Everyone seems to wants to save the tiger
Of late, tiger conservation is all over the news. The tiger population in India has fallen down by around 96% from what it was in the beginning of the 20th Century. The number of tigers in India was around 1400 4 years ago and according to this year’s census it has increased a bit to around 1700 . Lots of celebrities have been desperately campaigning to save the tiger by making awareness videos advising the civilian viewers not to hunt tigers. Others have posed open questions to the public in their campaign to save the tiger and have raised Crores of Rupees for the cause, the open question being, “what can we do to save the tiger?” What can we, the urban population do to save the tiger?
Poaching is not the only problem tigers face
The tigers of India have faced a hell of a time with the Indian royals and British administrators hunting them. Even after a ban on poaching of wild animals was imposed, the tigers have continued to face problems either directly because of blokes like Sansar Chand or indirectly due to a decline in the number of herbivores, again due to hunting. The main causes of the decline in the numbers are poaching and habitat loss. There is a limit on how many tigers can live together in a given tiger reserve. At high densities, alpha male tigers end up killing other smaller tigers bringing down the density. The area of forests have shrunk over the years and the tiger numbers have risen, giving us a false hope of success in tiger conservation.
Habitat loss is still killing the tiger
The main reason for the decrease in the number of tigers is habitat loss. The total tiger area is just around 7 million hectares out of around 329 Million hectares of Indian land. Tigers once used to roam around most of India and today, today they are restricted to a tiny 2.1% of it. The forests continue to shrink intensifying the problem further.
Save the tiger <=> save the forests
The tiger is considered to be an indicator of forest health. An abundant tiger population indicates a sufficient prey base of herbivores like antelopes. An abundant herbivore population indicates a forest with a well balanced fauna with grasslands and trees. With Cheetahs extinct and the asiatic lion nearly driven to extinction, tigers are at the apex of the food pyramid that constitutes to the forest eco system and are hence very vital for the well being of the forests. We all know how important forests are in moderating the climate, purifying the air, holding the soil together, storing water, protecting life, promoting rains and yet preventing floods. The extinction of the tiger can lead to a collapse in the forest ecosystems. In several cases, man has disastrously attempted to moderate nature leading to chaos. The coyote outbreak in North America, the Dingo in Australia are just few instances of the failures of humanity in these attempts. In summary, Tigers = Forests = Water = US. Tigers = Forests = Water = US
Our current lifestyle has a high Ecological-footprint which can be reduced
It is clear that our forests need to be preserved for our own well-being. Floods and famine have had terrible impacts on human civilization despite the apparent mastery of humans over nature. Lumbering is not the only reason for the destruction of forests. We just don’t seem to have enough space, no matter how much we expand, for us to create settlements, to raise our crops, for our cattle to graze. Leaving the Carbon debate aside, we need a lot of land even for our basic needs of food and shelter. In India, around 60% of the total land area is used for agriculture. This amount is a clear reflection of the extent of our consumption. It clearly wasn’t always this way. Our population has risen from 340 Million at the time of Independence to 1200 Million today (~ 65 years) and the consumption activities probably more than linearly. There has to be a compromise on our lifestyle to save ourselves from destruction. There is a huge cattle population in India of about 281 Million which exist only to support human consumption. Our footprint not only includes the amount of land we need to grow our crops but also the land needed to sustain the cattle. In 2007, we had around 300 Million bovines and 530 Million total livestock. We feed the animals so that they can give us milk, eggs and meat back to feed ourselves. The secondary production causes a lot of losses in the ecosystem. It is estimated that half the food that is grown ends up feeding the cattle. The United Nations Environment Programme recommends a vegan diet to save the environment.
Civilizations have collapsed because of abrupt cut-off of nature-lifelines
In India, at around 2800 BC, emerged one of the most famous civilizations of the ancient world, the Indus Valley Civilization that used the fertile lands of Sindhu, Ghaggar-Hakra and a once rich Saraswati river as its cradle. The civilization abruptly ended at around 1900 BC and today, climate change is attributed as the main reason for the fall of this mighty civilization. The Saraswati river that once gave birth to this civilization seems to have dried out over the years and caused a collapse. If we do not save our forests, our civilization which heavily depends on agricultural produce (and hence rains/forests) may collapse. The issue now is no longer saving the tiger but more about saving ourselves. No amount of shifts in other aspects of our lifestyle, like shifting to renewable energy, will save the shrinking forests. Changing small parts of our lifestyle may be the easiest way to save ourselves.
Veganism – The way of low-footprint life
People hate problems and love solutions. I end the first part of my post to start the better part. An organic vegan diet is considered the most environmentally friendly diet. The avoid of unnecessary chemicals could save many lives in critical parts of the eco-system where as a vegan diet reduces the losses due to secondary production (plant -> cows -> humans => plant -> humans) and decrease our footprint. It is also estimated that the life-stock contribute to around 56% of the green house gasses. I feel it is easier for a vegetarian to convert into a vegan than for a non-vegetarian as all I had to do to change my lifestyle was to replace cow’s milk with Soya/Almond milk. There possibly cannot be an easier solution than this to save ourselves. There are lots of replacements for animal milk and I list out a few
Pros: No cholestrol, lactose intolerant people can consume it, surprisingly prevents cancer formation in various parts of the body, low fat
Cons: Doesn’t have Calcium, Considered bad for consumption for people with hypothyroidism, without adequate Iodine intake.
Pros: No cholestrol, lactose intolerant people can consume it
Cons: Doesn’t have Calcium, Costly
There are plenty of other alternatives: Dal (pulses in general), dry fruits, baked beans etc as a source of protein, as a replacement for milk.
Given all the facts and figures and the simple suggestions to change lifestyle, what will you do?
Of course, flying away to safety is difficult and needs a lot of effort but ultimately we survive. There is no captain planet, so the responsibility is yours!
Constructive criticism and productive feedback are most welcome. Please leave a comment and help by sharing the link and spreading the word.