." said Laura Dakin, 23, chief cook on the Farley Mowat and a resident of Canberra, Australia. "Some politicians are expressing concern that things are getting seriously dangerous down here. The fact is that, for the whales, the situation is beyond dangerous -- it's deadly."

For pictures and more information, please visit: http://media-antarctica.seashepherd2.org

Zap Set to Put Some Zip in Your Trip
Forget hybrids. The coming attraction on the Road of Tomorrow is the Tri-brid -- an advanced form of auto that runs on a combination of gas, electricity and alcohol. ZAP, the upstart Sebastopol firm that pioneered the introduction of electric bikes, scooters and cars, has teamed up with the engineering wonks at Obvio!, a Brazilian autoworks, to introduce two innovative Brazilian-made cars. The cars will be built in a factory near Rio de Janeiro and should be available for US sales by 2007.

As the song says, "There's an awful lot of coffee in Brazil," but there also are great stretches of sugar plantations and Brazilians long ago mastered the art of turning sugar cane into bio-fuel. Motoring from Rio to Sao Paolo used to mean sending a lot of cruzeiros to Saudi Arabia, but no longer. Today, most of Brazil's vehicles are powered by locally grown, nonpolluting, renewable fuel. It's meant windfall profits for the sugar industry which has seen the price of its prime commodity reach a seven-year peak.

Today's gasoline engines run perfectly well on a blend of 10 percent alcohol and computer sensors help blend optimum mixtures of gas, alcohol, and ethanol. The Brazilians are pleased with the track record of its the US distributor. Since its founding in 1994, ZAP has delivered more than 90,000 alternative-powered vehicles in 75 countries around the world.

For more information, contact: Alex Campbell (707) 525-8658. Ext. 241. Acampbell@zapworld.com

2006: The Tiger Reappears
Sunita Narain / Center for Science and the Environment

INDIA -- 2005 was definitely the year of the Indian tiger. The year began with the tragic news of this magnificent animal's disappearance from the Sariska tiger reserve, a protected space. This news became, appropriately, the nation's obsession. I was asked to chair a Task Force, and in three months we put out a report in the public domain. The report drew attention.

When I introspect on what has happened in the name of the tiger this year, I feel bereft. Not only because we continue to lose tigers, but also because we continue to lose extremely precious time in holding on to such entrenched positions regarding the tiger -- and conservation in general -- that the statement "something has to be done about the tiger and conservation" holds no meaning at all. We are losing ground because we care: we care too much about our own stated positions that we simply cannot agree to move on what needs to be done. The plight of the tiger has become the country's biggest soap opera. It has drowned, again, in its own cacophony.

Saving the tiger in 2006 will need us to change the terms of debate.

Let me explain. When I was asked to chair the Task Force -- to examine not only why tigers had disappeared in Sariska but also what needed to be done in the future to safeguard the tiger -- I returned with renewed interest to an issue I was once deeply involved in. I had learnt after years of seeing and listening, that conservation in a poor and populated country like India could not afford to discount its greatest asset, its people. Here, then, was an opportunity to test my belief against reality, the situation on the ground.

What a test it turned out to be. I still do not know how to thank the many people -- wildlife researchers, conservation scientists, forest bureaucrats (retired and in the field), activists -- who told me what needed to be done, in the short term and in the long term, to protect the tiger and other wild creatures. We can never do justice to all the voices of this complicated country. But the dots that exist must be joined.

After 30 years of 'practical' conservation, people continue to live in tiger reserves. India's track record of relocation is pathetic -- barely 80 of 1,500 villages in protected areas have been relocated. Worse, this relocation has been done mindlessly in many cases, leading to greater hostility between people and animals. This is definitely not good for conservation, or the tiger.

So, can relocation remain a strong plank in the policy of the future? It is clear we must work towards inviolate spaces -- areas for the tiger only -- by identifying the villages that need to be relocated as quickly as possible. Two caveats need to kept in mind here: one, such relocation must be mindful of people's needs; and two, if all villages cannot be relocated, we must work towards reducing the obviously destructive hostility between people and tigers by learning to practice better coexistence. Since pressure from neighbouring (fringe) villages can often be great, so -- even as we begin to relocate the ones within -- we must also repair the relationship with the people outside.

The issue clearly now is to move the boundaries of 'debate' into action. Can we identify habitations with maximum impacts on core tiger habitats? Most importantly, how do we begin to do something we haven't done in the last 30 years -- relocate many more families, with speed and sensitivity, in the next few years? Can we finally ensure benefits of conservation to poor people, who will then agree to coexist with the tiger?

Tough issues. Tough, because they have to be engaged with, and resolved. And this is where I begin to feel bereft: instead of engaging with these realities, the effort is still to keep the positions polarized in the simplistic manner of a schoolboy debate: those 'for the tiger only' against those who believe 'people and tigers will coexist'. I can understand that a few conservationists need to keep positions entrenched as they derive negative strength from it. They need the 'enemy camp' to constantly deride and condemn. But I cannot understand why the rest of the community of tiger lovers -- and there is a large but silent group out there -- prefers to keep the dogma, not the debate, alive.

It is equally clear that poaching is a real and deadly threat to the tiger. The question is what needs to be done to contain (and eliminate) this criminal activity. Here, the answer lies in re-writing the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, amendments and all. It is today so weak that even if a poacher is caught, he cannot be convicted. We need to pressurize global institutions to take cognizance of evidence that international trade in tiger parts is alive and kicking -- under their concerned noses. We need domestic institutions to investigate, and stymie, poaching. We definitely need strengthened efforts to protect the tiger by implementing carefully designed protection strategies and by working not against, but with local people.

Here again, the agenda for reform is in danger of being lost to emotion and destructive intent: I speak of the renewed cry for guns and guards. The 'send-in-the-commandos' approach has been seriously tried and has seriously failed. It is no surprise that Sariska had the highest number of guards per square kilometer, Ranthambhore has armed police to guard its beleaguered tigers and Panna tiger reserve (where it is feared tigers are threatened) is one of the top spenders on conservation. Clearly, the answers will lie in doing more, but differently.

Epitaph: If 2005 was the year of the disappearing tiger, it was because we allowed the tiger to become less important than the personalities that desire its survival. In 2006, this must change. Only then can the survival of the tiger be secured.

Sunita Narain is the editor of Down to Earth, the magazine of the Center for Science and the Environment in India. She may be reached at: editor@downtoearth.org.in

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