Living Together

Posted by: Bittu Sahgal on

"Believing as I do that man in the distant future will be a far more perfectcreature than he now is, it is an intolerable thought that he and all other sentientbeings are doomed to complete annihilation after such long-continued slow progress." 

Charles Darwin

"Live together and flow with nature's tide. Or die alone." That's the stark message every species inhabiting this beautiful ‘blue marble', the third rock from the sun, is trying desperately tosend to Homo sapiens.

Empedocles (495-435 B.C.) the pre-Socratic philosopher suggested that the ‘combining' power of love and the ‘disrupting' power of hate were the two ultimate forces of nature. Driven by harsh climate change impacts, the reality of his world view has been forcing human societies to gather across our beleaguered planet in Rio de Janeiro, New York, Kyoto, Bonn, Buenos Aires, Marrakesh,The Hague and now, Copenhagen. 

Hopefully, the wisdom of collective survival will dominate ultra-national priorities. By the time Sanctuary readers get this issue most world leaders will already have decided their positions for Copenhagen (this was written prior to the Copenhagen Summit). Whether their utterances prove to be sense or suicide will be clear to us on December 18, 2009, when the dust of climate negotiations settles.

Meanwhile nature soldiers on, demonstrating the art of living through the community life of other gregarious species it supports. If we are able to imbibe even a fraction of the life-lessons they teach, we may still survive the ineptitude that has marked our stewardship of Planet Earth. Consider for a moment the life of elephants (herd members protect their young and do not exhaust their food supplies), termites (individuals work for the collective even at personal cost),wildebeest (herds stick together to tackle threats during their great migrations), gorillas (the troupe respects its leader who actually protects them from harm), and sardines (shoals recognise safety in numbers). 

The great bird colonies that one sees in Bharatpur, or Ranganathittoo, or Chilika draw on three primary benefits that motivates them to live in communal roosts: 1. Reduced predation risks. 2. Improved thermoregulation. 3. Enhanced foraging efficiency. 

These benefits are available only as long as individuals in the roost behave. If even a few turnrenegade, or destructive, the entire roost is placed at risk and could be abandoned. This "living together" lesson is one that President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives has already learned, and one that President Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and their advisors will probably be forced to learn rapidly in the stormy days ahead of us.