The Vanishing by Prerna Singh Bindra

The Vanishing By Prerna Singh Binder

Book Notes – In this series, I share my insights, ideas, and reviews of my favourite books, whose topics are wide-ranging.

Rating – 8/10

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Amazon Link

Book Compressed into 3 Points

  • The author, through numerous examples, shows how and why Indian wildlife populations have depleted over the last 100 years.
  • Taking one iconic species at a time, she records the various factors that affect its survival.
  • She categorically examines how our greed for money and natural resources is destroying our planet and its wildlife.

Who is it for?

  • Environmentalists and wildlife enthusiasts
  • Nature lovers
  • Anyone who wants a deeper look into India’s wildlife crisis

3 Favourite Quotes

  • The root cause of this tragic decline of the wilds of India’s conservation story has shifted gears from where it set the standard in global conservation efforts to where the dominant discourse views the environment and the laws that conserve it, as hindering India’s rapid economic growth.
  • My issue with an ideology that puts a yarn factory over a wildlife sanctuary is part of a larger concern about what we deem as ‘development’ — which has become one of India’s holy cows. Questioning its efficacy or laying bare its hollow claims or social and environmental consequences can make your patriotism suspect, and even put a question mark on your love and fealty for the nation.
  • For many, the truth is too inconvenient; it pulls us out of our cosy cocoons. It demands that we make tough choices and changes in the way we live. I am not talking about having bucket baths or using CFC bulbs and carrying your own shopping bags instead of using throwaway polythene—though those steps matter and you might do that as well. Instead, this moment in history calls for fundamental changes in our high consumer lifestyle, as individuals and as a society.

Insights

  • She documents how India has a wild legacy like no other country. She shows how the Indian government (at that time) implemented environmental laws on the brink of time to save our wildlife and how we must do the same to protect our wildlife today. 
  • The latter half of the 20th century saw a reduction in wildlife populations, with some desperate moves to contain them. There was a constant debate between development and the environment. What many don’t realise is that protecting the environment is in our national interest.
  • She points out the stark reality that those who decide the fate of wildlife in our country come from privileged backgrounds, sitting in air-conditioned halls, miles away from these wild locations.
  • We seem to be focused on short term development gains, which come at a cost to the environment.
  • The environment is not a government priority; that is why it is so vulnerable. The NBWL(National Board for Wildlife) seems to be The least concerned about the fate of Indian wildlife. Its presence is merely notional.
  • Roads are the predecessors to development in wild areas, fragmenting the forest. Furthermore, roads through the forest provide poachers with easy access to illegally hunt wildlife.
  • She takes on projects like the Ken-Betwa river link, showing how it is ecologically unsustainable and could prove detrimental later.
  • She breaks down how Project tiger, an initiative that started with great enthusiasm and zeal, soon turned into a mask that hid the real threats facing the tiger.
  • The rise in tiger numbers masks the fact that poaching and tiger habits destruction are taking a turn for the worse. 
  • Development projects that infringe on tiger habits break up distinct genetic populations, which could lower the genetic viability of the species as a whole.
  • She systematically discusses development projects that encroach on wild spaces and how dangerous such an approach is. The forest provides us with priceless resources like clean water and air, something vital for our survival.
  • She takes animals like the tiger, leopard, elephant, gharials, Great Indian Bustard, turtles, and vultures and highlights the threats they face by industrialisation.
  • She points out how common creatures like sparrows, jackals and crickets have declined drastically due to environmental changes.
  • Most people care about today’s rise in GDP value, even if it comes at the depletion of natural resources.
  • We need to redefine development, one that rethinks the emphasis on growth and incorporates the welfare of the environment.

Review

This book is hard-hitting, cataloguing the events that have depleted India’s wildlife. A well-researched book, it shows statistically the decline in wildlife populations across India. It is a reasonably long book, ending with a call to action, beckoning the reader to take up the cause of wildlife conservation.

I would recommend this book for teenagers and older adults. Some of the content and pictures might be disturbing for young children. This book made me realise how often our priorities of development come at a high cost to our natural world. I realised that the conservation of nature goes beyond the metrics. It is a nuanced field, with many factors at play.

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Published by Ishan Shanavas

I am a young adult, interested in nature, photography, art and culture. An aspiring polymath, I share my learnings through my blog. I also include insights from my favourite books.

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