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

A Better World

Bittu Sahgal, Editor, Sanctuary and Cub magazines shares conversations with other well-known conservationists and naturalists who have been a source of support and inspiration to him.

The venerable Dr. Salim Ali sat mesmerised as the Torrent Duck negotiated the powerful current, swimming upstream underwater till it grabbed its fish prey. "How does he manage that? And how did they manage to film it?" he muttered, half to himself and half to me. He had come over to our home to see the most recent series of documentaries produced by BBC Natural History Films. As David Attenborough's voice went on to explain the marvels and mysteries of Life on Earth, I found myself marveling at the man next to me. One of the world's leading ornithologists, he had such a childlike quality to his enthusiasm. Each meant new discoveries. And a pleasure shared - such as watching a natural history film was a pleasure doubled.

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The Tiger is a Gent

For those who are largely bound by the confines of the city, there can be few better ways to enjoy nature in all its splendour than to sit before a television and partake of the buffet of choices on offer by Discovery, Animal Planet, BBC Wildlife, or National Geographic, just as Dr. Salim Ali and I did nearly a decade ago.

I can count many documentary filmmakers among my very good friends and I often sit and talk with them about the medium that is so intrinsic to their psyche. We have certainly come a long way from Flaherty's 1922 silent classic, Nanook of the North. Today film-makers are assisted with incredibly sharp lenses, electronic devices that can be hidden or inserted in burrows, critter cams that go with the shark being filmed and all manner of computer graphics that blur the line between reality and imagination.

All this spells very good news for a generation that must act fast if it is to have any hope at all of saving its natural heritage from the unappreciative clutches of "grown ups" whose value systems are still locked into the "make more, bigger, faster" race that has already trashed the vast majority of the Earth's delicate ecosystems and has sullied almost all our purest rivers.

Dr. Salim Ali was one of the first people I approached with the idea of starting an Indian wildlife magazine (most people thought I was nuts!) and he responded by saying it would probably be one of the greatest gifts anyone could give this country. "Unless we create appreciation in the minds of people, how can we ever hope to elicit concern at the loss of wild places and species" he would say.

This was also the long and short of my discussions with Deepak Shourie, friend and CEO of Discovery Channel in India. I was talking to him about how our own wildlife readership had risen thanks to the many documentaries he had been bringing live to peoples' homes and he responded by saying simply: "Nature is one of the world's most powerful motivators. Lets work together to motivate people to save it."

In recent months, this kind of spontaneous response from sources "outside" environmental circles has served to shore the defences, stamina and spirits of many old warhorses of conservation. And when you marry the willingness, indeed the proactive endeavors of kids, to the support of the empowered it leaves you with that warm and wonderful feeling that we can and will be able to change the world for the better.

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