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7th Rabindranath Barthakur Memorial Lecture

7th Rabindranath Barthakur Memorial Lecture
Vance G. Martin, Founder – WILD Foundation, USA

Vance G. Martin, President of WILD Foundation and an expert in nature conservation and wilderness protection, opened his speech recalling the dark era of the apartheid in Africa. It took a revolution to end the atrocities that crippled the continent. Martin thinks, humanity has once again reached a moment that calls for a revolution. That this time around, it is a matter of survival. What it also means is that we have been given the responsibility to rewrite human history, that we now have the opportunity to create a new world, like Rabindranath Barthakur did, all those years ago. 

A man of discipline and hard work, Rabindranath Barthakur’s principles reflected in the way he balanced his personal and professional life. He spent most of his years living very close to nature—nurturing nature, for he believed that we share a symbiotic relation with nature. Only when we give back do we get bountiful. Rabindranath Barthakur’s relentless efforts towards making the society a better place to live, earned him the respect and love of all those who came across him during his lifetime. 

Vance G. Martin, taking cue from Rabindranath Barthakur’s spirit to create a new movement in the country, spoke about how revolution alone can bring us newer alternatives. He reflected, “The difference between the children today and when we were growing up was that we had a little bit of time. We could stretch it out, it wasn’t quite as urgent.” 

Today, it is not just important but very urgent. 

Take for instance what The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had said, in 2007, on the future of ‘progress’: 

“The resilience of many ecosystems is likely to be exceeded this century by an unprecedented combination of climate change, associated disturbances and other global change drivers.”

True. However, the news, in the last six months on climate change and biodiversity loss has only been indicative of the unprecedented rate at which we are tumbling downhill, something that even the direst predictions, made some years ago, did not anticipate. 

Vance took us to the start of the western civilization, with a daunting image of The Lupa Capitolina projected on the screen to urge his audience to rediscover the myth of Romulus and Remus. Now more than ever, it is almost an emblem of progress. Progress, whereby we get our nourishment from the very teeth of mother nature. Also, progress, as depicted by John Gast, in 1872, with changes catching up on the lives and socio-cultural practices of people from the bygone era.

Dr. Reed Noss, had once said that wilderness recovery was the most important task of our generation. Stretching that very thought, Vance spoke about how the shrinking ecosystems cannot support life. It is an imperative to keep large areas of wilderness like the Eastern Himalayas, blessed with diverse biodiversity, unscathed. With half the world living in urban areas and the other half rapidly acclimatizing to urbanization, the future is bleak, unless there is a rewilding drive in place to replenish what was lost. 

In Europe, the number of wild wolves in every country has gone up—while not many people look at this as progress, it certainly is, and not just symbolically but given that the time has come for us to learn to live in coexistence with other species. The time has also come for us to adopt the model of a ‘wild city’— a city which understands the importance of biodiversity, the importance of clean air, water, of recreation and green space. It would be a lie if we denied all efforts being made. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are being invested in infrastructure that could propel nature and wildlife to move, because it needs to. Because nature is not static. 

Vance concluded with an appeal to his audience to not just understand and invest in transforming the hard infrastructure around us but towards improving the green infrastructure. He inviting everyone present to join the movement, to change our relationship with nature and restore humanity to the origins of nature nurturing us. 

The Rabindranath Barthakur Memorial lecture, that carries forward the legacy of a great environmentalist, his practices of conservation and his vision of sustainability, on the evening of the 6th of November 2019, witnessed Vance G. Martin’s thoughts and words resonate with every individual present, as he called out, yet again, for a survival revolution. 

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