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IISc Bangalore scientists are doing seed bombing with drones to plant a forest (factordaily.com)
428 points by ston3r on June 14, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 127 comments



Just a small anecdote: in southern Brazil there are a bunch of protected tree species and there used to be people collectives which dropped mud seed bombs around city gardens (I don't know if they were the same kind of manure/soil India is using, but I am pretty sure they were actually semi dry mud balls to resist winters). The trick here is that protected trees cannot be cut down, never, no matter where they grow. The fee you pay if you chop one down is abdurdly high. Wherever the bombs germinate you will have permanent reforestation. I wish/hope there is something similar in India :-)


In Brazil reforestation is also used for criminal purposes. If you plant a certain kind of pine, it will, over time, completely overtake local species. In the course of a decade or two, you can transform protected areas into whatever you wish.


Sandalwood and a few others are protected across India. Growing sandalwood without a permit was recently legalized in India, but cutting it is still illegal. Though it mainly grows in the south of India (not sure if its because of climate or happenstance). Other states occasionally maintain their own smaller lists of protected trees.


That's fascinating. I'd like to know more. Do you have any links? I do speak Portuguese.


Search for the words: araucária, corte, licenciamento ambiental, árvore nativa.

For ex.:

http://licenciamentoambientalmunicipal.blogspot.com/2013/01/...

http://licenciadorambiental.com.br/licenciamento-ambiental-d...


> The trick here is that protected trees cannot be cut down, never, no matter where they grow.

Yes, and people die because of that.


How do they die?


Wikipedia page for Brazil Nuts tree says this:

In Brazil, it is illegal to cut down a Brazil nut tree. As a result, they can be found outside production areas, in the backyards of homes and near roads and streets. The fruit containing nuts are very heavy and rigid, and they pose a serious threat to vehicles and people passing under the tree. Brazil nuts sink in fresh water, which can cause clogging of waterways in riparian areas.


I've heard of environmentalists being murdered while trying to stop loggers from cutting down protected trees. Not sure if that's what they mean.


Wikipedia page of Brazil Nuts tree says this:

In Brazil, it is illegal to cut down a Brazil nut tree. As a result, they can be found outside production areas, in the backyards of homes and near roads and streets. The fruit containing nuts are very heavy and rigid, and they pose a serious threat to vehicles and people passing under the tree. Brazil nuts sink in fresh water, which can cause clogging of waterways in riparian areas.


Trees fall. When you can't cut down trees that grow on cities or near rural houses, trees fall on people.


Can't you still prune branches and the like?


After you follow some bureaucracy you get your answer. It's almost always "no", but the government can decide to prune (but not cut) them by themselves.

My city has many trees, and tree related deaths got within an order of magnitude of the big killers (transit, violence) a few years ago. The local government got a special case permission to cut the most dangerous trees, but some stupid greens made some vocal protests, so it lasted only for about two months. Anyway that was enough to improve things for a while.


I wish/hope there is something similar in India :-)

Be careful what you wish for. If you can do something sneaky with biological tech for justice, others can do bad things with it too. When I saw the headline with "drone" in it, I immediately imagined an evil plot where some organization genetically engineers a plant to produce pollen with a tailored allergenic effect on one particular ethnic group, then seeds a particular area with it. What's more, they slowly ramp up the level of allergenic effect over the space of a decade, so that the effect looks natural. This will probably be within the reach of billionaires and smaller governments in a decade.


> tailored allergenic effect on one particular ethnic group

Happily, this is impossible.


I've read that it's not impossible. You can't make something work with 100% accuracy, but that is not needed for this purpose. If you're going to reply there are no genetic racial differences, then consider sickle cell anemia and differences in alcohol metabolism.


I've also read a lot of stuff on the Internet, that doesn't make it all true. Source?


There are genetic racial differences, but the lines are so fuzzy and inconsistent that this couldn't work.


Wow... I am amazed that this is where you "immediately" thought to go...

What I thought about was drone-bombing marijuana on all private residences and public buildings of government.

Imagine seeding the whitehouse lawn with pot!


Back in my carefree days of youth, I would save the seeds from all the pot I smoked, sprout them in wet paper towels, and plant the sprouts in poorly-maintained landscaping around government buildings. It grows quickly, so it was always amusing to see a couple of obvious marijuana plants springing up by the shrubs and juniper bushes.


Naturally growing marijuana is common in the US. It's possible there's "ditch weed" growing all over DC. (And no, you can't use it to get high.)

More: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/3tz1ym/does_mari...


Wow... I am amazed that this is where you "immediately" thought to go...

My brain has been on a Tom Clancy "evil plot" kick.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14361500

Just remembered: A long time ago, I imagined a "magical realism/sci-fi" fantasy-textured story with a "race" analogous to the fae folk or the "Children of the Forest" from GoT, but instead of disappearing into hills, they disappeared into impassable hedges. These weren't impassable due to magic, however. Instead, the hedges were suffused with plants similar to Poison Oak, and the natives of the land had simply developed an immunity to it.


I'm pretty sure that you don't want to violate the white house air space. :-O

However, I'm sure there are a lot of soft targets, and this is a genius idea. Does the DEA have some nice lawns? Maybe state capitols?


Nice to see you're still at it Agent Mulder ;)


Just a little anecdote for the US. Obviously for other countries, like India, this is more of an issue. But it looks like we've made it sustainable here for a long time.

https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/stori...

In the United States, which contains 8 percent of the world's forests, there are more trees than there were 100 years ago. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), "Forest growth nationally has exceeded harvest since the 1940s. By 1997, forest growth exceeded harvest by 42 percent and the volume of forest growth was 380 percent greater than it had been in 1920." The greatest gains have been seen on the East Coast (with average volumes of wood per acre almost doubling since the '50s) which was the area most heavily logged by European settlers beginning in the 1600s, soon after their arrival.


It's awesome that there are so many trees, but don't discount the part about old growth forests. Many replanted 'forests' (at least in Australia) are monocultures of fast growing softwoods, and not remotely comparable with old growth forest.


It isn't necessarily awesome that the US has so many trees. Forests can get overcrowded which is bad for the forest overall even though there are a lot of trees. It isn't just quantity that is important it is the whole ecosystem, those trees that are overcrowded shade out helpful plants on the lower forest floor.

Forests in the US generally depend on regular forest fires for health. The US has mostly been putting out those fires and the result is we have a lot more trees than is ideal.


Here in Florida, those forest fires are required for some of the tree species in the endangered Florida scrub[1] and sandhill[2] ecosystems to germinate, in addition to clearing out space for smaller plants to thrive. Florida has a pretty regular controlled burn system though, developed over the years of trying to protect these habitats.

I've never lived on the west coast, but I wonder sometimes if the out-of-control wildfires that happen out there so often would be better if there were more controlled burns happening? Or is it just too dry out there for even that?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_scrub http://myfwc.com/conservation/special-initiatives/fwli/archi...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_longleaf_pine_sandhill http://myfwc.com/conservation/special-initiatives/fwli/archi...


The situation in California is quite complex. John McFee's excellent "Control of Nature" has a long essay on the interactions between forest fires, geology, and landslides. I'll probably do a shitty job of paraphrasing, but I'll try.

As the population of California has increased, people have increasingly settled farther and farther up the neighboring mountains. The mountain ranges in the area like the San Gabriels are very young geologically. They haven't had the chance to erode down much and are composed of brittle rock just waiting for a chance to break off.

So you have a growing population in an area prone to devastating landslides and debris flow[1].

Meanwhile, the mountains are covered in chapparal. These small scrubby bushes have evolved to endure (and in fact in some species require) periodic wildfires every decade or so. When the chapparal burns, it leaves a coating of ashy dust on the ground. That prevents rain water from soaking into the earth. So when a summer storm comes around later, the water starts sheeting down the mountain, taking dirt, rocks, and boulders with it.

This is a devastating event. It's very hard to build defenses against it, and hard to predict precisely when it's going to occur. You're talking going from "everything is fine" to "thousands of tons of rock crashing through homes" in a matter of minutes.

Ironically, debris flow would be easier to predict with controlled burns, but it's pretty hard sell to say, "Yeah, you're house is going to get flattened next month and we're going to make it happen." So, because of the much greater threat to life (people die in big debris flows all the time) and property, California ends up very hesitant to do controlled burns of the chapparal.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debris_flow


Thank you. I've added that book to my wishlist, it sounds really interesting. Don't really ever have to worry about landslides in Florida (just hurricanes and sinkholes).


Wouldnt, also, in certain cases, the ash mix with the soil and make a more hardened clay-like mix which would harden and prevent a certain amount of erosion?


Not in California where the mountains are growing at a fast rate (for a geological process fast). The roots hold the mountain up while the trees grow, but when the trees burn those roots no longer have life and the next rainstorm lets the mountain side fall as the mountain has grown.

Read the book, it is described much better than I can summarize.


I've been told that yes - more frequent, smaller burns would be all around better; however, these areas are largely populated and there is zero political will to voluntarily threaten the properties - even if it reduces the risk of catastrophic fires.


That sucks. Around here at least most of the areas that need controlled burns are sparsely populated due to it mostly being federal parkland[1].

Anyway, I guess we have sufficient political will here in Florida, or at least we do after we saw what happens when we don't - the wildfires we had in 1998 [2]. Which were terrifying. The fires got within a few miles of our house at one point, and the sky looked like the scene from Fantasia where all the dinosaurs are dying, with an orange sun that was so dimmed by smoke you could look directly at it without even getting an afterimage on your retina. Ash fell from the sky like snow, and everything smelled like woodsmoke for months.

[1] The Ocala National Forest https://www.fs.usda.gov/ocala

[2] https://www.thefreelibrary.com/The+1998+wildfires+in+Central...


Which is where we come in the loop, logging for wood instead of burning. It's when we suppress fires and don't thin the forest that there's dangerous fuel accumulation.


Periodic forest fires definitely seem more healthy for forest ecologies than logging, since they reduce potential fuel and return nutrients to the area. Logging or large forest-fires means significant deforestation/defloration leading to erosion.

We should be managing our lands with more controlled burns to periodically reduce the fuel load so a huge unmanageable natural forest fire doesn't break out.

Plus some species require forest fires, like ponderosa pine whose pine cones will only open to release their seeds from the heat of a forest fire.


Sure, if the area is clear-cut and not replanted. It wouldn't be good for business if there weren't any more trees to log a few decades from now. Believe it or not, we do think long-term in the timber industry ;)

Controlled burns often accompany harvest operations to return nutrients to the soil.

> Plus some species require forest fires, like ponderosa pine whose pine cones will only open to release their seeds from the heat of a forest fire.

Not the Ponderosa Pine. You are probably thinking of the Lodgepole Pine and Knobcone Pine.


Why do you say not the Ponderosa?


I asked a forester. Admittedly this is not the best response for a pseudonymous internet forum.

Further searching for links on serotinous (externally triggered) cones turn up sources that almost all refer to the Lodgepole Pine [0]. Also note that these trees have both serotinous and non-serotinous cones - they can still reproduce without the presence of fire, albeit at a lesser rate.

That being said, the Ponderosa is fire-resistant, and will survive typical non-crowning fires.

[0] https://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/pinconl/all....


We can do both. You log the large valuable trees, and burn the underbrush. A healthy tree will survive a small forest file without problems and it makes it easier for the loggers to get in to cut the valuable trees they want. This assumes you are doing selective logging and not clear cutting.


In the northeastern US, this is primarily "natural" regrowth. It's still probably a different mix of trees, but it is a mix, of soft and hard woods.

The northeastern US wasn't just logged, it was cleared, primarily for pastureland, and that primarily for sheep. Between cotton, synthetic fabrics, and cheap grazing land out west, it stopped being economically viable, so a lot of northeastern farmland was just abandoned. Over the next ~century, trees took over the once-clear pastures. Now you've got great swaths of woodlots with laboriously constructed stone fences throughout them.


That statistic (more trees than 100 years ago) is less impressive when you consider the baseline (1920's) had already clear-cut most of the old/ancient forests in the USA (hence the conservationist movement decades prior) during the gilded age. This is why almost all of the Appalachian Mountains and east coast are only newer-growth forests.

A better measure would be comparing current forest size to pre-European colonization of Americas, if it were possible.


> In the United States, which contains 8 percent of the world's forests, there are more trees than there were 100 years ago.

Same is true for Europe[1], though I don't think that we "made it sustainable" - wood just was not this important as a resource anymore.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2014/12/04...


Wood is still an important resource whose production and consumption has only grown, and yes, we've made it sustainable.

As an example, Finnish forests today have 2400 Mm^3 of wood, which is nearly twice as much as they had in the beginning of the 20th century, we cut ~70 Mm^3 per year, but the amount keeps growing because the yearly growth is greater than 100 Mm^3.

The reason for this is that most forests have essentially been turned into monoculture tree farms, and carefully managed for maximum productivity.


I'm not an expert in forestry, but I don't get the correlation between mono-cultures and the overall forest area. If there was one, then the forests should be smaller now due to higher yield per area.

Mind you, I'm not saying that it is not sustainable, just that we did not necessarily make it so. It just happens to play out.


Modern tree farms are sparser than natural growth forest. The quantity they are optimized for is yearly increase of new wood per area as opposed to maximum amount of wood that will eventually grow once trees are mature and planting trees as densely as possible is not ideal for this. (That is, trees planted somewhat sparser grow faster and mature quicker.)

> Mind you, I'm not saying that it is not sustainable, just that we did not necessarily make it so. It just happens to play out.

Again in Finland, it didn't just play out this way, the current state of affairs is result of intensive government-led research into sustainable and effective forestry methods started in the 1920s. Back then, the forests were the most important export resource of the recently independent nation, we needed a lot of imports and therefore ensuring that there will be new trees to cut down was a national priority.


We have the most trees the same way we have the most cattle.


It'd be useful to see this broken down by state, as while large trees aren't common in the Phoenix area of Arizona, there is increasing desertification there as more and more healthy desert is plowed to a monocrop or paved over for housing and shopping centers.


Well, yes, there are more trees than 100 years ago, but it's not like we have more forests. This is the kind of thing that makes that true:

http://i.imgur.com/oXw4E9d.jpg


According to the wiki at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seed_ball, the earliest records of aerial reforestation date back from 1930. In this period, planes were used to distribute seeds over certain inaccessible mountains in Honolulu after forest fires.

This article quotes the lead professor as saying doing it with big aircraft is expensive and poses logistic problems. So the only way to do it is through drones. I respect people trying to achieve maximum output with minimal resources.

> Dropping seeds instead of bombs seems like a plan that John Lennon would approve of.

That sounds like a bold statement, but I’m certainly willing to approve of it :)

Good job.


New England made a dramatic recovery in forest. I saw pics of old New England (Vermont) and it was basically barren. That shocked me as if you visit now, it's basically covered with trees.

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/08/31/new-england-see...


https://www.droneseed.co/ based out of Seattle is building drones and seed cartridges specifically for reforestation.


Seems like a cool idea! The article mentioned the drones were flying in hard-to-reach areas. These trees will be safe against harvesters.


I came here to mention this company. Very cool product.


We do the same in Holland ( illegal) with weed seeds.



I thought it is legal to trade weed in Holland? How is it useful to plant weed at this scale if authorities going to root it out?


It breaks down like this: it's legal to buy it, it's legal to own it, and if you're the proprietor of a hash bar, it's legal to sell it. It's legal to carry it, but that doesn't really matter 'cause get a load of this, all right? If you get stopped by the cops in Amsterdam, it's illegal for them to search you. I mean, that's a right the cops in Amsterdam don't have.


For those out of the loop, this is a line from the famous "royale with cheese" scene in Pulp Fiction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYSt8K8VP6k


Can we not post movie quotes as answers to real questions - and keep that over in Reddit or elsewhere?


Oh, man. I'm going, that's all there is to it. I'm fucking going.


Cannabis is illegal in the Netherlands. Only the sale of small amounts of cannabis is tolerated in licensed coffeeshops. The problem with this system is that coffeeshops need to buy what they sell illegally on the black market.


Where do they go to get it? Amsterdam is my favorite yearly visit to enjoy some chilled coffee shops and eat BLT but I guessed it was grown in the Netherlands by "turning a blind eye". Growing so much at such a high quality, I can't imagine folk are importing it. I hope to live in Amsterdam some day after I win the lottery :D


> Growing so much at such a high quality, I can't imagine folk are importing it.

No, the Netherlands grows its marijuana domestically (and exports about half of what is grown domestically).

But to be honest, it's not a huge amount. The Netherlands grows about 270,000 kg of marijuana annually. To put that into perspective, about 17,600,000 pounds are grown each year in just five US states (Washington, California, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Hawaii).


Where did you get that 17MM number?


We do that in forests and cornfields. After a while we just check if they have be cleared yet by farmer or government. Dropping the seeds this way is cheap.


It is legal to trade, yes, but not to cultivate it.


It is not even legal to trade. It is tolerated (but not quite legal) to trade and own small amounts (5g), and a coffee shop may have 300g in stock on their premises. The shop needs to acquire its weed in illegal, non-tolerated ways. This causes all kinds of problems and absurdities.

Despite our reputation, the Netherlands are now behind when it comes to legalization of marijuana.


Which, when you think about it, makes utterly no sense. They have to buy it from quasi-gangsters on the gray/black market. That puts regular shop owners in a perilous situation. Although I'm not that dramatic to realize that wholesale pot dealers in The Netherlands are probably more like regular businessmen rather than violent criminals. But still.


Vice recently did an episode on one of the top seed producers in the Netherlands (which obviously requires cultivating it) and they seemed very professional. They were organizing month long expeditions to remote areas of the Congo in search of genetically isolated strains and lobbying governments for decriminalization as well as running bio labs.

Wherever there is a black market there is much more crime, especially of the violent variety. Looking at crime in the Netherlands, I would venture to guess that its very much like California's market pre-legalization where most growers operated as legitimate, albeit heavily under-regulated, businesses that could still turn to local police in case of robbery, threats, etc. but still have to worry about flying under the radar (like when the DEA raided a bunch of collectives in California because they were too close to schools)


During long train journeys in our childhood, we had people telling us to drop seeds along railway tracks after eating fruits and other stuff.

Guess we have gone hi-tech now.

Seems like a good way to automatically forest large swathes of un-populated land.


It’s a dry area, so our interest is to bring back the rains.

http://permaculture-and-sanity.com/pcarticles/trees-and-the-...

It isn't inevitable that more people equals more destruction. We can act as stewards responsible for the environment.


Just a small anecdote: Coming from generations of farmer family and gardener myself, this experiment feels like a "Cloudy with a chance of seeds" for rodents and squirrels.


The picture of the seed bags in the article is captioned > The drone-dropped seeds wrapped in balls of manure and soil which I imagine would mitigate against rodents etc.?


I'm kind of surprised, actually. I mean, if there's one country with access to cheap labour, it's India.


Hiring a small army of people to march out into the woods to plant seeds seems potentially counterproductive.


But yet, this is how it's done across Canada. Thousands of people plant trees for $0.115 - $0.35 a tree (depending on land, seedling size, etc). Seedlings come in a number of sizes (they survive better than seeds) and humans are supremely efficient at locating the best places for survival and actually inserting the tree. We've done many studies (UBC) to find better ways, manual planting still seems to be winning.


Why? People all over the world plant trees, it's not a demeaning or unproductive activity.


I was thinking the foot traffic would be a problem but your brother post had a pretty good point.


May be moving a lot of cheap labor across terrains with little connectivity is expensive? It makes sense to do this in unconnected areas where the road facilities are not good and may be in dense forests depending on the drone range.


This project sounds like a bit of a throw in the dark. Fly drone and drop seeds. But there are challenges; there are still goats around; there is no water outside the rainy season. So at a minimum they'd actually need to plough water retention ditches (swales) and think about fencing. I'm glad to see people trying things and I hope that they realise spectacular results, but they are facing a complex challenge with a drone and a handful of seeds.

I think there is even a biblical story(which makes it a pretty old story) about the bad farmer throwing his wheat seed on the path and on unprepared soil. The story is not directly about wheat, but the point is that the allegory used in the story is/should be common knowledge.


You don't have enough funding here to pay labour to go around and plant seeds.

This is a cheaper and better alternative.


> This is a cheaper and better alternative

Flying a drone in India require permits from multriple authorities [1] Their import is also highly regulated [2].

It may be cheaper to throw a couple bucks at a few thousand people than go through the license Raj. At the very least, it would be faster and more predictable.

[1] http://m.hindustantimes.com/india/us-citizen-arrested-for-ph...

[2] http://mashable.com/2016/03/02/india-drones-duties/#ib1XDcXp...


>It may be cheaper to throw a couple bucks at a few thousand people than go through the license Raj. At the very least, it would be faster and more predictable.

They're just going to trample over the landscape they're supposed to be foresting. You also can't verify and trust them to actually go out there and plant things rather than just throwing their whole bag in the nearest trash can and coming back with an empty sack demanding payment.


"They're just going to trample over the landscape they're supposed to be foresting."

Really? Do you have a mental image of these people locking arms like a search party and marching around the forest deliberately stomping everything they find into a thin green paste or something? It is not actually that difficult for some people to walk into a forest without killing everything they see, plant some trees, and come back. The Evil of Man (TM) does not actually extend to laser beams of death coming out his eyes and striking down all living things within visual range.

I can't help but read this as just being contrarian for the sake of contrarianness, because this objection (being raised by some others in this discussion too) is fundamentally deeply silly.


>Really? Do you have a mental image of these people locking arms like a search party and marching around the forest deliberately stomping everything they find into a thin green paste or something? It is not actually that difficult for some people to walk into a forest without killing everything they see, plant some trees, and come back. The Evil of Man (TM) does not actually extend to laser beams of death coming out his eyes and striking down all living things within visual range.

You understand that large numbers of people walking over an area necessarily involves trampling over the ground right? This effort requires repeated plantings over a long time. Random people you pick up off the street who you're paying a pittance are not going to be invested in your actual goal, just the proximal goal of getting paid to do the thing.


Have you actually spent time in forests that are well-traveled by people? Forests are not constructed out of finely-spun cotton candy or something that melts away at the touch of rain or the slightest touch.

Again, it is not that hard to walk into a forest, plant some trees, and walk back out without killing everything you see. People manage to do this all the time, even at scale.

Perhaps you are thinking of the desert ecosystem, which in many places is sensitive enough to do serious damage to with just a footstep?

I really can't imagine that you've spent very much time in forests if you think they are literally so delicate that they can't handle traffic for the purposes of putting more trees in them. You are aware that animals tend to live in them, too, right? It's not all just The Evil of Man (TM).


These aren't forests yet. These are rocky hills with little other than grasses and scrub brush on them. The water table is low from overuse and insanely polluted besides. The rains are irregular and salinization and soil erosion are both huge problems. We're not talking about a robust ecosystem here, we're talking about rebuilding an extremely unhealthy biome. Having thousands of people stomping around in that back-country isn't going to do it any favors.

This is why national parks have trails and fences to keep people from treading on the more sensitive parts and require wilderness permits before you get to go backcountry camping. Backcountry doesn't stay backcountry when it has to carry too many people. People piss. They shit. They spit and smoke and litter. When you're paying a junk wage to random people off the street who aren't bought into your mission they will do all of these things and nobody will be policing them. It's sounding like you've never actually tried to coordinate large groups of people to do anything before. Especially if they're under-educated and not paid well, they really tend not to exercise much diligence or care.


So, because places that hundreds of people camp on over the course of years can be damaged, it's not safe for one group of people to go in once to do something to recover the environment?

Again, you seem to just have this unbelievably destructive model of the environmental impact of some people walking around, like they're some sort of Dementors from Harry Potter in real life that suck the life out of everything they pass by. And in the context of this discussion, even the fact they're going in with the explicit purpose of improving the environment doesn't make this worthwhile?

And again I can't help but see this as just being contrarian to be contrarian, because the environmental impact model you're proposing is, frankly, insane. Apparently we're going to pay some people to camp out and do whatever they want for months, and at some point, maybe get around to planting some trees after they're done grinding the local environment up and snorting it up their noses? I don't think anybody is proposing this. If you armed some people with tree saplings and deliberately paid them to damage the environment in a day I don't think they could come even close to what you seem to think is going to happen if the hoi polloi is allowed outside.

I mean, this almost starts feeling sort of racist when it gets down to it... those people can't be trusted to freaking plant some trees without destroying everything? Seriously? This is ridiculous.


FWIW, I have six years of college and I am an environmental studies major. I have also been homeless for roughly 5.5 years. I manage to camp with minimal impact on the environment with my two adult sons.

I have seen what other homeless people can do to the same area. About three years ago, some group began camping near us and what had been a narrow trail, not readily visible from the road, began looking like elephants on hashish had trampled it. Plants were broken and the trail became obvious. They were loud, rowdy and doing drugs. We soon relocated.

Just because it is possible for someone educated who cares about the environment to carefully walk in and walk out with minimal impact does not mean you can actually trust anyone to do the same. I concur with the remarks being made here by naravara.

Anecdotally: My ex was career military. While in Germany, there were strict rules about not harming the environment. They threw a track on their track vehicle. He wanted to walk it back onto the vehicle, but this would have involved backing over a tree. So someone else overroad him and called in a vehicle to rescue their track vehicle in order to protect this tree, as per guidelines. The rescue vehicle was even larger and you could hear it coming as it mowed down tree after tree after tree, cutting a path to their location.

Stupid is as stupid does. It is everywhere and it rarely benefits the environment.


When the CCC worked on reforestation in the US, they did a lot of planting by first cutting furrows with tractors (many are still recognizable).

I know someone who works as a commercial forester, often managing plantings of trees in the US. They take a trailer full of trees and imported labor and go out and stick them in the ground. It's backbreaking work, one of the steps is to stomp the hole cut for the tree closed with a boot.

Both are a bit unfortunate, leading to monocultures, and in the case of many CCC forests, poor future management, so the trees are crowded and fragile.

Of course, those areas are not as protected as US National Parks, but they are much, much vaster.


>I mean, this almost starts feeling sort of racist when it gets down to it...

I'm Indian myself dude. It's not a race thing, it's basic human nature. If you use uneducated and underpaid people who don't care about the mission you ostensibly want them to do (which is what you'd be doing if you want to make it cost-effective against just flying some drones up there), they're not going to actually act to fulfill the mission you're transactionally hiring them for.

They're not going there with the "explicit purpose of improving the environment." They're there to collect a paycheck according to whatever terms you gave them. If those terms are "Go up there with a sack full of seeds, scatter them around, and come back down with an empty sack" they'll figure out a way to do that by the most efficient (for them) means possible.

This is basic human nature. If you're also not policing them to make sure they're not also causing ecological damage while they're there (through litter and leaving lots of traces) you could easily end up being pretty counterproductive. If you want to put them through a lot of training to make sure they don't do any of that, you're going to have to have oversight and training which, again, starts to eat away at its cost effectiveness relative to drones. And this is even setting aside the fact that people need to rest and drink water if you're expecting them to go mountaineering with a pack full of manure and seeds on their backs.

>those people can't be trusted to freaking plant some trees without destroying everything? Seriously? This is ridiculous.

The fact that you make planting trees in the backcountry sound like a brainless and easy endeavor makes me wonder if you've ever actually been in the wilderness or so much as gardened before. It's not so simplistic, especially when you're dealing with a place that does not currently have any trees. Even parts of forests that get burned out by huge fires or flooding have trouble getting tree-growth back for a long time because grasses and shrubs outcompete them, and that's despite not having people periodically stomping around there.

And not just that, but you expect people to go out doing this even though it involves having to go mountaineering (without trails) through brush in South Indian heat with a pack full of manure and seeds on their backs. (And they wouldn't be giving them ultralight gear here or anything. It's gonna be a burlap sack if you're lucky, but plastic bags are more likely).

>Again, you seem to just have this unbelievably destructive model of the environmental impact of some people walking around

You seem to have a very naive model of the kind of impact that people operating in fragile wilderness has. Grass is one of the hardiest and stubborn plants out there and even that gets trampled into dirt with surprisingly few people going over it. You said animals have to function in forests too, yeah they do. But if their population isn't [kept in check by predation](http://www.yellowstonepark.com/wolf-reintroduction-changes-e...) they also do a lot of damage to the ecology. A forest isn't just a bunch of trees close together. It's a whole biome you have to build and it's not going to be helped if it's being trammeled by people, even if those people are dropping a backpack's worth of seeds with each trip. One pack of seeds won't make up for the damage they'll do just by being there unless they're extremely attentive to the principle of leaving no trace. (And believe me when I say that underpaid, uneducated random people off the street in India will not be).

And we need to go over again, since you don't seem to be getting it, the fact that we're not talking about a healthy or robust ecosystem here. We're talking about an area that has already been destroyed which they are trying to re-forest.


It's about long term, scalable strategy.


The goat herders are going to have a field day if they sprout.


Yep, unmanaged goat herds are a big part of the desertification problem. They can range on heavily degraded land (which is otherwise an economic signal to allow it to lie fallow). They'll eat even the remaining hardy plants down to nothing, finalizing the land's transition from forest to desert.

Pretty tragic how traditional (and sustainable) herd management practices were abolished via privatization in the name of "progress." The mechanisms they used to prevent the Tragedy of the Commons were dismantled, with predictable results.

http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2871076/overg...


In South Africa, untethered goats are illegal, but it doesn't really help. You can see how in rural communities on the Wild Coast, the few existing forest thickets are hollowed out. There are no saplings, as soon as one emerges it is eaten. So when the current trees die the forest is gone. The effect is that you can walk through a beautiful coastal thicket knowing it's only there on borrowed time.


>In South Africa, untethered goats are illegal, but it doesn't really help.

There's no contradiction. Proper grazing management (of all animals) is necessary, but not sufficient. There are plenty of other ways to destroy the land.


This is probably the thread where you mention the beaver re-introduction program in Idaho:

http://time.com/4084997/-/


Very surprising, I just got my drone delivered from hobbyking today and was planning to develop the exact same idea but on more dryland where the drone can water the plants until they mature.


> the drone can water the plants

If you're in drylands you might look at land imprinting. Making shallow depressions pools all water and organic matter right next to the seeds, and allows infiltration in parched soils that otherwise run off all of the occasional rains.

https://permaculturenews.org/2012/09/19/imprinting-soils-cre...

http://imprinting.org/


Isn't the weight of water an issue for doing that?


> “It’s a dry area, so our interest is to bring back the rains.

That seems...very optimistic.


Maybe, maybe not. Trees release moisture into the air (their roots gather this moisture from deep in the ground) which condenses into rain. So long as you get enough water from outside trees will increase the recycling of that water in the local area resulting in more rainfall than no trees.

This only works in specific situations though. I don't know if applies to the climate in India.


This interaction supposedly exists around Kilamanjaro. Seems reasonable to expect the same from the Himilayas.

But Bangalore? Sounds iffy.


I was hoping someone would reply with the specifics that the article ignored, thank you :)


It's not as crazy as it sounds. About 80% of continental rainfall is caused by trees recycling fallen rain water in the soil back up into the atmosphere. http://www.nature.com/articles/nature11983

Obviously the specifics of the implementation depends on local geography and hydrology, but re-planting trees is pretty much the only economically/thermodynamically plausible way to "bring back rains" (eg desalination is way too expensive).

So yeah, they're actually onto something.


where do birds fail to drop seeds?

Does it need to be a denser patch of spreoutlings?


~sproutlings


What's with the fake Apple-style message talking about allowing notifications? Seems sketchy.


It is a dark pattern, you hit allow twice so that you can't hit block and they can't pester you any more. It is like the similar dark pattern for phone ratings. "How do you like this app?" you get some stars, if you vote anything less than 4 or 5 it doesn't redirect to the phones market for review.


But flying drones is illegal in India.


Afaik, you can take permission from local and central authorities to do experiments. It's usually private use of high grade drones that's banned.


Thanks for this info. How do they define "high-grade"?

BTW, there is a "drone festival" in Lucknow on June 19, I guess akin to the kite festivals around Sankranti. I plan to attend.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/education/lucknow-to-host-firs...



I think the worst part of the empire for india was transplanting our civil service :-)


Why?


This has still not been updated. http://dgca.nic.in/public_notice/PN_UAS.pdf


@dang why was the post title edited?

It said 'IISc Bangalore Scientists experimenting with drone seed-bombing to plant a forest'. I see no problem with it, other than IISc not being as well known as say MIT. But it is still a very good institution and I think they deserve to be known. The name of the institution should be celebrated for their research, not just put behind a large banner of 'Indian Scientists' which gives no recognition to the institution.

Just like MIT/Stanford scientists aren't called American scientists every time some article about research comes out from that University. If someone doesn't know what IISc is, we know they can just google it.


Funny, I had the exact same question since I meant to come back and read this post but couldn't find it thanks to the name change. I'd love to know the reasoning behind this edit.


Probably a moderator thought most HN readers wouldn't know what IISc is, but sure, you make a fair point. We'll revert the title.

Often we change a phrase like that to just "Scientists" for brevity, but there's probably no need to emphasize nation rather than institution. Though in Canada we tend to put "Canadian" in front of everything.


>Though in Canada we tend to put "Canadian" in front of everything.

Maybe that should change too.


World ranking is about 200


Overall ranking is 190 (I assume you're looking at this[1]). Ranking by subject, it is at 51 in many subjects. That's because Indian Institutions tend to neglect fields other than mainstream Tech/Science because that's all they can get funding for.

Still, if their ranking is at 190, why shouldn't they be called by their name?

[1]: https://www.topuniversities.com/universities/indian-institut...


I hate to be mean but there is a reason why the school isn't named, and it was a rational decision by the editor.

Internationally, nobody has heard of them outside of India because unlike Stanford and MIT they have yet produce any technologies of value. While American universities live on patents, Indian schools are know for suppling large US software companies with cheap labour - often below market value. Importantly you'd be hard pressed to find somebody that can tell them apart.

Indian "scientists" has a better connotations than the specific school, whose reputations are unknown or second rate - this immediately questions the rigour and relevance of their work.


I acknowledged that the school isn't well known. There is also something called Google where you can search for things you don't know about.

Sorry about talking down but you have seemed to miss the entire point of my argument. Even though the school isn't well known, I said they can search for the name if they don't know about it.

>Indian schools are know for suppling large US software companies with cheap labour - often below market value

I don't know how this suddenly came into the argument. If this was some remote university in Russia, my point would still stand. You seem to have a very prejudiced view of Indian universities. Please educate yourself. You aren't being mean, just ignorant. Indian schools are also known for producing world-class engineers.

Not just software. Google, Microsoft, Adobe, Pepsico, Mastercard. Do you know what they have in common? A CEO educated in an Indian University.

>Indian "scientists" has a better connotations than the specific school, whose reputations are unknown or second rate

We shouldn't do that has better connotations but what's right. And acknowledging the achievements of a university is what is right.

>this immediately questions the rigour and relevance of their work.

That's your problem. Any scientific work must stand independent of whoever publishes it. Yes, screening process gets easier, but the questioning the accuracy must be accompanied by proper arguments, not bias.

Do you really think a country with three times the population of the US doesn't have any scientific achievements? Just recently there was a huge rocket launched with a fraction of the budget of the science department of a US university.


So?


Is there anything drones can't do? All mine seems to do is get stuck in trees.




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