" Trees are Earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven." ~ Rabindranath Tagore

Seeds of Realisation

Bittu Sahgal, Editor, Sanctuary and Cub magazines talks of man's dependence on nature and our need to remain aware of it.

Plants moved from the sea to land and learned to propagate themselves by casting spores and seeds about at random. It was a very expensive way to multiply, using wind and water to spread their genetic material, but there was no other option. The mists of prehistory reveal that it was a very difficult time for the plants, yet huge forests sprang up, some of which are still around to remind us of how nature can overcome obstacles... given the time to do so.

The first flower that bloomed on earth was in response to the gift of flight. Crawling creatures began to climb the tall trees that flourished in the ancient forests, to exploit new storehouses of food. Then, instead of climbing down in search of different pastures, they probably chose to jump off... glide... and, eventually, to fly.

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Paradise in the Wild
The Ocean:Conquest
A Source of Solace
Sighting the Ocean
The Ocean in Verse
Childhood Dream
Hunt for Indian Tiger

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Rock Climbing
Scuba Diving

Leisure Holidays
Wild Life

Without the benefit of intelligence an inexplicable evolutionary inspiration led plants to discover how to exploit this new-found talent of the crawling ones. Instead of squandering millions of seeds they began to take advantage of a new `courier' service -- pollination. Flowers evolved to attract flying insects. The blooms advertised the availability of nectar and demanded only that their seeds be carried and deposited precisely on other plants of their own kind. Essences too performed the same function, though we might imagine they were intended to entertain the human nose.

The partnership between plants and insects is among the most successful bonds in the history of life on Earth. Seventy-five per cent of all living creatures on Earth are insects. Instead of fighting with insects and weeds through the application of poisons in a feeble attempt to ensure our food security, we could profit greatly by cooperating with insects. The evolutionary forces responsible for the equilibrium between plants, animals and climate are way beyond our ken. Which is why the insects have learned to metabolise our poisons, even as DDT and other toxins find their way back into our own systems to poison us. The processes, communication techniques, checks and balances in nature put our most sophisticated scientific endeavours to shame, yet this does not prompt humility in scientists, or others who would be king. This is the fundamental divide between those who ask that our efforts to develop should flow with the tide of nature, instead of attempting to redesign the whole system.

No such dilemma exists in the minds of the tribal people of the world who we consider backward and in need of our peculiar brand of education. From Africa and Brazil, to Indonesia and India, forest living people had learned how to survive in the face of nature's worst trials. In the crucible of their existence lie the answers to many modern dilemmas. More than their technologies, it is their attitudes to survival we will need to imbibe if we are to weather the coming storms that clearly lie ahead of us.


Like the democracy movements that swept through the communist world, this realisation of man's dependence upon nature is beginning to take root among millions of people living closer to nature than those of us who live in the cities. We clearly have much growing up to do. Instead of tinkering like spoilt children in our fragile garden of plenty, the time has come for the real thinkers to put their minds to educating the rest of humanity. Technology cannot produce water, nor can it cleanse it of all the poisons we throw into our lakes and rivers. Science cannot ensure food production in the absence of healthy soil, irrespective of what Cynamid, ICI and Union Carbide would have us believe. The only valid use of nuclear power is our direct use of the sun, for instance to heat and dry our clothes, food and homes. I expect these messages to be carried far and wide by the poets, philosophers and children of the world, in the face of bitter opposition by the dark forces of industry and politics. And from the debates sure to rage in coming days about whether our current endeavours amount to development or destruction, I expect the seeds of realisation to flourish.

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Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.