Apoorva Joshi

PhD student - Information and Media; Environmental Science and Policy @Michigan State University

Independent journalist -

Environment, Science, International

For A Cause? Where's the Cause?

Was just going through some photos of an event that had been organized by a youth group in a certain city in India. And from their write ups, their photos, it all looked like a big marketing strategy for their stark white t-shirts, their logo, and all in all, it looked like an event for kids to come and have fun. Where are the serious people? What happened to conservation through communities, kids, and the youth? What happened to your cause? Or is this the actual cause? Is advertising, pretending to save the Tiger, and making a hue and cry about some celebrity coming to your event; the actual cause? Is your cause important BECAUSE a celebrity agreed to endorse it or it is supposed to be the other way round? Is wearing the tshirt as a style statement your main aim? Is smiling and posing for the camera your reason for inviting the press? WHAT is your motive? Don't get me wrong. I absolutely believe that conservation can actually be fun. But when you're displaying images of Tiger cubs cut in half and of hungry starving abandoned cubs, exactly what about THAT is fun?
Conservation isn't a sport. It isn't a game. It's serious business with a very deep rooted cause behind it. Yes, to each his own. But then why not brand yourself as a random youth group who is merely interested in the Tiger as a hobby? If that's what you are, then why not actually DO some work? Suddenly, every third person who was/is/may be once interested in something called the Tiger, is dressed in code, speaking on a microphone, addressing an audience that is as, if not more, clueless as/than the speaker.
There was an article a few days ago in the Pune Times, a section of the TOI in Pune. It was about how random people gathered at a place and discussed environmental issues related to the Tiger. Their first paragraph said that discussion yield nothing and people actually need to act. What did you do differently then? You met. You discussed. You left. What was the outcome? An extra-ordinarily poorly written article in the Pune Times. My 9 yr old cousin could have written something more meaningful. If you're giving the Tiger space in your form of media, then please don't make it a joke. We really can't afford to waste any more time, energy and space pretending that serious work is not needed.
I tried thinking of it this way: there are about 2000 people who will read that front page article in PT on the Tiger "discussions". Approximately 1998 will believe every single word said in it. And they will also believe that THIS is how conservation happens. When will the media understand how important a role it plays in conservation? When will they understand that it is THEIR responsibility to get the facts out, to get harsh realities out to the public who will then be able to see that all is NOT well with the Tigers? The 2 people who will criticize that article will probably be the likes of me. The first thing they'd say would be, "and THIS is how they will conserve".
To all the bureaucrats and diplomats, businessmen and professionals who have the money and/or power to get such nonsense printed in something as widely circulated as Pune Times, please wake up to the fact that you CAN STILL use your money and power for something that will ACTUALLY mean something to the Tigers. If you were an endangered animal, and people miles away from you, were sitting and contemplating your future for you, and "discussing" how you're facing problems, how you're so wonderful but how you're so nearly dead, HOW would you feel? It's brilliant that people WANT to take an initiative but to those who are guiding them, or should I say misguiding them, PLEASE give the right knowledge to newcomers in this field which will help them understand WHY we need to save the Tiger. If young blood and enthusiasm is channelled in the right direction, or in a meaningful direction, we really CAN make a difference. I'd like for the Forest departments of various Tiger inhabited states to give substantial proof that we actually DO have 1411 Tigers left in the wild today. I can BET there aren't any over 1200.
Someone needs to accept that the Tiger is just an excuse to conserve. What we actually need to conserve, are its habitats. Because THAT is the link to food, water and shelter. With all three present, the Tiger is sure to bounce back if left alone. The Tiger is a flagship species which REPRESENTS conservation. It isn't conservation itself! So when you hear "Save the Tiger" kindly understand that you first need to save the place it freakin' lives in! Which will indirectly save Leopards, Sloth Bears, Tree shrews, Jungle cats, Monitor lizards, basically any and every animal that lives there.
When you take up a cause, make sure you never forget that THAT is your cause. And that there IS a cause. Stop making conservation look like a political gimmick, or a circus of some sort.

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