"Why do you have to tell us all this? Can't I just Google?"
Do you remember the first time you were out in nature? Or the first time you saw a wild animal? Do you remember how it made you feel?
Among the many things we have to be proud of, India’s rich heritage of biodiversity and fascinating history of conservation stand out. During the British rule, conservation was focused on specific species and geographic areas, and for a long time was based on the idea that protecting nature meant keeping humans out or away from it. The foundations for modern day conservation were established in post-independence India, with the passing of the Wildlife Act in 1972, and subsequently the formation of a national Wildlife Board. As a country, we’ve also been witness to some of the most powerful environmental movements that have fought to assert the deep and inextricable connection between human beings and nature.
But how does nature fit into our everyday lives today? As the monsoon gets more erratic, as temperatures become more extreme, as our growing urban jungles redefine our natural environment, and as we, especially in cities, become increasingly ensconced in our individual lives, this episode reminds us that we should sometimes, just put away our phones and go out to experience nature. It’s a story about how an encounter with a wild creature, can transform us as individuals, and bring us closer to our natural environment, and even possibly inspire a career.
In this episode, we take a look at a unique, citizen focused, conservation movement that's brought people and turtles together for over thirty years. The Student Sea Turtle Conservation Movement (SSTCN) is a voluntary group of mostly students and we hear from Arun, one of its coordinators. We also chat with Kartik Shanker and Madhuri Ramesh from Dakshin Foundation, and learn how the SSTCN has been inspirational to many in conservation, introducing young people to mentors and nurturing early experiences with wildlife.
And we speak to the indefatigable Dinesh Goswami, a construction labourer turned whaleshark conservationist, whose story is a testimony to the fact that anyone - just about anyone - can be a conservationist, with just the right amount of passion and hard work. Below is a transcript of Dineshji’s interview, which is in Hindi:
There was a small Ambuja Cement plant in Mundhwar, where I used to work as a daily wage earner for Rs. 20 at that time. I used to leave home with lunch in the morning... my work was to lay the big cables, etc. etc., and between 12 noon and 2 pm, which was lunch break, people would sleep. But I wouldn’t get sleep, so I used to walk along the sea coast.
There was a time when people called me mad... That this man is taking on the fishermen who kill one shark and earn lakhs... He will surely get beaten up. But at some point they realised that I was doing good work and my family was so happy with me.
When such a small spark resulted in such a bright flame, [as in my case] - my message to all children is that it doesn’t matter if one is educated or not. If you work hard on anything, with honesty, then one day you will get a big platform.
Thanks to Kartik Shanker, Madhuri Ramesh, Dinesh Goswami and V. Arun.
Photos: All photos by SSTCN except the turtle photos, which are by Adhith Swaminathan.
Sounds/Music: Apple Loop; Ghatam sample from "Haseen Zindagi" by Indi Graffiti. Theme Music by Hollis Coats. Recorded at Third Eye Recording Studio, Bangalore.