By Rajendra Shende
World Environment Day has interesting acronym: WED! I think it is very appropriate. Nature’s spirit and human thoughts are required to wed. Both of them have accepted the responsibilities of living together in their shared (only) home and in harmony.
Every year one country agrees to host the WED. The day also has a specific theme each year. This year India, was host country for the first time and the WED theme was : “Forests: Nature at your Service”. The theme certainly was very timely and fitting but the specific coining of the theme left me rather sad. “Nature at your service”? Are not nature and humans at least partners in context of this planetary WEDding?
This year, immediately after WED, I came across something very shocking, even touching and iconic. It appeared that the nature did not agree with the WED theme. A strong message emerged from nature targeted at us human beings who are nature’s partners.
I recall that when India was referred a few decades ago, what came to the mind of foreigners was “elephants and snakes”. It also represented, ironically, a slow and serpentine progress in development. Nowadays, tourists do not go to India to see snakes and elephants, though they are still worshipped all over the country. Now foreign leaders and politicians go to India determined to land first in Bangalore, India’s software capital, and then on to New Delhi, a political capital.
No wonder then that WED saw events in Bangalore and New Delhi. In the capital, tree planting took place as part of a ‘Green Walkathon’. In a country of more than 1 billion people and capital city of more than 10 million, the Walkathon participated in by 1000 participants, while symbolic, was not perhaps too impressive.
In the software capital Bangalore, a ‘Green Marathon’ was flagged off. Infosys, India’s second largest IT firm organised a ‘Walkathon’ before planting 20,000 native trees in the nearby Ramnagaram Forest.
UNEP’s report on “Green Economy and Forests” was launched, with a message that investing an additional US $40 billion a year in the forestry sector could halve deforestation rates by 2030, increase rates of tree planting by around 140 percent by 2050, and catalyze the creation of millions of new jobs worldwide. Messages and curtain calls abounded; ‘Save the forest’, ‘Save our WEDed partner’. This all happened on the 5th June. Then came 8th June.
Not far from Bangalore where the ‘Walkathon’ and tree planting took place just three days before, a handful of elephants decided to hold a belated WED celebration. About 150 km from that hub of the software capital of India, the elephants emerged from their home of the Bandipur Forest to begin their own walkathon. So how was this done? Naturally not holding placards with slogans to promote tree planting. They considered it enough to attack cars, motorcycles and buildings and then finally they attacked a creator of these development icons: a human being! Two of the rampaging elephants returned to the forest eventually followed by those remaining once they had calmed down.
I am not sure if the elephants issued a press release on their ‘Elephantathon”. If not they could, they would have written:
Press release by the elephants of India
Mysore Bandipur Forest, 8th June Morning. Just three days after WED was celebrated by UN and the Ministry of India, four youthful representatives of our Elephantidae Family held an “Elephantathon” in the main streets of Mysore. They demonstrated through their anger that our natural habitats are being eroded irreversibly by the human beings, thereby forcing us to come out of our shelters.
“Rather shockingly, 36 million acres of natural forest are lost each year due to human activities. We are forced out of our homes in the forest” said the Secretary General of Elephants Youth Wing. “We think that we have given strong message to human beings and to the Indian Government as well as the United Nations that we need to act now rather than giving speeches and holding WED events year after year ,” he added.
The Elephantine Minister of the Bandipur Forest said that “Continued and uncontrolled deforestation not only has devastating consequences for the environment, the wildlife and communities, but it could also start a new level of conflict between human beings and wildlife, which would be more catastrophic than the water-wars and food-wars that the UN is forecasting”.
The event ended with a resolution that Green Economy should not be measured just by the number of green jobs created for the human beings, as proposed by United Nations, but also be based on a number of measures taken to let wild animals and wildlife remain unperturbed.
I recalled what my mother said to me when I joined United Nations Environment Programme:“ Good that you are joining UNEP to work for the protection of the Ozone Layer. But remember that even if we human beings do not succeed in protecting it, nature has a way to protect itself.”