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Homo sapiens driving extinction
In a question-answer session with Book Link, conservationist Prerna Singh Bindra, author of The Vanishing: India's Wildlife Crisis, tells Radhika Tiwari, conservation needs to be mainstreamed—in education, media, planning, development. Every educational institution must teach ecology and wildlife. It needs to be part of all disciplines–be it health, engineering, mining, construction, hydrology–the works. India will have a strong economy only if it is ecologically secure.
A 2008 study by UNFCC had revealed that Climate Change is not gender neutral. Can the same be said in the context of the vanishing? Is only one gender solely responsible for the disbalance in our ecological system?
I think what is meant is that women are disproportionately impacted, the most impacted, by the effects of Climate Change. That they, especially economically disadvantaged women, are the most vulnerable.
What I will say here is, one species–Homo sapiens– is driving the extinction. Planet Earth is in the midst of the Sixth Great Extinction of plants and animals. As a natural phenomenon, extinction occurs at a background rate of one to five species per year; what we are losing now is between 1,000 to 10,000 species a year. Unlike the five previous mass extinctions caused by asteroid strikes and volcanic eruptions, the demon meteor this time is us—Homo sapiens. The massive impact of humans on the planet has placed us in that phase of history commonly referred to as the Anthropocene. By some estimates, today, about one in every five species faces extinction. A tenth of the world’s wilderness has been destroyed since the 1990s, and we are in real danger of losing it all by 2050.
In a unique project, Margaret Atwood along with some other renowned authors, every year for 100 years, will contribute to a future library for which 1,000 Norwegian Spruces have been planted so far in 2014. Once they reach the age 100 in 2114, the trees will be chopped down and used to make paper for anthologies compiling the works of the invited writers. What is your take on such projects? Should we promote them?

I am aware of the project and I find it fascinating. Though from what I understand, it is more of a ‘library of the future’–of manuscripts being published a century later, the paper coming from the trees which have been grown, and nurtured. It is an investment in the unknown, future readers. It is not really a project with an environment focus, though it does involve an element of ecology– showing interconnectedness of things, of a vision of a future. Remarkable, this work of hope—of assuming a future, that there will be a world, a Norway (where the project is physically located) a forest, people, readers–even as the key figure behind the project Margaret Atwood, has been called the ‘prophet of dystopia’, by the New Yorker with her fiction reflecting societies ‘riddled with misogyny, oppression and environmental havoc’. While such projects are remarkable and fascinating, I am unsure if they can play a part in conserving our natural heritage (if I understand correctly, it isn’t the intended objective of the projective). What we need is strong political will to conserve, a nation that values nature and eco-systems. People have to drive the environment agenda, make it a decisive factor in elections.



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