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A little more than 30 years ago, a teenager named Jadav "Molai" Payeng began burying seeds along a barren sandbar near his birthplace in northern India's Assam region to grow a refuge for wildlife. Not long after, he decided to dedicate his life to this endeavor, so he moved to the site where he could work full-time creating a lush new forest ecosystem. Incredibly, the spot today hosts a sprawling 1,360 acres of jungle that Payeng planted — single-handedly. The Times of India recently caught up with Payeng in his remote forest lodge to learn more about how he came to leave such an indelible mark on the landscape. It all started way back in 1979, when floods washed a large number of snakes ashore on the sandbar. One day, after the waters had receded, Payeng, only 16 then, found the place dotted with the dead reptiles.
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A ship sailing near Alor, Indonesia. (© CI/ Photo by Sterling Zumbrunn) In my 36 years of work in conservation, I have never before witnessed as much attention and concern being paid to the deteriorating health of our oceans, and the resulting consequences of that deterioration for people everywhere. Ocean issues have grown from being a concern of environmental organizations to an urgent topic in corporate boardrooms and the offices of heads of state — an important shift in attitude that gives me reason for hope. From the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos in January to The Economist’s World Oceans Summit I attended last month in Singapore, the concerns are palpable. With the world’s population expected to grow to 9 billion people by 2050 — doubling the demand for food, energy and water — corporations and governments are looking to the oceans for answers.
Today, the Buckminster Fuller Institute announced the winner of its 2010 Challenge: Allan Savory, who has spent the last 50 years refining and evangelizing for a method of reversing desertification that he calls "holistic management." The African Center for Holistic Management International, an NGO he helped found, will take home a $100,000 grant. The Buckminster Fuller Challenge is meant to award big, sweeping solutions to seemingly intractable problems.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault will protect unique varieties of food staples such as eggplant, lettuce, barley, potato, maize, rice, wheat, cowpea and sorghum. The latest shipments also include varieties familiar to Americans: 400 samples from the Seed Savers Exchange in the U.S., an Iowa-based nonprofit group that is preserving rare garden species, many of them brought to North America by immigrants from Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Among them: the German Pink tomato, a rare hardy sweet variety transported to Iowa in 1883 by a Bavarian immigrant who is the grandfather of one of the co-founders of the Seed Savers Exchange. Established by Norway as "a service to the world," it is the most comprehensive and diverse collection of seeds on Earth. Besides preserving unique varieties of crops threatened with eradication, the seeds stored will be available should a natural or man-made catastrophe necessitate restarting agricultural production on a regional, or even global scale.
by Vijay Govindarajan | 12:07 PM August 26, 2010