Kunal celebrates the resplendent beauty of nature, its flora and fauna. His camera and pen sings rhapsody and serenades the enchanting beauty of Mother Earth. He traces the beginnings of the Earth Day and ends with a hope that is future perfect. Here’s Different Truths’ special feature on Earth Day.
“I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.” ~ Frank Lloyd Wright
Nature is not separate from us; we are an integral part of it. It is beautiful but can also be stark in its reality. It is a book holding the secrets of time and space. There are pages filled with imprints of the past – some well preserved, some transformed, some barely legible. Within its chapters are the ingredients of our future. And, its revelations of the present are open to one and all without any prejudice. It holds the timeless beauty in the mountains that seem to remain immoveable forever. It reminds us of the fluidity of time in the flow of rivers. It supports life and it accommodates death too. No single picture can reflect the expanse and limitless depth of its beauty but I think this picture that Anumita wanted to be featured does capture Nature’s essence. There’s flora (leaf) and there’s fauna (daddy long leg); there’s reminder of the finiteness of life (dead leaf) and its source too (water); there’s perception of time standing still (the piece of rock) and there’s the flow of time (moving water); there’s sun’s warmth and coolness of unfrozen ice; there’s the colour of passion too.
Having introduced the picture, must I not get back to what this is all about? A few days ago, when I was asked to write an article for Earth Day, I was caught completely off-guard, for I had not given much thought about the significance this day/event has had in my life nor had I reflected upon what it means to a billion of Earth dwellers. I had only recently learnt in writing an article for Different Truths [Ref] that the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970. As I reluctantly agreed to write this piece, I also realised that Arindam and Anumita have given me a special opportunity to construct my own views of the significance of this day, and a chance to express my appreciation for the Nature. Let me then start by thanking them both.
My love for nature and its beautiful expressions are quite recent. It truly has been an evolutionary romance but the love has been revolutionary. I wish to share how this transformation occurred. But before we head into that journey, let’s take a look at how Earth Day came about.
The birthplace of Earth Day is the United States of America. Forty-six years ago, 20 million Americans coast-to-coast joined in their common cause to save planet earth came out to “protest” against the deterioration of the environment. At the time, the idea of Earth Day has not spread to the rest of the world. And, the protest was about the government apathy to pollution of air and water not about how climatic health of the whole planet. Regardless, with this singular act the Americans demonstrated their leadership and showed their care for Earth’s well-being. It also led to the creation of US Environmental Protect Act. In 1990, Earth Day brought together 200 million people, in 141 countries, and put environment on a centre stage. It is said to have led to the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. At Rio, 27 principles were declared, “With the goal of establishing a new and equitable global partnership through the creation of new levels of cooperation among States, key sectors of societies and people, working towards international agreements which respect the interests of all and protect the integrity of the global environmental and developmental system, recognising the integral and interdependent nature of the Earth, our home”. Although most nations failed to meet the goals of the declaration, it had set the stage for cooperation amongst the nations to deal with environmental issues. This year, when Earth Day is celebrated it will no longer be about protests, rather it should be about celebrations. Celebrations to mark significant milestone in Planetary Phase of human existence – for it would be the day when the Paris Climate Change agreement would become open to 196 countries to sign on. Beyond the creation of League of Nations and signing of Montreal Protocol to protect the atmospheric ozone, there are no prior examples when the human species has united to save the planet that hosts them.
Nonetheless, Earth Day probably means different thing to different people. To date, I have really not “celebrated” the day. I have marked the day by switching off light for a few hours. I did the act because my mind told me to do so but not because of a call from my heart or my soul. This year will mark a change in how I celebrate Earth Day. One can say that I have evolved in my love for the Nature. I did not grow up loving or appreciating Nature. I grew up in different mid-sized cities in India. While nature was around, there was no obvious or landmark natural site within walkable or even driving distance. Trees and plants didn’t interest me, neither did animals out in the open or zoo. In other words, the flora and fauna that make up the living fraction of Earth’s dynamic system remained dull and un-fascinating part of my universe. I would appreciate scenic sites but not in any deep sense. I was filled with awe with the sheer sharpness of valley when we drove to Kathmandu. A few years later, I found myself in Canada pursuing graduate studies and working towards a thesis on the cleanup of soils contaminated by oil spill. Yes, I cared about the environment but I did not really ‘feel’ it. During that period, I had the opportunity to visit Grand Canyon in Nevada, USA; I was left marveling at one of Earth’s wonder.
Yet, my heart and soul were not impassioned to care for planet Earth. I saw the beauty of the majestic Rocky Mountains and stunning azure colours of the lake there. I still did not feel compelled that we must care to preserve these natural beauties.
One image from 2008 visit to Brazil did leave an impact. I saw homes with concrete boundary walls that had openings to accommodate the tree trunks. And, I thought then – they surely must care about these trees and the environment to give priority to Nature over human needs.
Life continued on for next few years, until three summers ago when one evening while I was walking with my three-year-old, and I saw some colorful growth in the bushes next to the trail. I took a picture of these tiny flowers. When I looked at those images on my laptop, I instantly fell in love with the intricate structures. That very night I thought there must be so many other wildflowers – that I have never cared to notice and whose existence I’ve been ignorant of. My love for Nature unfolded that evening. I became intrigued about how much variety of flora must be out there and enthused (read obsessed) by the thought to know about them. If a floral growth that we define as weed has such beauty, there surely must be many more unique beauties living a free-spirited life in the wilderness.
I started on a journey to discover (for myself) the wildflowers in and around the area I lived. I stopped, stooped and shot pics of beautiful Gailardia flowers with stunning contrasts of yellow and red. The red colours are there perhaps there to attract the bees. I saw the free-spirited, open-hair beauty of the
There were these pouted green leafy lips as if gently suckling the honeysuckle flowers.
There were the pink-as-it-can get Bergamonts. I saw clan of white flowers swaying to the tunes of northwesterly winds. And, I saw the quiet, sophisticated beauty of the wild rose in solitude.
Autumn brought about the stunning colours in the foliage – some turned yellow, some bright red and some brown. It is fascinating to see the transformation and also to marvel how Nature weaves her magic.
Closer to winter, the trees in their stark bareness portrays the beauty that lies in bareness and simplicity.
The winter offers many breathtaking displays from the Nature. The intricate patterns of the snowflakes or the white coatings on the bare trees and dried grass stalks made my fascination grow for the workings of the Nature. As the Spring drew closer, the river water offered stunning contrasts of blue and white. Nature can be pretty and alive even when it is frigid. When the Spring arrived next year, I was ready with an awakened sense for observing changes in the
Natural world around me.
This year, with my increased awareness of the Nature around me, I knew that Spring was here when the harbingers of Spring – the Prairie Crocus pretty in purple but even more enticing in silhouetted form appeared.
I was then craving to go out to the Ravine nearby and start my search for the patches of Prairie Crocus where I had seen theme the year before. The feeling is akin to that of a parent wanting to see if their baby is safe and secure. I know this is an unfair comparison, for I do nothing for the flora and fauna in the Ravine except to enjoy their company when I visit them but I did get a sense of satisfaction to see them spring up again. In visiting the Ravine regularly, I have established a deep connection with a tiny fraction of the Nature. I feel I belong to them and they to me. I have become aware of the tremendous variety of life forms that she allows to thrive. When I am in her deep embrace, not only does a veil of calmness cover me but also I find myself completely surrendering to her charms (we are talking about the Ravine here).
As the third anniversary of my falling in love with Nature draws nigh, I find myself craving to find if the flowers I saw last year would reappear in the same part of the Ravine that I saw them in last year. I can “feel” the Nature now and care for them. I see swaying tresses in blonde grasses. And, I love the singing of the blackbird.
In essence, I want the flora and fauna to be preserved for the future generation. I’ve also found a connection to the past. This Ravine was inhabited by native Indians 5000-8000 years ago. So, I find it both surreal and strange to know that somehow I am admiring a piece Natural beauty that specimens of my species were too, only several millennia earlier. Had the Native Indians left a destructive legacy behind, perhaps I would not come to ever experience the joy I find in discovering colours, shapes and forms of the flora nor would I be able to experience the indescribable peace I find in her lap (Ravine’s)? And, by extension, if we don’t care for the Nature – that enriches our senses; if we damage the thread connects us to the beads of the future generations; if we let it bleed slowly to death… what example are we setting for our children and their children? And, more importantly, what gift are we leaving behind for them?
Nature has spread its mystical and diverse beauty in every part of this planet Earth. My wish is that you take a moment to stop and observe how incredibly rich in variety and stunning in complexity this beauty is. And, while you are pondering where you must head out to seek such beauty, imagine if there were no trees to give us shade, no blooms to sooth our sights, no eagles soaring in the sky, no spiders spinning their web, no grass to laze on – how would such a world be? Ask yourself also – In the orderly world of artificial comfort we continue to create, why does our soul crave for freshness and quietude of the Nature? Let Nature seep in your conscious and sub-conscious. And, do your bit to leave a rich legacy for the future generations.
[slider id=’3654′ name=’sky and earth’ size=’full’]
Pix by author.
Kunal aka KK has B.Tech, MSc and PhD in Chemical Engineering. He is Professor of Chemical Engineering at a Canadian University. Environmental concerns have motivated his research, which is focused on next-generation clean energy technologies, viz., fuel cells and batteries. He has published over 70 peer-reviewed research articles in international journals and given numerous talks across the globe. He fills up his research-free time experimenting with photography and casual writings.