As I write these words in the summer of 2023, it is difficult not to be hugely aware of the burden of environmental challenges we
all face, perhaps even more acutely in India than in most other places on earth.
We lead the world in the appalling statistics of our air and water quality.
Our agricultural soils are vitiated by chemical fertilisers and pesticide toxins that threaten our food security and public health and raise serious doubts about our ability to keep these soils ‘alive’.
Wherever you look at 'indicators' of environmental well-being – whether it is the state of our forests and protected areas, at our rivers, seashores or fossil fuel consumption, at volumes of greenhouse gas emissions, infant mortality or the burgeoning numbers of people who become victims of environmental damage – it is an intensely gloomy picture.
What’s even more worrying is that there are no signs that our governments or the people who elect our governments take any of these terrifying facts at
In this scenario of monumental degradation, I know that what we have done in Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park is no more than a tiny drop in the ocean. Not enough to count.
But maybe there is a message here for those who want to see it...
We have shown it is possible to rewild and restore degraded desert land sustainably, breathing life and vitality into dead soils. We started out with an intensely rocky wasteland that had been devastated by an invasive exotic tree. In 16 years, using no toxic chemicals or fertilisers, we coaxed back a desert ecosystem as diverse and throbbing with life as any we’ve seen.
It is an affirmation of what’s possible, a template and a ray of hope.
Also, we are not alone. There are lots of brave and ingenious individuals and NGOs in different parts of India who do similar things in their own areas, restoring wildlands, regenerating soil, bringing back biodiversity, nurturing broken ecologies, pushing at the boundaries of what seems possible.
Individually, we may just be tiny drops in an ocean of despair. But together, even in our different ways, working in different ecologies, we are pointing a way forward.
I wonder if we'll look back at this moment and see the beginnings of something significant.
At the very least, a fork in the road...