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Connection with Nature! Are we losing it?

Updated: Jun 29

What appeared to be a home to those happy birds, is now nothing but a cluster of hanging plastic bags.

A tree with weaver birds’ nests in the village (Image Courtesy: Author)

As we made our way through the vibrant streets of Delhi amidst towering skyscrapers and blaring traffic, a sense of frustration and disdain toward the air quality and traffic jams began to grow within us. Despite being mid-April, the sun was already out with full might, making it a sweaty day and giving an early warning of the heat wave that is predicted to hit later this summer.

The relief from the sweltering heat came to an end when our eyes turned towards a banyan tree under which sat an old man selling coconut water. My friend and I walked to the man for the refreshing drink and looked for a reason to stand a bit longer under the cool shade. Even the warm late morning breeze under the tree became no less than a cooler gust, thanks to the sweat and the coconut in hand. A minute of relaxing sent our minds wondering about why we do not have this cool arrangement all along the roads. The stark reality of urban planning flashed before us; it often goes unnoticed how we have shaped or rather de-shaped nature in the urban context.

It's like we have forgotten our culture that revolved around the trees. In today’s urban world they have been given space only in the aesthetic terrace pots, artistic hedges and if necessary a few worshiping tokens scattered here and there in the city. We never gave space to the greenery in our tussle to make larger concrete jails for ourselves. Sometimes it makes us wonder if this continues for the coming generation or if we can change the status quo of our cities.

The urban population is often considered to be well-educated, behaved, and aware, but we often tend to forget some things that can never be taught in school or college, for they are taught by the deeper instinct of observation and learning. The sensitivity and attitude toward the environment are one such thing. No matter how many books the students have studied on the importance of trees and protecting them, they cannot be translated into action. For there are not many trees in urban areas, to begin with, and secondly, they lack the sensitivity that comes from witnessing their presence in society.

A tree with beautiful plastic decorated by responsible citizens (Image Courtsey: Author)

Do you remember seeing some tall and other shady giants that were always full of chirping birds, squirrels, and playful children? The summer brought the extra pleasure of the cool shade of mango trees, accompanied by the joy of plucking the unripe fruits. In today’s busy world with hectic schedules, we seem to have lost the humane touch or sensitivity for nature. We seem to have forgotten how to be sensitive towards those species who cannot speak up for themselves. Is our development coming at the cost of sensitivity? Those who have grown up in villages will realize they are lucky to experience the fresh morning air or the ripe fruits plucked from the trees, things which are a rare commodity in this concrete habitat.

The heat and loud honking of the traffic brought us back to our senses. As we caught an auto rickshaw before our next destination, we sat pondering upon the memories of our grandparents and how they held a special bond with the trees in their yards and gardens. The day used, to begin with, the worship of the Tulsi and the Neem in the courtyard and ended with the evening lying under the mango tree. Whether one was ill or had some need for extra finance these trees were the first that came to the rescue. We have heard numerous folk stories that trees are happiest when birds come and perch on their branches, chirping away. The branches of trees seem to dance when birds make their nests and call out to their mothers for food. We used to lay under the trees witnessing these marvelous and colorful creatures hopping around for the creation of their intricately-designed beautiful homes.

Sadly, nowadays, it appears that individuals are inclined to forgo plantation, apprehensive that they may obscure their homes or produce more leaves and debris to clean up. I recollect a time when they sat together beneath the shelter of a tall oak tree, its foliage swaying softly in the wind. Amidst the fragrance of flowers and the gentle tweeting of birds, children would exchange tales and enjoy leisure time. Those were simpler times when people held nature in high regard and esteemed its beauty.

As our rickshaw made its way through the bustling traffic, we were almost on the outskirts of the city. Our eyes gazed curiously over a medium-sized tree with hanging structures from its branches. From far away it appeared like hanging nests of weaver birds, but a closer look was more depressing. What appeared to be home to those happy birds, is now nothing but a cluster of hanging plastic bags. We were taken aback by this visual, it was an open example of the insensitivity of our society. The waste which should have been collected for recycling was outside, hanging, like new nests for the birds.

Image Courtesy: Wurli Burli, Pixabay

We forget that these trees could have become houses of birds, they had been left alone by our irresponsible behavior. Are we reshaping a different reality for the coming generations? 

The children who grow up following us in society; who might never witness the hanging nests of the weaver birds; who will grow up playing virtual games unlike us, and will blossom under a concrete roof rather than in the summer heat of orchards and playgrounds - it makes one question: have we grown so insensitive towards proudly displaying our mistakes at the cost of nature? In our opinion, it is much more about the latter than the former.

Today, we constantly read articles about the decline of bird populations in urban spaces. It's a fact that the effect is more prominent on native birds such as house sparrows, red-vented bulbul, sunbirds, rose-ringed parakeets, and collared doves. These multi-faceted factors are responsible for the plummeting populations of urban birds. Some of the studies by scientists show the direct and quantifiable impact of urbanization on urban fauna, while other studies indicate an indirect cause of rising temperatures and modified construction material.

Image Courtesy: Author

As a society, we need to come to terms with the fact that if we continue down the path of distancing from nature, we are losing touch with the big picture. 

A sustainable future for all seems to be a far-off dream in a world, where we are still continuing to throw household waste in packed plastic bags. Our education needs to move from book learning of conservation for on-ground implementation through activities at the school and college levels to help young minds interact and learn from nature. It’s high time we started taking responsibility for our actions and make a conscious effort to protect the environment. 

As we continued to look at the pictures from our day in the city, we couldn't help but wonder about the stories they depicted. There are ample stories about our connection with the world around us; connection with nature; our connection with ourselves; the choices we make and their impacts on the environment. This calls for a dire need to look closely and listen to those stories to revive connection.

About the Author

Dr. Sarika is a dedicated conservationist and climate reality leader from India, driven by a passion for environmental conservation. She has worked on various interdisciplinary projects, including Restoration by Phytoremediation, the Impact of Idol-Immersion in Varanasi, and the Effect of Global Warming on Medicinal Plants in the High-Altitude Trans-Himalaya. Awarded an M.Phil. from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, for her work on Nanoparticle Toxicity Impacting Freshwater Algae, she is currently pursuing research on Socio-Ecological frameworks related to the spread of invasive species in forest ecosystems.

Dr. Sarika writes scientific articles and conservation stories to share knowledge and raise awareness in the community. Her research focuses on exploring sustainable management strategies for invasive species, considering both environmental and social aspects, recognizing that conservation efforts succeed with community participation. She believes that an interdisciplinary research approach and unwavering dedication to ecological conservation can foster a global conservation community.

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