The singer and the song


It is adults who are the exploiters of our precious natural world, while children all over are trying the path of conservation. When will adults wake up and face the truth of what they are doing to their environment in the name of material wealth and consumerism?

Young children are making their voices heard. For years now, Kids for Tigers, the Sanctuary Tiger Programme, has taught millions of rural and urban Indians the value of wild nature and the connection between human happiness and ecological harmony. With help from educationists and thousands of proactive parents, Sanctuary has taken great care to instill in these innocents the value of being direct and firm, yet polite and respectful – particularly in dealing with elders who do not always practice what they preach.

With all the purity at their command, the children choose to attend nature workshops, write poems, sing songs of hope, draw and paint, hold silent rallies in cities and villages, gather signatures (literally millions of signatures), seek appointments with Prime Ministers, Chief Ministers and Governors and, of course, pledge to save the tiger and all of nature to their last breath.

Sensitive to the core, they believe that urban India owes local communities living around Protected Areas dignity, self-sufficiency and respect. They ask that such communities be the first recipients of any incomes and benefits that flow from conservation, and through livelihoods that protect the forest and its wild species, rather than exploit its resources to feed urban demands.

A significant number of our Kids for Tigers live near tiger habitats, and they have taken it upon themselves to communicate the rationale for nature conservation to their elders. Rural or urban, the children ask that tigers be provided inviolate spaces away from human impacts. They point out that protecting forests and natural ecosystems is the only way India can safeguard its water security… the only way we can hope to overcome the climate crisis that is upon us.

Unfortunately, adults today are caught in a trap of political and financial ambition that blinds them to the reality, that they have replaced the British as the colonisers of today. The British implemented a strategy of geographical colonisation. Our leaders and so many insensitive businessmen are engaged in intergenerational colonisation. They are wiping out the future of their own children by poisoning their rivers, destroying their forests, damaging their coasts and, of course, by destabilising the climate of our planet, which could end up killing more humans than the sum total of all the wars ever fought in the past 1,000 years.

The dilemma facing humanity is encapsulated in the poignant words of a song sung by the incomparable Roger Whitaker. Whether we adults gift our children freedom in a safe world, or leave them forever asking “why”, is a decision those who sing songs of development, at the cost of the earth, must make today.

Something’s going wrong
With the singer and the song
And the music isn’t gentle anymore
There’s a mist across the moon
And the sun’s too hot at noon
And the house is dark behind the broken door
Where the flowers used to grow
Now their leaves are hanging low
And a constant shadow lies across the floor
There’s a strange and empty sky
Where the wild birds used to fly
And I never tasted bitter rain before.
And will the grass be gone from underneath the sky?
Will the golden flower wither soon and die?
Will the fire burn out the land,
And the sea fill-up with sand?
Will the last word ever spoken be why?
Will the last word ever spoken be why?


Bittu Sahgal

The writer is Editor, Sanctuary magazine