Gobar Times

Letters - January 15 2009

Dear Pandit Ji,

I recently found your Gobar Times story on genetic engineering. It was great reading it. Though I know that it is an old story published in April, but I had to comment on it. The confusing world of genes was so nicely described that I loved it. I have one  question related to it. Can you please tell me what isevolution? I mean, how are genes related to evolution?

Tamanna Shukla
Via e-mail

Dear Tamanna Shukla ji,

Thank you for appreciating the story. Here is your answer. Many scientists define evolution as a change in the gene pool of a population over time. Gene pool is the set of all genes in a species or population, and population is a collection of individual organisms, each with a different set of traits (like the population of dogs). These individuals do not evolve; they retain the same genes throughout their life. So, when a population evolves, the ratio of different genetic types changes. You must have heard about Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection (The Origin of Species, 1859). Natural selection is the process by which favourable heritable traits become more common in successive generations of a population of reproducing organisms, and unfavourable heritable traits become less common. In other words, nature rewards organisms better adapted to their environments with survival and reproductive success. It acts on their phenotype (physical characteristics), which in turn, is determined by their genetic make-up (genotype) and the environment in which they live. So, genes shape our traits, and help our populations evolve.

Dear Pandit Ji,

My name is Jess. I just happened to see your web page Gobar Times. May I kindly request you to give me some ideas to make a small village home by using mud and stones with very little cement bust should have Solar energy and also use the toilet waste to produce Gas for heating and cooking. Location will be somewhere in the costal Karnataka.

Via e-mail

Dear Jess ji,

Gobar Times has done an entire issue on mud housing. Here is the link: http://www.gobartimes.org/ gt20030315/gt_covfeature.htm You will find all the information you need. For more, you may check out these websites:

Laurie Baker’s official website Web: http://lauriebaker.net/ Development Alternatives (which has its office building made of mud!):

Web: http://www.devalt.org Center for Sustainable Technologies (originally called Application of Science and Technology to Rural Areas - ASTRA):

Web: http://www.cst.iisc.ernet.in Auroville Building Centre Web: www.auroville.org Housing and Urban Development Corporation Ltd. (HUDCO) Web: http://www.hudco.org/

Dear Pandit Ji,

I’m planning to participate in the Green Schools Awards. Can you kindly tell me what is the Biradari Award?

Pratyush Gupta
Via e-mail

Dear Pratyush Gupta ji,

Biradari (Community) Award is an award given to schools, which have effectively engaged the community/civil society in environmental awareness or action. If your school is working with a community, prepare a report on the kind of things you are doing, tell us if this partnership has had any visible impact. Send us photographs, testimonials from locals and whatever else you want.

This year’s Biradari Award was jointly won by the Shri Ram School, Vasant Vihar, for the outstanding work done by its team in partnership with the Moghiya Community in District Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan, and Sanskriti School for the outstanding work done by its team with rag-pickers in Delhi.

Dear Pandit Ji,

Can you please tell me what is eutrophication?

Akash Negi
Via e-mail

Dear Akash Negi ji,

Eutrophication is a process in which water bodies receive excess nutrients, mainly compounds of nitrogen and phosphorus. It generally promotes excessive plant growth and decay, favours certain weedy species over others, and is likely to cause severe reductions in water quality. Enhanced growth of aquatic vegetation or phytoplankton (also called algal bloom) reduces the dissolved oxygen in the water.

This can kill the other organisms. It decreases the resource value of water bodies. It can cause health problems, and can interfere with drinking water treatment. Activities like recreation, fishing, hunting, and aesthetic enjoyment are also hindered. Now, where do the excess nutrients come from? Human activities can accelerate the rate at which nutrients enter ecosystems.

 "Dear Panditji..." 

Dear Pandit ji,

I really love the work you are doing. I find a greater need to be aware of all issues. We seem to forget these issues, as we are often lost in daily chores of life. This is the insensitivity we have inherited over the times. I feel I need to work
the same way you are doing, to create a greener and serene surrounding, and live in harmony with the nature. We have abused nature and life around us whether actively or passively. We need to protect them.

G H Subhash
Via e-mail

Dear Pandit ji,

In the long run, you may end up saving this earth from the modernday

Beant Parmar
Via e-mail

There are many sources, such as, fertilisers applied to agricultural fields, golf courses, and suburban lawns; deposition of nitrogen from the atmosphere; erosion of soil containing nutrients; and sewage treatment plant discharges.

Adverse effects of eutrophication
• Increased biomass of phytoplankton
• Toxic or inedible phytoplankton species
• Increases in blooms of gelatinous zooplankton
• Increased biomass of benthic and epiphytic algae
• Changes in macrophyte species composition and biomass
• Decreases in water transparency
• Taste, odour, and water treatment problems
• Dissolved oxygen depletion
• Increased incidences of fish kills
• Loss of desirable fish species
• Reductions in harvestable fish and shellfish
• Decreases in perceived aesthetic value of the water body
But, the gravest effects are that of decreased biodiversity,
changes in species composition and dominance, and toxicity effects.



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