Rita Banerji – No Set Ways
Sitting alone with a camera for hours, in the middle of a wild grassy patch atop a little knoll, filming hundreds of Amur Falcons taking turns to fly in amazing formation above you, and landing on the wires.... nothing can take away the peace, the silence, the magic of that moment.
Filming in the company of an old woman, who has to walk miles to collect firewood for sale in a nearby town to feed her grandson, because the forest near her village is gone... nothing can take away the sadness, the disturbance, the immense helplessness of that moment. My journey in conservation has been through filming myriad such moments across India, experiencing the multiple layers of experience that exist in our country – constantly challenging our ideas of conservation, livelihood and survival; and using the visual medium to bring forth these questions and thoughts.
Two decades later, I continue to experience moments, both magical and stimulating, but what still remains is hope and inspiration from hundreds of people and groups I have been privileged to encounter, working on the ground – in remote areas, in tough conditions – bringing back water to a village, helping save a species from disappearing, risking life to stop a forest from getting logged.
I strongly believe that the visual medium is a powerful tool for supporting such work, and catalysing change. Over the last seven years, the direction of my work has been to give strength to this idea.
Technology has brought about a sense of interconnectedness and inseparability in this world. It can transform lives, usher in new perspectives and bring fresh learnings to communities. It also offers a voice to people living in remote areas so they can share their world-views and their life experiences, and record the changes that are happening and the things that are disappearing.
The Green Hub, our latest project is deeply rooted in this idea. We seek to engage and empower the youth of communities to help them discover their own biodiversity conservation ethic through an innovative model of using the visual medium. The hope is to restore and revive in them the love and respect for protecting their natural resources, and become the environment spokespersons for tomorrow. The Green Hub envisions to connect the individuals, organisations and groups working with conservation to form a web of learning, sharing and action.
While the stories of hope are endless in our country, the need to escalate work towards conservation is urgent. Many young people ask me how they can help. I guess there are no set ways. If one can use one’s strength – whichever field it maybe in – that’s all it takes. The fact remains that we don’t need to save the natural world for ‘just wildlife’. We need to save it to ensure the dignity and survival of human life.
Winner of multiple Green Oscars, Rita Banerji heads Dusty Foot Productions, a wildlife and environment film-making and communications agency. She has recently started Green Hub – a community and youth-based video documentation centre for work related to the environment in North East India, in collaboration with North East Network.
Author: Rita Banerji, Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXV No. 6, June 2015.