Saturday, 5 October 2019

Gone Forever


Yesterday I woke up with the sad news that this handsome guy, Veeru is dead. He was killed in a territorial fight with an adult male tiger called Fateh.

Veeru wasn't the first tiger I have seen. But he was among those very few I spent hours with. And he was the one I had the privilege to photograph the most! Veeru definitely was one of those few that my generation was fortunate enough to see in the wild. He was not even 3 years old! For tigers, by the time they turn 2 years of age, generally they separate from their mother and their siblings. But this one didn't. His bond with his brother Jai (they were called Jai Veeru for a reason) was unusual to say the least. Just 3 months back I had seen them together.

Territorial fight among tigers aren't uncommon, neither is fatal injury because of that. So everyone is saying it's natural death and we can't really help it. But is it completely true? Tigers are territorial and solitary animals. A male tiger may need an area as large as 80-100 sqkm. When tiger population rises in a forest, soon the limited space in that forest cannot provide territory to all tigers and they start fighting. And when a sub adult tiger has to fight with an adult strong tiger, most of the times, they don't stand a chance. They either succumb to their injuries, or are forced to migrate to areas outside of the protected areas of the forest, closer to human habitation, where they often become victim of human animal conflict.

So even though it is a natural death, today I still feel a tinge of guilt along with profound sadness. Because I know that we forced him into this unequal unfair fight by encroaching into his home. We didn't leave him enough space to lead a normal safe life. We are responsible, in some way to separate him from his brother.

RIP kiddo! I will love you and remember you always. 

Friday, 4 October 2019

Indestructible creation



Nature's diversity is unparalleled...shapes, sizes, colors, properties. These infinite unique properties sustain ecological cycles. Different animals and trees have different lifespan. For non living components also, some compounds are known to be extremely unstable, they decompose/degrade or react with other compounds very easily. And on the other hand, some other compounds are known for their stability. But whatever it is, whether it is a biotic or abiotic component of nature, everything has a predefined shelf life. Long or short, everything has an expiration date and beyond that, it will be converted into another component, entering the circle of life again in infinite layers. 


But some man made items defy this natural cycle, like plastic. Plastic may take hundreds to thousands of years to decompose and enter the circle of life again. This is an anomaly, an error in the otherwise perfect process. When something with no expiration date in near future is produced at an alarmingly fast rate, it breaks the holy circle of life. Sooner or later it will take over the whole planet, and the damage will be irreversible. Even the mighty nature cannot fix this anomaly. 

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Superiority



Human beings are social animals. We keep hearing this statement through our whole education. But what we don't teach our kids is human beings are dependent and reliant beings. We depend on the planet to sustain us. Somewhere in our education system or through industrial revolution, we have ingrained this belief that human beings are superior and savvy to manage any kind of catastrophe.


But as we have seen numerous times that nature is superior and can wipe out our entire species in mere minutes. We have seen calamities like floods, draughts, earthquakes causing loss of many lives. If we continue to exploit the nature, we will continue to lose these precious lives. At the end, the nature will bounce back but like dinosaurs, human beings may not.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Omnipresent


Plastic is everywhere. In today's world, it will be almost impossible to find anyone who has never used plastic or any other compound derived from plastic.

First man made plastic was patented in 1856, a little over 150 years ago. Plastic is lightweight, cheap, not easy to break and waterproof. Due to these convenient features, in only 150 years plastic has invaded every part of our lives. From water bottles to plastic bags, cigarette butts, packaging, even our clothes.

But nothing in the world comes truly cheap. This apparent convenience has huge repercussions. Plastic is very difficult to break down in the environment. Different forms of plastic can take several decades, centuries or even millennium to break down. So the billions of tons of plastic waste that we produce, end up in landfills or oceans for centuries. Excessive usage of single use plastic is choking the oceans. By 2050, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish, killing millions of animals every year.

We all know that plastic is choking our planet, steadily making it uninhabitable for most of the species, may be even for humans. But we still keep using plastic. Like an insect infestation, plastic has infested the planet. We think the insect infestation is so harmful that we take extreme measures to kill them, sometimes even use more dangerous chemicals than the insects themselves. But surprisingly, we are not taking any action against the plastic. If we decide to stop plastic infestation, it will only be beneficial to us, and yet, we take no action at all!!

After all, we are the most intelligent species on earth!

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Different Form of Addiction


Monsoon season in Mumbai is long. Now it seems even longer as monsoon means no tigers for a few months anymore.

Wild animals attract me like a magnet. Ever since my animal obsession started, it has become more and more difficult to stay away from them for an extended period of time. And I am not the only one. I have friends who can go to exceptional length, sacrifice a great deal to be with animals. It is an addiction. Such an addiction that once you get it, you constantly look for opportunities to escape into wilderness, many times a year.

Human mind associates 'addiction' with a compulsive undesirable and destructive phase, when you know that you are harming yourself, and others, but you can't stop. But these wildlife lover friends, who do they harm? They just give in to the calling of the wild and they value the wild nature more than the material stuff in our day to day life.

In contrast, let's consider how we use plastic in our lives. Due to some apparent convenience, in only 150 years plastic has invaded every part of our lives. We all know that plastic is choking our planet, steadily making it uninhabitable for most of the species, including us. But we still keep using plastic. Is it any different from an addiction that we cannot get rid of even if we know it is slowly taking over our body and mind to kill us?

If I have to choose, I will choose wildlife addiction over plastic addiction all life long. 

Monday, 30 September 2019

DDT - an environmental disaster



Most people from our generation have heard about DDT as a dangerous and deadly poison. But do we know that just one generation back, the world thought DDT was a miraculous solution to many problems.

DDT was first synthesized more than 100 years ago. But not until the 1940s, the capability of DDT as one of the most potent insecticide became widely known. The application of DDT started in health programs in World War II to control insect-borne infectious diseases and then spread even wider to agricultural sector worldwide to kill pests.

By 1970, production increased to 175 million kgs a year. By that time the environmental impacts of DDT were being better understood. Its use and manufacture was finally banned in most of the countries in 1980s.

DDT can be acutely toxic to mammals including humans. The chemical can cause reproductive or birth defects in animals and birds and is highly toxic to aquatic mammals and fish. It is also a carcinogen. Humans can be exposed to the chemical from food or breathing. In pregnant women, DDT can be passed on to the fetus. It also affects breast milk, resulting in exposure to infants.

DDT is extremely persistent. Even now, after more than 30 years of ban, considerable residues of DDT and its main breakdown product DDE is found in the environment. DDT can accumulate over time in tissues of different organisms as it is soluble in fat. Organisms having a longer lifespan and higher in the food chain (like us, humans) are particularly susceptible to such bioaccumulation.

A miraculous invention can turn into a persistent pollutant within a few decades. Our scientific knowledge is still extremely limited to understand full consequences of such chemical applications. The widespread damage created by uncontrolled DDT application may even extend to several generations.

Source :
Environmental Change & Challenge by Philip Dearden & Bruce Mitchell
https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/pdf/ddt_factsheet.pdf
http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/ddtgen.pdf

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Losing Glaciers


Scientists have bid farewell to Okjökull, the first Icelandic glacier lost to climate change. Many of us heard this news and felt saddened by the loss. I experienced as if I lost some part of my ancestry, as if some part of my heritage and my identity was lost.

But I think worse was the "first" in that sentence. It was the "first" glacier that we lost to climate change. It implies we know it won't be last, it just a start of a chain of events that all of us will regret to have lived.

You know what is worst is the reason- climate change. So when we mourn the death of ok glacier, let's not forget it was a murder, may have been due to our ignorance. And the next one will be too, just that we can't claim any ignorance then.