GreenKarbon Panel Discussion At Nehru Science Centre On ‘Enjoined Destinies: Biodiversity And Climate Change’ On February 17, 2011 In Mumbai
On February 17, 2011 a panel discussion titled Enjoined Destinies: Biodiversity and Climate Change was held at the Nehru Science Centre under the GreenKarbon programme. GreenKarbon is a joint by Sanctuary Asia and Deutsche Bank to spread awareness on the role wildlife plays in tackling global warming.
The event began with a poignant film on climate change and environmental degradation and outlined the extreme challenges faced by conservationists, many of whom have died for the cause of wildlife protection. Bittu Sahgal, Editor, Sanctuary Asia opened the discussion and explained the rationale of GreenKarbon and the urgency of acting on climate change. He then invited the panelists, Marilyn Hoyt, Dan Wharton and Aisha Suleimenova, all renowned conservationists, to the stage.
Marilyn Hoyt who works with the Foundation Centre in New York spoke about trends in fundraising for environmental groups and the importance of working closely with governments and large corporates who need to align environmental concerns with their work. In her opinion, the tremendous power wielded by these powerful lobbies would be better utilised if turned towards conservation as opposed to environmental groups working against them. Her presentation highlighted the upward trend in financing for climate change oriented activities which demonstrated the industry’s willingness to rise to the challenge of global warming.
Aisha Suleimenova spoke next. A snow leopard expert, she discussed the unique challenges faced by her hometown, Almaty, Kazakstan, in tackling environmental degradation. Drawing on her own personal experiences, she spoke about how the pristine mountains that her apartment overlooks were now covered with a thick layer of pollution. Her small town, famous as the birthplace of apples, was now importing the fruits – a shocking example of overconsumption and regressive policies. She described her work on snow leopards and the tri-country conservation efforts Kazakstan was pushing for including the nation’s declaration of the animal as a special species of cultural and ecological significance.
Dan Wharton of the Chicago Zoological Society gave an eye-opening presentation on the role zoos can play in conservation. He cited several examples, such as those of the American bison, Mongolian wild horse and the Florida panther that have benefited from reintroduction programmes using individual animals bred in zoos. The bison project, he explained, was one of the first instances of reintroduction projects in the world, was a tremendous success due to the efforts of the New York Zoological Society that not only bred the animals but also pushed for funding to secure wildlife sanctuaries where the animals could be released and protected. A similar reintroduction effort for the pygmy hog is currently underway in northeast Assam in India.
The presentations were followed by an interactive session. The audience, all of whom were refreshed by the new perspectives they had heard in the talks, asked several questions on genetic bottlenecks being opened up to ensure species diversity was restored, the morality of accepting funding from large, potentially damaging corporations and the impact climate change had on indigenous species.