November 5, 2007

The Plight of Nature

India with its vast diversity is home to unique bounties of nature, few other nations can match. When one starts reeling off statistics, the listener can merely shake his head in amazement. India is also home to a large proportion of the world's population - rapidly growing and turning increasingly western in its outlook. Western in their consumption pattern, western in their outlook and definitely western in their relationships with each other.

Yet, we are pretty unwestern and unmodern when it concerns our present day relationships with nature in the nation. Unmodern because we have ceased to see ourselves as a part of the Earth we live in, it is rather preferable to visualize oneself as that modern looking car we all drive nowadays - the feel remains that of a flaky body while we rest under the vast shade of the Peepul tree, blabbering over our mobiles to god knows which interested folk in this world.

India or rather, we Indian were not so long ago, the perfect example of an ecosystem people. Now all our claims are humbug, to say the least. Just as we harp about our culture, similarly we harp about our forests. Yes, it may be true that a lot of the urban drivers of the society were ecosystem people, not very long ago - when knowing how to milk a cow, smelling the rain in placid winds, respecting the earth as our mother and so on were the norm and not exceptions. We had innumerable sacred groves where we worshipped and inadvertently encouraged life in its wild form. We would all know what gardening was all about, if not agriculture and strangely we would keep away from the dark, foreboding masses of trees and forests. Forests were considered eerie yet holy place. Our hermits lived there, wrote the Aranakayas and put forth mystical theologies. A person who had no relation to any forest would still be aware that the wood used to fire his hearth was sourced from the forest. Venerated they were, respected and always kept away from. Tribals, living closest to these regions developed an animistic relation towards trees and animals of the forest and looked up to them for benevolence and protection.

but as it happens with a change of diet from vegan to meat - wherein our focus gets blurred, the same happened with forests. And as it is with communities seeking more pleasure and comfort... our sights shifted. The focus has now shifted from a symbiotic interface to a more direct relation with forest and the so called forestry resources.. And this is best embodied by the respected proponents of scientific forestry who in their born-again attitude contributed much towards alienation and mass scale exploitation of these holy places.

Ruthless it has been. This wanton destruction, this unwarranted misery that has been piled upon these invaluable living objects. And for me the greatest fear is the apathy of the vast masses of India, who are no longer interested in being termed as worshippers and religious. The friends in cities, the relatives in villages, the scholars in universities - all are interested in the pursuit of their individual happiness, marked out by the reluctance to hand out space to anybody else. In this scenario, as I see it...... and I work in forests..... That there are but very very few, who gather their wits to understand the consequences of their actions on the environment.... happily as they race as rats...................