Dispatches from a Vanishing WorldBahar Dutt – an animal lover and an environmental journalist talks about her various expeditions across India and a couple of them outside India to brings out the damage we are doing to the environment, ignoring the integral food chains that run through them – all in the name of development. Not to forget the displacement of people who inhabit in these places and for whom the forest are a part of their lives and not just a statistic like the urban dwellers.

In 10 stories that span from Delhi to valley of Chambal, to beaches of Goa, to Himalayan ranges of North East India and to Gangotri glacier she tells the story of her following a story for her television show. She talks about her own situation, she talks about the journey, she talks about the not so well known species of animals that usually do not make it to the endangered list and hence get no protection, she talks about the changing statistics – forest covers and of dwindling numbers of species found there and she talks about what she discovered. She tries to be neutral by taking the industry view as well and often attempts to find a solution that would be a middle path between development and conservation. I guess that is where a journalistic role comes in, but you can clearly see her sympathies are with the flora and fauna first. She talks about the rampant axing of trees, clearing of jungles for mining operations with or without permission and the impact they are having on the native communities and their livelihoods. She brings out how re-settlement as we understand is not really thought through from the communities’ perspectives.

Towards the end she has stories from Indonesia and from the vicinity of North Pole, somewhere telling that the environmental problems are more universal than me think and more importantly they are interrelated. The ecological chains run across the planet and are not bound by the political boundaries, so the solutions have to be global too. Her story from the Arctic talks about the impact of pollution in places like China on the snow there.

What made this book very interesting for me is the personal account of Bahar’s journey. Her aim to be in a career around animals and her studies in animal behaviors – which is very interesting for most of us who have nothing to do with animals – its like a peep into the world of people who study animals both for passion and profession. She talks about her move from working in the NGOs to journalism where she thought she could make a larger impact by telling stories. She talks about small impacts she has been able to make like with the snake charmers of the Sapera Basti in Delhi, she was able to figure out an alternate profession for them when they were not allowed to work with the snakes.

She has not focused on this aspect but traveling as a solo woman with a group of men in remote locations needs some courage and conviction.

I really enjoyed the book, given that I am not really fond of animals. I am happier with my own species. It was like an introduction to a world that is all around us, is a part of us in ways we cannot see but something not obvious to the eye.

Read it.

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