Times Environmental Hero Dr. Peter Raven on bio-cultural heritage of Eastern Himalayas
Nov 11th, 2016
“To keep the history that we love, the architecture that we love, the poetry that we love, people are going to have to understand and love one another to a degree that is not being characteristic of the world or people ever.”
Dr. Peter Hamilton Raven, Missouri Botanical Garden, is one of the greatest botanists and environmentalists of our time. Dr. Raven through his teachings has sensitized our understanding of the impact on life on Earth influenced by population, affluence and technology. He guides us through tracing history and civilization, development of cities and languages, the beginning of agriculture, 12000 years ago leading to storage of food and battles over it, globalization and fossil fuels impact on climate and by shifting focus from consuming everything around us to preserving and protecting our natural assets for a sustainable future.
The Eastern Himalayan Botanic Ark is a man-made forest in the heart of Eastern Himalayas, where our natural resources and cultural heritage is being preserved and tended to by Indigenous Communities. The Ark was inaugurated by Dr. Raven and notable botanists, Prof. Kamaljit S. Bawa, Founder of ATREE, and Prof. Jianchu XU from Kunming Institute of Botany, China on 11th Nov, 2016. The inauguration was also attended by distinguished environmentalists- Shri Ranjit Barthakur, Mr. Richard Leitch, Mrs. Jackie Leitch, Mr. Bruce Rich, Shri Rajeev Goyal, Shri Naresh Swami, Mrs. Pat Raven, Mr. Nicholas Claxton and Prof. Peter Mortimer. On the occasion, Dr. Raven described the Ark as a place that brings people together, cherishes diversity and keeps nature and history alive.
We are truly humbled by his kind words and honored to share his pearls of wisdom.
“We really have to celebrate a place like India, which by its very nature is so incredibly diverse and which works to bring people together. In a large sense, we need to celebrate the idea that first the English came and of course, they killed people and they took over and tried to make money but they instituted many, many good things.
In a way, one of the reasons I enjoy these historical relics is - they keep history alive, they keep connections alive, they keep people in touch with one another. In a world with 7.4 billion people growing by 2,00,000 people a day and India growing as fast as it is, in parts of the world like France become anti Mazar and anti Jewish and anti everything and Britain jumping out of the European Union, which may be justified economically but, nevertheless, isn’t great in the conduity and friendship.
In a World like this, with 3 major battlefields going on right now - Aleppo, Mosul and Yemen, and in all of those 100s and 1000s of civilians are being killed and US and Russia are wandering around on the outside, lobbying in shells and killing more people for obscure reasons and everybody wants a bit more to consume. Everybody wants to control a bit more of the World.
It doesn’t work.
As we are 2.5 billion more people in the next 34 years, as India grows from 1.3 billion to 1.7 billion, it’s the diversity and it’s hanging together and it’s trying to understand one another in broad ways that can save the world. That can make us care enough about one another to try to build sustainability to try to keep the world going, to try to build a world in which all of the things we built in civilization, which really are only about a 10,000 year effort in 2.8 million year history of our genus, about a 10,000 year effort.
To keep any of that, to keep the music that we love, to keep the history that we love, the architecture that we love, the poetry that we love, people are going to have to understand and love one another to a degree that is not being characteristic of the world or people ever.
And it seems to me that India with all of its troubles and all of its flaws and all of its awful bureaucracy and all of its problems, is a wonderful example of people, nonetheless, working together and for the most parts relatively peacefully. The United States at its best is an example of that too. All large cities in the world are an example of that because they bring together diverse people under circumstances, where for better or for worst they have to cooperate.
And I see the efforts of some many people in this room contribute to that kind of understanding and love, which I think is our only hope for saving values that we really appreciate, the values that people that build this house had in mind, the values that those who restored the house, so clearly had in mind and I look at that kind of celebration. I wanted to express myself on that. We have to do so very much more than we have ever thought of doing if we really want things to be well over the next few decades and I hope we will.
I think this occasion has been a major invitation to do better, otherwise why are we here? Why are we on Earth. We have to the best we can, we don’t have any choice