What would the world be without Wildlife?
Climate science says the world is going through a crisis as it's not clear for long temperatures will remain habitable for us. Several species – of trees and wild animals — are on the brink of extinction because of loss of habitat and climate change
The iconic places of our country would be changed forever. Imagine the Himalayas without its Blue Poppy. The Aravallis without the hudhud bird, the Hoopoe, which opens its crest when it is excited. The coasts without mangroves. The mangroves of Sundarbans without tigers
Everywhere, there is heat. Through the cracks of doors, between your toes and armpits, in your nightmares. Birds pant with their mouths open, like dogs. You open your door to go out, and the sunshine crackles like you have let in lightning. It blinds you, making mirrors of your eyes. Your mouth feels like it has ash in it. The sun is a burning copper coin in the sky, permeating into all the pores of your body, a miasma of struggle.
India is going through a heat wave. The world is going through a crisis. In Northern India, temperatures have crossed 47 degrees Celcius. As I write this, Delhi is at 48 degrees. Churu, in Rajasthan, was 50.6 degrees this June. Heat waves can be due to many reasons, but climate change is one of them. Climate science says the world is going through a crisis as it's not clear for long temperatures will remain habitable for us. A new report by the Australia-based Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration has said we could see the end of human civilisation by 2050, due to increasing temperatures, drought, mass-dieback of trees and ecosystems and melting Polar ice-caps.
Several species – of trees and wild animals — are on the brink of extinction because of loss of habitat and climate change. With increasing temperatures and changing rainfall patterns, the world is already changing and is different from how our parents knew it to be.
But what is so bad about change, some ask. Why do we need to care about the world at large if we are conscientious people, individually?
The answer to that is simple: it would be a lonely, wretched life without wildlife in this world.
Let me take you to the Centre of India. I am in Pench tiger reserve, the land of Sal forests, deep flowing streams, the sacred Bada dev (Sanjh) tree with its crocodile-skin bark, tigers and birds. I am in a forest clearing, between stands of dark green trees. In the clearing, the grass is pristine and emerald, looking like a lawn mowed to perfection. In the clearing is a peacock. That beautiful Indian male that puts other males to shame. He opens his tail, spreading it like a fan behind him. He moves in small motions, the fan shimmering, looking like liquid metal. He goes round in circles. All this to please brown-coloured peahens, who are not even looking at the hard-working peacock. I am taking pictures quietly. Suddenly a flash of brilliant blue — bright enough to challenge the peacock's metallic, turquoise blue-green colour — whizzes into the frame. It is unmistakably the Indian Roller, darting for an insect, and quite oblivious to the future love story (or rejection) of the peacock. The Indian Roller, dressed in contrasting hues of brown and blue, can often be seen sitting in open countryside. Even during heat waves. You will find it on the top of a pole or lamp, on a wire, or on a tree, by itself. It seems indefatigable. Back to the peacock love story: behind the dancing (and neglected) male, sat a Crested Serpent Eagle, high up on the branches of a dry tree. As the name suggests, this is a bird of prey that casually — and voraciously — eats snakes.
A scene from Central Indian forests: a Roller comes into the frame as a peacick dances for peahensAnd this is one tiny snapshot of the beauty and diversity of our land. As temperatures rise, or rainfall gets erratic, species are expected to go extinct. Frogs are badly affected by climate change. Many frog species have succumbed to a skin fungus that seems to be attacking more in the present age. A frog from Panama, the Rabbs fringe-limbed tree frog, is already extinct. Other wildlife too, is suffering– many insect species have collapsed due to pollution and chemicals; others, like leopards, tigers, tokay geckos are affected by poaching.
So, imagine a world with no wildlife.
Frogs may not make their "Riddick Riddick" call from pools that form overnight in the monsoon. Dragonflies may not sit like translucent jewels at the same pools. Butterflies may not alight on flowers, opening and closing their wings like heartbeats while drinking nectar. Tailorbirds may not look for leaves to stitch together for their nests. Snakes may not slither over fields, eating mice. Bay-backed shrike birds may not use inch-long thorns on trees to impale their prey. Geckos may not clamber near our lights.
Some species invariably may survive. But if we do not arrest climate change, we are likely to lose the diversity of life.
The iconic places of our country would be changed forever. Imagine the Himalayas without its Blue Poppy. The Aravallis without the hudhud bird, the Hoopoe, which opens its crest when it is excited. The coasts without mangroves. The mangroves of Sundarbans without tigers.
Some of us would survive climate change, but the poorest and wildest would be terribly threatened. Some of us may stop complaining about leaves and bird poop on our wind-shields with a scarcity of trees. Or we may stop complaining of elephants walking into our towns or insects getting into our eyes after the rain, because these issues may not come up. The machinations of life may be less complicated due to local extinctions of wildlife.
Yes, some of us would exist still.
But it would be an impoverished, lonely life.
Neha Sinha is with the Bombay Natural History Society.
(Views expressed are personal)
Listen to the audio clip here