Today the world is under grave threats, all of which stem from human needs. Many scientists conform to the opinion that we have crossed the line of no return. Urbanization is weighing the earth down each passing day, daily wiping numerous species off the face of time. The devastation is beyond logical grasp. In the 4.5 billion years of earth’s becoming, never has there been such an extinction rate. It is estimated that by the next century over 50% of the earth’s species will die out; more than half of 4.5 billion years of creation will vanish within 150 years.
Urbanization is the torrent that has many branches, all leading towards the looming end. Increasing population results in increasing housing development, malls, new roads, business parks, etc. These get erected at the cost of natural habitat. Moreover to meet the needs of growing population humans are destroying forests at a senseless rate! More than half of earth’s natural jungles are lost as a result of deforestation. As tropical forests contain at least half of the Earth’s species, the clearance of some 17 million hectares each year is causing a dramatic loss of biodiversity. Human settlements either wipe off complete ecosystems or divide them into fragments, both of which result into species extinction and natural imbalance. Yet the most frightening threat is that an average human is unaware of these facts, hence s/he is indifferent to them. This gives incentive to delaying an already delayed action. India’s 32.7% of total population is urban as per 2015. Rate of urbanization in India is 2.38% each year.
“The city had grown, implacably, spreading its concrete and alloy fingers wider every day over the dark and feral country. Nothing could stop it. Mountains were stamped flat. Rivers were dammed off or drained or put elsewhere. The marshes were filled. The animals shot from the trees and then the trees cut down. And the big gray machines moved forward, gobbling up the jungle with their iron teeth, chewing it clean of its life and all its living things. Until it was no more. Leveled, smoothed as a highway is smoothed, its centuries choked beneath millions and millions of tons of hardened stone.
The birth of a city… It had become the death of a world.” – Charles Beaumont
There is a desperate need to spread word; only by triggering individual sense of responsibility can we hope to overcome such a monstrous disaster. One of Jeevantirth’s root concern since initiation has been working with environment. In response to the above mentioned changes we have begun a program called Nature Education Program in collaboration with Serenity Library and Botanical Garden. Serenity is a stretch of 10 acres of land having about 1000 varieties if trees and plants that houses various species of insects, amphibians and reptiles. It also hosts more than 100 species of terrestrial and wetland birds; over 50 species of butterflies have made it their home. Mammals like blue bull, jackal, porcupine and mongoose go about their day in and around the campus. In order to display different kinds of plant habitats, Serenity has built vegetable and herbal gardens that display organic farming. Besides this Serenity exhibits forested, agricultural, wetland and thorny-scrub habitats. The campus is home to amazing 838 species of vascular plants, 485 genera and 121 families that have naturally grown or been planted over the years. Moreover a rockery garden exhibits succulents and cactuses while there are 3 green houses and a nursery to facilitate propagation of plants. There are manmade as well as natural water bodies here. Such an assortment of eclectic environments has enabled different kinds of ecosystems to exist in harmony. Some of the many activities carried out at Serenity Library and Botanical Garden are:
- Nature trails
- Nature related art and craft
- Screening of documentary films
- Teacher’s training programs
- Guest/Expert lectures
- Workshops and seminars
- Half and full day programs
- Overnight camps
Jeevantirth approaches different schools and explains the need of Nature Education. Our first task is to get the idea across to teachers as many a times they themselves are unable to grasp the importance of nature education. We consistently visit previously visited schools to acquire their permission and/or to keep them updated. Children are brought to Serenity Garden in groups, as per their classes, on a full day visit. It’s been found out that an average child doesn’t know anything about trees; at most s/he might know the names of 2 or 3 species. Similar is the case with birds. Here we introduce them to different species of trees and their generous properties that aid the humankind. Their fascination on learning about trees, birds, insects and plants encourages them to learn more. Children gain knowledge here through experiential learning and relevant interactive activities. Here they see a pearly egg turn into larva which in turn becomes a cocoon and finally blossoms into a magnificent butterfly. Seeds are provided to students who wish to plant and nurture a tree. Having done the labor of tree planting themselves, it invokes in them empathy towards farmers and much deeper understanding about the value of food. ‘P for pond’ is all a city child knows about a pond; here the children witness a pond’s ecosystem in effect, they understand the significance of water bodies. Every year about 5,000 Under-privileged and 5,000 children from private school take advantage by visiting the Serenity Library’s NEP. However if a child wishes to refer to theoretical knowledge, Serenity houses a unique library that holds more than 3000 books on:
- Flora: trees, plants, orchids, gardening, medicinal plants, palm and vegetables
- Fauna: felines, canines, pachyderms and ungulates (Indian and foreign)
- Indian and foreign birds
- Primates, insects, reptiles and marine animals.
It is seen that children who visit Serenity have developed a deeper understanding about nature and one’s responsibility towards it. These children urge their schools for a revisit every six months. Moreover the teachers from such schools spread word amongst other schools which helps spread nature awareness. We sincerely implore you to visit Serenity, experience and learn about nature. This would encourage you to spread nature awareness amongst your kinfolks and known schools. You can also help by donating seeds and saplings.