Nature surrounds us, from parks and backyards to streets and alleyways. Next time you go out for a walk, tread gently and remember that we are both inhabitants and stewards of nature in our neighbourhoods”, David Suzuki (Canadian Environmental Activist)
Let us start with the fact that, COVID 19 has brought our life to standstill. However, every cloud has a silver line. COVID -19 Pandemic has made one good thing and that is each one of us has started reflecting on the quality of life we are living. The evidence proves that the problems of the Metro cities like Delhi and Mumbai; of choked cities, choked waterbodies, heaps of solid waste, traffic jams, noise pollution, vehicular pollution, junk food and related health issues are under control when we are forced to work from home.
In addition to this, the news reports from all over the world are proving that air pollution in the megacities have dropped all over the world. The visibility has improved; the village folks in Jalandhar, a city 250 km away from the foothills of Himalayas had seen the snow-capped peaks for the first time in their life. The health of the planet is improving, leading to an overall improvement in the air and water quality.
It would also be interesting to note the social media is full of videos and images showing how the wildlife is enjoying their right to freedom of movement at present. We are delighted to see the pictures of wildlife on roads; dears, peacocks and elephants crossing the roads dividing the deep forests and in the cities as well, fearlessly. The sounds of honking vehicles have been replaced by the chirruping of birds. One can enjoy the long courtship tunes by melody makers in nature like fantails, magpie robins, koels, tailorbirds or bulbuls. The feathered friends in the cities have got busy weaving their nests, picking up the materials for making their nests, or feeding their young ones. To sum up, it is a very pleasing sight which is missed out by citizens during the busy urban life.
So to say, at all times we are inspired by Nature – the design thinking, material for building our houses, our food habits, the medicines for our ailments, texture and colours of our fabric, the art and music, places of recreation and overall wellbeing.
Furthermore, one should not forget that India is a land of megadiversity with respect to biodiversity as well as cultural diversity. Let’s reflect on our cultural heritage that is fully nature-based. We must genuinely appreciate how intricately our tradition and culture is in tune with nature.
The hot summer in India is welcomed by the arrival of the most pleasant seasons- Vasant Rutu, with a bash of colours & the trees adorned with shades of brilliant yellow, mauve, orange and green, a cool southern breeze mixed with a mild fragrance takes us in a festive mood. Along with it comes our festivals that are scheduled to welcome these changes in nature!
As against Western Culture, the worship of nature is the way of life since the Vedic period. Several services are described in Rig-Veda to worship the five central elements of Nature, Prithvi ( Land ), Aap (Water), Tej( light ), Vayu(air), and Agni( fire/energy ) which drive the vital cycles for sustaining the life of every creature living on the planet.
It will be also interesting to know that “Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam” – a very noble thought in Sanskrit means the ‘whole earth is one family’. This thought is very deeply rooted in our Indian culture. It is the foundation of our traditional Gurukul system of education. It identifies the fact that we have to take care of the planet like our own family and also preserve it for our future generations. This is the same principle considered by United Nations while declaring the 17 Sustainable development Goals (SDGs) in 2016 to meet the urgent environmental, political and economic challenges facing our world.
We are not alone here; we are here because of all other species belonging to animal and Plant kingdom, their habitats and the ecosystems they form.
Above all, it seems relevant to remember that we have to change ourselves to keep track and check on the changing climate. 2020 is a year of reflection, opportunity and solutions. How can we do it? If we have to start from the grass-root level we have to change the education system that will bring us close to nature, close to people and their livelihood options, their problems related to environmental issues, come up with agreeable solutions with due attention to the local wisdom, local culture and local needs.
Let’s grow more trees, preserve our forests and clean the Oceans by reducing the use of plastic. Let’s deep dive and do fundamental research into the hidden world of plants and animal life. Let’s go organic, reduce the use of fertilizers and improve the soil health by practising sustainable practices of agriculture. It’s a time not to do less harm but do more good. It’s never too late to mend!
Worried of the pandemic! No worries. You can still be a part of this worldwide campaign. Click the pictures of the biodiversity around you, anything birds, butterflies and flowers, nests without disturbing them and make it viral on social media with #biodiversity, add the tagline “our solutions are in nature”. Create posters, share videos of your theme-based performances, podcasts, do anything and reach out to as many people as you can. There is no time like the present.
Dr Sugandha Shetye,
Head of Department (Environmental Sciences),
K J Somaiya College of Science and Commerce