Surviving Development and Growth

For someone like me who has always had a secret fascination for gadgets but has been ‘technologically-challenged’, surviving development seems to be an everyday issue. The barrage of apples, ice cream sandwiches, chocolates, éclairs, donuts, etc. that have taken over my menu today has actually left me with no appetite! (All those among you who thought I was talking about food, believe me, you are not alone!) It would not be fair to discuss my personal struggles here, especially when the impact that these have on my life is almost insignificant.

I always thought that development meant gradual improvement or growth and that might have been something that I was comfortable with. The last decade has shown that this was not the case and that growth or improvement at a comfortable pace could never be comforting to the world. From landlines to cell phones to smart phones to tablets, it’s been a rather quick journey.  It all seemed to be fascinating when it started, if only the starting point could be defined, and then it started becoming maniacal and now it’s almost devastatingly detrimental. I am not going to discuss the very obvious pros and cons that are not alien to most of us. What, to me, is more important is the impact that this development has had on the real owners of this beautiful planet.

I’ve been reading this book about a man’s attempt to observe and document the lives of some of the remotest tribes of the world. Tribe by Bruce Parry takes you from Arunachal Pradesh in India to the Darhad Valley in Mongolia, from the Omo Valley in Ethiopia to West Papua, Indonesia. The admirable, and in today’s world of popular television ‘reality’ shows, unbelievable feature of this book is the fact that it tries to present these indigenous people in an honest, real and unaltered manner.

There is no attempt to conceal the impact that visitors from the modern, so-called-civilized populations of the world have had on these tribes and their ways. It isn’t surprising anymore to see tribes deep in the ‘untouched’ forests of the world wearing Nike tees and smoking Camel cigarettes. These people did not crave for these ‘pleasures’ of the modern world, they were content wearing nothing and wanting nothing more than what they needed. The many explorers who travelled to these far flung and isolated corners of the world ended up bartering products in exchange for captivating stories or footage. In the process, not only were many ancient traditions and rituals lost in this exchange, these tribes were also introduced to various illnesses to which they had no cure! Many of the tribes that existed have now gone extinct or have moved away from their traditional way of living.

The speed at which populations across the world are growing and the necessity to satisfy the cravings of these growing numbers has resulted in the wiping out of millions of acres of pristine forested lands. While we wait for the doomsday predictions to come true, we have not noticed how unknowingly but shamelessly we have brought doomsday to so many animal species, languages and indigenous tribes that called our world their home. We’ve managed to push species like the regal Caspian tiger, Mexican grizzly bear, Chinese river dolphin and many others to extinction. In the last century, we have lost tribes like the Bo, the Sirenik, the Kamasin, and the Jangil. Most of the surviving tribes are now left with a couple of hundred members and there are many tribes were the number of surviving members is as low as one or two. I wonder how intimidated I would feel if I was the last living person from India.

Boa Sr, the last member of the Bo tribe, died on 4th February 2010

The Caspian Tiger, a tiger sub species, last recorded in the wild in the early 1970s

I don’t think there is any way in which the damage can be reversed, but then we could always prolong the inevitable! Being sensitive and knowing the impact of our actions would be great for a start. I wouldn’t want to come across as a person who saw only the down-side of things and the reason for me to write about this issue was the fact that I see hope. To begin this process of rebuilding, it is important for each one of us to be aware.

I’d like to share a few links which, in one way or the other, are related to what this post is about.


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