If a fountain could jet bouquets of chrome yellow in dazzling arches of chrysanthemum fireworks, that would be Canada Goldenrod. Each three-foot stem is a geyser of tiny gold daisies……… Where soil is damp enough they stand side by side with their perfect counterpart, New England Asters. The daisy-like fringe of purple petals surrounds a disc as bright as the sun at high noon….. Alone each has a botanical superlative. Together visual effect is stunning. Purple and gold, the heraldic colours of the king and queen of the meadow, a regal procession in complementary colours. I just wanted to know why. Why do they stand beside each other when they could grow alone? Why this particular pair? There are plenty of pinks and whites and blues….so is it only happenstance….? What is the source of this pattern? Why is the world so beautiful? It could so easily be otherwise…. But they’re not. It seemed like a good question to me. But my adviser said, “It’s not science,” not what botany was about. I wanted to know some stems bent easily for baskets and some would break, why the biggest berries grew in shade and why they made us medicines,…..why those little pink orchids only grow under pines. “Not science,” he said. “And if you want to study beauty, you should go to art school.” He reminded me my deliberations over choosing a college between training as a botanist or as a poet. Since everyone told me I cannot do both I chose plants. He told me that science was not about beauty, not about the embrace between plants and humans. Continue reading
The day April 22 was designated as International Mother Earth Day in 2009 by United Nations Organization. This day reminds us that our life and its sustenance depend on Earth and its ecosystems. It also calls for a collective responsibility irrespective of literacy, community (both scientific and non-scientific), region (tropical, temperate, alpine, desert), the status of the country (developed or developing) and age (child or old). The call came from the 1992 Rio Declaration, to promote harmony with nature and the Earth. The aim was to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations of humanity as stated by UNO.
International Mother Earth Day is an opportunity to raise public awareness around the world to the challenges being faced in maintaining the well-being of the planet and all the life it supports. It is like any other day like Tuberculosis Day, AIDS Day, Deworming Day observed with the grand assemblage of people. On these days, not just the people dedicated to the cause but also public from various sections of society volunteer for their wellbeing. It is not meant just for the scientific community to organize gatherings to discuss the issues and come out with some new resolutions along with assessments of previous ones. One must be self-motivated to be part of these discussions as the center for these discussions is the welfare of the people throttling the natural resources outside the scientific discussion rooms.
Like every year the day is being observed throughout the world and to drive together the theme for 2017 is “Environmental & Climate Literacy”.
It has been accepted since a long time that Education is the foundation for progress. The brainy community strongly feels that there is need to make global citizens fluent in the concepts of climate change. They should be aware of the unprecedented threats being caused to our planet by climate change. It’s not just the scientific community but responsibility of every motivated and awakens human to empower everyone with the knowledge and inspire action in defense of environmental protection.
The theme ‘Environmental and Climate Literacy’ is being considered as the engine not only for creating green voters and advancing environmental and climate laws and policies but also for accelerating green technologies and jobs. This is what the global leaders of the filed aim and hope this year.
After reading this much anyone can definitely repeat the phrase I am used to hearing in general discussions – “we are aware of the witch-work human are involved in by molesting nature and its resources but we are doing our best to avoid it and save the environment. We are not the only person to exploit the resources; there are hundreds of more, uncontrolled, unbound, illiterate, unaware and full of greed. Someone draining awakening lecture here should go and wake them up.” Yes, I agree there is a huge difference in the ratio of the group size of guardians and foes of nature. But this ratio needs to be inverted and this is the only option to sustain life on the only living planet known so far, the Earth.
Even before Rio Summit, human beings started realizing their destructive behaviour and the extra pressure being carried by Mother Earth. In 1980 the United Nations General Assembly met and discussed the draft for World Charter for Nature. A set of principles, rules, and implementations (speaking broadly) set to be followed for the sake of saving the planet to save the life, which does include human. It was in 48th Plenary Meeting of UN General Assembly that this Charter was drafted and documented on 28 October 1982. Recognizing the importance of protecting natural systems and maintaining balance and quality of nature as well as conservation of natural resources the general assembly decided the code of conduct of activities of human beings. However, this move was also inspired by the selfish mind of human as he is concerned about its present and future generation, as natural as me and you are concerned about our families.
The basics of Environmental and Climate Literacy lie in the five principles of conservation proclaimed in the World Charter for Nature. The charter states that human conduct affecting nature is to be guided and judged by these principles. Let’s see what are they and how much our activities comply with.
World Charter for Nature – General Principles
1. Nature shall be respected and its essential processes shall not be impaired.
Yes, we do respect nature and that’s why we offer prayers and seek its permission before digging land for constructing houses, before taking water from river Ganga, offering chants from Vedas to please the believed Gods of the five elements – land, water, fire, air, ether. But we have no control over our actions. We are never satisfied with least, we want most. Our needs are increasing; rather we are unable to differentiate between need and luxury. In this process, we are impairing the essential natural processes and trying to mend them as per our own needs.
2. The genetic viability on the earth shall not be compromised; the population levels of all life forms, wild and domesticated, must be least sufficient for their survival, and to this end, necessary habitats shall be safeguarded.
We are invading across our boundaries, our population is exploding and we are expanding in the territories of other life forms as encroachers. Reading this principle recalls me a conversation with a responsible citizen D of our nature loving society since birds are disturbed by sound and other pollutions and interference due to a mine what can be done for them. D’s suggestion was alternative habitat, I was feeling quizzed as we cannot give the new address to birds, we can just help them finding new resources. D said they don’t need help what you will do to help birds. My reply was to stop the mine if it’s creating so much problem and we have no alternative. D said that’s not possible also in such situation there was no need for this discussion. I was left with a question in my mind why we cannot go for the alternative to the problems caused by mine but we are ready to serve alternatives to birds.
3. All areas of the earth, both land, and sea, shall be subject to these principles of conservation; special protection shall be given to unique areas, to representative samples of all the different types of ecosystems and to the habitats of rare or endangered species.
We are ready for that and even working for that but how far it is possible at the current rate of invasions by the human. We are not aware that which is rare, which is endangered, which is unique. What we know is which is important, useful and economic for us. And this is what we are happy with.
4. Ecosystems and organisms as well as the land, marine and atmospheric resources that are utilized by man, shall be managed to achieve and maintain optimum sustainable productivity, but not in such a way as to endanger the integrity of those other ecosystems or species with which they coexist.
Sustainability, a term well understood when we are talking about the sustainable economic return and least concerned when we are talking about natural resources. During an interaction once a brainy group argued that sitting in an office or conference hall and distributing suggestions to a handful of people is quite easy and quenching. They asked why we don’t go out to tell the common man who is half or even more buried in the filth of selfishness and exploiting natural resources. For such brainy people, my reply will be, when a person tells you to conserve resources and tells you the ways to do so is actually sharing his knowledge and trying to make you aware, at the same time he is also sharing the responsibility to share and aware others. Now, these handfuls of people are equally responsible if an awareness and awakening are not reaching common people. These handfuls of people broke the chain to transfer knowledge and awareness and the first person’s attempt to convey information to the common man failed.
5. Nature shall be secured against degradation caused by warfare or other hostile activities.
If we follow the previous four principles then this fifth one will be automatically followed.
In any corner of the planet, any country of any continent and if we ask any person the question, WHAT IS NATURE? The reply will be same, nature is me, nature is you, nature is healing from disease, nature is fresh air, nature is where we live, nature is what we eat, I am a part of nature as I am using its resources and it is keeping me alive, so I am also nature.
By following this charter we can judge our activities; the activities which are affecting nature but affecting us as ‘we are not just part of nature, we are nature’.
I got the opportunity to meet a man who was once a hunter but now dedicated to conserve the wilderness in a small piece of land owned my his family. Although he is running a safari as tourism business but never deviates from his real objective not to hurt the plants and animals in anyway. Jagnath Wildlife Safari is the tourism destination I am talking about. It is a remote private Jungle land of the Songara family of Kaniwara in Jalore district of Rajasthan. The safari is being run by Ravindra Singh Chauhan who is the person I am referring to in the subheading.
It is one of the best locations one can visit to learn tools and techniques for flora and fauna study. I reached there to attend a field training organised by Ecology and Rural Development Society of Jodhpur on ‘Wildlife Biology-tools and techniques. It was a lifetime opportunity for me to visit such place and meet wonderful people from different streams with like mind. While wondering in big nature reserves we never even hear about such small conservation reserves which is being maintained with personal interest in conservation rather than tourism enterprise far beyond policy and polity.
History of Jagnath
These jungle lands were gift of the Royal Family of Marwar region seven generations ago to Songara family. They have naturally preserved a large amount of these lands (around 400 hectares). The total wildlife habitat is 180 square kilometre in area.
The wilderness campsite
Jagnath will remain a memorable stay and experience with its granite hills and variety of flora although sparse due to arid terrain but shows variety. The campsite is peaceful although interrupted by the blasts in nearby mines. But most noticeable thing is even the blast sound echoes among the hills surrounding the conserved area. Beautiful landscape filled with raves formed by sand dunes and hills which are extensions of the Aravalli. Some of the plants in the region belong to rare category and animal sighting is easy which shows how free the animals are wandering feeling safe.
Science lovers catch
For science lovers it is an opportunity to visit the ecotone-the junction of Thar Desert and Aravalli Hills. The effect of this junction can be witnessed by flora as well as fauna, as components of both the ecosystems are visible in the conservation area. This is the reason the small area harbours diversity of flora and fauna. In the Aravalli you will find mainly Anogeissus pendula and Bauhinia retusa. The sand dunes are nature library to study the diverse species of Acacia. For fauna experts you will find beautifully patterned praying mantis, camouflaged stick mantis and insect to the giant predator Leopard. Most sighted are Chinkaras and Bluebulls, but definitely sighting a Zerd is going to be tough here. Some other wild animals who have found shelter in this small land are Desert Fox, Porcupine, Desert and Jungle Cat, Hyena. In my experience I found favourite food of all kinds of animals in the area was Wild Plums (Zizyphus nummularia).
Nothing less for adventure lovers
It is must for every visitor to climb the Aravalli extensions to have a panoramic view of the area. Even nearby villagers and far off Jalore city is visible as bird’s eye view. Without climbing these rocks you will miss the real beauty of this place and views too. Enjoying a sunrise as well as a sunset cannot be possible without sitting on one of the hill tops.
First night in Jagnath must be a ‘lie down and watch up night’ to sooth your eyes with the clear sky embellished with constellations and if you are really lucky then you can sight meteors too. The night safari is also available which earns you sighting of nocturnal animals, must say all the animals here are nocturnal. Definitely don’t need to mention not to forget good cameras, good amount of batteries as well as memory cards and lots of concern for nature. Cameras to capture the moments, batteries will not let you down and miss any moment you wish to frame to kindle others and concern so that you can help in conservation by playing role of a true nature lover. Ravindra Singh Chouhan and his staff are conserving an important landscape and do take care that the visitors should also follow the dos and don’ts tourists must follow in nature reserve. Jagnath is in true sense an ecotourism destination in the must list of all nature travelers. I am thankful to Dr Sumit Dookia, Dr Amit Kotia, Ravindra Singh Chouhan and Dr Mamta Rawat from Ecology and Rural Development Society, Jodhpur for giving us such an opportunity. Thanks to all Mohit Verma, Azaad Ojha, Atul Gupta, Anurag Kushwaha, Mayank Bohra and Vigil Wilson for sharing pictures for this article.
Yes I am knocking at the burrows in grounds to just check if we have someone there to help us in helping ourselves. We all know that these burrows are occupied by microorganisms to insects as well as large reptiles which may be fearful for us but definitely important part of the ecosystem we live. They dig holes and survive under our feet helping in soil conditioning, improving water percolation, nutrient retention in soil and controlling the counts of several insects through prey and predation link of food webs. But how we are offering our regards and thanks to these creatures? Do we even realise what consequences we may have to face if they are not there?
By concreting the floor around our houses we turn many lives homeless. The same way human settlements are removed for urbanisation. But the difference here is in that case human encroachments are removed and in this case human encroach on land of our helper creatures. It not only reduces surface area to allow water infiltration but also reduce burrowing area for our helper reptiles and insects like mouse, snakes, ants, crickets, termites. Although these names appear harmful but their role in maintaining our surrounding is irreplaceable.
We must therefore leave some ground open and without adding any insecticides or pesticides so that we can share the land with other animals also which is their right. Definitely keeping concrete walkways, decorated houses and ensuring safety from the mini-fauna is important but an ant won’t bite unless you disturb it. Similarly follow the right for personal space for the insects too and enjoy yours being friendly with nature.
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