As the earth’s natural resources are dwindling and our environment is being increasingly degraded by human activities, it is evident that something needs to be done. We often feel that managing all this is something that the Government should do. But if we go on endangering our environment, there is no way in which the Government can perform all these clean-up functions. It is the prevention of environment degradation in which we must all take part that must become a part of all our lives. Just as for any disease, prevention is better than cure. To prevent ill-effects on our environment by our actions, is economically more viable than cleaning up the environment once it is damaged. Individually we can play a major role in environment management. We can reduce wasting natural resources and we can act as watchdogs that inform the Government about sources that lead to pollution and degradation of our environment. This can only be made possible through mass public awareness. Mass media such as newspapers, radio, television, strongly influence public opinion. However, someone has to bring this about. If each of us feels strongly about the environment, the press and media will add to our efforts. Politicians in a democracy always respond positively to a strong publicly supported movement. Thus if you join an NGO that supports conservation, politicians will make green policies. We are living on spaceship earth with a limited supply of resources. Each of us is responsible for spreading this message to as many people as possible.
Suggested further activities for concerned students:
• Join a group to study nature, such as WWF-I or BNHS, or another environmental group.
• Begin reading newspaper articles and periodicals such as ‘Down to Earth’, WWF-I newsletter, BNHS Hornbill, Sanctuary magazine, etc. that will tell you more about our environment. There are also several environmental websites.
• Lobby for conserving resources by taking up the cause of environmental issues during discussions with friends and relatives. Practice and promote issues such as saving paper, saving water, reducing use of plastics, practicing the 3Rs principle of reduce, reuse, recycle, and proper waste disposal.
• Join local movements that support activities such as saving trees in your area, go on nature treks, recycle waste, buy environmentally friendly products.
• Practice and promote good civic sense such as no spitting or tobacco chewing, no throwing garbage on the road, no smoking in public places, no urinating or defecating in public places.
• Take part in events organised on World Environment Day, Wildlife Week, etc.
• Visit a National Park or Sanctuary, or spend time in whatever nature you have near your home.
People in Environment
There are several internationally known environmental thinkers. Among those who have made landmarks, the names that are usually mentioned are Charles Darwin, Ralph Emerson, Henry Thoreau, John Muir, Aldo Leopald, Rachel Carson and EO Wilson. Each of these thinkers looked at the environment from a completely different perspective. Alfred Wallace came to the same conclusions during his work. Ralph Emerson spoke of the dangers of commerce to our environment way back in the 1840s. Henry Thoreau in the 1860s wrote that the wilderness should be preserved after he lived in the wild for a year. He felt that most people did not care for nature and would sell it off for a small sum of money. John Muir is remembered as having saved the great ancient sequoia trees in California’a forests. In the 1890s he formed the Sierra club, which is a major conservation NGO in the USA. Aldo Leopald was a forest official
in the US in the 1920s. He designed the early policies on wilderness conservation and wildlife management. In the 1960s Rachel Carson published several articles that caused immediate worldwide concern on the effects of pesticides on nature and mankind. She wrote a well known book called ‘Silent Spring’ which eventually led to a change in Government policy and public awareness. EO Wilson is an entomolo gist who envisioned that biological diversity was a key to human survival on earth. He wrote ‘Diversity of Life’ in 1993, which was awarded a prize for the best book published on environ mental issues. His writings brought home to the world the risks to mankind due to man made disturbances in natural ecosystems that are leading to the rapid extinction of species at the global level.
There have been a number of individuals who have been instrumental in shaping the environmental history in our country. Some of the well known names in the last century include environmentalists, scientists, administrators, legal experts, educationists and journalists. Salim Ali’s name is synonymous with ornithology in India and with the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS). He also wrote several great books including the famous ‘Book of Indian Birds’. His autobiography, ‘Fall of a Sparrow’ should be read by every nature enthusiast. He was our country’s leading conservation scientist and influenced environmental policies in our country for over 50 years. Indira Gandhi as PM has played a highly significant role in the preservation of India’s wildlife. It was during her period as PM, that the network of PAs grew from 65 to 298! The Wildlife Protection Act was formulated during the period when she was PM and the Indian Board for Wildlife was extremely active as she personally chaired all its meetings.India gained a name for itself by being a major player in CITES and other International Environmental Treaties and Accords during her tenure. BNHS frequently used her good will to get conservation action initiated by the Government.
S P Godrej was one of India’s greatest supporters of wildlife conservation and nature awareness programs. Between 1975 and 1999, SP Godrej received 10 awards for his conservation activities. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1999. His friendship with people in power combined with his deep commitment for conservation led to his playing a major advocacy role for wildlife in India. M S Swaminathan is one of India’s foremost agricultural scientists and has also been concerned with various aspects of biodiversity conservation both of cultivars and wild biodiversity. He has founded the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai, which does work on the conservation of biological diversity. Madhav Gadgil is a well known ecologist in India. His interests range from broad ecological issues such as developing Community Biodiversity Registers and con serving sacred groves to studies on the behaviour of mammals, birds and insects. He has written several articles, published papers in journals and is the author of 6 books. M C Mehta is undoubtedly India’s most famous environmental lawyer. Since 1984, he has filed several Public Interest Litigations for supporting the cause of environmental conservation. His most famous and long drawn battles supported by the Supreme Court include protecting the Taj Mahal, cleaning up the Ganges River, banning intensive shrimp farming on the coast, initiating Government to implement environmental education in schools and colleges, and a variety of other conservation issues. Anil Agarwal was a journalist who wrote the first report on the ‘State of India’s Environment’ in 1982. He founded the Center for Science and Environment which is an active NGO that supports various environmental issues. Medha Patkar is known as one of India’s champions who has supported the cause of downtrodden tribal people whose environment is being affected by the dams on the Narmada river. Sunderlal Bahugna’s Chipko Movement has become an internationally well known example of a highly successful conservation action program through the efforts of local people for guarding their forest resources. His fight to prevent the construction of the Tehri Dam in a fragile earthquake prone setting is a battle that he continues to wage. The Garhwal Hills will always remember his dedication to the cause for which he has walked over 20 thousand kilometers.