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Midweek Review

Monetizing role of seabirds’ ecological services 

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By Debapriya Mukherjee
Former Senior Scientist
Central Pollution Control Board, India

Sea birds are really a ‘unique treasure’ for the entire humankind as they provide valuable ecosystem services. Seabirds, and marine top predators in general, are conspicuous and high-profile components of marine ecosystems. The seabirds are named and well-known for the ample time they spend in and above the ocean and they also depend on the land and connect the ocean’s remote terrestrial ecosystems to a larger ecological network through migration, foraging, and nesting. Their ways of life contribute to the health of island plants and wildlife, and in turn, island resources support the survival and diversity of seabird species.

Seabird are dull in colour, i.e., black, white or black and white in colour. Many of them are colonial seabirds, which often live in colonies and colonies may encompass of several species to million individuals, while others prefer to live solitary considered as the rarest. Seabirds often prefer to live marine near shore (depositional areas) foraging and upland areas (erosional environment) for loafing and breeding. Many seabird species make remarkable migrations to nest and rear chicks on select islands. Some seabirds return to the same island year after year, a phenomenon known as ‘philopatry’, meaning ‘home-loving’. People around the world enjoy a famous example of philopatry in ‘wisdom’ the Laysan Albatross, the oldest known wild bird. Wisdom spans the open ocean to alight on Midway Atoll to nest with her mate every year. Seabirds’ natural behaviours are key to functionality and biological diversity on islands and in their surrounding marine habitat. Seabirds bring important marine nutrients to islands, and contribute to habitat for other species. 

Unfortunately, this unique role of sea bird has been jeopardized on account of human intervention that alters a seabird’s home. As a result, natural ways of a sea bird’s life turn deadly. It is frequently observed that a seabird pair, after thousands of miles of flight, returns to a home infested with invasive predators. Invasive species such as rats and feral cats, introduced to island ecosystems by humans, put seabird colonies at risk. Many seabird species nest on the ground or in burrows, where eggs and chicks might as well be laid on a silver platter for the predatory invasive mammals. As result, breeding cycles of sea bird fail and their populations begin to decline. This loss of sea birds is also the result of changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of organisms; tourism and recreation, climate change; pollution, intensive farming near the coast, the transport of invasive species and, increasingly, global warming. As a result, seabird species once thriving and abundant begin to slip toward extinction.

Though seabirds play very crucial role in providing ecological services, but we practically overlook their contributions to human wellbeing as it is difficult to perceive. In this context it is pertinent to mention that the value of seabird nutrient deposition could be up to US$473.83 million annually as estimated by the researchers. Presenting this fact is the best option to draw attention of the general public about the importance of seabird conservation. That means monetization of the the ecological functions performed and the ecosystem services provided by seabirds can help to realize its importance in the economic and political sectors and prevent people from misinterpreting conservation efforts as a luxury. 

Convincing the general public, politicians and bureaucrats in government is enormous challenges because ecological functions and ecosystem services are critical to quantify at large scales and these are often not traded in conventional markets. These factors complicate economic valuation. Ecological functions performed by the Seabirds are key to the health of coastal and marine ecosystems and the organic fertilizer markets but their population has started to decline. Many researchers have estimated minimum cost to replace the nutrients in the guano produced by sea birds in coastal ecosystems around the world and have also quantified ecosystem service (guano) and an ecological function (N and P deposition). Seabirds act as biological pumps between marine and terrestrial habitats through releasing high concentrations of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) through their faeces , causing important environmental changes in these ecosystems. The N and P released by the non-guano-producing seabirds are expected to supports ecosystem services with direct benefits to human wellbeing. Monetization of the N and P deposition of non-guano-producing seabirds has been done by multiplying the amount of N and P they excrete annually by the price of inorganic N and P (fertilisers) that are traded on the international market.

 Moreover, organic manure from seabird excreta deposited on the land to supplement N and P practically promotes natural farming without any adverse impact on environment particularly marine ecosystem. Excessive use of synthetic fertilizer in agriculture and farming contains residual fertilizer that have triggered the number of dead zones, where most marine life cannot survive, resulting in the collapse of some ecosystems. The bright green color of the water in winter is the clear evident of the excessive delivery of nutrients from agriculture and urban centres that stimulates algal productivity, and the subsequent microbial degradation of this organic matter reduces oxygen levels, contributing towards hypoxia. In reality, low oxygen waters are also related to the acidified waters. So Hypoxia and acidification are increasingly co-occurring in the ocean and have additive and synergistic negative effects on the growth, survival, and metamorphosis of early life stage bivalves.

In the backdrop of quantity of synthetic fertilizer used and its impact on environment it may be mentioned that the N and P deposition and guano production has been reported to have a value of at least US$454.4 million and US$19.4 million, respectively- a total of US$473.8 million per year. This is the 17 times the annual expenditure of Bird Life International in 2017 and almost three times the 2018 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) budget. The largest guano producers, Peru and Chile, extracted 27 000 tons of guano in 2018, which was sold for US$12.2 million. This amount of guano represents approximately one-sixth of the guano potentially produced annually by seabirds. Therefore, conserving seabird populations is necessary to maintain their ecological functions in terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

Unfortunately, various threats faced by seabirds in both marine and terrestrial ecosystems as discussed earlier has caused higher adverse impact on the ecosystem services provided by seabirds than on the seabirds themselves. For example, climate change threatens 80% of the amount of N and P deposition by seabirds but ‘only’ 44% of seabird species. Because there are no immediate solutions to directly mitigate impacts of climate change, eradication of invasive alien species and the reduction of fishery impacts essential for seabird conservation. 

The population of seabird communities must be protected to reduce the threats, to enhance the population of seabirds, and keep nature in balance for proper functions of the marine ecosystems on a sustainable basis for future generation. A mass awareness among public should be created how disturbance affects the population parameters of different seabird species and what is their ecological importance of balance and proper functions of the marine ecosystem. In addition, how to utilize marine resources without causing disturbance to the seabird while seeking for human welfare.

A detailed strategy should be developed to address the issues, viewing guidelines, i. e., ecological importance, threats, and disturbance to the seabirds.


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Midweek Review

‘Professor of English Language Teaching’

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It is a pleasure to be here today, when the University resumes postgraduate work in English and Education which we first embarked on over 20 years ago. The presence of a Professor on English Language Teaching from Kelaniya makes clear that the concept has now been mainstreamed, which is a cause for great satisfaction.

Twenty years ago, this was not the case. Our initiative was looked at askance, as indeed was the initiative which Prof. Arjuna Aluwihare engaged in as UGC Chairman to make degrees in English more widely available. Those were the days in which the three established Departments of English in the University system, at Peradeniya and Kelaniya and Colombo, were unbelievably conservative. Their contempt for his efforts made him turn to Sri Jayewardenepura, which did not even have a Department of English then and only offered it as one amongst three subjects for a General Degree.

Ironically, the most dogmatic defence of this exclusivity came from Colombo, where the pioneer in English teaching had been Prof. Chitra Wickramasuriya, whose expertise was, in fact, in English teaching. But her successor, when I tried to suggest reforms, told me proudly that their graduates could go on to do postgraduate degrees at Cambridge. I suppose that, for generations brought up on idolization of E. F. C. Ludowyke, that was the acme of intellectual achievement.

I should note that the sort of idealization of Ludowyke, the then academic establishment engaged in was unfair to a very broadminded man. It was the Kelaniya establishment that claimed that he ‘maintained high standards, but was rarefied and Eurocentric and had an inhibiting effect on creative writing’. This was quite preposterous coming from someone who removed all Sri Lankan and other post-colonial writing from an Advanced Level English syllabus. That syllabus, I should mention, began with Jacobean poetry about the cherry-cheeked charms of Englishwomen. And such a characterization of Ludowyke totally ignored his roots in Sri Lanka, his work in drama which helped Sarachchandra so much, and his writing including ‘Those Long Afternoons’, which I am delighted that a former Sabaragamuwa student, C K Jayanetti, hopes to resurrect.

I have gone at some length into the situation in the nineties because I notice that your syllabus includes in the very first semester study of ‘Paradigms in Sri Lankan English Education’. This is an excellent idea, something which we did not have in our long-ago syllabus. But that was perhaps understandable since there was little to study then except a history of increasing exclusivity, and a betrayal of the excuse for getting the additional funding those English Departments received. They claimed to be developing teachers of English for the nation; complete nonsense, since those who were knowledgeable about cherries ripening in a face were not likely to move to rural areas in Sri Lanka to teach English. It was left to the products of Aluwihare’s initiative to undertake that task.

Another absurdity of that period, which seems so far away now, was resistance to training for teaching within the university system. When I restarted English medium education in the state system in Sri Lanka, in 2001, and realized what an uphill struggle it was to find competent teachers, I wrote to all the universities asking that they introduce modules in teacher training. I met condign refusal from all except, I should note with continuing gratitude, from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, where Paru Nagasunderam introduced it for the external degree. When I started that degree, I had taken a leaf out of Kelaniya’s book and, in addition to English Literature and English Language, taught as two separate subjects given the language development needs of students, made the third subject Classics. But in time I realized that was not at all useful. Thankfully, that left a hole which ELT filled admirably at the turn of the century.

The title of your keynote speaker today, Professor of English Language Teaching, is clear evidence of how far we have come from those distant days, and how thankful we should be that a new generation of practical academics such as her and Dinali Fernando at Kelaniya, Chitra Jayatilleke and Madhubhashini Ratnayake at USJP and the lively lot at the Postgraduate Institute of English at the Open University are now making the running. I hope Sabaragamuwa under its current team will once again take its former place at the forefront of innovation.

To get back to your curriculum, I have been asked to teach for the paper on Advanced Reading and Writing in English. I worried about this at first since it is a very long time since I have taught, and I feel the old energy and enthusiasm are rapidly fading. But having seen the care with which the syllabus has been designed, I thought I should try to revive my flagging capabilities.

However, I have suggested that the university prescribe a textbook for this course since I think it is essential, if the rounded reading prescribed is to be done, that students should have ready access to a range of material. One of the reasons I began while at the British Council an intensive programme of publications was that students did not read round their texts. If a novel was prescribed, they read that novel and nothing more. If particular poems were prescribed, they read those poems and nothing more. This was especially damaging in the latter case since the more one read of any poet the more one understood what he was expressing.

Though given the short notice I could not prepare anything, I remembered a series of school textbooks I had been asked to prepare about 15 years ago by International Book House for what were termed international schools offering the local syllabus in the English medium. Obviously, the appalling textbooks produced by the Ministry of Education in those days for the rather primitive English syllabus were unsuitable for students with more advanced English. So, I put together more sophisticated readers which proved popular. I was heartened too by a very positive review of these by Dinali Fernando, now at Kelaniya, whose approach to students has always been both sympathetic and practical.

I hope then that, in addition to the texts from the book that I will discuss, students will read other texts in the book. In addition to poetry and fiction the book has texts on politics and history and law and international relations, about which one would hope postgraduate students would want some basic understanding.

Similarly, I do hope whoever teaches about Paradigms in English Education will prescribe a textbook so that students will understand more about what has been going on. Unfortunately, there has been little published about this but at least some students will I think benefit from my book on English and Education: In Search of Equity and Excellence? which Godage & Bros brought out in 2016. And then there was Lakmahal Justified: Taking English to the People, which came out in 2018, though that covers other topics too and only particular chapters will be relevant.

The former book is bulky but I believe it is entertaining as well. So, to conclude I will quote from it, to show what should not be done in Education and English. For instance, it is heartening that you are concerned with ‘social integration, co-existence and intercultural harmony’ and that you want to encourage ‘sensitivity towards different cultural and linguistic identities’. But for heaven’s sake do not do it as the NIE did several years ago in exaggerating differences. In those dark days, they produced textbooks which declared that ‘Muslims are better known as heavy eaters and have introduced many tasty dishes to the country. Watalappam and Buriani are some of these dishes. A distinguished feature of the Muslims is that they sit on the floor and eat food from a single plate to show their brotherhood. They eat string hoppers and hoppers for breakfast. They have rice and curry for lunch and dinner.’ The Sinhalese have ‘three hearty meals a day’ and ‘The ladies wear the saree with a difference and it is called the Kandyan saree’. Conversely, the Tamils ‘who live mainly in the northern and eastern provinces … speak the Tamil language with a heavy accent’ and ‘are a close-knit group with a heavy cultural background’’.

And for heaven’s sake do not train teachers by telling them that ‘Still the traditional ‘Transmission’ and the ‘Transaction’ roles are prevalent in the classroom. Due to the adverse standard of the school leavers, it has become necessary to develop the learning-teaching process. In the ‘Transmission’ role, the student is considered as someone who does not know anything and the teacher transmits knowledge to him or her. This inhibits the development of the student.

In the ‘Transaction’ role, the dialogue that the teacher starts with the students is the initial stage of this (whatever this might be). Thereafter, from the teacher to the class and from the class to the teacher, ideas flow and interaction between student-student too starts afterwards and turns into a dialogue. From known to unknown, simple to complex are initiated and for this to happen, the teacher starts questioning.

And while avoiding such tedious jargon, please make sure their command of the language is better than to produce sentences such as these, or what was seen in an English text, again thankfully several years ago:

Read the story …

Hello! We are going to the zoo. “Do you like to join us” asked Sylvia. “Sorry, I can’t I’m going to the library now. Anyway, have a nice time” bye.

So Syliva went to the zoo with her parents. At the entrance her father bought tickets. First, they went to see the monkeys

She looked at a monkey. It made a funny face and started swinging Sylvia shouted: “He is swinging look now it is hanging from its tail its marvellous”

“Monkey usually do that’

I do hope your students will not hang from their tails as these monkeys do.

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Midweek Review

Little known composers of classical super-hits

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By Satyajith Andradi

 

Quite understandably, the world of classical music is dominated by the brand images of great composers. It is their compositions that we very often hear. Further, it is their life histories that we get to know. In fact, loads of information associated with great names starting with Beethoven, Bach and Mozart has become second nature to classical music aficionados. The classical music industry, comprising impresarios, music publishers, record companies, broadcasters, critics, and scholars, not to mention composers and performers, is largely responsible for this. However, it so happens that classical music lovers are from time to time pleasantly struck by the irresistible charm and beauty of classical pieces, the origins of which are little known, if not through and through obscure. Intriguingly, most of these musical gems happen to be classical super – hits. This article attempts to present some of these famous pieces and their little-known composers.

 

Pachelbel’s Canon in D

The highly popular piece known as Pachelbel’s Canon in D constitutes the first part of Johann Pachelbel’s ‘Canon and Gigue in D major for three violins and basso continuo’. The second part of the work, namely the gigue, is rarely performed. Pachelbel was a German organist and composer. He was born in Nuremburg in 1653, and was held in high esteem during his life time. He held many important musical posts including that of organist of the famed St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. He was the teacher of Bach’s elder brother Johann Christoph. Bach held Pachelbel in high regard, and used his compositions as models during his formative years as a composer. Pachelbel died in Nuremburg in 1706.

Pachelbel’s Canon in D is an intricate piece of contrapuntal music. The melodic phrases played by one voice are strictly imitated by the other voices. Whilst the basso continuo constitutes a basso ostinato, the other three voices subject the original tune to tasteful variation. Although the canon was written for three violins and continuo, its immense popularity has resulted in the adoption of the piece to numerous other combinations of instruments. The music is intensely soothing and uplifting. Understandingly, it is widely played at joyous functions such as weddings.

 

Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary

The hugely popular piece known as ‘Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary’ appeared originally as ‘ The Prince of Denmark’s March’ in Jeremiah Clarke’s book ‘ Choice lessons for the Harpsichord and Spinet’, which was published in 1700 ( Michael Kennedy; Oxford Dictionary of Music ). Sometimes, it has also been erroneously attributed to England’s greatest composer Henry Purcell (1659 – 1695 ) and called ‘Purcell’s Trumpet Voluntary (Percy A. Scholes ; Oxford Companion to Music). This brilliant composition is often played at joyous occasions such as weddings and graduation ceremonies. Needless to say, it is a piece of processional music, par excellence. As its name suggests, it is probably best suited for solo trumpet and organ. However, it is often played for different combinations of instruments, with or without solo trumpet. It was composed by the English composer and organist Jeremiah Clarke.

Jeremiah Clarke was born in London in 1670. He was, like his elder contemporary Pachelbel, a musician of great repute during his time, and held important musical posts. He was the organist of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral and the composer of the Theatre Royal. He died in London in 1707 due to self – inflicted gun – shot injuries, supposedly resulting from a failed love affair.

 

Albinoni’s Adagio

The full title of the hugely famous piece known as ‘Albinoni’s Adagio’ is ‘Adagio for organ and strings in G minor’. However, due to its enormous popularity, the piece has been arranged for numerous combinations of instruments. It is also rendered as an organ solo. The composition, which epitomizes pathos, is structured as a chaconne with a brooding bass, which reminds of the inevitability and ever presence of death. Nonetheless, there is no trace of despondency in this ethereal music. On the contrary, its intense euphony transcends the feeling of death and calms the soul. The composition has been attributed to the Italian composer Tomaso Albinoni (1671 – 1750), who was a contemporary of Bach and Handel. However, the authorship of the work is shrouded in mystery. Michael Kennedy notes: “The popular Adagio for organ and strings in G minor owes very little to Albinoni, having been constructed from a MS fragment by the twentieth century Italian musicologist Remo Giazotto, whose copyright it is” (Michael Kennedy; Oxford Dictionary of Music).

 

Boccherini’s Minuet

The classical super-hit known as ‘Boccherini’s Minuet’ is quite different from ‘Albinoni’s Adagio’. It is a short piece of absolutely delightful music. It was composed by the Italian cellist and composer Luigi Boccherini. It belongs to his string quintet in E major, Op. 13, No. 5. However, due to its immense popularity, the minuet is performed on different combinations of instruments.

Boccherini was born in Lucca in 1743. He was a contemporary of Haydn and Mozart, and an elder contemporary of Beethoven. He was a prolific composer. His music shows considerable affinity to that of Haydn. He lived in Madrid for a considerable part of his life, and was attached to the royal court of Spain as a chamber composer. Boccherini died in poverty in Madrid in 1805.

Like numerous other souls, I have found immense joy by listening to popular classical pieces like Pachelbel’s Canon in D, Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary, Albinoni’s Adagio and Boccherini’s Minuet. They have often helped me to unwind and get over the stresses of daily life. Intriguingly, such music has also made me wonder how our world would have been if the likes of Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert had never lived. Surely, the world would have been immeasurably poorer without them. However, in all probability, we would have still had Pachelbel’s Canon in D, Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary, Albinoni’s Adagio, and Boccherini’s Minuet, to cheer us up and uplift our spirits.

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Midweek Review

The Tax Payer and the Tough

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By Lynn Ockersz

The tax owed by him to Caesar,

Leaves our retiree aghast…

How is he to foot this bill,

With the few rupees,

He has scraped together over the months,

In a shrinking savings account,

While the fires in his crumbling hearth,

Come to a sputtering halt?

But in the suave villa next door,

Stands a hulk in shiny black and white,

Over a Member of the August House,

Keeping an eagle eye,

Lest the Rep of great renown,

Be besieged by petitioners,

Crying out for respite,

From worries in a hand-to-mouth life,

But this thought our retiree horrifies:

Aren’t his hard-earned rupees,

Merely fattening Caesar and his cohorts?

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