World Environment Day 2020: A book to celebrate 10 Indian conservationists – books


With countries under a global lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, and dealing with its outbreak and spread, the one positive quotient that seems to have emerged out of this situation is that it’s helped the environment become better. Pollution levels have exponentially reduced, the air has become cleaner, and there’s more consciousness about the way forward in everyone’s minds. After all, it’s when we take care of the environment around us, that it shall take care of us in return and benefit us. World Environment Day is celebrated every year on June 5 to remind people that we should not take nature for granted.

The theme for World Environment Day 2020 is ‘Celebrate Biodiversity’ which shall be hosted in Colombia, in partnership with Germany. The theme is a relevant one in the current scenario because human beings need other living beings to survive and co-exist as biodiversity is important for everyone.

On World Environment Day today, a new book tells the stories of 10 Indian conservationists who are striving to solve the most pressing problems on the planet – from climate change to habitat degradation, and from food insecurity to species loss, often facing seemingly insurmountable odds.

Authors Bijal Vachharajani and Radha Rangarajan say their book “10 Indian Champions Who are Fighting to Save the Planet” is being published at a time when the world is overheated, and globally, temperatures are rising steadily – the carbon in the atmosphere has crossed 415 parts per million (350 ppm is a safe level), and a million species are at risk of going the dodo way.

The authors say when they started work on the book, they were filled with dread at the prospect of picking only 10 people. “We made lists, scratched out the lists, re-did the lists and made more lists. Our first list had the great stalwarts of environment and wildlife, yesterday’s and today’s – Salim Ali, Indira Gandhi, J Vijaya, Shehla Masood, M Krishnan, Anupam Mishra, Zafar Futehally, Bittu Sahgal.” But then they realised they wanted to talk about today and tomorrow, the problems and the solutions and meet these everyday heroes, both young and old. “So we set out to conduct interviews – we travelled to Tamil Nadu to meet Romulus Whitaker; we drank copious cups of coffee with Kavitha Kuruganti and Aparajita Datta in Bengaluru; sneaked out of an elephant fest in Delhi to talk to Jay Mazoomdaar,” they say.

Vachharajani and Rangarajan want this book to establish that the environment is not the other – “it’s a dynamic part of each of us, and we are a part of the environment”.

Talking about her experience of writing the book, Vachharajani says it was an “adventure, where we got to talk to some amazing nature defenders and listen to them”.

Rangarajan adds, “We are in the middle of a pandemic, while already being deep in a climate crisis – both of which have been caused by our excessive meddling with the environment. Every expert we spoke to made us hyper-aware of the fact that they still continue to learn new things from nature.”

— with agency inputs

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