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The Earth Isn’t Waiting for Pre-COVID “Normal”

Global emissions are down by 17%. This is not a miracle. It’s a cue that nature can recover. It’s hope.And hope is what we give you this Environment Day by looking at the times when people stood for the planet. When the earth and its people were on the same side. As we enter into the new “normal”, take inspiration from those who dedicated their lives to protecting, saving, reviving, and fighting. How?

By Being the ‘Saviour of the Sundarbans’ for half a century

Tushar Kanjilal’s unwavering dedication to preserve Bengal’s beautiful, but inaccessible, marshes bagged him the title – ‘Saviour of the Sundarbans’. And that was 50 years ago! In 2020, he was 80 and still continued his mission to save every part of this natural wonder – from the tigers to the trees. He passed away on 20 January, 2020.

Converting a Washed Out Land Into A Forest. Single-Handedly.

Known as the ‘Forest Man of India’, Jadhav Payeng has been planting saplings since 1979. As a teenager, he noticed how a lack of trees was killing reptiles in large numbers, and decided to do something about it. Decades later, he has created a 1360-acre forest. 

Saving Millions Of Olive Ridley Turtles

Beginning as a school boy with a love for turtles, Odisha’s Bichu Bhai has done it all – learned everything there is to know about Oliver Ridleys, spread awareness, hand-built egg hatcheries, and raised turtles himself every year. 23 years later, his never-ending campaign for their preservation is credited with rescuing millions of turtles, and has made him a superstar of conservation. 

Turning Mumbai’s ‘Garbage’ Beaches into Turtle Hatcheries

How do you get the world to notice a problem? Clearing more than 30,000 tonnes of garbage from the beaches and waterways of Mumbai and bringing turtles back to the city will certainly do that. With that stunner under his belt, Afroz Shah and his army of volunteers are now mobilizing to fight plastic pollution in the ocean.

Beating mining giants and saving snow leopards

Bayarjargal Agvaantseren roused local communities and politicians to prevent mines from destroying the magnificent mountain cat’s habitat in Mongolia. Her work saw the cancellation of 37 mining contracts and the creation of a 1.8-million-acre natural park, home to the world’s second largest population of snow leopards after China.

Growing an Amazon Rainforest in 40 Years

Omar Tello purchased a seven-hectare plot of severely degraded pasture outside the town of Puyo in Equador in 1980. He then spent his life restoring that piece of lost Amazonian rainforest. Today his recreated rainforest is home to thousands of plant species.

Saving The Lives Of More Than 5000 Snakes

Suvendu Swain, hailing from Cuttack, Odisha has been rescuing snakes in and around the state from 2006. In spite of losing his left leg in an accident in 2012, he continues to carry out rescue operations with a prosthetic leg. He has rescued more than 5000 snakes in a span of 14 years.

Turning an Entire Hill Into a Lush Forest

In a little over a decade, Punshilok has transformed from a dry, barren hill into a verdant forest teeming with wildlife. And this has happened due to the tireless efforts of a group of youngsters looking for some green space. Today, you can trek for hours and never leave the green.

Building a Home For 3000 Crocodiles In Chennai

Romulus Whitaker came to India in 1967 to work with reptiles – a dream he would fulfill in spades. He founded India’s first ‘snake park’ in 1972. Then, in 1976, he co-founded the Madras Crocodile Bank. The bank is now home to some 3000 crocodiles of 15 different species.

Building a Mangrove Forest for 25 Years

Kallen Pokkudan spent over two decades of his life planting, preserving and tirelessly campaigning for the protection of mangroves. In that span of time, he planted over one lakh mangrove seedlings along riverbanks and the sea shore — resulting in the sleepy village of Ezhom, on the banks of Pazhayangadi river in Kannur district, today having  the longest contiguous stretch of mangroves in Kerala.

Bringing Tigers Back to Panna Reserve

In 2009, there were no tigers left in Panna Tiger Reserve. IFS officer R Sreenivasa Murthy and his team’s dedicated efforts in the Panna Tiger Reintroduction program has now resulted in 54 tigers including adult males, females, and cubs calling the Panna reserve home.

Planting over 51 million trees

Wangari Maathai (1940–2011), the first woman to obtain a PhD in East and Central Africa, was a scholar, and an environmental and human rights activist. In 1977, she founded the Green Belt Movement, which encourages women to plant trees. To date, the Green Belt Movement has planted over 50 million trees. In 2004, she was the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Reviving Jamaica's Coral Reefs

After a series of disasters in the 1980s and 1990s, Jamaica had lost 85% of its once-bountiful coral reefs. Thanks to some careful interventions by coral gardeners and local fishermen, Jamaica’s coral reefs, often called ‘rainforests of the sea’, they are now slowly reappearing.

Turning West Africa Green With 240 Million Trees

In a span of 30 years, Tony Rinaudo has regenerated more than 6 million hectares and has regrown 240 million trees in West Africa using his own farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR) technique.

Redefining The Zoo System in New Zealand

Rotoroa Island, a small island off the coast of New Zealand is recreating an ecosystem by populating it with a group of endangered species. Conservationists have planted new vegetation and have created a system in which even tourists can visit the island. 

Saving More Endangered Species Than Anyone

He began when he was 24. Today he is 70. And in that time.biologist Carl Jones has saved more species from extinction in Mauritius than anyone, including the Mauritius kestrel, the pink pigeon and the echo parakeet. His story is not simple. But it proves that conservation is possible, at any scale. 

Becoming India’s Sparrow Man

Mohammed Dilawar’s initiative of creating wooden nesting boxes has saved one of India’s most threatened birds, the sparrow. In less than three years he’s sold more than 1000 of these nesting boxes, giving anyone the ability to give a home to these birds. He also founded the Nature Forever Society, to help sparrow conservation.

Saving Assam's ‘Hargila’ Storks

For award-winning conservationist Purnima Devi Barman, this species, locally referred to as the ‘Hargila’ (bone-swallowers), has always been a friend. Purnima has dedicated her life to protect the Greater Adjutant by stopping landowners from cutting down their nesting sites, and taking matters to court for the protection of the wetlands from rampant concrete construction.

Rewilding Scotland’s forests with two million trees

Trees for Life is dedicated to rewilding the Scottish Highlands. So far its volunteers have established nearly two million native trees at dozens of sites, encouraging wildlife to flourish and helping communities to thrive.

Saving orangutans & the rainforest with healthcare

Shockingly, 98% of Indonesia’s rainforest could disappear in the next decade. And orangutans may be lost from the wild within 20 years. But dentist Hotlin came up with an ingenious idea to stop people chopping down trees in the Gunung Palung National Park on the island of Borneo — healthcare.

Reviving and Saving an Entire Bird Sanctuary

Chilika today is the finest bird sanctuary in India, and among the richest ecosystems in the world. But Chilika yesterday was a different story altogether. Thanks to the efforts of individuals and organisation, poachers in the area have been transformed into protectors. In recent years, Chilika has turned from being hunting and poaching grounds to award-winning eco-tourism hub.

Turning a Barren Land into a Tropical Forest in 20 Years

Over the course of 20 years, Brazilian photographer, Sebastião Salgado, and his wife, Lélia Salgado, helped plant over 2.7 million trees, bringing what was dry land back to life again. It all started when Sebastião was horrified to see the lush, green forest he loved so much turn into barren land when he returned home to Minas Gerais, Brazil in 1994. Salgado and his family set up the Instituto Terra through which they have now transformed the region.

These are just a few of our greatest eco-warriors. And inspiring as they are — “We don’t need a handful of people doing green living perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” A small change is all it takes to save the planet. This Environment Day, stand for earth-friendly.

Let’s leave the planet better than we found it.
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