What A Wonderful World!
Author: Bittu Sahgal
Photo: Kallol Mukherjee.
What a complex, delightful, surprisingly magical world we are blessed to be a part of. How lucky we are to be sharing space with gazillions of flying ornaments, such as this Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus.
Not an ‘ordinary’ bird, this avian is a miracle; an exaltation of the evolutionary line between the then reptiles and a group of carnivorous dinosaurs called theropods that existed millions of years before humans were a gleam in evolution’s eye. In fact, every bird is just that… a dinosaur descendent! You see, the dinosaur-journey did not end 65 million years ago. Some dinosaur-genes snuck through the holocaust and they live and breathe among us. Look outside your window and you will probably see one chirping away right now!
But let me not hijack your voyage of discovery. Explore. As my grandsons often advise, “Ask Mr. Google” about ‘Archaeopteryx’. Scratch around and you will discover what paleontologists unearthed in the 1860s… that a tiny stem on the robust evolutionary tree-of-life demonstrated that ‘life will find a way’.
What a miraculous lot we are. Together with the myriad plants and animals that decorate and maintain our planet, we, the clever apes, are nothing more than a tiny, ephemeral, sliver in this elaborate labyrinth of life. Way back in 1981 when Sanctuary was born, I wrote, awestruck, about what Richard Dawkins refers to as ‘The Magic of Reality’:
Everything fits. Like a massive jig-saw, all designed for life. The sun rises and sets. The air is breathable. Water supports life (and tastes good). Trees grow. Rain falls. And what goes up – comes down.
Not a whit has changed. I am still awestruck. I can hardly believe how lucky I am to go off to sleep in urban Mumbai to an orchestra of frogs and wake to a choir of birdsong. When I am gone, I want every human on Earth, my grandsons included, to feel the same indescribable exhilaration.
The gift of that kind of tomorrow will not come from the hard-headed among us. It will come from poets, writers, artists, sculptors, dancers, singers, philosophers and mothers who understand what Rachel Carson knew from her marrow when she wrote in A Sense of Wonder: “It is not half so important to know as to feel.”
Thirty-five years have passed by so fast. It seems like yesterday that I wrote:
Who are the dreamers? Those who seek ways to live without ravaging Earth’s natural assets, or the ‘achievers’ who believe mankind can survive, regardless of the damaged state of our forests, rivers and air? Nature, the golden goose, lies wounded. We must reflect deeply the course we follow. For the ripples so evident around us are poised to turn into waves to engulf our tranquility.
Fortunately, we don’t need to repair all past damage ourselves. If we stop causing more damage, Nature’s built-in, automatic-repair systems will take charge. Unless they have already been pushed over the brink, dwindled species will multiply. Forests will regenerate. Rivers and lakes will cleanse themselves. Nature’s plan will unfold as it was meant to. Outside our comprehension perhaps, but inside our life spans, the damaged regions of our wonderful world will once again become sanctuaries for life.
As I said… it’s a wonderful world.
Note: For the benefit of my grandsons – all our children and grandchildren – our family has chosen to entrust Sanctuary Asia, our ‘baby’ for 35 years to the care of India and the world. The new avatar will be reincarnated as The Sanctuary Nature Foundation, which all of us at Sanctuary will continue to serve with renewed vigour to our last breath. Walk this walk with us. Add your strength to ours. Be a part of a most magnificent adventure… seek Sanctuary.
Author: Bittu Sahgal, First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXVI No. 12, December 2016.