Category: philosophy (page 2 of 2)

The deaths of Osama and a lesson for humanity

Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad in Pakistan on 2 May 2011, say the news reports. Really?! Or should I say—not again?! He’s been killed twice in India already! Once in 2006 and again in 2008. Yes, it made news splashes even then, although not as large a splash as his most recent death. Osama’s first death occurred in December 2006 in a tea estate in Assam in north-east India, at the hands of a hunter, a hired gun tasked with taking out the terrifying serial killer. And as if that was not enough, he was killed again in May 2008, in the Indian state of Jharkhand, at the hands of an empowered mob of government authority—the Forest Department and the Police. The second death was not easy. It took 20 bullets to silence Osama. And from the recent news, it seems even that did not work, after all.

The painful truth is that the first two deaths of Osama referred, not to the terrorist mastermind and leader of al-Qaeda, but to two separate individual Asian elephants Elephas maximus, Asia’s largest land mammal, with the contrasting reputation of being the gentle giants of its forests. These individuals were named after a feared human, on the most-wanted list of a distant superpower. They were labeled serial killers and raging bulls, as rogues and as terrorisers. And yet, when people came to see the prostrate corpse of the killed elephant, they placed flowers on its body, even as many asked whether the right animal was killed or it was just another innocent elephant victim.

… This post first appeared in the NCF blog, EcoLogic, on 13 May 2011 and in Deccan Herald. Read more in The Wild Heart of India: Nature and Conservation in the City, the Country, and the Wild.

Twinges of longing, passing shadows

A primary concern in conservation is the extinction of species. Our work often leads us to ask: what should we do to save a species from extinction? The answer, or the search for answers, to this question spurs much of our research, our efforts. Yet, living as we are in the middle of an extinction spasm of the greatest import, we rarely ask the corollary: what should we do when a species does go extinct? In effect, when we fail to stave off an extinction? When a species passes on, should we just heave a collective gasp, drape a commiserative arm around our collective shoulders and move on to the next threatened species? Do we add another sample to the ever-growing database of extinct species for performing many-dimensional analyses of extinction that incrementally develop our knowledge of why species go extinct? Or should there be something more to it? For with the passing of a species, we also lose any connection we have once had with it.

… This post first appeared in the NCF blog, EcoLogic, on 19 September 2010. Read more in The Wild Heart of India: Nature and Conservation in the City, the Country, and the Wild.

Three cheetahs at Masai Mara, Kenya (Photo courtesy: Kalyan Varma)
The last cheetahs shot in India (Photograph courtesy: Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, Vol 47, 1948)

Sentience for conservation

What would our life be like if we could see, but not discern? If we could hear, but not listen, and if we could touch, but not feel? How would we experience life if we could taste and smell, but not savour? What would we be like, as a species and as individuals, if we could sense everything, yet make sense of nothing? Would our life be the same? Would we be the same? Would we even be human?

Image courtesy: Kalyan Varma (www.kalyanvarma.net)

… This post first appeared in the NCF blog, EcoLogic, on 11 May 2010. Read more in The Wild Heart of India: Nature and Conservation in the City, the Country, and the Wild.