Saturday, 21 September 2019

Survival of the fittest

In the Darwinian Evolution Theory Darwin introduced the concept ‘survival of the fittest’. It was described as the mechanism of natural selection.

We have exploited nature for centuries. Our relationship with nature started with use and ended up being outright abuse over the last century. And we have always justified that by saying nature is only resource, meant to be exploited. We have wiped out billions of animals (may be even more) and trillions of trees, always thinking, they die and we live because we are fitter. So it's just a natural selection.

But is the underlying assumption even comes close to reality? Or are we terribly mistaken? Who created us? Who made us the smartest on the planet? Who made our surroundings so delicately balanced so that we survive? Who sustains us with food, oxygen and water? The answer is NATURE!! So by abusing nature, are we proving that we are the fittest? Or are we proving that we are the bumbest species on earth?

It's like in Frankenstein, when the humanoid started thinking it is smarter than the creator, the only way left for Frankenstein to stop the monster from causing any more disaster was to destroy it. I wonder when nature decides to do the same to us. 

Friday, 20 September 2019

Horseshoe Crab

Nature provides a number of irreplaceable services to humans. We all know about the most basic services like food, water and oxygen. But there are many more lesser known services without which our existence will be at stake.

One such wonder is horseshoe crabs. Unlike hemoglobin in vertebrates to transport oxygen throughout their body, horseshoe crabs use hemocyanin. This gives their blood a distinctive blue color. Unlike white blood cells, the crabs have amebocytes. When amebocytes comes in contact with a pathogen, it releases chemicals that causes local blood to clot. This property of horseshoe crabs is extensively used in medical research, products and practices to isolate dangerous pathogens and is so valuable that one quart of horseshoe crab blood can fetch $15,000.

The game changing discovery of this property led to high demand for the crab's blood. Companies harvest as many as 600,000 crabs a year, drain upto 30% of their blood before returning them to the ocean. This process is highly traumatic for the crabs and in absence of proper handling and transportation care can lead to high mortality rate among these valuable crabs. Overharvesting has pushed this species to 'vulnerable' state as per IUCN red list.

Thankfully, a synthetic substitute has now been invented to perform the same tasks. But this should be a warning call for us. Over exploitation by humans has pushed the most unique species to the brink of extinction. If we hadn't been able to invent the synthetic alternative, we would have faced the consequences of a species extinction in a hard way pretty soon.

There are many such unique important services provided by the natural world. Some are known to us, some are not. If we keep exploiting them for profit, destroy their habitats or food sources, push them towards extinction, a day will come when we won't have a substitute and the damage will be irreversible.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

The Air We Need

I am underwater. I can't inhale. But i still exhale, one bubble at a time. As the bubbles leave my body, I struggle to keep going. With every bubble, the air reserve in my lungs dry out.

This feeling is very common among those who swim. But I, personally get that sinking feeling in much different situations.

Three long months away from nature. Three long months stuck in a luxury city apartment...home to work, work to home, a city where noise is the way of life, air quality is hazardous at best, time is spent on getting stuck in traffic rather than watching water flow in the river or listening to birds chirping. After 3 long months, I am back HOME, my real home, again. After all this time, finally I can breathe again. Not short labored breathing necessary to survive; long breathe of fulfillment and peace.

Even if this is my way of life; to most, this sounds exaggerated, too dramatized. But it won't be for long, pretty soon this will be reality. As we lose innumerable trees, pollute ground water, wipe out biodiversity, breathing will become more and more labored. Already in the polluted cities, air quality causes breathing disorders, cause premature death and children mortality. With deforestation, a day will come when we will long for this peaceful breathing!

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Golden Moment

My quest to be with unspoiled nature has taken me to some remote places. And these places have always gifted me with some unforgettable moments.

Few years back we went to this remote island on Lake Baikal in Siberian region of Russia. Since childhood, I have known Russia as a cold frozen country. So the thought of going there when there is no ice in summer seemed unnatural and we chose end of winter instead. Only, that end of winter is nothing like what I have always seen. It was still less than -10 degree C and the whole Lake Baikal was frozen solid. That was my first experience of driving on a frozen lake. The island was so cold and secluded that I didn't see more than 20 people around in my 2 days stay.

Before going there I read that sunset on the lake is a spectacular sight. The whole lake was sparkly milky white for as far as your eyes can see. During sunset the whole landscape is bathed in beautiful orange glow. Even if it was bitterly cold and windy for an inhabitant of tropical region like myself, this experience was not something I was going to miss for the world.

So when the sun started going down on the horizon, the last of the islanders also retired indoors for the night, we sat there on the ice, more than two kilometers away from our refuge from the biting cold. Being our first day on the island, we weren't so sure about our way back. And there was no transport, no living soul in sight to guide us.

The constant shivering to the point when all we could hear was our trembling breathing and chattering teeth, the numbness of our hands and feet to the point that we couldn't even click a good picture. After the sunset, when we clumsily looked for our way back, brain half frozen to even think, all we could hope for was some heat. But the experience was worth it!!!

The soft glow of the setting sun as it kissed the frozen lake goodnight was worth all of it and then some. We didn't see another soul to share our experience, but we still knew there is a whole diverse, unknown world under the ice who shared the experience with us. Even today I can feel the chills and the thrills of that evening any time I want. If that's not rewarding, what is?

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Our Roots

Everyone of us is attached to the place we grew up in, our home, our colony, our school, college, the Chaat counter... A lot of our memories are associated to the place.

For most people, there is that one place they belong to. It is similar for wildlife, they prefer their own area, where to graze, hunt, laze around, find mate. A lot of species even migrate, they move from place to place depending on climate and it's also a set rule.

How would we feel when the house we grew up in caught fire or the colony is demolished? Don't these animals feel the same way when humans destroy their habitat? We have all seen the pictures of mourning animals in the Amazon fires. How are they different from the face of humans who lose everything in any tragedy? For these animals, everything is lost, sometimes their family, their herd, their grazing ground, their water/ food supply, their universe has collapsed in that one incident.

It is critical to open our eyes and realize that the tragedy we are causing for these animals will be soon upon us as well. We will soon be left without food, water and inhabitable land if we continue to cause this mayhem. If not to stop the cries of the wildlife then to stop the future cries of our own children, let's stop these fires.

Monday, 16 September 2019

True Colors of Nature

As kids, we are taught some simple facts.

Leaves are green
Blood is red
Water is colorless
Sky is blue
Fishes swim
Trees produce their own food

But now as an adult, since I have seen the true color of nature, I know that nature is incredibly diverse. Many leaves are indeed green. But some leaves are different, always or seasonally, turning yellow, red, orange, brown and many more.

Blood is red for most species, but incredible nature has created some aberrations to that as well. Blue blood does exist, not in royal families, it exists in the royal nature. I have seen ocean so blue that it hurt my eyes. Also seen water in so many different colors that I have lost count. I have seen the sky dancing with variety of colors- red, pink, yellow, green. I have also seen fishes that fly and trees that are carnivorous.

All these variations are beautiful. They show the diversity and prosperity of nature. But there are other variations as well that only depict the abuse that we impose on this beautiful nature. Sky turning grey due to hazardous air quality in cities, water turning black or murky due to toxic waste dump, or trees turning lifeless due to pollution...they are not desirable. They are not signs of healthy abundant life, rather they are indications of a doomed future!!

Sunday, 15 September 2019

A Different Religion

Nature is my God. Environmental awareness is my religion. Like God takes care of all his children, nature takes care of all its creations. In the end, everything is connected in circle of life, every species has a purpose, everything is important.

Trees are stationary, they can't move. If they were to survive alone on earth, all seeds from a tree would fall to the ground just next to the tree, fighting for ground with each other leading to survival of the fittest. So over a period of millions of years, nature created the perfect solution.

Trees evolved to create beautiful flowers, sweet nectar and juicy fruits that can attract insects, birds and animals. Insects come to the trees in search of nectar, sometimes even attracted by some special scent that help them in their courtship with opposite sex. In return they collect pollen from the tree, spread it from their body to wider areas. Birds and animals come to the trees in search of shelter and food, and in return they spread the fruits and seed from one place to the other.

Can any system be any more marvellous than these harmonious relationships between different species? If this is not sacred, I don't know what is.