“And I knew that as long as I responded, in both a physical and mystical way, to the natural world-sea, sun, earth, moon and stars – I would never feel lonely upon this planet.”Ruskin Bond
As an ecologist, I adore the natural world. Fieldwork – true back-breaking, exhausting fieldwork – fuels me and pushes me to learn more about the wildest parts of our country. When I started off in this field, I equated conservation with wildlife biology; I assumed long hours observing or tracking wildlife would be the best way of imparting conservation ethos to others. But that’s the beauty of conservation…you think you have a grasp on how a field works and it continues to astonish you by showing you a different side of the same coin. The other side of fieldwork, I discovered, is communication. Be it through peer-review publications, popular articles, photography or videography, or speaking directly with different stakeholders, I learnt that the best way of spreading my love for the natural world and my desire to save it with others was to engage with them. There is no fixed method of making a difference in this field. Some prefer to write publications riddled with complex textbook terminology, while others prefer to break down their research into easy-to-understand cartoons or podcasts. Some go to schools and engage children with their natural world, bridging gaps created by development and urbanization, and the delight in those children’s eyes when they learn that elephants and tigers feel similar emotions as humans do, is unparalleled.
Conservation is more than just understanding the natural world around us, it involves engaging with the people who live alongside wildlife, the people who have the ability to protect wildlife, and those who hold the decision-making power in the country. And for me, there is no better use of my energy, of my passion for writing and communicating, and of my love for the outdoors and India’s myriad landscapes and wildlife than preserving our natural wealth.
This Earth Day, I am unable to wander in the jungles and wade through the wetlands of India. I am no longer the pilgrim questing for new soil, but I am instead the writer who sits in her room on the roof, scribbling away in the hopes of immortalising the beauty of our natural world and instil a love for Mother Nature in children and readers of all ages, before we let our natural heritage slip through our fingertips.