A copious serving of hope from India’s eco-champions

Hopeful and pragmatic, 10 Indian Champions: Who are Fighting to Save the Planet is a must-read for children and adults alike.
Radha Rangarajan (l) and Bijal Vachharajani (r) are the co-authors of 10 Indian Champions.

In the question corner of the internet, Quora, someone posited “Why isn’t more being done to save the planet?”. The answers were a mixed bag of concern, denial and dismissal, on account of it being too late to do anything and placing the onus of ‘doing something’ on the experts.

If you are reading this review, then you do care enough about the planet to address the bigger question. But as exemplified by Quora, often surrounded by denial and dismissal, this is easier said than done. So instead of writing about the impacts of the climate crisis, what if we could share examples of researchers, conservationists, artists and citizens working at the core of the issue and shake people’s beliefs a little bit. 10 Indian Champions: Who are Fighting to Save the Planet by Bijal Vachharajani and Radha Rangarajan does exactly that.

Between its pages reside eco-champions like Rohan Arthur, Vidya Athreya, Jay Mazoomdaar, Parineeta Dandekar, Laxmi Kamble and Dharavi Rocks, among others who have spent years, if not decades, in their respective fields preserving, protecting and sharing knowledge about our planet’s vital resources. Based on your interests, you will be aware of the achievements of some of these champions, but you will also find yourself learning about the work of a few people for the first time. 

Each chapter is dedicated to one champion, and as you step into their world, you encounter their accomplishments and the experiences that have shaped their choices. Marooned on an uninhabited island, scientist Rohan Arthur saw his first intertidal coral reef. Today, he researches the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems. When journalist Jay Mazoomdaar visited the Sariska Tiger Reserve in 2004, he was surprised to see that there were no tigers in the region. Mazoomdar today reports and writes about conservation. As a teenager, Parineeta Dandekar had her first brush with authority when she called the pollution control board to complain about the polluted river. She continues to be an ardent voice to save and protect the rivers of our country. In this manner, the writers paint the bigger picture of the issues that our planet is grappling with at the moment. 

Photo courtesy of Duckbill, an imprint of Penguin Random House India

Written for young adults, the book aids in giving them a better perspective about the environment and conservation. It provides some much-needed insight into the fine balance that exists in our natural world, where humans and animals share spaces and resources. More than anything, it broadens the idea of a green career, showing the readers how diverse the options are. From writing reports, educating people using music and art, and climbing trees to check on birds and their nests, there is more to conservation than one can imagine. At the end of each chapter, the reader is introduced to more people working in that field and a list of things they could do to contribute. This is a list that adults and children can consider alike as it includes activities like observing the world, making notes, snorkelling, and adopting a baby hornbill. How about that?

For adults, 10 Indian Champions provides enough inspiration for adding some green habits. Strange as it may seem in the middle of a pandemic, we have gotten a brief preview of what it feels like to live in a greener and cleaner world. As Raghu Karnad wrote for The New Yorker – “The pandemic, though, has been met with an outsized restraint, and with the sacrifice of income, opportunity, and ego. The reward has been a sane and breathable atmosphere. Like a view of snowcapped peaks above a clothesline, we never imagined it was possible. Now we don’t have to imagine.” We need all the nudging that we can get to reclaim some of that view above our clotheslines.

Beyond information and inspiration, 10 Indian Champions is a welcome change considering the times we live in. Consumption of information seems to be nothing short of a pugilistic affair. Amidst our battles with unverified knowledge and deeply polar opinions, here is a book that places facts alongside hope and pragmatism. Now that is something that we can all do with. 

10 Indian Champions Who Are Fighting To Save The Planet by Bijal Vachharajani and Radha Rangarajan is published by Duckbill Books – an imprint of Penguin Random HouseYou can buy it online here.

This article was originally published on November 9, 2020, in The Yellow Turmeric.

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