TODAY -

Nature - The mother

Dr Debapriya Mukherjee *



When I had started to permanently live in my village named Moutorh ( district - Purulia, West Bengal, India), I became interested in how nature can provide practical lessons and answers to challenges I was facing.

During my tenure in Central Pollution Control Board as scientist I visited many hill stations, forests, rivers, lakes, ground water sources, wetlands, cities, industries, and many more places in view of assessing the level of pollution and its adverse impact on environment and human beings and possible measures to minimize the level of pollution.

But what I observed was the suffering of poor people mainly due to contamination of water, particularly ground water (arsenic, fluoride and many other pollutants) as well air pollution. In the backdrop of my sincere effort to prevent pollution I can strongly advocate that I did nothing because at that time I did not consider myself as one of the 800 million species and could not overcome the luxury lifestyle.

Slowly after reading many inspiring books, attending many seminars and discussing with Dr Samar Bagchi who was real fighter to protect the nature and put sincere effort to educate the students with his “No cost, low cost” science experiments till his death, I could possibly find the way to spend my life (though it is late at 67 years old) teaching the students in my village in contact with nature and natural farming in small scale.

After spending two years in my village, I discovered that nature had a huge impact not only on my own life but also on the lifestyle of my wife and students. Now I realize that nature is filled with amazing things to teach us how to think more clearly and scientifically, not only related to plants, birds and animals but also the patterns and tune into our physical surroundings in all areas of life.

Now most people in the modern world have lost their innate naturalist intelligence, but human beings are animals at heart. We must be surrounded by plants, birds and fresh air for amazing beneficial effects for the mind and body. But the way we are destroying our natural world has led to dreadful outcomes. One example can clearly focus on the loss of biodiversity and its adverse impact on human beings.

In the early 1990s, vultures across India started dying and declined to the brink of extinction. India’s most common three vulture species declined by more than 97% between1992 and 2007. The vultures fed on the carcasses of cows contaminated with diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug routinely given to cattle in South Asia at the time and were poisoned.

That was the beginning of a far-reaching chain reaction. As vulture populations crashed, cow carcasses started to pile up, and the numbers of rats and wild dogs surged. Dogs became the main scavengers at dumps previously used by vultures.

Data suggests that from 1992 to 2003, dogs increased by 7 millions. The number of dog bites soared and rabies infections shot up, causing tens of thousands of people to die each year. In 2006, diclofenac was banned, and vulture populations have slowly started to recover.

Many such examples with reference to sparrow slaughter in China spark insect plagues, deadly frog fungus causes malaria spike and many more can be cited to establish the dreadful outcomes of destruction of the natural system.

Wildlife populations are in freefall around the world, driven by human overconsumption, population growth and intensive agriculture. On average, global populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles plunged by 68% between 1970 and 2016.

Despite knowing nature is declining at an unprecedented speed, we are spending more than decades talking about these declines but cannot do anything to manage it. It really frustrates me. Though personal responsibility is the crucial area, when I speak to my close friends, they say that their individual actions do not make any difference. That is absolutely wrong.

When I really worried about the disorder of the natural world that was affecting my life too much and making me unhappy, I started to involve in positive change such as a simple way of living and proper education for the students. Education to the students through learning from nature is gradually motivating them to be informed and updated with what is happening in the world.

Now the students feel nature as their mother and they try to find out a way to protect nature. Fighting for a cleaner planet and a better world has never been so urgent like nowadays. I believe that only the students can make a difference.

Now they have clearly realized that the solution is not a difficult one. They have started to reduce what they are consuming, reuse what they are throwing away and recycle what they have to throw away.

To make them thoroughly aware, composting of house waste, minimum use of plastic, separation of plastics to use it for producing fuel (though not 100% success), production of indigenous paddy through natural farming without using any fertilizer and without cow manure to minimize greenhouse gas, reuse of domestic water for gardening, use of water hyacinth to produce handcraft and other are going on in my village in small scale.

In addition, I encourage them to walk or cycle or take public transport. They take the food in a reusable container and wash it after finishing it to save the planet from having to decompose plastic wrap of food.

They avoid buying a bottle of water from school by taking home filtered water and use pencils instead of pens as it is made out of wood that is recyclable and also use notebooks made out of recycled paper. They are not as shiny as the other ones but they keep them conscious.

Though it is difficult to control the rest of the world, it is easier to control what I do in my own life. Saving mother earth is important for students as it will make them aware of how to use natural resources and how a healthy balance can be maintained between nature and human life. In the future, young people can fight strongly to save nature.

Starting to believe in something is the first step to making it real. So let’s start believing in ourselves.


* Dr Debapriya Mukherjee wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a Former Sr Scientist at Central Pollution Control Board
This article was webcasted on 23 January 2024 .



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