Interview with Bahar Dutt on Green Wars

Green Wars
Bahar Dutt, Image Credit – Vijay Bedi

I loved the stories of Green Wars. It introduced me to animals and landscapes of a place far and wide. I had many questions for the author Bahar Dutt. So here are they along with her answers.

Bahar Dutt on Green Wars

Tell us something about your growing up. Where did you live, what did you study? Bahar Dutt Do you remember when and how you developed this inclination for animals and nature?

Bahar Dutt: I spent my childhood in New York city as my dad who was working with Air India was posted there. My mother worked for a newspaper there. They both juggled their hectic careers and managing their two daughters, which am sure wasn’t easy! My childhood years were mostly in an urban environment so I wonder where I got the wildlife bug from? All I knew was I wanted to be around animals. So I spent my formative years burrowing myself in books on nature, Gerald Durrell, and James Herriot. Later on, I went on to do my MSc in wildlife conservation from the Durrell Institute for Conservation and Ecology (DICE) at University of Kent Canterbury, UK.

I did my Masters thesis at the famous Jersey Zoo studying a species of Amazonia primates known as the Black Lion Tamarins. I lived in a tent not far from the Zoo with my course mates. It was fun to study these animals in the day and come back and cook Rajma-Chawal for my English friends in the evening!

Can you talk about the options available to animal lovers both for studying and as a career? 

I don’t know about animal lovers but if you want to be a conservation scientist/biologist/researcher India has many institutions like the Wildlife Institute of India in Dehradun or the Salim Ali Institute for Conservation in Pondicherry or the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore

Did you face any challenges traveling alone as a woman in the hinterland? Are there any precautions that women traveling alone should take in India?

Of course, there are challenges but the way I see it, it was far tougher for the women of my mother’s generation in her times. In her time’s, Women journalists were asked to cover flower shows. She went off to cover the war! As for me yes there are challenges I have also made mistakes in my time. I almost got mugged and kidnapped in Africa as I arrived in this town late at night. But I have learned now not to be foolish. I don’t arrive in a strange town at night, I try to move around in the day, and if I am on an investigative story I always made sure someone in the office knows exactly where I am. This was useful especially when my crew was attacked in Goa by the mining mafia.

Did the companies/organizations that may have been impacted by your reporting create any problems for you? If yes, please share some experience.

Yes, I remember reporting on a mine that was coming up in Orissa with a terrible record of human rights violations that went on to become one of the biggest environmental stories of our times. One of the employees called me up and threatened me after we aired the story – ‘you are just a lowly journalist, so be careful’. I have been threatened by corporates, politicians and the mining mafia. Of course one gets scared but if you are solid on your facts no one can intimidate you.

What do you think about the Green Wash by many organizations? What do you think about the new generation Green parameters like LEED certifications for green buildings? Do you think they are effective or they just create a facade of being effective?

I have always said that CSR is a kind of greenwash. The corporates must move beyond just planting trees to show they care for the environment. Let them understand what conserving a natural old growth forest that has over 100 species of flora and fauna is all about. Then I will take them seriously. I think certification if done properly is a great idea. I do wish more and more consumers would keep these in mind when they go in for building a house or buying an apartment. And I know that when I go to the market to buy an electronic item I always try to buy what is energy efficient.

How can we bring awareness about the cascading effects of depleting natural resources on humanity on the whole? Any insights based on your experience?

I think we need to believe in the human spirit and ability to change. I strongly believe if you give people smarter lifestyle options they will choose those. We need to scale up the positive examples that are just isolated stories right now.

Bahar Dutt, Are you working on your next book? If yes, please share some details with us.

I have a couple of ideas I am juggling right now. More than a book I want to create a natural space for children in cities. Where they can be close to animals and nature. There’s no point telling kids don’t go to malls we have to create options for them. So let’s hope that happens. Yes, there are offers to do a couple of more books. While Green wars highlighted the problems (with some solutions) I hope in my forthcoming books to provide examples of some of the excellent work going on in the field of conservation.

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