Container Ships Versus Whales & Whale-watchers

Whale-watching tourism is lucrative for Sri Lanka but even the small boats are at risk from the huge tankers and container ships that use the route. Photograph: IFAW/Christian Loader

It seems a minor request, asking the companies whose ships pass through Sri Lanka’s waters to be considerate of the whales who live in those waters:

‘Giant obstacle course’: call to reroute major shipping lanes to protect blue whales

Unique colony of blue whales increasingly at risk from tankers and container ships, say marine campaigners

Scientists and conservation groups are calling for one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes to be rerouted in an effort to protect the world’s largest animal. Continue reading

Understanding The Life Of Our Groceries

We apparently do not look as closely as we should when we go to the supermarket. One paragraph from this book review should be enough to know whether you want a closer look:

…Author Benjamin Lorr spent five years looking into that as he studied all aspects of American supermarkets — from the suppliers, the distributors, and supply routes, to the workers in the retail outlets themselves. In the reporting for his new book The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket, Lorr met with farmers and field workers and spent 120-hours-straight driving the highways with a trucker as she made her multistate rounds. He worked the fish counter at a Whole Foods market for a few months, and went to trade shows to learn about entrepreneurs who were trying to break into the industry. He also traveled to Asia to learn about commodity fishing – finding human rights violations along his journey…

Antitrust considerations might be of interest if you plan to purchase The Secret Life of Groceries.

Capsules = Pods = Waste


The greatest trick companies ever played was making us think we could recycle their products. The New York Times

My most recent reference to pods could have been the last. Enough said. But my eye was caught by the title of this item yesterday, and all day I kept wondering whether I need to know more about the confidence game that has been, and is, recycling. Deciding this morning to click through I was rewarded with an update on my favorite coffee scandal. Insult on top of injury. Surprised by that? Nope. My thanks to Tala Schlossberg and Nayeema Raza for this creative op-ed video, and accompanying text:

The Great Recycling Con

The greatest trick corporations ever played was making us think we could recycle their products…

Closer To An Alternative For Plastic Packaging


Yale e360, with news like this, titles it carefully:

Scientists Say They Have Found a Viable Replacement for Petroleum-Based Plastic

Scientists at Ohio State University say they have developed a viable alternative to petroleum-based plastic food packaging by using natural tree-based rubber. According to the researchers, the new biodegradable material holds promise for fighting the world’s growing plastic pollution problem, as well as for helping curb our reliance on fossil fuels.

The original source, with slightly more flowery language, titles it as if packaging can be friendly to the environment. The way we use packaging, not so. But we will take what we can get at this point:

Study shows potential for Earth-friendly plastic replacement

New biodegradable ‘plastic’ is tough, flexible


The new bioplastic and rubber blend devised by Ohio State researchers proved much more durable than the bioplastic on its own

The quest to keep plastic out of landfills and simultaneously satisfy the needs of the food industry is filled with obstacles.

A biodegradable replacement for petroleum-based products has to meet all sorts of standards and, so far, attempts at viable replacements from renewable sources have faced limited success due to processing and economic constraints. Among the obstacles, products to date have been too brittle for food packaging. Continue reading

Social Media Needs Rethinking


It is so freshly pressed that there are no reviews to cite yet, but the author himself previewed the ideas here, which I remember reading and thinking that his big, important thoughts would get lost in the momentary hysteria of relatively small potatoes news (Cambridge Analytica) breaking at the time:

Be a pioneer – delete Facebook

Quitting means beating the addiction, making a political statement and redefining social life. Are you ready?

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‘Facebook deleters are indispensable. They should be celebrated. We all benefit from them.’ Photograph: GETTY IMAGES

When I wrote an about-to-be-published book last year about problems with social media, I thought it would be cute to call it Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now. And then the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, motivating a modest but notable wave of Facebook deletions in protest, including by prominent tech figures such as Elon Musk and Brian Acton, the co-founder of WhatsApp.

So much for the novelty of my book title. The biggest surprise was not the movement to delete accounts, but that the deleters have not been received well by pundits and commentators. The response has often been smug, dismissive, even scolding. Deleters are told they are abusing their privilege; that they are leaving behind the less fortunate, who cannot afford to quit. They are said to be abandoning society or distracting from the more important process of petitioning governments to regulate Facebook. They are accused of tilting at windmills

In early 2013 an article in Smithsonian first brought my attention to Jaron Lanier, and since then we have not featured him again on this platform, which is strange. I recall last year reading a short think piece by him, and listening to him, as he promoted an earlier book and finding him very compelling. Just today, he was back in the Guardian with another one-two punch of these ideas, in the effort to promote this new book. The book’s title tells me that even though I am already a convert to the basic principle, I want to know how he explains these ten ideas. And I admit I am susceptible to publishers’ blurbs when written by someone I respect: Continue reading

The Greatest Idea, Dumbed Down


The Majestic Yosemite Hotel in Yosemite National Park. The facility had to be rebranded after a private concessionaire trademarked the previous name and common phrases like “Yosemite National Park.” Photograph: Handout

We have seen this movie before. It does not end well:

As Trump moves to privatize America’s national parks, visitor costs may rise

Some are concerned that the proposed privatization of some public park services would drive up costs for visitors and fail to raise enough for repairs Continue reading

Understand Amazon Before The Next Train Leaves The Station


Oliver Munday

Mark Twain called it the Gilded Age. In his period there was plenty of reason to be concerned about monopoly powers, especially those of railroads. Echoes in the present day, of reasons to be concerned about the same, seem to be getting louder and clearer. We have shared concerns about Amazon in the past. Those were mostly little creepy concerns. But little creepy things sometimes grow big. Sometimes Amazon big. Thanks to Lina M. Khan, a legal fellow with the Open Markets Program at New America and the author of “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” recently published by the Yale Law Journal. She has made clear, in a concise essay, exactly what we need to be concerned about with Amazon.

…For consumers, so far, Amazon has delivered many benefits. Its Prime program enables users to receive, through a click, almost any item within two days. But for producers — those who make and create things — Amazon’s dominance poses immense risks. Continue reading

Good Spirited

Although we don’t particularly endorse consumption of alcohol or hold loyalty to any single brand or type of liquor, we’re always on the lookout for positive environmental news in any corporate setting, and we’ve recently learned that Bacardi Limited, perhaps the best-known makers of rum in the world (and owners of other alcohol brands Martini, Grey Goose, Bombay Sapphire, and Dewar’s Scotch), has been attempting to do better for the environment.

Called “Good Spirited,” (who doesn’t like a nice pun), Bacardi’s campaign involves recycling, waste reduction, energy efficiency, and other mechanisms to reduce the company’s environmental impact in the world and become more sustainable. For example, they’ve removed plastic straws and stirrers from their North American headquarter events in Florida and their Bombay Sapphire distillery in the UK, which they estimate will save more than 12,000 of the small plastic tubes from landfills annually.

In their original distillery in Puerto Rico, the company reuses water from rinsing Continue reading

Breakthroughs In Nutrition Via Entrepreneurial Conservation

Exo's peanut butter-and-jelly bar contains about 40 ground-up crickets and has a familiar nutty, sweet flavor. Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Exo’s peanut butter-and-jelly bar contains about 40 ground-up crickets and has a familiar nutty, sweet flavor. Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Thanks to National Public Radio (USA)’s food-focused program, The Salt, for another story on unexpected breakthroughs in nutrition:

…”Insects are probably the most sustainable form of protein we have on Earth,” Bitty Foods founder Megan Miller, who spoke passionately about eating bugs at a TEDx Manhattan event earlier this year, tells The Salt. “The only real barrier to Americans eating insects is a cultural taboo.” Continue reading

Glory Of The Past – Allappuzha

Photo credits: Ramesh Kidangoor

Photo credits: Ramesh Kidangoor

Situated at the south-western tip of Lake Vembanad, Allappuzha had its heyday as a commercial hub in 1775-76 when Dewan Raja Keshavadas built it as a major port of the erstwhile Travancore state. Allapuzha had the dual advantage of cheap inland water transport on its eastern end and calm seas suitable for an all-weather port on the west. Continue reading

Gianluca, Come To Kerala!


As the metropolitan area of Ernakulum, where Raxa Collective has many contributors who commute to work, completes its futuristic mass transit scheme, our thoughts reach out to a time when the collapsible bike is a necessity here. For now, we can appreciate the design for its own sake of this model that has just come to our attention.

We like everything we read about it, as much as the visual aesthetics. We even hope we might be of some service to its creator, given our history with entrepreneurial conservation. We are on the lookout, constantly, for opportunities to collaborate with creative craftsmen and to welcome them into Raxa Collective’s growing community across the globe. Conservation magazine brought Gianluca Sada onto our radar. We extend to him our usual invitation for a visit thanks to that:


Carrying a bicycle onto a bus or subway for unrideable sections of your carless commute is less than convenient. This is where the Sada Bike fits in. Whereas other foldable bikes have shrunken frames and wheels, the Sada Bike’s full-sized frame folds down to the size of an umbrella; its spokeless, hubless, 26-inch wheels double as a backpack frame.

Continue reading

Notes from the Garden: Mango Hunting

photo 4

The mango has its ancestral roots in India, so something felt really right about shaking mangoes out of the trees today in Cardamom County. Right now I’m reading this delicious book called The Fruit Hunters, written by Adam Leith Gollner. Since I have started it, I have had a whole new context to put my experience of fruit in! Turns out there are over 1,100 varieties of mangoes. The ones I know and love from supermarkets back in the United States are the Tommy Atkins mangoes, which are more common in international commerce.

photo 2Indian mangoes apparently weren’t allowed into the states for almost thirty years due to “pest concerns.” Actually, it was more like, nuclear trade concerns. India and Canada had a nuclear trade relationship in which Canadian nuclear reactors were being used to build a nuclear arsenal. In 2007 though, India signed a nuclear treaty with the United States, only under the condition that India’s mangoes be allowed back in the states. Later when President Bush flew to India to discuss the deal, he announced, “the U.S. is looking forward to eating Indian mangoes.” Continue reading

Big Business, Conservation, Innovation

We have written about and linked to others’ thoughts on altruism more than once, thinking we will eventually have an ultimate illumination on its origins and how to increase its likelihood. Likewise on our main theme as an organization, with regard to entrepreneurial conservation. We also keep a watch out for big companies (versus entrepreneurs) and governments (as in the case of the state initiative in the banner above, which is discussed below) doing the right thing.

Thanks to this article in the New Yorker for bringing our attention to the efforts to bring sustainable and affordable water to the good folks of Texas, and at the same time raising our awareness of the tightrope walking between big businesses that have many motivations to participate in innovative conservation schemes, and the organizations that have been the innovators in this regard for decades:

Mark Tercek, the head of the Nature Conservancy, recently took a tour of the largest chemical-manufacturing facility in North America: the Dow plant in Freeport, Texas. The Nature Conservancy, which is responsible for protecting a hundred and nineteen million acres in thirty-five countries, is the biggest environmental nongovernmental organization in the world. Tercek, accompanied by two colleagues, had come to Freeport because the facility—a welter of ethylene crackers and smokestacks built next to a river that flows into the Gulf of Mexico—is at the center of a pilot collaboration that he hopes will reshape conservation.The key idea is to create tools that can assign monetary value to natural resources. Continue reading

Caveat Emptor For Intangibles

In case you do not already know about him and his writing on topics related to modern technology as it intersects with the law, the post excerpted below by Tim Wu is a good place to start. It seems possible to simultaneously agree with the specific point of this post, and also be confused with the general implication. Agreement could stem from reading enough of Tim Wu to implicitly trust his expertise. Confusion could stem from the itinerary planning screen-captured and shown above, which reminds that not everything we buy is re-sellable. Still, we click “Hold” to ponder this just a bit more to hopefully clear the fog:

…we tend to overlook the milder forms of truth-stretching that have come to shape online living, and it’s hard not to. They’re often perpetuated by big and reputable companies, like Apple, Seamless, and Amazon.

Take search. General search sites, like Google and Bing, are pretty straightforward: you type in a query and get results ranked by some measure of relevance; you also see clearly marked advertisements. This experience tends to shape our expectation that searches deliver relevant results. But the same search on sites like Amazon or Seamless turns up not only relevant results but disguised advertisements, as well. Continue reading

Better Driving


No matter how you view it, driving more fuel-efficiently is a worthy goal, but in a world with more than enough aggression already we think “Softer Slower” by Huntley Muir sends just the right visual reminder of another reason why driving more gently is a worthy goal:

Su and Donna, the two halves of artist duo Huntley Muir, have painted a poster that encourages people to be more tender on the accelerator.

“We decided to cut our speed by 10 miles an hour to save fuel and cut pollution and noise. It really works – we do use less fuel, it’s safer, less stressful and we don’t even notice the difference. And we are below the legal speed limits as well. Such goody two shoes. Continue reading

Do The Green Thing Countdown 29/29

29 Posters Final Template

Today’s the day this series was designed for, and Shiv’s “Less Light” provides a fitting conclusion about doing the green thing this evening:

Illustrator and art director Shiv uses a blend of photography and computer trickery to create a bewitching image to get us warmed up for Earth Hour tomorrow evening. Her poster urges us to switch off, save energy and enjoy the the galaxies above. Shiv said:

“I moved out of London nearer the countryside a couple of years ago and what I love is how much of the sky at night i can see now. I think Earth Hour is a great opportunity to see the stars while the urban lights are down, and that everyone should take advantage of this.”


Continue reading

Do The Green Thing Countdown 28/29


“Let’s Ride” is a cool, clean visual that says it all, whether you are already a member of the biking community, or yet to become one:

Josh Higgins built and led the design team behind Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign and is now Communication Design Manager for Facebook. Using fresh colours and geometrical shapes, his poster rallies the world to do more bike riding and less driving.

“I have always loved cycling and rode a bike since age 6 because it is fun,” says Josh. “Now I am a bit older I realize it is so much more. Riding a bike is a proven stress releaser. It is great for our environment and whether you are riding purely for pleasure or to get from point A to point B, you will arrive feeling relaxed, energized and happier about the world.”


Continue reading

“Change the Mascot”

The United States National Football Leage (NFL) and it’s Hunky Dory Saucery Thing (which is beyond my scope of imagination) have never held any interest for me. The sport doesn’t elicit any reaction other than sympathy for the players’ bodies, although my disinterest bears  no grudge against those who enjoy a game, whether from within the dynamic minefield of titanic collisions or from the comfort of their own home’s sofa, or anything in between. In fact, I know so little of the culture, statistics, and geopolitical implications of the sport that before last week I couldn’t have named three teams off the top of my head. Today, I unsuspectingly watched this:

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