The butterfly effect of the brew

Chennai, 11-08-2015 : Kalyan Varma, wil life Photographer, sharing his experiences during a talk show on Tuesday. Photo : S_R_Raghunathan   | Photo Credit: S_R_Raghunathan

It was well past dusk at Ashvita Bistro, and over 65 people, interested in sustainable living, were waiting to hear what the guest speaker had to say. Banglore-based Kalyan Varma, wildlife photographer and filmmaker, who freelances with BBC Wildlife, National Geographic, Lonely Planet, The Guardian and others, said, “Since this event is held in a coffee shop, I’ve decided to talk about a cup of tea.” He continued, “Endangered animals, polluted rivers, mining and deforestation… these are all real issues. But the real threat is us, living our lives without awareness about how it impacts the environment.” Kalyan, then, discussed the four key ingredients used to make tea — leaves, water, milk and sugar. 

The tea plant needs lots of rain and a relatively cold climate. Forests are cleared in regions like Munnar, which provide such conditions, to make way for growing tea plantations. In turn, animals rendered homeless, sometimes roam around the plantations and edge their way into homes, destroying property and threatening human life. 

Water, he continued, originates mainly from small streams from the Western Ghats, which eventually connect to rivers. The building of dams, he said, fragments forests, and asked, “Do you know that right now, there is a proposal to build 150 dams in Arunachal Pradesh?”

Milk comes from cooperatives. Given the increasing demand and lack of traditional grazing areas owing to SEZs and the rising number of apartments, cows are allowed to graze in forests. This, in turn, completely wipes out the understory; so when the big trees fall, there is nothing to replete it. 

Sugar is extracted from sugarcane, which is often planted at the edge of forests. Predators like leopards enter these plantations, unable to differentiate them from the forest region. They eventually edge towards cattle, and then, humans. Ultimately, leopards kill humans who, in turn, kill the leopards. 

Every action of ours, said Kalyan, has far-reaching repercussions. “A tiger dying in one part of the country irks us so much, but we don’t worry about a plastic bottle we buy, even though the ecological impact of that goes much further,” he explained. 

The talk, presented by Goli Soda, was organised by Greendezvous, an initiative by Akhila Vijayaraghavan and Janani Nagarajan, to provide a platform for people interested in organic food, green engineering and sustainable living, to meet, engage and ideate. “We hope to be a catalyst to get people to go green,” said Janani. 

“25 years ago, when we still had the Guindy National Park and the Adyar Estuary, talks like this never happened,” said Vijay Kumar, secretary of Madras Naturalists’ Society (1978), and talked about issues of conservation tied to the city. Nishanth Nichu, founder of Chennai Wildlife Rescue project, followed with stories about saving a 6.5 feet rat snake from the 16th floor of the LIC building, and said that in this city, there are so many calls coming in every day, that even with the Blue Cross and Forest Department’s support, they are unable to respond to all of them. 

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2022 3:19:04 PM |

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