This week I had the pleasure of reading several chapters out of Hope, Human and Wild by Bill McKibben. Like most students, I was tentative about the reading, expecting yet another set of chapters that would attempt to make people (mostly pointing at the United States, here) change their lives in a way that would have less of a damaging effect on the environment. Although this book certainly did do that, it did it in a much different way than any other book I have read before. Hope, Human and Wild is beautifully written. The state called Kerala, in India, was one that McKibben devoted a significant amount of time studying – because it defies nearly every norm in India, and Third-world countries as a whole.
Kerala is different than other states in India for many reasons. Keral has more morality in terms of its population than the rest of India. Numerous rises of the communist party in Kerala have made it so that land is divided equally amongst citizens. Kerala inflicts the least damage on the Earth possible, with the smallest amount of money. On page 120, McKibben discusses the real numbers as far as Kerala’s gross income.
Most unlikely of all, of course, is that it has achieved what it has while staying poor. Extremely poor… Romanticizing Kerala is a mistake. Its people want and need more than they have.
While Kerala certainly is poor, even according to Third-world country standards, it is far healthier than other countries with similar economic systems. Due to government interventions, the state has numerous medical facilities and is well vaccinated against diseases common in Indian states. Not only is this the case, but the disturbing abortions that occur in other areas of the country do not happen in Kerala. In the rest of India, it is undesirable to have a female child, and so many are aborted. Kerala is one of the few without a skewed population pyramid. Because of Kerala’s general intelligence, as well as their sustainability measures, the citizens are able to keep a large population stable and complete.
I most definitely think that the more developed countries have something to learn from Kerala. With almost nothing, people in Kerala do much more with their resources. They make good use of their land, along with just about everything else (something that people in the United States could do more often).
When I read the introduction, along with this chapter, it made me think of one of my previous blog posts I wrote about marine sustainability. While a fish aquarium may be a centerpiece for a living room or doctor’s office, who honestly thinks about where the creatures within the tank came from?
Let’s take, for instance, the common blue hippo tang. This is one that almost everyone has seen at some point, whether on television (thanks Nemo) or in real life. The blue tang obviously is known for being a beautiful shade of blue that stands out in a saltwater tank. Like most tangs, it is venomous, and many (particularly those that are wild-caught) will take any opportunity to stab their tank-keeper with the spines that line their dorsal fin. When I say “wild-caught” I do literally mean this fish was plucked off the reef by someone.
Aquaculturing has come a long way in the past several years. A surprising number of marine animals are bred in aquariums as opposed to being wild-caught as they have been in the past. Captive-bred fish are not exactly what one may think. There is a version of captive breeding where the fish are literally kept in tanks their whole lives, and happily reproduce without issues. Clown fish are a species that readily breeds in captivity, however others are less prone to copulate in a controlled environment. Another common aquarium species, the Foxface Rabbitfish is extremely difficult to breed in captivity. In this case, the fish are either caught from the wild as adults, or in a post-larval form and are raised from there (the second type is still considered “captive-bred”). Typically these fish are much more finicky about food than their captive-bred counterparts, and are far more difficult to keep alive in a home aquarium.
Believe it or not, even coral can be created in a home aquarium. The small, but living pieces of coral are referred to as “frags” and are quite expensive. With expertise, the range of colors and textures achieved by this method becomes remarkable.
While nearly everyone who owns a freshwater tank strives for beauty, at what cost does it come at? While these most marine aquarium species not quite “rare” is it morally right to remove a perfectly healthy and happy fish from its environment purely for our entertainment? While a state in India may seem to have nothing to do with fish stocking, the two really are related. Sustainability needs to apply to every element of our lives – down to the smallest detail.