International Biodiversity Year

“When we become a part of anything, it becomes a part of us.”
- David Harold Fink
Seedlings sprout from the dried fruit that is 
still clinging to the mother tree during Monsoon
A new year is something everyone looks forward to. 2010, however is not just another year, it is the end of a decade. 2010 is, most importantly, declared as an International Year of Biodiversity. Keeping this in mind, I wonder how many of us have really emphasized on the biodiversity around us. It’s certainly not many, because if many did, we would not lack the knowledge and understand of nature and her ways even today.
Neanotis lancifolia flowers barely measure a centimeter
 and these little Daggerflies are seen enjoying on this tiny herb in bloom
To acknowledge the year 2010 as the biodiversity year, it’s us as the citizens of this planet who must stand up and face the truth. The truth – had it not been for this biodiversity, we would not exist. Some of us may think, so let’s consider a cockroach or a mosquito into our “biodiversity appreciation” year, and learn to live with them. No. I don’t mean only cockroaches and mosquitoes, I mean every living organism that you can and can’t see. I mean those elephants that are killed for ivory (click HERE to read on the latest news on Global Ivory Trade), and those rhinoceros poached for their horns, I mean those tigers left in the Indian forests, and those Cougars of the northlands. I mean those butterflies and birds poached for their beauty, and those insects that end up in someone’s rare collection. I mean everything and everyone, including us.
Gushing waters during Monsoon is common and a best site for observing biodiversity
 but often such sites are teeming with ignorant tourists
So how do we go about this appreciation of biodiversity? I am sure some may ask. Do you want us to pick up every insect and whisper sweet words to it? Or maybe go kill a poacher and be happy? It is not easy, I agree. But there are little things that are easier.
A disheartening landscape - a view of the behind of Bazar of Matheran littering the valley beneath with tonnes of waste
Such easier things are:


• Stop throwing plastic. Oh, you don’t, is it? I know most of us don’t, so do you pick it up? No you don’t. And no one expects you to pick it up either. But when we are in a forest, walking for our visual pleasure, taking photographs and admiring nature, we always come across a piece of plastic ruining that landscape. Pick that up. It’s always relieving to see that piece of plastic in the garbage-bin than in a forest. This drive, which starts from you and I, if spread into everyone’s mind – can make a big difference.

• Stop throwing paper. Now we know it is biodegradable and safe to dispose. I don’t blame you for throwing paper, I know you don’t (and wont) but the paper – a product of the forests itself, is no more a “true” product of the forest. It gets processed in factories that use fuel to drive them; it gets acidic due to heavy bleaching, and hence not quite comparable to its initial environmentally-friendly form. Instead, it is better to recycle all paper and paper products. So dumping the useless papers into recycling-bins is better than letting them decompose in nature.

• Stop using plastic bottles. There was a time, not a decade ago when all of us as school kids used to hang a water-bottle in our necks and drink from it. It has changed, for bad. Now we use the disposable bottles which we use-and-throw. Reusing them does sound like a solution but then it is not good for health either, so we recycle them, but we basically discard them. Recycling is more of “downcycling” where the quality of a recycled product is not as good as the previous. So why not stop using them? Why not carry a water-bottle in your backpack and refill it whenever possible? This will save the evil plastic corrupting our brains and polluting our forests!

• Stop smoking in forests. For nature’s sake, this is not a place to smoke! I have seen people drink and smoke in forests; these kinds are as responsible for causing pollution as the traffic is in forested areas. A small puff is enough to pollute the fresh forest air. Do not expect the huge trees to clean up your dirty work, no plants can clear the toxic compounds released into the air caused by smoking.

• In the lines of polluting the air, stop (or minimize) using personal vehicles as a means of travelling to wild places. A public transport is always available and accessible. More vehicles in a forest lead to obvious pollution, which we do not realize in the sheer excitement of being in a forest. This is the biggest problem when tourists flock to the pristine wilderness. If we use the public transport – owned by the government itself, we not only reduce our impact on the health of the ecosystem, but also contribute to the economy of that place for good.

• Go on a vacation, locally. This is debatable, but it was brought up by my friends who emphasized on the fact that there is so much to look around wherever we live – within a day or less distance, that we seem to ignore these places completely and yearn to visit far and wide. It is our right to explore, visit new places, and have fun. But that new place could well be near you. Most of us might not agree with this, but if you are an explorer, you sure would explore and learn about the creatures of your backyard first.

• Don’t flock to see a tiger. Yes, sounds too thick, but hey, there are about twenty jeeps lined one after another to see a tiger. I wonder how much pollution the tiger has to live up with now-a-days? Ever wondered how the tiger feels? Now there are no human-like emotions in tigers, but they do feel the stress, which can change their behavior for bad, for instance being used to public, or worse still, disrupting their hunting pattern.

• Lastly, remember the three R’s. The three golden R’s to save our environment. No not the Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. The new “revolutionized” three R’s stand for Reduce, reduce and reduce! If we do not reduce our consumption, we will never get better.
Tourists flocking to Mahuli Fort during Monsoon - such places need to bear hoardings stating ban on using plastics,
smoking and alcohol and encouraging public transport in the locality
There are many more such as eating locally, using public transport daily, switching off the lights, and so on. The issues mentioned here are read and heard about everywhere, but there is no concrete action taken by us, is it true that we will stop littering only when the government slams a fine on us? The little actions we take can indirectly affect our impact on the ecosystem. We must move a step forward now, and promise to lead the way for our narrow-minded followers. Let’s start from us, let’s not wait for someone to lead the way. Let’s not look up to the municipality and wait for them to clean up. If we don’t take this simple responsibility, we cannot appreciate the biodiversity, and fail the 2010 International Biodiversity Year.

My aim is not to emphasize on the “International Biodiversity Year”, but on spreading the message of awareness and taking responsibility ourselves. 2010 IBY is just a means of reaching out to the people, making them think twice before buying illegal, poached products and sensitizing them on the issues of extinction dawned upon nature by us. If we begin to appreciate the sheer biodiversity around us, develop a sense of being within that rich biodiversity and believing that it is our responsibility to protect it, then that’s it, the world has never seen a year as beautiful as 2010.

In the last few years, I learnt a few things about nature, and working with WWF – India, MSO helped a lot. The experience of working with senior folks in the community of ecology, and other like-minded colleagues has been a tremendous help in absorbing the knowledge, through excursions and through sharing experiences. It will not only prepare you to be a better naturalist, but also make you conscious with what’s going on in the field of environment and ecology. In this context, I will also suggest you to become a part of any nature-related organization, such as WWF, BNHS (and others in Mumbai are HERE) and Nature Canada, Ducks Unlimited, Earthroots (and others in Ontario are HERE) and other various local NGOs working in favor of the environment.

Some general information:
Green Grades to techno giants

Last but not the least, there are a million things we can do. Let’s begin from scratch. Let’s start from our very home by doing this little.

The winter is grim now. It’s just going to be a lot of “looking back” on previous nature-walks for me, and pondering over the environmental issues and going in pursuit of sustainability.

2 comments:

  1. Well written! And you've put a lot of thought into it. Keep it coming ;)
    i especially liked the revolutionised 3R's!

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  2. I think one more point that needs to be read with this superb article is that when we litter the garbage or produce more garbage it needs to be cleaned by municipality. More garbage means more transportation to dumping grounds more consumption of fuel and more Pollution and also the more cost to the municipality/paychecker.

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