I recently read a conversation on how we write about the environment – about whether it needs to be more ‘animated’, and how one straddles the conservation-development middle ground (and even whether there is one). The two letters, by Aasheesh Pittie and T R Shankar Raman brought to mind a few questions. I list them here, with the hope that the conversation continues.
As our country plunges ahead towards an imagined future, there is an urgency about raising our concerns regarding our vanishing wilderness. But science is by nature slow, deliberate and cautious. How does one paint a picture of what would befall our landscapes without letting uncertainties dilute its vividness?
There is also a problem of disassociation of people from nature. Forests, farms, climate, plants and animals are unknown entities to many people whose lives keep them cocooned in cities. How do you make people appreciate the beauty of a poem they don’t understand?
There is also a problem of different priorities. We may think of countries as being poorer for trading their wild lands for ‘development’, others may not agree. There may be some cases where the priorities are clearly skewed; there may be others where the choice is much less clear. What does one do in such cases?
As Shankar Raman says in his letter, there is the need for more voices speaking up for nature, and words, like saplings in a forest, may bear fruit many years hence. Let us hope there will still be the animals and birds to savour them.
Update: A very nice article I was reading about effective communication of science in general (though only tangentially related to this post). It emphasises the need to bring in the ‘human’ component of the science we do. How often does conservation writing evoke feelings and images that directly relate to the daily lives of the general public, I wonder. Are we too stuck in our wonderful wild worlds to even realize that what seems beautiful and in need of urgent preservation to us need not capture anyone else’s imagination?