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Stories For Survival 2021 – Adult entries

Thank you for all the amazing short stories, essays and poems we received for our competition. We hope you enjoy reading through them as much as we did.

Laura Dewhurst

 The Little Egret: ‘Hope is the Thing with Feathers’

When I see a little egret, the words of Emily Dickinson’s, ‘Hope is the thing with feathers’, resonates.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

Hope: the belief, somewhere deep inside, folded deep within your soul, that things will get better. Because, truly, things have to get better.

Bird song: pure, unadulterated, relentless bird song. Where life was still, the birds soared above. Where there was quiet, the birds brought music; a music of solace throughout many lockdowns. I listened afresh, to each note, bar, song. A continuous soulful peace, blocking out the rest, filling the void, in the quieted world and in ourselves.

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

With travel restricted to a local microcosm, my favourite stroll now snakes along the river, winding just behind my house. Here I find my favourite sight: a little egret hunching in the water. Its feathers shine, sunlight reflecting upon freshly fallen snow. Its long black legs endlessly run down until sharply punctuated by stark yellow feet. Delicate plumes flow along its back and chest, and most strikingly down their long, slender necks, swaying in the wind. One day as I stared, I was joined by many on the bridge; we just watched, and watched, and watched, and smiled.

To see them now, it is easy to forget the sore storm that plagued the little egret. During the 19th century, little egrets were massacred by the worldwide plume trade. The plumes used by egrets in courtship displays, instead, served simply as decoration for our hats. It was a beauty snatched, taken, to hold in our own hands, to flow down our own necks, to profit upon, at relative prices beyond even that of gold. This, however, was not the only cost.

To supply such bloody demand, millions of birds were slaughtered. Many species were threatened alongside the little egret: its heron relatives, birds of paradise, hummingbirds, emus, and pheasants, to name a small few. No unprotected birds, with feathers to fashion, were safe. In January 1913, the remains of 77,000 egret, 22,000 exotic pigeon, and 25,000 hummingbirds were sold in London. And this does not wholly represent the depth of the persecution; little egret adults were shot whilst nesting, with the helpless chicks left behind to die.

However, resistance to the plume trade grew, notably through the revolutionary women whose work still resonates today. The feathers felt heavy on their heads, in their hearts, and to the hopeful bird that perches in their soul. Emily Williamson founded the ‘Society for the Protection of Birds’ in 1889, collaborating with Eliza Philips’ ‘Fur, Fin and Feather Folk’ in 1891. By 1904 it gained its royal charter, becoming the RSPB, now the biggest wildlife conservation charity across Europe.

The first victory for the RSPB came with the ending of the plume trade. They stood against the decimation of birds, promoted their protection, and refused to wear the plumage of any birds not killed for food. They campaigned tirelessly, raising the issue to the women that wore the hats, the traders that sold them, and the people in power, such as politicians and royalty. This culminated in the 1921 Plumage (Prohibition) Act, whereby the importation of plumage to Britain was banned.

From the brink, the egrets survived, then thrived. Hope is the thing with feathers, not without.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Until recently, Britain only held claim to imported feathers, not to the little egret itself, with its European population based in the Mediterranean and overwintering in North Africa. However, recently, distribution has increased ever northwards, up through Spain, France, and onwards to Britain, with the English Channel proving no barrier for a bird on wing. The first breeding pair was spotted in Britain in 1996. The little egret had made it: to the chillest land, on the strangest sea.

From absence, to rarity, little egrets are now viewable 100m from my home in Somerset. They are beautiful, a reason to forget about everything, to sit and rest and watch. However, I increasingly view with trepidation. Can Britain still be referred to as the chillest land? For how long? The expansion of the little egrets’ range to Britain may partly be due to improved protection of their wetland habitats, but it may also be respondent to climate change and the milder winters this brings, with average temperatures in Britain increasing by almost 1°C since the 1980s. Species compositions and interactions are bound to change and disrupt as ranges shift. Whilst some, like the little egret, enter our shores, others may be lost forever. Dotterels are summer visitors to the Scottish Highlands, breeding on its mountain tops. There is concern that as the climate warms, its montane breeding habitat, and insect prey, may become less available, leaving them without suitable breeding grounds in Britain, where its breeding population is already in strong decline. Ultimately, only the most adaptable will survive, taking over – a homogenisation of species, at the expense of the rest.

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

Somehow, even in the bleakest of times, a little bird perching in our soul sings words of hope. The little egret was brought back from the brink with the decimation of the plume trade. Waves from this movement have crashed ever since, with the RSPB and many others working tirelessly to ‘give nature a home’. The world remains with those that walk in the footsteps of Emily Williamson and Eliza Philips, crucial in a world facing the synergistic effects of climate change, intensive agriculture, habitat loss, and pesticide use, to name a few.

The bird in our soul may always sing, but we must harmonise with our actions.

Kubeshnie Narainsami

Blossom City

Two hundred years ago, a deadly virus wiped out seventy-six percent of the earth’s population. Hearts were shattered and the ground was soaked with tears of grief. People all over did not understand why the world was crumbling and it will never be the same again. Everything built by human hands remained desolate, no one gets to feel the ocean breeze or experience the fresh smell of the morning mist.  First, a deadly virus and then nature who could not contain the friction of manufactured things that sucked the life right out of what was so freely given to us, “life-preserving oxygen.” Today we live like isolated aliens on a planet that once fulfilled our race; covered from head to toe with astronaut uniforms not being able to enjoy earth’s finest treasures.

I am a seventeen-year-old longing to escape this giant ball of nothingness, my young heart desires to step out there and break the silence of fear that has been the sage of our lives ever since I have known life. My mother is a station nurse and my father unfortunately no longer exists. He was an incredibly great scientist and father. He lived to fix our brokenness and one day during an experiment, he tried to clear the atmosphere from all its toxins and bacteria history left behind and ended up suffocating to death. Dad was the only one who made me feel like life had a purpose because how do we live without purpose. Like the rest of the one hundred young people that inhabit this massive ship, I was home-schooled by a talking machine, known to be a tablet device in history, only difference is that this one transcends from within the space inside our little concubine that is part of a large spaceship sitting on planet earth.

I regularly ask the talking machine to show me more of what was back then, before the universe turned into a ball of emptiness, and oh, how beautiful the world was, people smiled, hugged, and loved. My mother hates talking about the “L” word, she says that kind of thing will never evolve with people again, but as per my research, love is what made the world go round once upon a time.

Our chief and master of the ship keeps us bottled up in this large block of steel under strict rules and regulations. We do not do many things in this place, even smiling too much is forbidden and I cannot help but feel this tickling desire inside of me to break the rules, spread my wings, and accomplish my father’s goal for the world to find revelation.  After some intense investigation with my talking machine which has every bit of information stored, I mapped out a plan that would help me reach my father’s dream and mine to rescue humankind from becoming extinct. I started by searching for an altitude of sustainability within the atmosphere, where we can breathe in and out without having an oxygen helmet awkwardly hovering over our heads or possibly suffocating to death when we misuse the oxygen supply provided by the master of the ship.

My mother would be devastated to find me gone, but hey, you only live once, plus I created an exquisite device that will help her track me while I am gone, what can I say I am my father’s daughter. I do love my mom very much although she annoys me by being so submissive towards the station chief -she never takes any risk. Another device I secretly continued to build is a traveling machine; the earth is quite a large scale for me to travel around on foot. My traveling machine can fly, roll on solid ground, and pedal on water. Tomorrow I set off determined not to give up on finding a solution that has been a man-eating problem for decades.

Early this morning I woke up and hugged my mum tightly, “Giselle, is everything okay?” she asked being my mother who knows me well, “Everything is perfect mum, I just missed you,” I replied, “I’ll try my best to get this weekend off and maybe we could stroll the net together.” My mother worked all the time and the only thing we could do is stroll the net since there is nowhere to go but to work and back to our sleeping zones. Everything we do includes the steel walls of the ship and the food we eat is just to survive, collected from an army of men who go out once a month in search of grain and edible items from the ground. I am a qualified engineer and on-call only when there is an emergency regarding the mechanics of the ship. The station chief allocates each individual on what they should be at the age of nine; no one has a choice, but to obey.

Once my mother left for work, I went to my father’s science lab, which remained the same ever since he left us three years ago. I secretly rolled the travel machine with my father’s access card around my neck; this allowed him to exit the ship for experimental purposes. I did not quite figure out how I was going to pass the security guards who stood at the entrance and exit every day but my dad showed me a trick once and I am hoping that would work now. A fire scare, something that people now are afraid of, burning to death. I pressed the fire alert button on the walls next to the lab and the station went crazy giving me a chance to swoop past the guards and out of the ship.

The map I designed was set to find Mount Everest and with my atmosphere-tracking device, I was sure to find clean air on top of that mountain peak. The travel machine flew me above the clouds and over the sea where I could see trees and plants, houses, buildings, and farms left empty covered with weeds and moss. I passed the tar roads where vehicles gassed out toxins and factories that puffed out smoke, which polluted the earth’s oxygen when humans once had a chance of breathing freely. My traveller landed on a lake where all creatures lie dead suffocated from the climate change and the air that turned poison. I passed more forests and villages and went deep into the jungle finding more and more dry bones scattered everywhere. Then, there was noise from my speaker machine, “Giselle! Giselle can you hear me!” My mother’s voice spoke; she was fuming and panicking at the same time. “Hi mum,” I calmly responded, “Where are you!” she demanded, “I’ll be back for our weekend together mom, don’t you worry,” I remained calm which I knew irritated her even more, “If the station chief finds out you left the ship, we would be in a lot of trouble so get yourself back here, right now!” she yelled. I quickly turned off the radio pretending there was a signal issue, “What did you say mum…I can’t hear you!” She would just have to be strong since I was so close to my destination.

My travel machine took me right up to the mountain peak of Everest, saving me the time to climb up like the mountain climbers of yesteryear. I parked my machine and took a huge risk stepping out with my oxygen mask fully loaded over my head. I retrieved the tracking device from a little sack I carried around my astronaut uniform and I searched for clean air. The device kept beeping negative vibrations all around me and I grew weary. I wanted to go back with positive results and the more the device beeped with its red flash of danger, I felt like throwing myself off Everest, until suddenly through the gusty mist of the clouds my small eyes squinted when it saw a bridge.

It was so blurry because of the clouds, but I took a leap of faith,  I stood at the edge of the mountain and put one foot forward and yes there was something solid there. I walked on something that looked like a bridge; I could now feel the cold entering through my suit as I balanced through the swaying bridge. Eventually, I did get to the other end and stepped onto another mountain peak. I took courage and continued further walking slowly down a long rally of stairs until I reached something so out of this world. The sun shone brightly over what looked like a diamond city. There were houses and buildings made from diamonds and a garden that looked impossibly unreal with fruits you could eat straight out of a tree every day. There was a nearby lake, which was crystal white and had some odd kind of creatures swimming in it, I was afraid to go any closer just in case I became their lunch. I then took out my tracker and for the first time in centuries, it reflected green, the air was clean, could this mean that we could breathe without artificial assistance.

I decided to take another leap of faith and remove my oxygen mask inhaling the earth’s free oxygen and for the first time, my lungs discovered serenity, the sweet air of this blossoming city, who would have ever thought that such a place existed.

 

David Gibson

 The Offering

After almost two years at Samye Ling (Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in Scotland), I felt I had had an epiphany. During a long meditation, I suddenly realized I wanted what most folks want and decided there and then to get it: a wife and family

. I edgily passed on my request to Lama Yeshe. I was expecting a lecture on the dangers of Samsara. He simply said Yes. Go make some money. Later I will see you when you drive up in your big car. Maybe the big car is yet to happen, but not as yet. Anyway I left. I went back home to Edinburgh. I had a degree, recent. Maybe I was in a position to get a job. And get a job I did. I doubt the degree had much to do with it, but the fact I spoke fluent German helped. I got a position as a Level 2 Tech support agent supporting not only the anglo-market, but also the Germans, Swiss and Austrians. I learned a lot about computers and more than enough about angry Germans. Other than that it was money coming in.

But of course I grew bored. And being bored at a computer, I did what most folks do and I surfed. Honestly, I don’t remember if it was an intentional search, but somehow I came across an ad requesting voluntary service overseas teaching Tibetan refugees English, in India. It struck a chord. And to cut a long story short, I applied, was accepted; and in the December of 2003 was off to India. Bangalore to be precise…

The story I wish to tell is only one part of that journey… so I’ll move on in to it. I arrived. I met the Tibetans. And I stayed with them for three months. At night I slept on the floor and kept a hard eye on the cockroaches and the rest of the day was split between lessons, cooking and… well singing. What a love of music Tibetans have. I had brought my guitar and regaled them in the evening with Western songs, and at the same time, they in turn, would sing their Tibetan songs with the most incredible soaring melodies. We did this almost nightly. And it was a joyful time.

The organization was Swiss and Christian. And it was a wonderful thing they did. But I had come from living in a Tibetan monastery in Scotland and… well I was amazed that there was nothing of their own culture around. No prayer flags. No statues. No imagery of any kind… On reflection there was a picture of HH the Dalai Lama. At least.

I don’t remember how it came about. But I felt there was a need for these people to connect to their own culture. And though I don’t think I had any goal in mind, I remember sticking to the wall in the compound courtyard, above a bowl of earth, three Buddhist images and some incense. The images were, I think, Guru Rinpoche, Chenrezig and Green Tara.

When I awoke the next day, there was a queue. The Tibetans, aged between 20 and 25, had lined up in the courtyard, to put incense into the earth provided. It was so simple. Like a key in a lock had been placed, and the rest was natural. It confirmed what I already knew, that Tibetan spirituality is part of their very DNA and you cannot separate them from it.

I spoke to my Christian benefactors and explained this to them. They awarded me a small sort of room with an attached closet. If I wanted I could make something in that closet. So I did. So we did.

I wasn’t wealthy but by Indian standards I had some money; and with a group of Tibetan students we went into Bangalore to look at a deity we could purchase. I remember the shop had little, but there was a decent sized Manjushri statue and upon agreement that was what we bought.

You have to be an outsider to appreciate what followed. They themselves, took over, and developed that small area into a shrine. It was very simple but for the rest of their time there, the students would go there to pray. Some, the girls I remember, would neatly empty the 8 offering bowls they had provided and would fill them again each morning. They would stack them and unstack them. No words about this were said at any time. It just happened.

Some… were due to return.

Some were about to re-make that arduous journey across the Himalayas to rejoin their families. I was asked to lead a Tara puja. And here is the crux of this story. I, a Scotsman, learning a very second hand type of Buddhism, was being asked by real Tibetans, to lead them in prayer… They didn’t have this learning, at least due to the Chinese as they told me, not fully anyway. But somehow, due to my living in Samye Ling Monastery in Scotland… I did. Everything is wrong with this picture. But they asked. And they continued to ask, because Tara is the remover of obstacles. How do you say no?

In that little room near that little shrine, I fumbled my way through this Tibetan practice. There was chanting, there were hand gestures or mudras, there were musical sections with the Tibetan Damaru and Bell. And I have never felt so out of my depth in my entire life. But somehow we did it, as a group. And as a group the prayer was offered. We held this full Puja in that little sanctified space… Tenzin, one of the more advanced students was asked… was that really Tibetan? and he told me later he answered – kind of…

Did those who were crossing to Tibet travel problem free… I don’t know.

  

MWEBEMBEZI RONALD

SCENERY VIEW

As I travel,

I saw like the mouth of a gushing rivulet

I saw a jewel-blue stream splashing in the forest

Curved and hopping over the rocks happily

As the trees played Melody using strings and drums from their hands.

When

Sun loughed at them

I saw them glitter like water drops

on their surface

Their Aroma leapt to my nose from the forest

And when the moon smiled at them

I saw chords of soft light spearing down.

 

On the other side, mountains were white

Wrapped in a wall of snow

I saw the foot of a mountain covered in mist

And from the breasts of a mountain

waterfalls were pouring onto a Rock.

Waterfalls pounded the rocks heavily

gorge to gorge

Rocks were raging and racing to the crops

The crops weeped

Their Tears were More

Uprooted houses

Nothing was Left.

 

Next day,

I saw lighting

The Tyrant came to the forests and

felled and felled

He fired the bush

And dug up the ribs of the mountain.

He dumped his bin and plastics

in the River.

He slaughtered swamps and built houses

For  hire.

 

God was outraged

And the Sun was incensed

Dried up water and food

And when eventually rain ran out of the skies

It swept all the potato ridges that he planted on the ribs of the mountain

He became terribly hard up

And longed for relief.

 

The government attempted rescue

The government reached its limit

Then the inner soul spoke

Those forests and swamps are your lifes

Forests, swamps and bushes are your companion

They are your champion

Your source of existence

Your being

Let the firests, swamps and

bushes be joyful

Let the animals roam

Let the rivers run a long

Let the moon beam

Let the sun see

When ….all is done.

Remember,a world without nature is a tree without a stem.

 

 

Patricia Konadu Mensah

 THE TWILIGHT OF THEIR SKY

In the monsoon season I was already leaving

On my backpacking travel in the outskirts of the Ashanti region

Dawia of Sekyere Afram Plains, was my destination

A place drenched in history, a bearer of ancient mystery

Beautiful, free and unbound, is what it was

An oasis of serenity, behind the eye of the world

A haven of many charms

But a place of many withouts, a world without

The simplicity of the lifestyle of the people, oh their smiles

And how they revered me, lured me into thier huts

 

They offered me water in a calabash but refused to accept my cash

The children played in the sand, each person owned the town

Thier world was without electricity, to power thier small city

A world without light to lighten thier path

Thier world was without internet to reach the globe

Infact nothing swept through the dull sense of their world

Yet how they live so full of life

Their strength within to dive through any storm and thrive

They plant trees, rear animals and keep the soil fertile

They are the sons and daughters of the earth and sky

Maintaining the beauty of nature is their craft

 

They gather woods and spill kerosene on to lit a fire

They gather around the flickering flames to cook dinner

I still remember the pleasant taste of the food

I guzzled all the yam and slurped my soup

I took a warm bath in the center of chopped bamboo sticks nailed together

The night was dark without light but the soft sky smiles

For the stars shines like priceless pearls, like swarm of golden bees

And the low wind moans with the song of a nightingale

And moon gleams like a sphere-fire illuminating the dark

And trees dance with a gentle motion and blows a sweet lullaby

Till in slumber my eyelids abound

And I awoken to the sound of the rooster crow

 

Upon my cheeks I felt the morning dew

The air so humbling and cool

In this place called Dawia I spent two more days

In that time, I told them of the place where I grew

Events I’ve seen, things I knew and that which I purse

And suddenly I found myself falling more in love with the life I knew

I missed home, and my mama’s cooking

It was time for the goodbyes yet I was overwhelming enticed

It was a world without the world I knew

Yet these lingering feelings refused to subside

And in the moment when I turned to leave

I saw how beautiful it is, the twilight of their sky

Oh how beautiful it was, in the corners of my eyes

 

Camellia Nixon

Our Loss

I often wonder how that tree must have felt,

imprisoned by stone, isolated,

from the past life that within its body dwelt,

and the home it once knew, exterminated.

 

Without mercy left alone in that concrete abyss,

kept from the sweet air of the grassy fields of its youth,

its acorns dropping on ash, never knowing natures kiss,

another relic of a past, present and future we have come to rue.

 

Over time, Mother Nature’s hand withdrew from the Oak,

and took back into her arms it’s spirit,

whilst humans hacked away at its branches, it choked,

from the rising water flooding the ‘nature’ exhibit.

 

A bleak image to look upon,

every time I visited,

and when I did, I would hear a quiet ghostly song

foretelling when in natures favour the balance shifted.

 

You should visit an important grave in the centre of Milton Keynes

To remember and honour the soul of a fallen oak tree.

 

 

Jacqueline Bain

Of Saints and Seabirds

At first all I could see was guano smeared across the cliff face like butter icing. A moment of panic seized me. Had all the birds gone? The puffins certainly had, but I’d been forewarned about that.

As I scanned and re-scanned the cliffs, bird-like shapes, one by one, materialised in my binoculars. Hundreds of guillemots, crammed so close together on thin craggy ledges, they merged seamlessly into the backdrop of volcanic rock and bird poo. Scattered kittiwakes nested near the cliff tops, overhangs curtained with pink thrift, sea campion and scurvy grass.

St Abbs Nature Reserve – a Land of Saints and Seabirds – the National Trust for Scotland’s leaflet boldly proclaimed. I was there for the birds, not so much the saints. Thousands of years ago, they came for solitude and reflection, and I couldn’t help wonder how they’d feel about the amount of people, and diminishing numbers of seabirds, that represent the environment these days. Yet they had their problems too.

St Abbs, on the Scottish Berwickshire coastline, was named after St Aebbe, an abbess who lived between 615-683, and brought Christianity to the area, building monasteries and chasing out the pagans.

I had reached the viewpoint, overlooking the headland, a rugged view of cliffs, stacks and gullies. I’d only been able to access the viewpoint because of an All-Ability Path, gravel smooth and free of cambers and grass tufts. It was the start of a route that guided people to the viewpoint and beyond. A narrow, stony pathway snaked around the cliff tops until out of sight, where there was a lighthouse designed by the Stevensons in 1862, far out of my reach. A popular trail, what Jim Crumley called ‘walk-this-way-tourism’ (The Nature of Summer, Saraband, 2020).

Scotland was sizzling in one of its rare summer-hot weeks, prickling my skin and shedding iridescent heat hazes over fields of yellow rattle and buttercup. I’d hirpled along, elbow crutches clicking, and sending up puffs of rust-coloured dust. I struggled over and around black slugs stupefied by the heat. Hikers, dog walkers and families strode by. Most uttered a cheery hello. Others paused to make a sympathetic remark about the leg brace I’d worn since intensive knee surgery. Heavy and rigid with metal rods, it made walking difficult and travelling in a car torturous.

Being the one left behind no longer bothered me. I’d grown to appreciate the slow pace deteriorating mobility had enforced upon me. I had time to look, listen and smell the landscape in ways I wouldn’t have if I’d been rushing on ahead with everyone else. Every little sighting, sound and scent became a great adventure, and like the saints I reflected on everything.

The waysides of the All-Ability Path were cluttered with red campion, oxeye daisy, wild geranium and nettle. I had time and space to notice snails of all shades and sizes, nestled alongside frothy baubles of spittle bugs. Small white and speckled wood butterflies danced like little, magical rainbows, and bees bumbled from flower to flower. There were flies with furry antennae, hoverflies with dandelion-yellow banded abdomens, and glossy, bejewelled bronze beetles.

Then, on reaching the viewpoint cliffs curved around the bay, and the sea far below was a swirling mirage of Atlantic blue and Caribbean green. Guillemots bobbed on the waves like Cadbury-chocolate penguins. As I relaxed into the landscape more birding visions emerged: gannets, cormorants, a couple of razorbills, and herring gulls dangling on the breeze, quivering gently like cardboard mobiles above a baby’s cot.

It’s hard these days to just enjoy nature for nature’s sake. I looked at the mass of people heading up the clifftop pathway, socially distanced, but looking almost like a busy street in Glasgow City Centre. So many people, and no-one seemed to be observing the birds or the insects or the rabbits on the far off gorse-burgeoned hills.

I was just another human being impacting on the wildlife around us. I stayed away from the edges, viewed from afar, but even the National Trust for Scotland has admitted that the large numbers of people are impacting on the diminishing numbers of our seabirds. Of course, there’s a whole host of factors: climate change, pollution, habitat loss, overfishing – to name a few, but disturbance is a key factor in nest desertion and poor breeding rates. A recent study of seals in St Ives identified commercial wildlife tour boats as a major source of disturbance and stress for the seals (A Griffiths, BBC Wildlife Magazine, Vol 39, June 2021).

As if on cue a boat, promising a riptide and fast-blast experience, scudded over the water, giving its life-jacketed tourists the thrill of a lifetime. The engine noise blasted the rhythms of seabird song, and the boat smashed its way through the thread-lines of low-flying gannets. It spewed a vomit-trail of spume and foam, screeching to a halt near the base of the guillemots’ cliff. It went far too close. The birds were getting no peace from above or below.

The saints of old didn’t have the problems of motorboats, and catastrophic mass extinction the way we do now, but they had their own issues in relation to wildlife and human pressures. Saint Cuthbert, known for his extraordinary relationship with wildlife visited St Abbs, and when he discovered the locals ate eider duck eggs, he was so disturbed and concerned that he introduced legislation to protect eiders and other birds.

Did he stand on the very same spot as me, and shudder at the thought of a world without eider ducks; the same kind of shudder that rippled through me, as I imagined a world without puffins and guillemots, elephants and tigers, moths and bees.

Despite my fears I know there is hope. There are many present-day St Cuthberts out there, fighting to protect and preserve our wild creatures. One of the most important fights of our time as a world without our wild creatures isn’t really a world at all.

  

Soroush Khatami

 Requiem for a forest

The road is like a giant snake taking a nap after digesting thousands of trees while the passing cars engine sounds resemble its snores which scratch the spiritual silence of the Abbasabad forest. And here we are, me and my cousin walking on the back of this snake, headed to the Caspian sea. As we go further I realize that there has been much more trees to be cut down than what the road took from the forest. Old trucks roar and exhale their dark dense breathes on the road. Neither the trucks nor the road are not older than the trees whose giant logs laid down on the trailers passing among the still standing yet grieving trees. As we keep walking on the side of the road we see a dead fox on our way. No blood, no broken bone, no evidence of car crash. Then we find the possible reason of the death; we notice a huge urban waste disposal right there in the valley beside the road. I just wonder what kind of wisdom could lead authorities to make a disposal place in the middle of a the forest. The oozed out dirt flows down to the valley And the breeze cuddles the soft tail of the fox. It’s getting dark and I’m not afraid of deadly wild animals like Persian lions or Caspian tigers, since they are extinct for decades now. And this is the most unpleasant feeling of being secure I can have in the middle of a forest. I know wouldn’t be there to see but I wonder how a world without human being would be like. At least for this forest I can imagine that; no snake would eat trees, no fox would face a mountain of waste and there would have still been lions and tigers roaming here instead of us

  

Devduti Sinha

 A world without acquaintances

I wake up to the ringing alarm. I hear footsteps approaching and lift a pan reminding myself I live alone. I see him and shout, “Who are you and what are you doing at my house?” “Your house? No, this is my apartment.”, he replies. Is he a robber pretending to live here? “I am not a robber. I live here, see”. He shows me a photograph of himself, the living room wallpaper in the background. A tour around the house confirms that we live together. Is he my brother? Roommate? I take out my phone to search for any trace of his existence. I am even more perplexed to find no known contacts in my list. Who the hell is mom? And why are there two hearts beside the letter ‘N’?

I switch on the TV. ‘Breaking news! People from all over the world are telling us that they don’t remember- rather know- anyone! Strangers living in the same house so to speak!’, the anchor screams. “So, it’s not just us.”, he says. I nod. The news continues- “People are currently travelling to unknown destinations to find the one person they know.”, a man says. “How do they know where to go?”, a woman argues. “Glowing words on their palms.” The woman lets out an exasperated laugh. “You all are fools if you believ—” I look at my palms to see one word- ‘Mumbai’. I look up at him. “Copenhagen”. Without a word we both set out in opposite directions.

As I land in Mumbai- I realise that this is it. I keep rubbing my palms to see a reaction but I don’t. Dejected, I hail a taxi and reach my hotel. At almost 4 am, I wake up to a warm glow. ‘Ajanta Caves. I take the ferry across the crashing waves, the wind in my face- I sense a knowing feeling. After a brief walk up the pier, I reach the entrance. The world inside is beautiful as if the cave was a portal. A long dimly lit passage with lines of torches on both the sides. I run my hands across the wall, tracing the ancient carvings until I reach a specific one- Two figures dancing with their hands intertwined. The sudden glow from my palm lights up the cave. ‘Taj Mahal’.

I deboard the train at Agra station and tell the driver to take me to the Taj Mahal and as I get out of the taxi, he says with a rueful smile, “The eternal symbol of love”. This is what I imagine paradise to be. Pristine white marble dulling everything in comparison. Beautiful minarets and alluring domes- as if God was the sculptor. As I exit the doors and walk along the miniature pools, I see the moonlight bouncing off the water frames my face perfectly. I look beautiful, almost content. The words of the driver echo before I notice the glowing palm in my reflection. ‘Goa’.

The sandy beaches of Goa make me miss home- minus all the hawkers yelling, of course. I take a stroll along the beach and a stray tear rolls down my cheek as I try to remember something- anything. As I look down to wipe it away, I see a heart drawn over the sand. S+N. When I walk back, my palm matches the amber glow of the bonfire nearby. A lone shadow- I wonder if he is any closer to finding his person as I get in the taxi. “Where to, Miss Sienna?”, the driver asks. “Sikkim”

I am jubilant that out of all the places in the world, I was compelled to come to India by fate. Irony is that if I knew any one person in the world right now, I would settle down here with them- that’s how charmed I am. As the cab drove the winding roads up the mountain, I fixated on each snowflake as it fell on the ground. Snowflakes- each one unique on its own- like soulmates. I drifted back to reality when the driver said, “Miss, you have to walk from here.” I strap my backpack and start climbing. The freshly fallen snow gives away under my feet but I trudge on. I hear bells tolling in the distance and I walk towards the ginormous closed doors. As I proceed to knock, it opens revealing a Buddhist monk. I folded my hands and he cut me off before I could speak. “To get to the top of the mountain, take a left and then start climbing straight. Now, hurry.” He says gesturing towards my glowing palm. ‘Mount Brumkhangse.’

As I get to the top of the mountain, I see someone looking at the snowy horizon and he turns. Tall, brown curly hair with amber eyes. One look and I know everything. His smile that I fell in love with. Those unruly curls that I played with. Those deep-set amber eyes remind me how lucky I am. “Nate?” “Sienna?” I nod my eyes streaked with tears. As we collapse onto each other, both of our phones buzz off like crazy. I see the first message and leap in joy. Mark, my brother/ roommate, has found Gianna, his wife. I see Mom’s picture and know who she is- my everything. Suddenly, it hits me out of nowhere. Every person did not have a single acquaintance in the world except for that one person-their soulmate. The figures dancing at Ajanta caves. My moonlit face in the Taj Mahal. The S+N heart on the sand in Goa. The snowflakes in Sikkim. Every event was leading me to find Nate. As I turn to explain it to him, I see him on his knees with a ring in his hand. “Will you marry me, Sienna?”, he asks. “Are you sure?”, I asked, tears already flowing. “I would marry you in any world, even one without acquaintances.”, he says as he slips the ring onto my finger.

 

 

 

LAM Alvin

Unexpected lessons from a Nordic pit stop

“All you gotta do is run off the cliff. Got it?”

Before I could respond I was pushed forward, with my legs following suit. I plummeted in the direction of the tiny cartoon houses of Vík and was instantly dragged back up towards the powder blue sky. A seeming infinite strip of black beach borders the Atlantic and the rest of the tiny town. I was out of breath, literally and figuratively. Did I mention I was paragliding?

Back on the ground, the adrenaline settles down quickly due to how peaceful this village is. This one square kilometre land mass in Iceland is home to around 700, who are hard to spot. Its busiest spot was a small restaurant serving burgers and fish and chips, with many being tourists as Vík is a popular pit stop between the capital Reykjavík and Höfn, a fishing town on the southeastern coast.

The village is overlooked by a church on top of the hill, taken out of a fairytale, which serves as a hopeful refuge sheltered by altitude and nearby mountains in the case of a volcanic eruption from the north. The active volcano, called Katla, is below the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, and its imminent eruption will bring peril to the whole of Vík through flash floods and of course, lava. Still, the population of this village is growing.

It is at this place that you get a sense of living in the moment, without much care for the outside world, or much worry about the future, even if it involves a looming wipeout of civilization. The slow pace of life paired with unique, majestic views without bounds makes you take a step back, and just breathe.

I very much regret not staying longer, and like many others, treated this village like a pit stop. A world without Vík could be closer than we know it. Same for anything else. A world without a certain frend or family member. A world without “endangered species”, only because the label is replaced with “EX”. A world without forests and glaciers, due to private ventures fuelled with greed and climate change. We have to cherish what we have now, and the opportunities of today. For Vík it would be to document its culture, as man cannot and will not win against nature. But for man-made threats that could eliminate countless natural and living treasures of our world, we can, and must do more. Only then can we have the hope to live in a world with all these riches, riches that can stay with us forever.

 

Katherine A. Weir

Oxygenated Tree Math: A Scientific Poem

Figure this …

1 acre of trees provides enough oxygen for 18 people for a year; 25 acres of rainforest in Borneo = total number of trees in North America; 1950s = 15% of Earth covered with trees; 2020s = 7.5% of Earth covered with trees; 2070s = no Amazon rainforest; Air pollution, water pollution, soil erosion, malaria epidemics, higher concentrations of CO2 in air, decimation of indigenous tribes, extinction of plants, extinction of animals [1]

 

Poetic Justice in a world without trees …

1 person = 1/18 of an acre; 1/18 of an acre with no trees (size of one average house) = one dead person

 

Oxygenated Math: A 50-year world survival prediction

2020s = 7.9B population – 20% more dead of all trees = 1.58B persons without oxygen

2030s = 6.7B population – 20% more dead of all trees = 1.34B persons without oxygen

2040s = 5.5B population – 20% more dead of all trees = 1.1B persons without oxygen

2050s = 4.5B population – 20% more dead of all trees = 900M persons without oxygen

2060s = 3.7B population – 20% more dead of all trees = 74.0M persons without oxygen

Year 2070 = No more trees

 

Equals = = = =

Trees maimed, murdered, mutilated by greed; Oxygen little, less, light-headed by lack of; People … gasping, listing, popping blood vessels; Dying, dead, death, no remorse

 

[1] “Tree Facts.” Growing Air. (2021). https://growingair.nl/facts/

 

 

Ambika Dhobale

 A WORLD WITHOUT HUMANS

In the classroom filled with humans I am feeling suffocated to be present here and portrait myself as a unique piece of an art. It’s another day passing by yet my wish stays the same. How long do I have to survive in this world? It’s hard to know who is real? Who is fake? Money decides the value of life. Now I am sincerely wishing for “May all Humans disappear one day! Or the world should get a Reset!!” with the blink of an eye, I am feeling rush around me. I can strongly sense the power that is carrying me through a lot of different frames. What is happening to me? Before I could think further, the picture started to become clearer.

I am on an island. I started walking to find a way home or if I can get any help. Is this a prank? But soon I realised my wish somehow came true. I am in a world without humans. Do I travel back in time? Am I seeing the future? After walking to a ridge I am surprised to see a building crumbled down in pieces. So this is the future? Even though that building is signifying the end of humans, still the overall scenery doesn’t look sad at all. Moreover it is beautiful and peaceful. Nature has taken over everything, As if they are trying to prove they are the real owner of this mother earth. “Not Really!” Someone responded. I jumped in fear. Is anyone Reading my thoughts? I thought, I am the only one here. ” With all my courage I asked, “who are you?”

The sound Responded: I am nature.

I responded in a confused tone:  hello, I am human! What do you mean by the first response?

Nature Responded: Umm! It’s true I am not the owner of this place. I am just one of the children mother earth has.

“What? Children?” I mumble

Nature: Yes! We were all children of mother earth. Most precisely in human’s language , I was the oldest of my siblings then Humans were born.

I asked in curiosity: Where are the humans? Where am I?

Nature: That’s hard to answer. You are in the future. This is mother earth. And humans ….

They are extinct.

I am lost in thought for a moment. If humans are extinct then how come I am here? Am I the last human being alive? Will they put me in a cage and have a ticket to see me? But then again they are not humans to perform such cruel acts. It’s the humans who always do that. Nature again responded to my thoughts, “yes we are not going to put you in a cage.”

With hesitation I asked the question: what happened to humans? Has mother earth and nature abandoned them?

Nature: It’s a long story. When mother earth gave birth to nature and all the other living beings before humans existed, everything was going well. But there were times when we fought in between (natural calamity) then one day one interesting living being was born. We accepted it wholeheartedly. We name that living being “human”. As a part of the family we were growing up together. Everyone stayed the same but only humans started to grow differently. It was our youngest member we supported and we became happy together. But year after year the more we give the more they want. In the beginning we both respected each other. We both are children of mother earth. But as the greed of humans started to grow we tried our best to support. When we got to know humans needed lessons for behaviours we gave warning signs. We are supposed to live a balanced life with everyone. Decades after decades we got to see new cruller greedy humans. They not only fought with us but then they started to fight among themselves. With the knowledge they are blessed with they created something which can be a threat to the entire human being. Over their existence they preferred power. We supported each other till our last moments together. The way humans abandoned nature decades ago, we also thought about abandoning humans. But we are family, family is supposed to be there for each other. We tried to save humans. Even though they were harsh on us, it still felt empty without them.

I stayed in silence, I am a human being too. Am I a threat too? So humans are the threat to humans? Nature won’t end us? But humans can end humans? Is this world better without humans? Nature with all other living beings (without humans) can stay peacefully. When will humans realise they are a small part of mother earth they don’t own everything on it. They exist because other things of nature exist if they keep being harsh on nature. One day nature might abandon humans till they become extinct!

After I got lost in thoughts, I found myself in a classroom full of students.

And the day continues.

 

Zia-ur-Rehman

 The story of the elephant :

In 2013, I went with my family to visit Lahore Zoo. There I saw an old elephant. My mother told me that I had seen this elephant as a child and had ridden it. But now he was old and his owner was introducing him to tourists. It seemed that the elephant still wanted people to ride him, but his old age was an obstacle to his desire. I also wanted to ride it but the old elephant could not bear the weight anymore. Unfortunately, the government could not take any practical steps for their survival in such a long time. As a result, elephants are becoming extinct in Pakistan. I was heartbroken in 2017 when I heard the news of the death of this lone elephant.

 

The image of it is still safe in my mind. Many animals are becoming extinct at the rate at which the world is changing today. If we imagine that there are no elephants in this world, then the world. How will Of course, the day will be unbearable. Its beauty will fade. Like this poor elephant, other animals are slowly becoming extinct. I want to somehow protect these endangered animals but I cannot do it alone. This requires the help of the government.

If we do not protect these dumb animals today, we will be completely deprived of them for some time to come. Therefore, keeping in view the example of this one elephant, we should make serious efforts. It is because of these animals that there is natural beauty in this world. The number of animals in Pakistan has decreased significantly in recent times. According to one estimate, the number of dolphins has dropped to just 600.

If we are not serious about saving them today, these animals, like the dinosaurs, will disappear from the face of the earth.

 

Nafisa Antara Rahman

A WORLD WITHOUT…

A constant leap of faith was all I had in me. Yesterday was festive, I sat by the fire and wrote to Oxford – this was all I wanted. To travel from India to England with a fancy of living my dream – of studying there. How could I be so selfish to think of only myself? I disregarded our shattering finances for the third time. The cycle repeated as I once again sat and wrote numerous essays to  the admission officers.

That was 6 months ago, today I packed my bag to leave the humid eastern India to the cold England, a shivering nervousness leaped inside me as I put my copy of “Little Woman” inside my carry-on.  I left India for a year – I bid farewell as I tried to hide my tears.  The  emancipation curtailed as for a moment I had the worst flashback of my life – six years old I sat on my bed excited about how my life would be in this exact moment.

It is imperative how the thin line between excitement and frantic thoughts could lead to. Had I waited a little longer I would be living a completely different life. I had a series of disparity since I was a child, from being put into one facility to the other to be taken in – I had lost a sense of belonging – almost never comfortable where I was, but deep inside I knew where I was supposed to be. A year went by but I never found what was supposed to inspire me – I found that seemingly delirious – what was the place that existed and out there but never to be found by me. I blamed myself, sometimes we wander to find places that satisfy something inside us that we lose what found us first – the thirst to explore without an end goal of actualisation.

I once again found that leap of faith and packed my bag – on my way to Malta. A friend of mine lived there. I told myself that there it was – the set of happiness I lacked would be there – I sat in numerous cafes and parks writing and exploring – hoping as I waited for something to appear that was ignorant of me. Met a few like minded people but things eventually ended. I couldn’t help but think about who and what could fulfil that thirst of completeness inside me – was it reading scripts and poems, was it the museums and sculptures I never had been to, was it the company I couldn’t find?

This time I returned and sat by the fire like I did years ago and thought about the experiences I had – mostly  the expectations that never came to be. If I think of a world without beauty and passion in us we cannot expect to make it materialise into physicality. An empty soul is an empty world embedded into our dreams and desires. Somewhere in the psyche deep inside lies a wound that would never healed so we fight the world to make us happy like we are some entity that has to complete us.

 

AAKARSHA HANDA  

A world without time
I was asleep in my bed, tugging on the blankets to keep warm, subconsciously thinking that soon the alarm will ring and wake me out of this beautiful slumber, and the day will barge in with its endless chores, one after the other, until the night falls, and only then, will I unite with my lover, the bed and fall asleep in its warm arms. Suddenly, my eyes shrunk from a bright beam and I opened my eyes sleepily to find the Sun shining in my slumber-filled eyes. I sat up in my bed, freaked, because I was late. Late for everything – for getting up, for brushing my teeth, making my breakfast, getting ready, reaching office, for submitting my assignments and the never-ending list only got bigger as my heart shrunk smaller imagining how the day just stretched longer and the time I spent with my lover just got shorter. Sad, I stepped out of bed and looked at my wretched alarm clock to see why it didn’t buzz me awake at the set time. What I saw made me wonder if I was really awake or not. The clock was blank – sans numbers, its minute, second and hour hand, as well as its motivation quote that made me sulk the minute I woke up but ultimately gave me the strength to crawl out of bed and push me into my active mode. Perplexed, I rubbed my eyes, walked out of my room, splashed some water on my face and came back into the room. I picked up the clock again and saw the same thing. Puzzled, I went and picked up my watch to see the blank dial staring back at me. I couldn’t believe what I saw. It was, as if overnight, the concept of time had been wiped off the face of earth.
At first, I did not know what to do. I tried to make sense of it, but failed. I could not fathom how this could be possible. I did not know whether I should dress up for work, whether I should continue my morning routine of bathroom to kitchen to dressing room, whether I should go to the office or not. I did not know. After some deliberation, I decided where to begin. I picked up my phone and called up my friend. As he picked up, I could not go through the usual formalities and cut to the chase, telling him what had happened, hoping he would offer an explanation. But what he said only added to the confusion. He said with all the seriousness he could accumulate in his voice, “Time, what is that?” I was dumbfounded. I hung up. I decided to check with another person, still unable to believe what had happened. I called up my boss, and apologized for not being able to submit my assignments in time. Frightened for taking this experiment to a whole new level, I was waiting for my boss’s response. After a long pause, he said, “What are you talking about? You know that you can send in your work whenever you want to.” My jaw dropped.
Initially, I missed the numbers on the clock, the motivational quote, the sound of the alarm. Suddenly, an epiphany dawned upon me. It wasn’t the clock or the time that gave me motivation. The minute hand did nothing more than deepen the furrows on my forehead. But now, with no time, or no way to measure it at least, I could do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted to. I could allow myself to paint my own canvas. After careful thinking, I thought of the first thing I wanted to do. I stepped into the kitchen and made myself a wonderful big cup of hot tea. I took my mug to the window sill, sat down and took the first sip. With no deadlines hanging like a sword on my head, with my eyes shut, I could savour each sip of tea, taste its essence, its warmth sliding slowly down my oesophagus, pooling in my stomach. And I found myself taking a big sigh of relief. Oh, how much I longed for this one soulful cup of tea.
After this, I went to my work place, did my work, all with a huge smile on my face. Everybody stared at me, but I did not give a care in the world. After finishing with my work, I retraced my steps back home, stopping on the way to buy some food for dinner. I entered my home and kept the groceries on the table. Strangely, after being up the entire day, I did not feel an ounce of fatigue in my bones. I was fresh as a daisy. I felt like a baby being born anew into the world, with a million new opportunities to explore and a million new things to learn about.
Suddenly, with the dimension of time lost into space, the world felt new. It felt better, lighter. The world felt happier. I did not know what to do with this happiness. The world was my oyster, but I did not know how to explore it – do I eat it, do I look at it from afar and get fascinated, I did not know.
And just like that, there was one thing, one activity, he did not need a clock to remember. He went to his bedroom, opened his closet, opened the drawer and took out a bottle. He twisted the cap open, took out one of the contents of the bottle, and popped it in his mouth. He kept the bottle back, shut his drawer, shut his closet, climbed back into bed and slept to wake up into a new world with new dreams, new aspirations and to wake up with a new oulook. The bottle read: Prescription for Schizophrenia.

 

Arefa Sultana Hussain

A WORLD WITHOUT RIVERINE GRASSLANDS

I first read about grasslands in geography while in school. It was just syllabus and nothing more than that.

So, when a former colleague who now works as a member of the wildlife protection and conservation board, told me about a fairly unexplored wildlife sanctuary where safari tours go deep into the alluvial grasslands, it took me back to that particular geography class and I was hooked.

“It is a foot safari with a stay in one of the jungle lodges, a place too basic and not at all for luxury hunters,” he said over a telephone call.

“We can do without luxury,” my friends chipped. “We want to be there to experience nature in all its bounty.”

Thus began our journey to the Daying Ering Wildlife Sanctuary, a place miles away from touristy limelight. Where on earth is this place, you ask? It is in Arunachal Pradesh, the ‘Land of the Dawn-lit-Mountains’, on the north-eastern tip of India, where the landscape is a canvas of misty hills and deep green valley’s all around.

Covering an area of 190 sq km, D’Ering, is surrounded by various tributaries and distributaries of the mighty Siang River.

Believed to be one of India’s best riverine grasslands, a boat ride through the Siang is the only way to reach. A major portion of the sanctuary consists of grasslands and the rest of the area is covered by woods and water.

We had to reach the Borguli Wildlife Range before 4 pm to enter the park. From there armed guard and other staff accompanied us for safety from wild elephants.

Balancing in the traditional rowing boat, I gazed in wonder at the blueness of the river.

One of the staff who now doubled as a boatman pointed to a few migratory birds ahead.

“See these are annual visitors from Siberia and Mongolia.”

There were also some cranes, wild ducks and river dolphins.

Unlike other sanctuaries, the infrastructure for tourism was only beginning to take shape here, but nonetheless, it was a unique ecosystem combining the terrestrial with the aquatic and forming a natural habitat for different species of avifauna.

After two boat rides, and trek along the several small and big islands created by the meandering river, we finally reached the jungle lodge just when the sun was beginning to set. It was a myriad of colourful hues across the grasslands and the forest patches surrounding the lodge.

The friendly staff did their best to make our stay comfortable. There was a lone light bulb in the empty courtyard between the two lodges. Candles, a small solar lamp lit the absolutely no-frills room we were accommodated in.

“Our newly constructed washrooms were destroyed by a herd of wild elephants a month ago,” Raja, one of the patrolling staff informed with a look of concern.

We had no qualms in using the makeshift toilet and freshened ourselves at the courtyard’s hand pump.

By now, we understood that this was a basic place for forest officials. There was no fan, no TV and barely any cellular connection in the forest.

Sipping black tea, narrating stories around a bonfire under a clear star-lit January sky, we were perched away in the dense lap of nature free from all commercial clutter. There wasn’t any telescope to take us on a dedicated night safari or any fancy astronomy session, but nonetheless, we enjoyed the unobstructed splendour of the galaxy of stars.

“In the wee hours of morning you can spot wild elephant, jackal, hog deer, sambar, barking deer, hispid hare, and wild boar from the balcony of the lodge.” The contingent staff had only one piece of advice: Be quiet enough to not scare away the animals!

Sure enough we did actually get a glimpse of barking deer, hog deer, jackal just from the balcony.

In the morning we got ready for the regular surveillance and patrolling with the staff. Our destination was one of the watch towers.  Hiking across dense grassland patches trailed with elephant poop, we made it to the watch tower and waited patiently for another glimpse of fauna, maybe an elephant or a herd of Asiatic buffaloes this time. We saw a wild boar making a dash towards its prey in swift movement.

We could hear a various birdcalls; however, not being acquainted with it and neither well equipped, bird watching wasn’t as easy for us.

The grasslands’ birds of D’Ering are an absolute delight to both amateur and expert ornithologists and any enthusiastic birdwatchers. Raja spoke about an ornithologist, the only person ever to have visited the sanctuary twice… once in the 90s and then again in the early 2000s. No matter how much he tried, he never remembered this certain ornithologist’s name.

“I was just a young lad in my teens,” he said. “However, I do remember him sporting flowing grey hair, beard and dark glasses.”

Just like many who take birds for granted, we couldn’t identify any single one of them.

“Do you come across any poachers?” I asked.

“Sometimes we do. There is a shortage of staff and the sanctuary has yet to be properly secured from hunting and poaching.”

Despite being a model habitat for wildlife to thrive and restoring ecological balance of the region, it faces conservation and management challenges. Many of the forest guards lack access to equipment required to monitor and safeguard. It has yet to receive its fair share of required government attention.

Habitat conversion, grazing and flooding put pressure on the grasslands as well. Without the existence of a suitable habitat, animal and plant species will eventually face extinction.

This trip to D’Ering Wildlife Sanctuary was to get away to an unspoiled environment, but it became an outing of learning and appreciation and cherishing the vivacity of nature.

 

Adisha 

A WORLD WITHOUT A WALK TO THE DREAMS

I’ve been walking for hours and hours and I’m still not getting there.

I’ve been looking for a spot to relax, not to stop the trek into the wilderness, but to resume it. The wild fantasy of not stopping is always the wild dream of venturing into the wilderness. Dreams are what propel you forward rather than hold you back.

Alphonse and Maria traveled a great distance through the untamed forest of 9000 Kandi, Wayanad Kottapadi in the southern state of India.

On their journey, Maria had trouble breathing, Alphonse worried and forced her to sit on a boulder in the middle of the jungle. He dashed to a neighboring pond to grab some water for his adored only one in life. He couldn’t find a bottle, glass, or even a coconut shell to gather some water to satisfy her thirst and get her life back.

He noticed a troop of elephants sipping water by the pond, collecting water for their baby elephant laying a little path away from the pond. Alphonse just for a moment wished he was one among them and could get few drops for his love. all he wanted for his love was to die peacefully if could.

nothing stopped him from getting Maria, little water, he collected water with his hand stuck close, he didn’t lose him concentration, he never could, he never would take a chance in her case. He dashed from the pond to where Maria was lying down, clutching a handful of very few drips of water. He didn’t stop until he was certain Maria was alright, that she was filled.

they continued their journey into the woods, she asked, if it was her last minutes of life, who knew? why did you leave me and rand to the pond, “I wouldn’t be able to die seeing your handsome face” she said, he held her hands and whispered in her ears, “I knew you wouldn’t leave me that easily, cause I left you in between the trees, I was sure you were safer than in the ICU, cause then, I would be worried what if the electricity goes off and you doesn’t get oxygen. maria would not that easily give up her life if it wasn’t for Alphonse. They reached the wildest village inside 9000 Kandi, where hides the history, the mystery for the victory of trekking.

There lived people, the tribes we call, without the meaning of hatred, therefore, there existed no race, religions, and caste. The only thing they lived by was for love and to love. Maria was invited to their small houses made of mud and leaves, moments back she came out as one among them with their jewelry and clothes. Alphonse couldnt take his eye off her. They relished the small moments along the way, the valleys, the ponds, the forest critters, the survival crisis, the hunger, the trek, the walk, the hunt to quest the wildness in them, all they wished was to live more.

after their memorable journey, they were walked back to their admitted wards, back to their checkups and downs, as they titled it. the 75 years old Alphonse couldn’t carry his 66 years old Maria when she got sick in the midst of the journey. yes, we cant say against him about it.

 

NOTHING STOPS YOU FROM DOING ANYTHING,

The 70-year-old Alphonse appappan (grandfather) and 66-year-old Maria ammamma (grandmother) proved, that not even age does.

START EXPLORING, AND STOP DESTROYING,

THE WILD HAS GOT MORE STORIES TO TELL…

 

Walk to the forest, is like a walk to your dreams, you will never find a finishing point, the journey just goes on and on.

 

Namrata Sinha

Calls of Sundarbans

Walking down the overly-narrow alleys of the Sundarbans,

Flanked with wild shrubbery that teems with cold dew….

I virtually scrutinize the surroundings like a ‘Stone Age woman’, alert and aware…

Amidst the mellow chirps of a million birds,

And the howls and growls of indefinite unknown creatures,

We further our trek to reach the sight of the magnanimous delta.

We try our best to stay quiet, for we are in the exclusive abode of ‘the royal Bengal tiger’.

‘The beast has had frequent skirmishes with the natives’- utters our guide.

He is the unmatched king of the wilderness, with territory – dense and wide.

Carefully, we board our dwindling small boat,

As what we desire to see requires us to be off the road.

‘The mangroves of Sundarbans’ exhibit a quintessential ecosystem, we aim to preserve,

But what if, climate change and deforestation rob us of this rich natural reserve…..

The impact will be harsh,

‘Mangroves’- the trees of the marsh…

Surpassing the corridor of thick vegetative groves,

That forbear the wrath of tidal waves, amassing in coves,

We sail across the mighty demeanor of Ganges,

The exuberance of the river exudes energy in Sundarbans, and makes me wonder terribly…

“What will a world without the groves and the tigers be like?”

A poisonous, incomplete, short-lived dust of time, that no one shall cherish.

“Should the calmness of wilderness that casts a shadow of ‘diversity’ be devoured by human greed and pride?”

No, it mustn’t.

We ended our trek, with a myriad of species still enthralling us deeply, in our conscience.

 

 

Andrew Carr

 The World Without Mushrooms

Reishi mushrooms are the most popular medicinal mushrooms out in nature’s back garden. As proven in mouse studies, they can help aid in weight loss, they also keep the immune system healthy and in check and they also fiercely fight cancer cells.

 

Chaga mushrooms can also kill cancer cells selectively and stimulate the immune system. They are found in many areas of the Northern Hemisphere and have been used in folk medicine for a long time.

 

There are four main types of mushrooms which are Saprotrophic, Mycorrhizal, Parasitic and Endophytic. There are many different types of mushrooms in these four groups and not all of them can be eaten.

 

Some of them are very poisonous and some of them will make you hallucinate.

 

There are over 50,000 species of mushrooms all around the world and believe it or not, many mushrooms are used as medicine like Penicillin which became the first mass produced antibiotic in the 1940’s.

 

Fungi is also used in other medicines to kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria. As well as medicinal purposes, many types of mushrooms are used and enjoyed in meals.

 

There are 14 main popular mushrooms that are enjoyed all around the world. Mushrooms have their pros and cons as some of them will kill you if eaten!

 

The Tibetan mushroom is put in a small jar of milk that grows and slowly turns the milk into a natural yoghurt that boosts and benefits your health.

 

There are more than 100 medicinal uses that come from mushrooms and fungi that also produce treatments for things such as antioxidants, anticancer, antidiabetic, antiallergic and much more significantly improving human health with benefits.

 

Moving on, I would like to spread awareness of magic mushrooms which grow in the wild such as in fields with or without cattle and near trees.

 

It has been scientifically proven that a small amount of the mushroom’s natural active ingredient “LSD” is a good treatment for depression and although they are a class A drug, they are legal to pick.

 

Some people eat them raw or with food and some people boil them into a hot beverage like a tea- or coffee-style drink.

 

Before picking the shrooms, it must either be a dry or sunny day as the rain shrinks the shrooms down into the grass as a defence mechanism and can even change their colour. It is pointless going to a field close by the sea as there is too much salt in the air which weakens the shrooms’ strength.

 

If you ever do take them, you need to be in the right company with people you like and who are either on the same wavelength as you or they understand the situation. Otherwise, if you’re around people you’re not keen on or don’t trust then you might have a bad time or a bad trip.

 

Shrooms can take from 30-60 minutes to kick in and the euphoric high effects can last over 10 hours depending on your situation (have you eaten, what other drugs are in your system ect.)

Most people on shrooms experience the world to be distorted along with colours, sounds, music, objects and time.

 

Everybody on LSD has different trips and some may have a future perception of time (like seeing into the future!)

 

Taking shrooms is a gamble. They can make you feel very happy with laughing fits, they can make you very excited and full of energy and also give you a full euphoric experience.

 

But on the bad side, they can make you paranoid and anxious, feeling a strong panic and leave you feeling overwhelmed and possibly vomiting.

 

Like I said, everyone experiences different effects that depend on your mood and who you’re with.

 

The most dangerous risk of magic mushrooms is eating a poisonous one that can kill you!!

 

So, there are many uses of different mushrooms out in the open world from the edible food you can buy from shops and supermarkets to the hallucinogenic ones to the psychedelic mushrooms.

 

And that brings me to my conclusion that a world without mushrooms would be both good and bad, but mainly bad…..

 

Pearl Pallavi Sahu

 To My -11°C

A world without stories, is a journey untraveled.

In the lap of the Himalayas, lies the beautiful country of Nepal, an amazing country of hills, mountains, snow and forests. Nourished by the waters of the pious Bhagmati and guarded by the famous Sagarmatha, a visit to Nepal has been one of the most beautiful journeys I have ever embarked.

It all began, when life chose to take me all the way to Kathmandu by chance and I decided to stay back for a while after falling in love with the capital city. Kathmandu was the picture perfect cozy town I always wanted to live in and finally my chance had come. The soft sun, the pleasant cold, the narrow uphill roads and the always smiling people, eager to help made every bit of me love the city. From every corner of the city, the Himalayan ranges were always there to greet me and the serene ambience seemed to spread positivity around me.

As a workaholic, I finally chose to take a break and indulge into something I had never done before. I chose to travel, not to the known but to a place less heard off. So, I packed my bags and chose the place usually known for its extreme cold. A little information on the internet told me that Kalinchowk– my destination, was of religious importance to the locals and usually went down to about minus eleven degrees celsius in February.  Excited, I booked a vehicle the very next day to embark my journey to this place measuring in minus degrees- that is exactly what attracted me at the very first point. With this little information, I took off.

Ankur Dai- the Nepali way to address someone as brother, drove me out of the city of Kathmandu on a Saturday morning. Layered in warm clothes and a heavy jacket, I sat in his vehicle hoping it would stop the cold but somehow, I drew the cold wind either way. As the day dawned, we passed through beautiful villages and landscapes. The morning flight at the Tribhuvan International Airport had just taken off and seemed larger than the airport itself.

The biting cold gradually softened with the pleasant sun coming in and the hills and terrace cultivations seemed to beautify the surrounding valley.

Ji, we are now only 150 kms from the China border” was what caught all my attention when we reached a little town named ‘Thum Pakhar’. China has always had an image of Karate and delicious food in my mind and I thought a little diversion to the border wouldn’t have been that bad an idea but the minus eleven degrees celsius allured me much more. So, we chose to continue as planned. Ankur Dai kept giving me titbits about his political opinions and how travel in Nepal had been impacted. It was around 11:30 AM, we were three hours away from our destination, when my driver began to worry about the weather. The unique fact about living near the mountains is that the afternoons tend to bring in cold winds from the mountains. And here, it wasn’t just the winds but bits of snowflakes as well. Despite my excitement on seeing something close to a snowfall, Ankur Dai didn’t seem all that pleased with the weather.

However, I tried to keep him calm by discussing the current political friendship with India and Nepal, to wade his mind off the weather, but the closer we got to the destination, the roads got wobbly and bumpy, the snowfall increased and the cold came back. The climb from Deurali to Kuri Village-Kalinchowk the most adventurous part of the journey. There were moments when the rear wheels of the vehicle felt like they would fall off the boundary-less road and down the hill about 100 feet below. Every wheel made itself felt on every pit it fell into. A few kilometres away from Kalinchowk, we even came across vehicles returning since the snowfall had been very heavy. Call it obstinacy or his perseverance, we decided we were not going back and would pull it through the snow to the top.  As we reached Kuri Village, the clouds seemed to blanket the vehicle and the snow sprinkled itself on us. Our vehicle wheels were eventually chained to cut through the thick snow that, as heard, had been saturated in the last three hours. My destination was there, right below my eyes, the amazing-coloured roofs shaded by the flakes of snow. The beautiful little cottages with bricked walls and wooden floors and flickering little hearth’s soothing after a tedious journey. I walked towards, ‘Kalinchowk Country Villa, the amazing little cottage I had booked my night in. Frozen water in buckets and knee-deep snow, I had finally reached my Minus Eleven Degree Celsius destination. It wasn’t an easy night, but what mattered the most was I got the experience and the feeling I desired to have.

The beauty of my journey was in the excitement to travel to the unexplored village not with a purpose to visit but with the idea to experience.

An unravelled world comes from stories well-travelled.

  

HIDA SHERIEFF 

 A WORLD WITHOUT FEARS

I admit to my fears,

I let them win but

If they take my throne

I will be lifeless

I don’t want my fears to leave me

Just don’t frighten me

Let’s live together, but

Not grow, please

Put me at ease

I pray you don’t betray

I want to die,

Don’t end me.

 

The forest is in quest

In quest of its wildness,

Soon there will be places to live,

But no breath to live,

Dazzling belts, rugs, and whatnot

With the lives of the forest monarchs,

Into their wildness, we go,

Stop hunting for the raw.

Let them live,

Stop ending them..

We fear the lives of the forest,

They fear the fear in us,

Indeed it’s us who should stop

taking their lives..

  

Dr.Veena Surendran

 A World Without Tigers

I believe that the travel experiences that one truly remembers are the ones that are taken unplanned. Of the many such unplanned trips was my trip to Kabini Tiger Reserve in Karnataka, India. First wave of COVID-19 was nearing the end and finally doctors all over the country are breathing a sigh. So, I decided to hop on the next available flight to Karnataka where I meet a long-lost childhood friend and he tells me about the famous Kabini Reserve. We knew we had to go and we drove there next morning.When we reached the serene location of stay, we were right on time for a beautiful sunset in the woods.

 

At 4 in the morning, we were up and leaving with my camera and gear to reach the spot where canters would be allotted for safari. The fresh crisp air said that I was going to see a tiger that day for the first time. However, all the confidence went down when the crowd grew bigger with professional wildlife photographers with their camouflage uniforms, and I looked like a child with a Nikon D5600 in my hand.

 

An hour in our canter and roaming the forest roads, everybody was disappointed that this ride was going to be a fluke. A little later and after a commotion, the canter gently rolled to a stop- everyone in the canter stopped making a sound, even breathing- there it was, lying on the road, a regal tiger. It was an adult male lying still on the right side and gently turning its head left to look at us. He was short of a crown, perhaps but looked no less royal- the Royal Bengal Tiger seemed ever-so apt. With utmost unbelief and with a trembling hand I clicked pictures. Moments passed yet none of us paused. It was when he stood up and gracefully by the side of the canter before disappearing into the wild…

 

The trip was an eye-opener to us about the real danger that the tiger population is facing worldwide. Even though India has recently realised its target of increasing the tiger population to more than 2,000 in 2020, much is yet to be done.

 

Fadhillah Hayati

 *In The Earth’s Hood*

Perhaps he will not forget

when the world didn’t have freedom

that unites the family of Chickens at night

in one room, everything was placed

along with a bright wall of light

and Cri-kee, the lullaby

 

Or he just wants to come back

on the world’s largest screen

that is a Jellyfish of stars

and fight over a choice between news, cartoons, or operas

That’s repeated inside the screen

 

When is freedom expected

all doubt has stretched over the world like a dim light

is this really called freedom

or he just wants to be a hiss of snakes

 

Perhaps he has forgotten

forward is a green light

and the red light had taken her life

time passed, a world without love.

 

Bukittinggi, 2021

  

 MICH BARBARA

“A WORLD WITHOUT MAN.”  This can be taken as an insult and disrespect to humanity but it  is also possible to sit back and maybe think about in greater depth  because  each  year , month, week, day, minute  and second that passes by ,  one of the occasionally  debated  motions in most high schools MAN HAS DONE  HARM TO THIS WORLD  is proven right with an ideology of making  it  a better place to live in using the modern technology but this did not just commence of recent , it dates back to history that is ages old.

Yes! the advantages  may weigh more than the disadvantages, let’s say about 1% but with the increasing rates  of different artificial intelligence , the 1% is accumulating  and when it hits back , it does so twice as hard as expected hence applying Newton’s third law of motion : for every action , there is an equal but opposite reaction so when the floods hit Nepal occasionally or the severe global warming keeps on the rise around the world or the large migrating  herds of elephants in China and Kenya inconveniencing the human settlements and many other related  misfortunes , know thy origin lest you be ignorant. These are supposed to be indicators but it is disheartening to know that these are all being ignored or taken lightly.

These is actually a perfect summary of the greatest form of selfishness because these occur at the expense of other creations .The world we call “ours” a round sphere in a lay man’s term is actually not ours  we do not own it , someone is  in charge and its fairly partitioned and shared by the  other different species . Actually, in the beginning as the greatest book of faith “THE BIBLE” spells out a super natural being that created the world and I personally call him GOD. But when we begin encroaching on the other species’ portion abusing their rights hence taking advantage because we think we are smarter with brains to render and create such massive and great innovations and the other creatures should live under our command and rule because they are no match to man the almighty.

Then maybe it is high time we question our existence but rather embrace theirs if we cannot understand our stand in this world and respect the boundaries before it is too late.

  

Prithwish Sannigrahi,

 The Maneater of Yavatmal

A rustle in the bushes,

A sliver of the stripes-

Amber eyes converging on its bovine prey

With a guttural growl, it strikes.

 

Slumbering pheasants scatter, startled

As gunsmoke wafts through the bush-

Crimson wets the bare forest bed, witness

to a hunt transformed into ambush.

 

Backs are slapped, cigarettes lit

And a crackling fire is built-

Next to it, spreadeagled, the lifeless corpse

of the Maneater, mother of three.

  

Rini Asih Sasami / Rini Valentina

BIMO AND THE ANCIENT ANIMALS

Bimo was a small boy with a tiny body walked alone along the edge of the river behind the housing where he lived with his parents and his brother. The river was not too deep and its only as high as an adult waist. His older brother, Kresno, often fishing  before he finally playing water on the river. Bimo never wanted to follow him   to play, the reason was,  the water was brownish full of leaves on his surface.

But that afternoon he was very surprised, usually Kresno is fishing, but that time was looked very quiet.  Not even the sound of other children screaming cheerfully while playing marbles by the river bank or the sound of girls screaming playing hide and seek if their hiding place was discovered.  He also did not see  uncle Kevin who usually looks for grass to feed his goats.  That afternoon was different and so strange.

Bimo  walked back to his house slowly which was a few meters from the river.  His surprise grew even more when he also did not meet his mother, father and also Kresno.  With a hasty walk, Bimo walked towards his parents’ room.  The bedroom door was slightly ajar.  He hoped to find his mother sitting folding clothes as she often did it in the afternoon.

His mother wasn’t there.  Even his hopes of meeting his brother were also in vain.  The house felt so lonely and strange.  Slowly he walked towards to the kitchen.  He saw the dirty dishes still piled up.  Even on the dining table, visible remnants of food are a little scattered.  Looks like mother and Kresno left in a hurry without having time to tidy it up again.

“ Mother !  Daddy !   Kresno ….. Where are you guys???  ” shouted Bimo starting to feel anxious and afraid. There was no answer at all. His heart sank when he saw many drops of blood in his front yard. What blood is this?

Slowly and very carefully, Bimo followed the drops of blood until he stopped at the bushes to the left of aunty Siti’s house, whose her house was right opposite his home.  The house also looks very quiet.  There was no aunty Siti who usually sweeps the yard which looks very dirty because the rambutan leaves have soiled it.  Aunty Siti lived alone in the house after her husband died a few months ago.

Carefully he parted the bushes as high as his body.  He was almost   screaming  when under the thick bush he saw  the calf’s body  of little cow. Blood splattered all around the place.  His fear was even greater when his eyes unconsciously saw a giant animal whose its neck was higher than the roof of aunty Siti’s house was watching him with big eyes.  Those eyes… he remembered now.  The creature was the largest dinosaur that ever lived on earth hundreds of millions of years ago.  The expert call it Seismosaurus which means earthquake lizard because when it was walking, the earth seems to hard shake.

There was a sense of joy as well as fear that plagued Bimo’s mind.  Many questions popped into his mind.  How could there be ancient animals in his city.  Then where were all the people who live in the luxury housing resident where he has lived all this time.  What did cause them to disappear without a trace.  Not even his parents and brother were there.

The fear was intensified when a tyrex crept closer to him as if afraid of a seismosaur that was a few meters from where he was standing.  The two giant animals used to only be seen and read in a few books in his collection.  Even the collection of dinosaur robots and similar ancient animals is still neatly arranged on the bookshelf in the room.  But why are these animals now in front of him.  Was it because of the meteor that fell in the crater of Mount Merapi has changed the earth back to ancient times?

Such questions kept bothering him.  Until Bimo forgot that another ancient animal was also interested in the presence of him.

Its broad wings with sharp snout and dozens of needle-like pointed teeth grinned at it.  But Bimo knew very well that the ancient animal, known as the ancient bat or named Rhanphorhyncus, would not be able to eat its small body because the one and a half meter long animal was a herbivorous  just like a seismosaur.  But was not with tyrex…

The ancient beast was extremely ferocious.  And the reddish animal stood up straight ready to swallow him. But his little legs seemed stiff and powerless to run away from that place.

But before the tyrex could reach him with his big fingers and sharp fingernails, suddenly a hand grabbed him into the bushes.

Dad immediately hugged him tightly when they were in the hiding hole.  But he did not see Kresno and his mother.

“Father….. where are Kresno and my mother? Why are they not here…?” asked the boy in a whisper.

Dad looked at him sadly, dad’s arms tightened around his body.  He realized that something very bad had happened to them.  There was a sense of regret when he remembered well the events of this afternoon before he fell asleep in his room.  He still remembers when his mother told him to sleep after school, but instead he fought mother.  If only time could turn back, he wanted to apologize and promised not to fight mom and would apologize for all his mistakes.  But it was too late because mother and his brother had been taken away by tyrex….

His heart was very sad.  But he didn’t dare crying because his voice would be heard by the three tyrexes who were still looking for them in their hiding place.

The giant animals are getting closer to their hiding places, it seems that their noses can smell the presence of Bimo and his father.

Bimo’s heart was beating faster when a spider with a length of almost 3 cm with a leg length of about 7 cm was so close to him.  The spider seems to have lived about 165 million years ago called Nephila jurarssic which is the ancestor of today’s spiders.  Dad immediately covered Bimo’s mouth so he wouldn’t scream so that it would be easier for the tyrex to find them.

Bimo was actually not too scared, the boy was just surprised.  He also knew very well, that Nephila couldn’t possibly bite him.  Because the animal is a cannibal animal that prefers to prey on each other.

His mind grew frantic, how could these ancient animals exist in this era.  They all became extinct millions of years ago.

When his curiosity and wonder had not disappeared, suddenly  behind of him appeared a tyrex whose body was slightly smaller.  Its sharp teeth were going to prey on the boy.  Bimo could only scream loudly and tried to rebel when the tyrex nails were ready to tear his father’s body and he too.  His screams grew louder as the tyrex was about to swallow him.

“Don’t …. nooooooo ! Daddy!!! ” shouted Bimo, feeling a strong shock on his shoulders.

“Wake up dear…. you were just dreaming. Bimo….” Mother’s soft voice woke Bimo up who was a little confused.  He burst into tears when he saw her mother looking at him lovingly.  In his heart he promised to obey his mother and would not fight again.  Mother’s warm hug was returned very tightly. He couldn’t imagine having to live without his mother’s arms… a world without mother.

  

Marianne June Filamor Sardina

  The Amiable Sparrow

I see them everywhere and wherever I go. They can be found atop of cable wires as I walk pass the street, nestling at the peak of our nipa hut roofs, or fluttering over the rice fields looking for food. All my life, I was told that these tiny brownish almost gray feathered birds are called mayas.

Not until I stumbled upon Animal scene’s blog entitled, “The “Maya”, Our National Bird, is Actually an Impostor”, did I come to realize I was completely wrong. The explanation says that the real maya is a Black-headed or Chestnut munia (Lonchuria articapilla) or “mayang pula”(red maya) as called in the Philippines. And the now called impostor maya is actually the Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus). It is a grayish blue bill bird who forages on grains, seeds and weeds particularly chickweeds and goosefoot.

After reading the blog, an instant  curiosity sparked within me. Leaving me wanting to know more about our former Philippine National Bird which is the Maya. I wanted to spread awareness and prevent misinformation about something as sacred as this living treasure which is an original subspecies of our country.

But despite my inquisitiveness about the red maya, my fondest memory still belongs to the Eurasian tree sparrow. I grew up observing them. I witnessed how they hopped from tree branches to the next. And I’ll never forget their occasional visits by my bedroom window. I find it so intriguing that one or a pair of them would come by some days. It gave me a chance to watch them intently preening themselves. There were times when I attempted to move a bit closer and their cute little wings would flap rapidly until they soar high above. Only to hear their sweet chirpy voices fading away.

Freedom. It’s the first thing which comes into my mind whenever I stare at them. Something I wish I had the courage to exude myself with. These precious birds possess such liberty and confidence inside that small body of theirs and thus truly inspiring. Whenever I look up under the shade of trees, their presence is my constant reminder that no matter how tiny I feel in this big planet, there is a special place for me. I have the right to explore even the farthest corners and most of all, I can fly.

A huge fraction of people might not be consciously aware that there was a study about Eurasian tree sparrows to be possibly enlisted for extinction. According to Dr. Benjamin Vallejo, an Environmental Scientist, the large amount of constructions and ultra humid temperature in Manila might be possible justifications. He estimated that in 2010, they would decline about 30-40% since 2005.

Above all this, I still hold on to days of seeing flocks of them outside even during my golden years and beyond. I wish to hear more of their singing every morning just like when I was still a child patiently waiting for their return on my window sill. They are such perfect acquaintances. It’s true that the reality over the horizon if far unclear. But just like a sparrow’s adaptability, we humans are capable of creating a world full of endless possibilities. Maya or not, I believe these social and friendly passerines are as important as any living being to have landed on this earth or at the top of our twig-like fingers.

 

Ayachi Mishra

A WORLD WITHOUT BUTTERFLIES

In the long-lost world, the sun is shining, spreading its beams. The lawn is moist with yesterday’s monsoon and the atmosphere is filled with the smell of drenched bushes. A tiny creature appears and the air whirls by its wings. Its body is dark yet its wings are so aesthetically beautiful. Yet again, it sits on the flowery meadows and rests its delicate and airy physique.

I walked along the pavement and reached my professor’s door. He talked about all sorts of moths and mammals.

“You mean it was orange and black?”

“Preferably. Along with white lining and dots.”

“It was a western monarch butterfly dear, and it’s on the verge of extinction if I talk about last year’s report.”

“Can we do something about it, sir?”

He gave me a piece of writing and asked me to contact the person whose name was encrypted on the paper.

I was all ready to set on the journey of meeting this person, ‘TEACHER’, by which I call her by. I was sitting next to the window and could view the farms and fields through it, as the train moved its way to reach the village.

The lady who sat to my rear was carrying a sketchbook. I asked her if I could see it. She nodded. To my fascination, the book consisted of all sorts of drawings and diagrams of butterflies.

“Are you a butterfly enthusiast?”

“I’m kind of.”

“Your artwork is really charming.”

“Thank you.”

There was silence for a moment.

“Ahm. You see the world looks so ordinary but can you imagine a world without these tiny little cute butterflies?”

She said that with a little happy yet grave note.

“I think so it’s hard to determine. However, I’m acquainted with names like Karner Blue, Miami Blue, Tiger Hooper, Zulu and now even with the western monarch, whose name might be carved in the red list in the near future. Of Course a world without the presence of these creatures would be devoid of beauty.”

“I appreciate it. I’ll like to add here, they are not only beauty elements, they affect our natural world as well. You see, butterflies are the indicators of alteration in the ecosystem. They can sense and detect changes in biodiversity faster. They are highly sensitive to environmental variations and even stand a part in the food web. They are prominent life indicators and the most necessary detail of them is that they help in pollination.”

“Yeah. When I tell you about what I’ve read; their process of growing from a cocoon to an astonishing insect, it powers aspects like change and maturation which defines the process of life. What if they disappear completely?”

“We don’t know it completely.”

“I wonder what might be leading to their vulnerability.”

“Well, there are factors. You want to know them?”

“Yes, sure. I’ll love to.”

She closed her eyes for a minute and took out her glasses, cleaned it and wore them again. The train had covered almost half the distance, and I could see the birds flying from my window.

“The reason that they die relatively easily is that they are fragile in nature which challenges their survival. Due to devastating habitats and using pesticides in excess, these tiny life forms become vulnerable. Another cause is the change in climatic conditions which in more cases make it a problem for their pollination. Even in a few cases the insecticides decrease them.”

“How about the western monarch?”

“As far as my knowledge is concerned, it’s because of the eradication of the milkweed plants, which is its prime food source.”

“How would our world really be if they are gone forever, I wonder.”

She said nothing to my remark. After another five minutes of stillness, she again let her voice break the silence.

“There would certainly be a lack of charm in nature; something mini yet important would be missing. It would be difficult to understand the life cycle and scientific research of insects. Many flowers might change form or die because of absence of pollination. They tell about temperature changes and even act as parasites to few in the food chain.”

“Is there any means by which we can protect them?”

“Indeed. If you grow the nectar plant or the host plant, your butterfly is sure to get attracted. I mean that their population won’t die. If you teach people more about conservation and why they shouldn’t trap butterflies in their nets, I’m sure you’ll save not only one but a huge segment of these uniquely beautiful creatures and their new blooming population.”

“I see. So, a world without them would generally be different; might that change would not affect us immediately but yes in near future, it would.”

“Yeah. You understand it well.”

The engine gave an inaudible honk and I saw that I had reached my destination. The lady too was ready to get off there. We both got down the train.

“Oh, I should get it.”

I realised I had left her sketchbook in my seat. I rushed to get it. When I saw the cover of the sketchbook, it said, ‘A Tale of Butterflies – A Sphere Without Them, by TEACHER.’

I smiled and got down the train. I could see a small tiny orange-black flutterby following me.

  

Georgia Hamblett

A World Without Wisdom

Something was happening. She knew it – long before the flames and falling trees and fleeing fliers – she knew something was going to happen. She knew as soon as she saw the smug look on the face of a man in a suit. The way he kicked the ground with careless superiority, minding not for the delicate flowers he uprooted, only for the rare money which would topple into his account. He paced up and down the same patch of earth, wearing thin the grass which blanketed it, trampling critters to whom a polished black shoe was more deadly than any native to the jungle. Even more deadly than her. He was deaf to the pure songs of the jungle, maimed by the fabricated fruit he held to his ear. He prodded the screen with pompous digits, rested his plump hand in his pocket while his mouth dictated the work others would use their hands to complete.

‘Yes, yes, right you are. The development should cost no more than that. Yes, yes, that is including getting rid of the trees. Wildlife? We’ll have electric fences put up around the villa – no wildlife will be getting in.’ The man spoke with a hasty tone, keen to see his money-making project through in a heartbeat despite becoming responsible for the jungle’s pulse twitching into arrest. As forms were signed and hands shaken, the jungle began to quiver at the acceptance of its certain slaughter.

‘Great, great, cheers. Bye, bye-bye now,’ said the man to his phone, slipping it into his pocket. He walked towards his car with as much of a spring in his step as his portly figure could muster. He revved the engine as he drove away down the once trail now tarmac path linking the jungle to the jail of concrete from which he hailed.

She watched the man drive away – out of sight but not out of mind.

She only had a week of angst before her nightmares became reality. She heard them first – great big lorries and bulldozers growling through the rainforest – no regard for camouflage or cunning unlike the other predators she knew. Within minutes, her irenic jungle was teaming with fumbling men. They sprouted like weeds from their vehicles, infecting the breath of the jungle with their shouting and smoke. She knew she had to run now, but her eyes stayed glued to the scene. She watched as old trees began to tumble, sturdy enough to stand strong in a storm but slaughtered by saws and smoke. Monkies howled, not with amicability or playfulness like usual, but in fear. A mother tried to envelop her babies, holding them tight to her chest as she leapt amongst the branches of trees falling like dominos. Bract fell, branches fell… did babies fall too? She squinted to try and better identify the plummeting casualties but the mist of embers and trepidation veiled her view. The monkey ran towards her. The food chain which had been established over centuries in the jungle came crashing down with its wooden skeleton. There was no hierarchy in the jungle anymore – all were prey to the bulldozing beasts.

She decided to scamper when flames began to creep up on her. Is this how her prey felt, seeing an amber body prowling towards them? Now wasn’t the time to contemplate. She turned and ran as if hunting down prey, when really, she was the one being hunted. It was no longer meat she craved, just freedom.

She pounded through the rainforest until the air was clean again and the hum of the jungle sang solo. This was better. A world without their machines and monsters. A world without chopping and chanting. A world where their wisdom didn’t lead to destruction.

The pond was one of her favourite parts of the jungle. She sat quietly there, obscured by long reeds, watching. She never watched prey by the lake – it was too sirenic for that – instead she passively watched creatures dash and dawdle, bathing and drinking from the water. She watched lemurs swing from vine to vine, their tails caressing the greenery with a modesty unseen in the world blacker and whiter than their ringed tails. The jungle was full of colour – the zest of the plethora of shades on the toucan’s beak and the shooting rainbow of the scarlet macaw gracing the sky.  She liked the little frogs; the way they blended into the backdrop and then flashed brightly as they hopped from one fruitful leaf to another. She liked the people too – or these people at least – they seemed a different species to the machine-minded men.

These people awoke with the sunrise and didn’t try to reign the ripples in the lake or the breeze between the branches. They lived humbly, taking from the lake only water and leaving only footprints. From the jungle they took their fair share – twigs and mud to build their houses in the same way the birds built their nests, berries to nibble at when all other food was scarce. Then when a feast was available, they copied her, diving into the water and grasping handfuls of salmon.

She wasn’t sure if they saw her or not. She knew if the other men saw her, they would scream and shout, but with these people she had more faith. They sat still by the shoreline like her, surveying the scene but not startling it. The people helped the animals sometimes – she’s seen them nurse the aye-ayes and monkies back to health. If only they could do the same to the jungle.

She heard a hissing from behind her – not a snake, something igniting more fear – fire. It was spreading fast, quicker than she could run. The people fled too, and to an onlooker it looked like the classic chase, a hungry tiger running down humans, when really all were running from the same thing – men who had misplaced their wisdom and were hurting their own.

 

Rosemarie Litzenberger

Mom’s air kiss 

He was just thirteen.

Walking behind that ranger,

surrounded by green, an intense junglegreen, everywhere.

 

Every once in a while,

the ranger turned back to him,

calling out a warning.

 

“Don’t touch a thing. Watch every step you take,

look down to the ground and up, snakes are everywhere.”

 

Was the ranger trying to scare him?

Nothing could scare him any longer- not since his mother died.

He lived in an empty space, a space of longing and loss

filled with the knowledge that he would never see her again.

 

His father had taken him to Africa

to distract him and to discover something new,

something neither of them had ever seen before.

 

That’s why he was walking up that mountain.

the ranger ahead of him and his father right behind.

 

The ranger turned round and showed him a small beaten track.

“-Look,  that would have been the way to the apes.

Just four weeks ago. That’s where they used to live. Now, they live further up

the mountain.”-

 

” Why did they move?

 

“We humans got too close to them, they did not feel safe anymore.”

“Are we humans a danger for them?”

“We sure are”

“But why are we going to them if……”

“We’ll just be checking on them to make sure they are all right.

 

 

And on they went. Up the mountain, up and up.

 

But then the ranger stopped. Gave them a sign to stop as well.
Put his fingers to his lips and went down on his knees.

 

Benjamin and his father did the same.

And looked and stared.

 

There she was. A gorilla mother with her child. Eating red berries and looking.

Looking  him straight in the eye.

 

“That’s Grace, the mother. And the little one we named Champion” whispered

the ranger. “- He was so weak when he was born. But we could see that he wanted

to live. And that’s what he did. He’s a strong kid now.-”

 

Champion touched his mother’s arm and pointed at Benjamin.

He became excited, stopped eating. Kept staring at Benjamin.

And then. he blew him a kiss. An air kiss.

 

-Dad, dad, did you see that.

just like Mom. That air kiss she used to give me. Those mornings when she got up

a bit too late to fix me  my breakfast. That kiss meant so much for me. Like, hey, İ am late but İ love you. Your

breakfast will be ready in a second. İ never thought that İ will see that kiss again.

Just like mom. Does he love me too? Hey, Champion. İ’m Benny.-”

 

The gorilla mother got up and pulled Champion away,   both hiding behind a bush

peeking at them between the branches.

 

“Dad, did you see how he blew me that wonderful  kiss?”

 

“Yes, son, İ did. Tell me, dear, have you ever heard of  Darwin and evolution in school?”

 

“Evo- lotion?”

 

“No, evolution. İt’s well “, he pointed to the apes,” well, actually, they are where we humans

come from.”-

 

“You mean, we were apes like Champion and his mom? We were

apes and then decided to become humans?”

 

“No. no Benny. We did not decide to become humans. That word and the

humans did not exist then. You have to think that there was just nature. And all those

animals. Among them the apes. part of nature. And then something happened here in Africa, a part of it

was drifting eastwards, according to scientists. Suddenly there were no longer trees, just bushes,

and the bushes  made it difficult to see what was happening That’s when the apes had to raise

themselves up.

Slowly, slowly, we are talking about thousands and thousands of years. Out of apes

walking on all fours they evolved into beings walking only on their two feet. Now, they could see

all around Their upright posture freed their hands. This meant, they could carry things even

while they were walking. With their hands,

they could plant, play  music, create tools, houses, and sadly. they also could make weapons.-

 

“Dad, that evolution thing. You are not making that up?İt’s not a fairy tale?-”

 

“-No, Benny., it’s true, really true.–”

 

“So, Dad, so we do come from Grace and Champion. Does that mean, that İ, İ can also

make an evolution and go backward. İ start to walk on all of my fours, and İ become

the brother of Champion. İf İ walk on my hands and knees İ can become an ape.

İ even would have a mother again?”

 

” Benny, İ’m sorry, so sorry, but that is not the way evolution works.

Evolution does not go backwards.”

 

“But dad, this evolution thing,

our ranger said, that we humans are not good for the apes.

And you tell me always, to be good, be a good boy. So,

if İ want to be good, İ just have to go backwards.”

 

“Benjamin…

 

“Your son is very wise,

Mister Dad”- said the ranger

 

Wong Si Wei

 A World Without a Place Called Home 

I never met my father, I was raised by my mother single-handedly. Whenever I would inquire about father, mother would always say that he went ‘there’ ahead of us and that we would see him when we reached ‘there’. I would always wonder where this ‘there’ my mother would always say as it seemed very vague to me.

As I sat on the ground thinking of what this ‘there’ is. My thoughts were interrupted as a drop of water from yesterday’s torrent fell upon my head, waking me up from my slumber. Mother and I had to take refuge in this small cave due to the heavy rain. We had been constantly on the move without a specific destination in mind but my mother would always reassure me that if we kept walking north we would eventually reach ‘there’.

We were jolted by the sudden sound of a huge crash in the distance. It sounded as if a few huge trees had fallen to the ground. Mother immediately went out to determine the source of the sound. For me, who came into this world not long ago I am curious as to what that sound was. Therefore, I stood up and sauntered to the mouth of the cave.

Just as I reached the entrance, mother came hurriedly back and looked around anxiously, didn’t say anything and proceeded to grab my body using her mouth and immediately darted out of the cave.

“But why mother? What’s wrong?” I asked curiously.

Mother was dashing at high speeds as the looming trees of the dense jungle whooshed passed us one by one. I tried asking why we were running so fast and where we were going but mom just wouldn’t reply. I was dangling from mother’s mouth, feeling confused as she ran through the thick undergrowth, occasionally stopping to look around anxiously as if searching for something.

After what seemed like ages of running, we stopped just as the sun disappeared over the towering canopy of trees. We rested under a tall ancient-looking tree. I could hear mother’s heavy breathing as she laid down. She was tired from all the running. We were surrounded by thick bushes and trees so tall they covered the dimly lit evening sky. In the distance, I could see smoke rising through the air, penetrating the cover of the trees.

Night crept up on us slowly, all but a sliver of the comforting moonlight pierced through the somewhat depressing silence of the jungle. I lay down next to mother, thinking about what happened today. Mother was never once afraid of anything, not even that one time where she scared away a big burly bear in order to protect me. However, the nervousness as well as anxiousness on mother’s face as we ran was etched deeply into my mind, making me wonder what caused her to react as such.

My train of thoughts were interrupted by the slow grumble of my stomach. I’m hungry. I looked at mother. Tiredly, she stood up, grabbed me again but this time she put me into the hollow of the tree that we were resting at and asked me to stay put while she went to hunt for something to eat. The space inside of the hollow was confined as it was small, but quite comfy because it was filled with dried leaves.

As I was playing about with the leaves, the sound of a snapping twig suddenly broke the deafening silence of the night jungle, followed by the ruffling of leaves from the bushes nearby.

“Is mom back?” I thought to myself as I peeked out of the hollow. That would prove to be my undoing.

A hand reached into the hollow to grab me, when I noticed it wasn’t mum, I tried to struggle free of their grip but to no avail as they held onto me tightly. I growled as loud as I could to call for mother. I couldn’t make out how my captors looked as it was dead in the night and it was pitch darkness. All I could see was two figures looking at me.

“What do we have here? I didn’t expect to find this while cutting down trees,” spoke one figure.

“Tiger cubs fetch a high price in the market, and this one’s decent-sized too,” spoke the other figure.

These strange beings were about to put me into a sack when mother pounced out of the bushes and bit into one of my captor’s arms and held on to it.

“Mother!” I shouted.

I was thrown on the ground as it let go of me.

“Grab the gun, Tom!” yelled one of the figures.

The struggle between the figures and mother ensued until a loud and deafening bang was heard echoing through the forest. The figures quickly retreated into the darkness as mother carried me in her mouth. I felt that mother was walking unevenly, then I noticed that she was limping. After a distance, I fell out of mother’s mouth as she dropped to the ground.

“Mother?” I asked, wondering what was wrong.

With broken breaths she asked me to forgive her for being unable to take care of me till the end and pleaded that I continue walking north because ‘there’ is where home is.

“I will be going ‘there’ to see your father soon,” said mother as she then laid down. Her breathing gradually slowed down and then stopped. Mother is gone. I stared at her lifeless body not knowing what to do next. I nuzzled her, expecting her usual reply, but nothing happened.

Drips of rain started to fall. The pitter patter of rainfall on the tree leaves muffled my wails for my deceased mother. I decided to follow on mother’s wishes. As I walked away, I took one last look at mother before heading forward into the unknown under the accompaniment of the drips of rain falling on my frail and small body, towards this place mother called home.

  

VIDUSHI SHARMA

 A world without INDIA

Tahir Shah rightly said, “Time spent in India has an extraordinary effect on one. It acts as a barrier that makes the rest of the world seem unreal.” The scrumptious aroma of spices floating through the air. The colours of holi, the lights of diwali, the dances, the laughter, the ‘jugaad’. The Indian way of life. From the serene hilly valleys and mountains of Kashmir to the backwaters and beaches of Kanyakumari. From the tea gardens of northeast to the deserts of the West. What is India? The land of food,festivals and colours? The developing third world country with narrow streets and shabby slums?

Numerous poets and artistic souls have unanimously talked about the mystery of life. We always see the things differently. For most part we can assume that these artists wandered or lost their way in India. The land always shows you something that only you can see. What you make of India depends on the eyes of beholder. Whether you see it through the lens of Slumdog millionaire or the pictures of Diana in front of the Taj. Whether you see it through the eyes of the rich or via the eyes of the poor.

We stop look behind and imagine what will be world without India. The world without spices and silk. The textile and handicrafts. The yoga posses or the literature. The cultural heritage or spicy curry. Not to forget the zero. The numerous Indian origin doctors, scientists, IT engineers, bankers, economists, teachers, nurses. What would have been the life without them. Would we rather have a world of the Indian- Pakistan fiasco or the smiling namastes?

In words of Apollonius TyanaeusIn, “In India, I found a race of mortals living upon the Earth, but not adhering to it, inhabiting cities, but not being fixed to them, possessing everything, but possessed by nothing.”

I am not sure what a world without India will be like but I can be definitive about one thing. I don’t want a world without one because the moment you see the vibrant colours, smell the essence of happiness and cultural richness, you realise that is what always matters.

  

PRIYAMVADA SINGH

 A WORLD WITHOUT THE GREAT INDIAN BUSTARD

A splendid sandcastle rising from the golden hued Thar Desert stands as an imposing backdrop welcoming us to the enchanting city of Jaisalmer. While twisting by-lanes lead us to ornately carved sandstone residences and colourful curios entice us to explore vintage craft-shops; we soak in the spirit of the city, swaying to the earthy echoes of turban-clad local musicians. Certainly, there is no place that evokes the mystique of the desert like the ‘golden city’ of Rajasthan.

My idea of a perfect weekend was mostly about being enchanted by this magnificent desert citadel, but my husband and son had arrived with a promise of adventure. Being avid wildlife enthusiasts, they booked us for a safari in the Desert National Park – one of the largest parks of India covering a distance of three thousand square kilometres, extending all the way to the Pakistan border.

Boasting of a unique landscape comprising of rugged rocks, salt lake bottoms and endless sand dunes, the Desert National Park is home to a number of exotic species like Chinkara, Black Buck, Desert Fox, Spiny-tailed Lizard, Russell’s Viper and over a hundred varieties of residential and migratory birds. Despite this fascinating ensemble of wild inhabitants, our family was most excited to see the official state bird of Rajasthan – the Great Indian Bustard.

Locally known as ‘Godavan’, the Great Indian Bustard is one of the heaviest flying birds in the world with the adult male weighing up to fifteen kilograms. Historically, these iconic birds with long white necks and brown bodies were distributed throughout western India spanning across the grasslands of eleven states. Unfortunately, their numbers began to decline a few decades ago. In 1994, they were listed as an ‘Endangered Species’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. By 2011, the population drop was so severe that the IUCN re-classified the species as ‘Critically Endangered’.

Today, the total number of Great Indian Bustards across India has sadly come down to less than three hundred. Since a vast majority of the remaining birds reside in this region, we were very excited for our rendezvous with them. En-route to the Desert Park, we got talking to our nature guide Kundan. When we inquired about the reasons for ‘Godavan’s declining population, Kundan stated habitat loss as the primary cause.

A large percentage of the bird’s natural dwelling spaces, the flat landscapes in north-west and west-central India have been compromised due to infrastructural development like roads, electric poles, agricultural expansion and mechanized farming. Many farmers who once produced sorghum and millet seeds, on which the ‘Godavan’ thrived, have begun cultivating commercially viable crops like sugarcane and cotton creating food scarcity for these birds. Kundan also mentioned the occasional incidents of hunting outside the protected areas which have contributed to the depreciation.

Our conversation was suddenly interrupted by a herd of Blue Bulls grazing on the roadside, followed by a few more interesting sightings along the way. Needless to say, the highlight of the day was a pair of Bustards spotted at the fag-end of our safari.  Kundan had such a contented smile as he pointed us towards the ‘Godavan’ duo.

Soon, the smile explained itself when he told us how the local communities feel a sense of camaraderie towards the bird, and how they work relentlessly towards safeguarding its habitat. Kundan narrated how several youngsters of this region have become trained nature guides like him, who not only escort tourists, but also help the conservationists keep track of the birds’ location and notify them about poaching attempts in the area.

While local support is creating awareness towards ‘Godavan’ conservation and instilling a sense of pride among people as protectors, the captive breeding programme at the Desert National Park is taking significant steps towards species recovery. Kundan informed us about the on-going conservation project that closely monitors the male-female birds’ courtship and shifts the vigil to their nests once the mating gets over. Since their nests face threats by predators like crows, kites, snakes and even dogs, the egg is picked up and incubated at the protected breeding facility.

We were delighted to learn that a ‘Godavan’ chick was born at this hatchery in April 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic. Amusingly named Corona, this was the tenth chick to take birth on this site. While breeding centres are doing their best to increase the ‘Godavan’ population, their slow birth rate is turning out to be a major setback.  These birds lay an egg only once a year or once every alternate year.

Biological limitations cannot be surpassed for obvious reasons, but these endangered birds can definitely be safeguarded against man-made misfortunes.  The size of the Bustards make them slow to manoeuvre in flight and their poor frontal vision along with an unfortunate habit of scanning the earth while flying often leads to their collisions with high-transmission wires resulting in untimely deaths. In order to combat this issue, a historic verdict was given by the Supreme Court of India in 2021 when it asked for transmission lines in a large swathe of the region to go underground in an earnest effort to save the ‘Godavan’.

Bidding adieu to our conservationist friends on this positive note, we sat for supper on the cold cushiony dunes at our camp site. As I dug into succulent flavours of authentic Rajasthani cuisine, my husband read out a fascinating trivia about the ‘Godavan’. The bird was so popular in the 1960’s that it was a top contender in the race of being declared the National Bird of India. Unfortunately, it got eliminated due to its name which could have been misspelled and lead to embarrassment. I couldn’t help but wonder – had the Great Indian Bustard got that national recognition, could it possibly be prevented from being nearly extinct? May be then, we wouldn’t have to imagine ‘a world without the Great Indian Bustard’.

 

Baisakhi Dhar

 A world without malice –

Seeing the Amazon rainforest had been a dream of a lifetime. Finally, this golden opportunity came to me in the month of May. On 10th May, I boarded my United Airlines flight from New Delhi at 3:50 p.m. to Quito and reached there the next day at midnight.

My travel agent arranged a hotel for my stay at Quito. The next morning, a short flight took us over the high Andes and down to the Amazon frontier town of Puerto Francisco de Orellana (called Coca by the locals). From here we travelled by motorized canoe downriver for two hours before arriving at La Selva which was going to be our home for the next few nights. Amazon lodges, such as La Selva lodge in Ecuador, provide hammocks to deluxe berths that one can choose based on one’s comfort. I was also introduced to the rest of our group that consisted of nine travelers accompanied by two guides. La Selva Eco Lodge brought us as close to nature as possible. We were advised by our guides to wear light cotton clothing to tackle the heat during the day, and to carry base layers for keeping warm at night. We were also given tropical strength insect repellent and wore long sleeves and pants to protect our skin from insects, especially mosquitoes that abound in the Amazon. There were a handful of activities to be done including sport fishing, tree climbing, canoe trips and hiking. I decided to go fishing to have some fun while spotting wildlife. Then I took a break after a hearty lunch that consisted of Patarashca and Pato No Tucupi served over rice with hot pepper and a sprinkling of fermented manioc flour. At night, with the help of spot light our guides took us around the lagoon via canoe as we enjoyed the nighttime wildlife. It was a great experience for an astrophile like me as it provided a great opportunity for stargazing. The sky full of stars seemed so breathtaking. The next day began with a delicious juice made of cacao that had an exotic flavor combination. Then, we headed for the hike in the Matapalo Trail. Mahogany trees over 400 years old could be seen and the guides shared their knowledge of the flora and fauna. Due to the daytime, there was a great natural light. Then, after dinner Nocturnal Walk gave us a chance to enjoy the creatures and sounds of the Amazon Jungle at night. The flashlights that we had carried helped us get a clear view of the Jaguar, the Lophostoma Yasuni Bat and the Spectacled Owl. On the third day, we walked to a local community to see the traditional village life. Our guides told us that the Amazon is the ancestral home of 1 million Indians, which was quite surprising to me. Besides hunting, gathering wild fruits and fishing, indigenous people also plant small gardens for other sources of food, using a sustainable farming method called shifting cultivation. We could see how these people live in unison with nature. Most tribal children didn’t go to schools like ours. Instead, they are taught how to hunt, fish and utilize useful plants as medicines or food. Then, we were offered tea made of the Maracuja, also known as passion fruit, by an Amazonian Kichwa woman. Parrot Clay Lick and Mandi Wasi were next on the list. So we made our ways back to the Napo River and took a motorized canoe ride to the clay licks. A bank of exposed clay led to a fascinating display as hundreds of parrots and parakeets gather to eat the mineral rich soil, an important part of their diet. We captured the moments with the binoculars carried by us. On our way back to the lodge, Cayman could be seen along the banks of the rivers in the Amazon. At night after dinner, we all were requested to go to bed early for a hectic day awaited us the next morning. On the fourth day, we were taken to the Garzacocha Lagoon and Ceiba Trail, one of the most mesmerizing lagoons in the entire Ecuadorian Amazon. We spotted different species of monkeys and birds including the famous pygmy marmoset, which is the smallest monkey in the world. More wildlife that could be seen included the Hoatzin, toucans and macaws. In the afternoon, we visited the Coto Trail with the afternoon sunlight peeking from behind making it altogether an amazing experience. Groups of black-mantled monkeys could be spotted and some members of our group were lucky enough to view tapirs too. A canoe ride back to the lodge made a great ending to this day. Observation Tower and Tucaneta Trail was the destination for our fifth day. The amazing construction allowed us to climb 120 feet above the forest. This helped us spot many colorful birds of the Amazon, primates like tamarin and squirrel monkeys. The day ended with the visit to the Charapa Trail as we enjoyed the sunset over the Amazon from the vantage point of a canoe. At night, we ordered cocktails and beer at the bar and enjoyed the last night of our trip in the Amazon as we participated in a chit-chat with other guests and thanked our guides. We even took a group selfie as a memory to cherish forever.

The next morning we landed at Quito and had the evening to relax and enjoy there. On 19th May, I took the earliest flight to New Delhi from Quito with my mind refreshed from the remarkable journey I had into the heart of the most biodiverse place on the planet that bore no malice towards anybody.

  

Julie Hayman

On Thin Ice: A World Without Dogs

In March in the Arctic, the sun clings to the horizon and gives only a few hours of daylight.

We drove over the frozen road to the husky kennels, five duvet-jacketed tourists with one local guide. None of the seatbelts in the Landrover worked. Humps of ploughed snow glimmered at the side of the road as we passed. We stared glitter-eyed from the unrestrained seats, glare from the snow radiating off our chapped cheeks.

The huskies, forty of them, were loose in their outdoor enclosure. We were to have an  afternoon driving dog sleds. As we stepped from the vehicle, the dogs barked cacophonously, pacing back and forth at the gates, tails high and feathery over their backs.

Our guide kitted us out with padded snowsuits to wear on top of the specialist cold-weather layers we already had on. ‘Well, whatever happens, we won’t die of exposure,’ my partner whispered wryly.

Huskies, whining with excitement, were attached to sleds in fan formation at the edge of the icy fjord.

Huskies are close relatives to wolves. Well-adapted to polar regions, their dense coats are double-layered to repel moisture. Energetic and hardy, they thrive in temperatures that even the best dressed polar explorer would find disastrous.

My partner climbed like cargo onto our sled behind the dogs while I stood on the footboards at the back, gripping the handlebars tightly through Goretex gloves. I’d never driven a sled before. ‘Main thing,’ said the dog handler, his English restricted to these instructions, ‘Don’t let go. When sled stops, stamp this into ground,’ he indicated the two-pronged ice-anchor, ‘Or –’ A swift sweep of his hand suggested that otherwise the dogs would take off at rocket-speed.

A few moments into the journey over the bumpy shore ice, I found a way to ride my thighs as shock-absorbers. The dogs’ tongues lolled out the side of their mouths in happy, devil-may-care smiles as they ran in rhythm. They wove expertly between cotton-ball sedges near the bank, then, following the lead-sled on which our experienced guide travelled, headed out onto the rink-smooth centre of the glassy fjord.

The shushing of the runners, the panting of the dogs and the swish of snowsuit-material were the only sounds in that heavenly landscape of frozen river and snow-covered hills under the dome of a sky white as ice-cream. There were no habitations, no skidoos or other sled parties, no people at all. This was the wilderness we’d come so far to see.

An hour out, we stopped at a rickety wooden shelter at the side of the fjord. The Landrover had beaten us to it, and the driver and dog handlers were ready to tether and water our dogs while we went into the hut for a break.

The guide started a fire in the hut’s brazier by dousing it with liquid fuel and sparking her pocket lighter. Flames roared and licked the ceiling, then settled to boiling the black kettle placed over them.

As we waited for the water to boil, the guide told us how snowmobiles and a system of road-building had relegated dog-sledding from an essential means of travel to entertainment for tourists. ‘But dogs are still valuable,’ she said. ‘They are warm to hold if you get caught out in the snow. They let you know when a polar bear is about, and will fight to protect you from it too.’ She doled out epelkake that she’d brought along in a Tupperware box. ‘And if food supplies get short in the winter – well, there is another use for dogs!’ She gave a hooting laugh as if at a joke, and we laughed too, uneasily. The kettle screamed on the fire and she handed round bitter coffee in tin mugs.

‘What month does the ice on the fjord melt?’ I asked, wondering how much of the year the dogs were in harness, earning their keep with tourists.

‘Soon,’ the guide replied. ‘Earlier each year now because of global warming. The dogs will say when. They hear the sounds of cracking deep in the river-ice that we can’t hear, and know it means the ice is unsafe and so refuse to pull on it. The dogs tell us.’ She drained her mug. ‘But at the current rate of warming, it won’t be long until the fjord no longer freezes sufficiently, and then it will be goodbye to sledding and goodbye to the huskies too.’

The brazier doused, we came outside to begin the return journey. The dogs were rested, back in their traces and alert. I stretched out a hand to pat one. It flinched from me.

‘Don’t touch,’ the handler said sternly. ‘Not pets.’

I thought of my wag-tailed spaniel at home in England, who eats tinned food and heavily-processed bone-shaped treats, sleeps on my bed and baulks at a walk in the rain. But he also chases cats, smells when a fox has passed by and bares his teeth at suspicious strangers, evidence that he too retains some inner wolf.

For dogs, of all kinds, mediate the wild for us. Domesticated yet with wildness within, they curl at our feet obediently, but their instincts, unlike ours, are still sharp. They tell us if predators are about, and provide protection. They keep us warm on cold nights. They convey silent companionship. They tell us when the ice beneath our feet melts too early, when it gets too thin, when it cannot support us or our technologies any longer. The guide was right: dogs have great value. They’re nature’s hierophant.

The arctic sun slumped and a frigid twilight cast uncanny shadows from the hills. At the moon-bright kennels, one of the huskies sat, lifted its throat to the sky, and began to howl like a wolf. Others joined in.

But we turned our backs, climbed into the Landrover and drove away in the twilight.

 

PRISCA  ADHIAMBO

A WORLD WITHOUT
A world without chop! chop!,
Imagine how happy the earth would be .
Trees swaying in masses to showcase their beauty
whispering of how bright the future our planet has.
Imagine how rivers would constantly be giggling down stream ,
throughout the year without the fear of drying up.
And wildlife living without the fear of losing their homes.

There would be,
no more drought ,
no more habitat destruction ,
no more reduction in population ,
that’s threatening  the distinction of some wildlife .

In Senegal, the land is blood stained .
As each rosewood tree bleeds ,
the anger of mother nature is slowly ,
but sure building up and sooner ,
consequences will be faced  like Gambia ,the land without chimpanzees.

Imagine south west  china ,
without the cute fluffy black and white  giant  pandas .
Bamboo is their food and the korean market is steadily growing ,
With the benefits of the  bamboo salt ranging from anti cancer medical effects
to higher iron and calcium concentrations compared to sea salt and the normal salt ,
if measures would not be taken , the giant panda  would be read  in history books.

Indonesia is proud of there 85% ‘ magical oil’ production in the world ,
whose benefits include strengthening of the immune system
and protection from heart disease forgetting that,
only 80sumatran rhinos are left in their land .
The extreme destruction of forests for palm trees planting ,
is robbing the sumatran rhinos their home and  sooner ,
they will be wiped off our planet unless alternative ways
of farming the crop is found plus entirely changing
people’s  mindset regarding wildlife  .

 

Maartje Cooijman

 Pest

We made a mistake back then. Even though most of us weren’t afflicted, there were casualties right from the start. But the numbers were low, so they called it collateral damage. Their lives in exchange for those of the masses. We were arrogant. Should have known better. But we didn’t. Or maybe we did, but we just didn’t care enough. That seemed to be our biggest problem, back in those days. The only thing that seemed to matter was to make as much money in as little time as possible. If that meant people were underpaid, enslaved or, even worse, killed, so be it. We turned a blind eye because those numbers on our bank accounts were our motivation. Money was our idol. We worshipped it in the worst possible way; despite everything else. Despite the warnings we were given.

 

As our population grew, the earth heated up. As the earth heated up, the poles started to melt. As the poles started to melt, the national habitat of all sorts of wild animals decreased. Add deforestation and urbanization to the mix, and you’ll wonder how we’ve not turned into a remote planet all those years ago. But animals, just like nature, are resilient you see. They adapt easily because they take things as they come. Unlike us, they don’t feel the need to make the world around them adapt to their needs, but they rather do it the other way around. We should have learned from that. If we did, the outlook might have been a lot different.

 

It started small, a cough, a sneeze, some shortage of breath, but it spread rapidly. With each handshake another person was infected. Most of them didn’t show any symptoms, they didn’t even feel sick. The few that did thought it was a simple cold. Until the mutations came. From one moment upon the other, the whole world was in lock down. People stayed insides, cars parked in the streets, planes bound to the ground. It was in that moment that the earth dared to release the breath she was holding. That she took a break from fighting this pest in her pelt. The temperatures dropped, the skies became clear and earth became breathable again. But the most beautiful thing was that the animals reclaimed their space. They roamed the empty streets, hunted in the abandoned parking lots and slept on the banks of now clean rivers and lakes. If only somebody could freeze that moment in time. The planet was better off. A world without humans, was a world full of life.

 

But humans don’t adapt, they alter their surroundings. They can’t sit still, even for a moment. So we came up with a cure. A way to fix the symptoms instead of fighting the cause. Even when the world around us regained her strength and health, we didn’t want to acknowledge the suffering we brought upon it. We refused to see that we brought it upon ourselves. But we paid for that arrogance, we paid dearly. Within months most of the human population was injected with what we thought was the solution to our problem. A way to fight the virus. We felt safe enough to climb back into our cars, huddle together in crowded areas and continue the destruction of our home. The clear skies turned grey again as the thick greasy fumes from traffic and factories seeped into the air. It was as if we took stabs at mother nature, but we forgot her resilience.

 

Mother nature adapted. Just like the animals, who had never forgotten how to listen to the rhythm of the earth. They moved with the electric pulses that surged over the surface, while we… well we just shuddered and moved on. We didn’t notice the whispering between the trees, the way they ruffled their leaves, to us they were dead objects. But their roots dug deep into the earth, into a network that allowed all of them to communicate with each other. One big organ, fed by the earths nutrients. They felt our planet’s stress, the danger she was in, and they responded. They responded just as they did when they would get cut down, or trimmed. Only, they responded all together, as one.

 

The chemicals they released into the air were odorless and invisible. They rained down on humanity, who inhaled it deeply. There was no running from it. The chemicals seeped into our lungs, our brains, or muscles and that’s when the spasms started. People twitched, heaved and shuddered in the streets. The flow of blood to their brains cut off, their respiratory system shut down. Foam at their mouth, muscles drying up and shriveling. Gasping and moaning filling the street, nobody even found the strength to scream. Within minutes over 99.9 percent of the human population was wiped out.

 

I am among the few who lived, but I don’t count myself lucky. Nature is reclaiming the world; animals reclaim their kingdom. There is no place here for me. So I am on a quest to finish the job. I travel the world and see her in all her renowned glory while I am ridding the earth of the pest in her pelt. A world without people is after all a world full of life.

 

Udosoh, Anyanime Linus Fidelis

A WORLD WITHOUT EXTINCTION OF SUPERSPECIES

If lives have duplicate, we wouldn’t have so frowned at such a menace as the extinction of super species which had left us void of desirable superspecies of animals and plants. With starling statistics of astronomical rise in the percentage of harmful human activities like hunting and wanton destruction of habitats, an urgent need of strategic enforcement of rules to ensure a world without the extinction of superspecies couldn’t have come at such a better time as now.

Having my attention focused on one of the most endangered super species’ primates in Africa called Sclateri’s guenon, my curiosity drove me to embark on a journey to the only place in the world where these superspecies are found. The place is the rainforest zone which cuts across hectares of land with thick forest. My choice destination was Itam, a distinct clan located in Akwa Ibom State, Niger Delta region, South-South, Nigeria.

Methinks of the huge positive economic importance of these superspecies, is mind-blowing. Sadly, they have a disturbing near-to-extinction population. Worst of all is that Sclateri’s guenon is not found anywhere else in the entire world. This makes its rarity very cumbersome, as it journeys on the speed lane to fast extinction. Perhaps, all these make aggregate to make them one of the world’s rarest animals.

Going by their specific name Cercopithecus sclateri, I was readily attracted to this very colourful superspecies’ monkeys. With a gray colour and pattern-like tinges on their backs, no one wouldn’t love to also admire their long brightly-coloured red tail located on its upper area crystalizing with the black coloured lower end of the tail. What a joy to behold the beauty of these superspecies of monkeys! At last, they broke the age-long notion – the notion that has been in motion among humans that, monkeys are ugly. These superspecies aren’t; and this is emphatically true! As if this beauty is not alluring enough, the cheek patches and crown are adorned with a bright yellow colour blended with black. Perhaps, one of the most conspicuous are the white tufts that align the ears, creamy white nose spot and large white patch that adorn the throat. How more beautiful should a monkey be to be ecotourism valuable and enviable? Certainly, not more than this!

Agreed that in some communities in Itam there is a law against hunting of these monkeys; those laws however, are strikingly deficient as they do not restrict the destruction of their natural habitats by humans. Plus that, the body involved did not map out large portions of this forest as conservation areas for these monkeys.

Being ecotourists’ delight, there is no telling the steady but massive incomes that would accrue in millions of dollars into the purses of government and the human beings living in that habitat, if conservation plan is sped up and ably utilized. Such huge income could liberate the inhabitants of this region from abject poverty to object prosperity.

With its distinctive cheek pouches’ facial characteristics, dispersing seeds across the rainforest zone has been easier. Consequently, they cause and speed up afforestation rather effortlessly thereby repairing their destroyed habitat caused by man’s destructive activities in a bid to eke out a living.

Unarguably, “safer superspecies, fuller lives,” should now be a popular slogan to be chirped reverberatingly across this rainforest zone that inhabits these superspecies’ monkeys. Their presence in this their own natural habitat encourages healthy living in the lives of these primates.

More so, and interestingly too, is their afforestation-end-result feeding habit that helps balance the ecosystem thereby preventing climate change (one of the biggest challenges facing our world today)

Nothing equates prosperity in its entirety like a fuller life. A world such as ours that has been ravaged by increase destructive human activities for want of good livelihood is heading for an abysmal collapse if urgent steps of protecting the super species vis-à-vis their habitat, are not fully enforced with the spontaneity of an alarm clock buzzer. It’s high time we stopped indiscriminate hunting and wanton destruction of habitats especially those inhabited by super species such as Cercopithecus sclateri if we must enjoy our world to the fullest. All hands must be on deck to create the world of our dreams which ultimately consists of Sclateri’s guenon – our lively super species for our own super living, so that our world would be without extinction of these superspecies of positive economic importance repute.

 

Leone McManus

 INFERNO 

 The sun emerged like a demonic being, red and threatening, glowing in the early morning, warning all of its intent.
The bush sat silently, subdued into submission by the red glow, which painted the leaves fiery red. The only sounds were the magpies, butcher birds and channel bill cuckoos which understood the sun’s forebodings and warned of the impending horror.

Deep inside the womb of the earth, ‘the bulldozers of the bush’, the solitary wombats, dug deeper down to the aquifers which had remained undisturbed for an eternity.

Upwards in the eucalyptus trees koalas climbed higher, seeking to escape the impending horror. A solitary lizard which had been basking on a rock ledge retreated to a hollow log. All around an aura of disquiet and trepidation consumed the inhabitants of the bush.

The faint wisp of smoke coiled up near a glass bottle which lay broken near a mound of dried leaves. The first glowing spark quickly spread, through grass, then scrub, then into denser vegetation. As the temperature rose, the fires gained momentum and spread quickly. Deep down in the gully where the picnickers had lounged on the ground the previous day,
the embers took control.

Shattering the silence, the fires gained intensity spreading with ferocity and maliciousness. As it gained force it changed direction from the gully to the incline where several outlying houses nestled in the bush. The rumbling of the fires quickly transformed into a cacophony of crackling, a chorus of crashing and cries. The dragon had awoken and swallowed the air taking with it all life forms, the essence of existence.

The elderly couple sat quietly in their kitchen as neither spoke. They   remembered   the fires had swept through their valley years ago in the 1950’s and the anticipation filled them with fear. They had made preparations in order to cope with the unleashed monster but they were now old and tired. Another summer, another drought, another tragedy awaiting.

The couple kept their dog, Lord Lucan, as close as possible. He had acquired that identity from his ability to disappear then materialise out of nowhere. The animal was agitated and padded softly, relentlessly around the room.

Like his owners, he could smell smoke and the distant roar of a fire storm. By 9.00am the embers darted and danced across the sky like a fireworks display. The elderly couple steeled themselves but gave no outward sign of trepidation.

The framed portent, “KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON”, a cross-stitch sampler which the lady had sewn many years previously, now glowered at her. She had hung it on the kitchen wall many years ago and   it was a timely reminder of the year they lost everything.   All their wedding presents, all their precious china, all their clothes, everything gone.

By 10.00am the room was misty with the advent of smoky fingers seeping through cracks and under doors. Tears welled up in her old eyes which she could attribute to the heat and choking smoke. Her husband looked tired, old and frail but he sprang to life. He rose and remarked that it was time to put the kettle on for “SMOKO” and laughed. He extracted the last of the iced Christmas cake from the tin.

There was a sudden hammering on the door which startled the couple and Lord Lucan began to growl. Upon opening a blackened face with a concerned   half smile looked in the room.

“Time to go”, the young man from the Rural Fire Service quipped.

The elderly couple smiled and followed him to the fire truck outside. There was little time to salvage any thing of value and they left without looking back. In the distance they could see the red demon raging, consuming all in its path. The embers were flying high in the sky showering all below as the wind increased in intensity.

“Don’t worry folks, we will have a nice cuppa at the hall”, laughed the RFS man.

They left subdued. Abruptly, the fire truck jolted and jerked, suddenly coming to a stop. A huge angophora tree had fallen across the road   stopping the truck, pinning it to the spot.

The young man extracted a chain saw from the truck and was attempting to start it. The chain saw spluttered and choked.

The smoke was becoming suffocating and all laboured to breathe. There was little clean air as the embers rained down.

The couple looked back down the road as the young man sawed through the fallen tree. In the distance they could see the hideous red glow and the roar of the fire.

Having cleared the path, they continued to the community hall which was the evacuation point. As the truck turned the corner they could see the hall had burnt to the ground and was a smouldering ruin.

“Don’t worry,” quipped the young man.” We’ll have high tea down on the beach.”

He revved the engine and headed for the surf beach.

Reminiscent of a scene from Dante’s The Purgatorio, the sky was dark and foreboding. Several blackened and charred beings stood in silence. Two young girls held a small koala which cried as they tried to comfort it. Its paws were singed, little fur was on its body and it appeared traumatised. It burrowed into the crook of the girl’s elbow and whimpered.

A young boy was having difficulty breathing and his wheezing was laboured. The sand was littered with several carcasses of dead birds and wombats while two   kangaroos were standing stupefied. The beach was no longer a pristine gold as the sand was covered in blackened, sooty dust. Several elderly people cowered, almost bent double in a type of deference to the unfolding horror. Some quietly prayed.

All watched as the red fire leapt into the sky. It roared like a freight train, glowing red and white hot.

The sense of uncertainty and hollowness filled their beings. No-one spoke, no-one moved, no-one felt anything. All thought that this was the promised end.

 

Yonas Mesfin Getachew

Non-Transcendence

A delicate flower,

Only blossoms

With beholding.

Away from the burning kisses

Of its visible stars

Remote in time

Remote in place,

Forgets a forgetting

That withers

Its tender blooms.

 

Petal tears morbidly dancing

Towards the hungry earth

Build monumental shrines

Burying consummate moments

Spent within the pleasant blaze;

Morsels of eternity

That wedded it

To its Suns.

 

Resembling

An earthly Fire,

Kindled at and raging through

The buds of temptation; never

Transcending its corporeal parentage

Stunted, not able to reach

The beyond of its in arm’s reach

Horizon. Dying away,

Marauding tongues dwindling

Throughout the aging day,

Unable, to prolong

Its ravenous stay; starved

Out, of the womb of existence;

Birthed into the dusky

Realm of the faded and the fading,

A world without

Contours and colors.

 

Sonakshi Srivastava

A World Without Chasing Ghosts 

 When the covid-19 pandemic was not ravaging through India, my parents headed to the mountains in Uttarakhand to get respite from the unbearably hot Gurugram. Their stories of being warned against Guldaars or Leopards stirred many memories. When we were kids, family vacations took place in the mountains so I am no stranger to the stories that one finds at every tea stall, guest house or restaurant about the neighbourhood leopard’s latest conquest. Leopards are often described as ghosts so not many people have seen them but everyone has a story. Even in their absence the leopards seem omnipresent.

 

This abject fear of the leopard is not unfounded. Times of India recently reported that a six-year-old leopard was eliminated because he attacked and killed a 55-year old woman in Pauri, Uttarakhand. This was the second human death by a leopard in a fortnight. In 2021 alone, four leopards were hunted down after they killed ten people and were deemed ‘maneaters’ in Uttarakhand. In addition to frustrated locals whose lives are constantly disrupted by the imminent threat of the leopard, this human-wildlife conflict is snowballing and creating new problems. If not killed, ‘maneating’ leopards are sent to rescue centres but centres in the region are already at capacity. Further complicating the situation is the fact that killing of maneaters is impinging on leopard numbers in India. Wildlifers say that India loses six leopards for every single tiger death. In the past five years, 75 leopards have been declared ‘maneaters’ and killed in the region. Is killing or trapping the only solution? The problem might be intensifying but it is definitely not new.

 

Post-retirement boredom led my father to create an online catalogue of our home library. While cataloguing, he found books that belonged to his grandfather. My great-grandfather  was a hunter, I don’t know much of his hunting career. Only a few scattered anecdotes from my grandfather. As someone, working towards being a wildlife conservationist, I have mixed feelings about this heritage. I desperately want to know more but I am acutely afraid of what I might find. His collection houses Jim Corbett’s books. One of the books is nearly 60 years old and the story within nearly a 100 years.

It was the year 1918 and the man eating leopard of Rudraprayag was terrorising villages around the area. In a span of 8 years, the leopard killed 125 people according to official records, although, the actual number is believed to be much higher. Jim Corbett has often written about how difficult it is to stalk leopards because they are excellent at camouflaging and very adaptable. Others have compared finding leopards to chasing ghosts. Corbett tracked the animal for 10 weeks and finally shot him dead on 2 May 1926. He hypothesised in the introduction of his famous book, Man-Eaters of Kumaon (Kumaon is now part of Uttarakhand) that the healthy leopard had developed a taste for human flesh by consuming the ill-disposed bodies of those who perished due to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.

Incidentally, Uttarakhand has reported a surge in leopard attacks due to the covid-19 pandemic. Forest officials say that the lockdowns implemented due to the pandemic have led to empty roads and less activity because of which leopards have been frequenting human habitats leading to increased attacks. These claims require further research but even before that the situation was said to be bleak. Experts name the usual culprits of habitat encroachment and prey base depletion for this long enduring problem. There exists an alternate view.

***

Vidya Athreya is one of the country’s leading researchers on leopards who has worked for several years in Maharashtra where a similar conflict exists. A two year study conducted by her and other conservationists in 2014-15 showed that leopard attacks went up in certain regions of Uttarakhand and down in others. The increase was due to a numbers of reasons including uncultivated acreage that gave leopards cover to hide near the villages, reduction in livestock per family has led feeding at home instead of grazing in the forest which incentivises leopards to come close to the villages and finally increased mobile and TV coverage has somewhat sensationalised the issue.

Athreya brought lessons learned Maharashtra to Uttarakhand. Through a visit to Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), the conservationists suggested a sensitisation program where people living close to leopards understand their behaviour and thus able to avoid conflict. Just like the Warli tribe who live inside SGNP and have faced no attacks. Other people living around the park and police officers also stated how common the sight of leopard is and how knowing their behaviour can avoid conflict. In short, there is a way to solve this crisis without guns blazing.

***

I was under 10 years old and we were vacationing in a small town in Uttarakhand called Lansdowne. That evening we had been ushered away from the river close to our hotel as there had been some chatter of an animal nearby. At night, the adults were circled around a bonfire whereas the city kids tired of the outdoors had gone inside to watch some TV. I was shuffled in with all the other kids but I quite liked the bonfire so I decided to find my way back. As I stepped out of the hotel, I heard a rustle in the distant bushes and two green eyes sparkled right in front of me. At that very moment some of the adults appeared and scolded me for being outside on my own. Now, we never found out what I saw, maybe I saw a leopard, maybe it was one of the hotel’s many dogs or another harmless animal. I have carried the memory of my personal ghost ever since.

***

 The country’s leading leopard researcher says that there is a way to coexist with leopards without killing them. Maybe if we listen to her then we can live in a world where we are no longer chasing ghosts.

 

Seoyeon Choi

 The Country Without Their Own Value: Venezuela

The economical, sociological, and political crisis in Venezuela is already well known to many around the world. For a while, I didn’t notice the seriousness of violation and poverty spread all over Venezuela; However, in 2014, I started to notice the irreversible problems already impacting all parts of the country seeing the realistic desperate lives of people in Venezuela reported by our country’ TV Station. The pictures illustrating the life in Venezuela made me interested in the overall circumstances happening in Venezuela and finally had decided to travel Venezuela in real in order to experience and observe their desperate lives at first hand. I was very sure that this rare experience of observing another country’s globally issued severe situation could make my inspection broad not just limited to my country and thus I persuaded my parents to travel Venezuela.

Before my arrival, I researched for the reason that made Venezuela one of the poorest countries in Latin America. The indiscreet inception of policies related to ‘Populism’ and thus made ‘welfare’ & ‘dictatorship’ which cannot exist at the same time was direct reason for their failure in managing their country. I am not pursuing my political opinion insisting that the concept of ‘Populism’ is truly wrong without exceptions and the system of ‘Democratic capitalism’ is always right in any situation. Rather, I want to delineate my persuasion that the current situation happening in Venezuela is the result of indiscriminate praise and inducing of the policies reflecting the concepts of mostly ‘Populism’ and even a small part of the ‘Socialism’ or ‘Fascism’. This tragedy’s origin was in ‘Hugo Chavez’ who governed the country for more than 14 years. Even if he has extreme two-side evaluation regarding his work governing the nation, the current situation of the Venezuela becomes to prove that the evaluation of him cannot be positive since he degraded all aspects of the country including ‘separation of powers’ or ‘democracy’ which are the basic structures of the nation in order for the country to function properly.

‘Hugo Chavez’ was a real fan of the theory of ‘Populism’, ‘Socialism’, and ‘Fascism’. Even though there are many differences between the three, they are all related to the anti-American tendency and thus also related to the desire of degrading ‘Democracy’ and ‘Capitalism’. In this situation, the cosmetic assertion of the concept ‘equality’ was a great strategy for Chavez in order to kill two birds with one stone which were ‘long-term dictatorship’ and ‘strengthen the reflections of populism in their country’ and possibly also developing their country’s economical status by utilizing his particular theories of ‘Populism’. Seeking to the idea of ‘Equality’, Chavez started to nationalize all domestic petroleum firms, devoting all of the revenue coming from those industries towards his goal of developing extreme poor’s welfare and image of its country on the outside by assisting other countries who could not afford themselves in order to make other believe and prove that the theory of ‘Populism’ was true. However, he didn’t do anything to develop the countries’ overall future industries and even never admitted the economical differences between the people in that nation since the concept of ‘equality’ was almost the only justification of all of his behavior for his goals.

After he died, the current president ‘Nicolas Maduro’ got the power to manage the country which made the situation even worse. Since the world’s crude oil price goes down drastically, the revenue made from the petroleum industries becomes to be weakened, and thus Venezuela started to be lack of money. Even more, since the former president spent all of the country’s money in order to achieve his personal goal, there was not enough stock of money which could recover this situation. In this situation, Maduro didn’t save or collect the money and thus enrich the country, but rather release and issue a lot of additional currency. This irreversible decision without knowing basic economic principle let the value of Venezuela’s currency down seriously in the world’s economical society and thus without their country’s own value, the lives on Venezuela would be broken down. Finally, this economical degradation arouses the political and sociological chaos and thus made the people in that nation to be unstable. Now, Venezuela’s collapsse is imminent; Chavez not only failed to accomplish his goals in terms of ‘his’ nation, but also proved to all other nations in the world that his notion and belief for ‘Populism’ and ‘Socialism’ was definitely wrong and regrettable.

Traveling Venezuela, I was able to put this theory directly toward their real life. Because there was no value of their own country, the currency published by Venezuela was no worth to be even collected and no people tried to collect and even pick up the fallen money on the street. Since the value of the currency in that country was too low to even measure, they have to pay tons of money in order to buy only a little household goods. Even more, it becomes very hard for the people to seek for the goods in their own nation since their nation had no money to import any products outside of the country. Even for the oil which they had a lot before, there was almost no oil at all inside the country because they had no money to purchase the devices that could mine, refine, and produce the usable oil. Without any resources that could be used by citizens, most of the people decided to immigrate to other countries nearby or illegally cross the border in order sustain their lives just living as homeless near the ‘Tachira river’ between the Columbia and Venezuela. These international relationships make a conflict between Columbia and Venezuela politically. Venezuela represent the result how the country could be without ‘Country’s own value’ and the process that made the country to be one of the poorest countries in the world starting as the richest countries with a lot of welfares in Latin-America.

Lise Tancia Maguyline Rivière

Lysie’s  goudougoudou story

This indescribable sound occurred in a fraction of a second, and then it was dark, a black so thick that it could not be compared to the usual depth of the evening. It was the day that Lysie had experienced for the first time the repugnant effect of a natural disaster from her perfect fairy-tale life.

It was an ordinary day when the sunshine did not make her fear any imminent threat. Lysie, her mother, her little brother and her father witnessed this terrible event in the mist of an afternoon of the mist of an afternoon ofTuesday, January 12, 2010.

They were three in the house except dad who was on his way home. While her mother was doing laundry, Lysie and her younger brother, respectively, were resting and reading the Bible when the walls that were supposed to secure them from the outside environment began to pitch in frenetic and  incoherent movements. In a reflex movement, Lysie, her mother and her little brother had to run for it otherwise they would be buried alive under the rubble as strangely the house where Lysie’s family lived had collapsed room-by-room leaving the possibility of escaping to the exit door or taking refuge. Lysie had been trapped for a few minutes between two large pieces of boulder that we would take for walls defining the adjoining space where her mother was ambushed too , finding an excuse that she had been taking the keys to the barrier.

The seemingly indelible dust had gradually dissipated and Lysie could glimpse the perfect chaos that reigned around her.  His house was nothing more than ashes surmounted from the recent construction that had remained  intact from above. Where was her mother and her little brother who were with her at home when they were struck by this misfortune was the very first question she asked herself.  She began to shout their respective names when only her little brother answered at a distance from home to her great temporary relief, which quickly faded away for she still realized that all that was missing was her mother. Despite the shock that the event had given her she ran to his mother who had been probably stuck there. Lysie could not help but panic because after several calls, her mother had still not come forward. Her distress was at its climax because she was already crying begging God that her mother was alive or that she would have preferred to die with her. In her stubbornness to mope It took a few seconds before hearing a faint sound under the debris and just behind the blocks where Lysie was before she escaped from the house, she saw her mother’s hand whitened by the dust of blocks that fell on her but unfortunately 2 gallons filled with water pinned her to the ground. She could barely breathe. Seeing this, Lysie was seized with a paralyzing fear and did not know what to do for the moment , but in a sudden move, preferred to throw herself through the dangerous irons and debris trying unsuccessfully to clear the blocks that wanted to take her mother’s life.

Fortunately, In his desperate quest, her little brother had managed in the midst of this tumult to bring back two men who were probably in their twenties, who were not far from home and who also wanted to help having understood the stakes of the situation. Shaken by incoercible tears  in front of  that mother’s dying painting, Lysie made the task difficult for those young men who had agreed to have one of them to calm Lysie by holding her firmly so that she is not only too exposed to stone residues that were hanging on her head at the entrance of the small hole where her mother was sprawled but also to prevent them from carrying out their mission which were a bit dangerous and also put their lives at risk mainly the one who hurried to remove the blocks and save the Lysie’s mother.  Not without difficulty, he freed Lysie’s mother by pulling her with all his strength. Lysie’s mother’s feet were still stranded. She begged to have her leg cut off because she saw that she was too close to the goal to die because of her legs. But eventually the rescuer took her out without executing her courageous request.

After briefly thanking the two Samaritans who did not even know neither what had happened, Lysie’s mother regrettably saw her living on a reduced floor, as in one of these nightmares, in a low house. Their house was too old not to succumb to the weight of the new one upstairs. Without further ado, Lysie ‘s mom took her children in her arms and rushed further down barefoot into the area to see that some houses had held up and others had simply given up causing minor injuries to survivors or significant loss of life.  Her dad, after his own bad adventures too, pulled over and when he saw his unrecognizable house he thought he lost his whole family in the tragedy when the neighbor told him to reach out to them in a affected family camp in the same district.

 

Lysie knew for the first time in her life that disaster was called earthquake. A cascade of changes surged upon her. Lysie went to her dad’s rural home at a uncle’s house. Since that day everything became upside down to Lysie.  She suffered many psychological disorders such as anxieties, depression and mood disorders. Lysie did not expect this chapter of her life to take such an impromptu turn. She even got a unforgettable scar in the upper part of her right knee. Lysie’s mother confessed to her a year later that she pretended to go get the keys because she felt helpless and did not want to see Lysie and her little brother die. Between palaver on the different onomatopoeias that could more or less correspond to the sound ,Goudougoudou seemed to best illustrate the facts. But the God of whom  Lysie is grateful spared only his life and that of her relatives but her family started all over again.

Kate Smith

Afternoon tea with giant tortoises

“Tell me a funny story about Uncle Anna,” my three-year-old said. His bedtime story had focused on funny things that had happened to people.

“Auntie Anna was chased up a beach by a huge sea lion once,” I said, recalling the hilarity, and slightly scary moment, as she moved faster than I’ve ever seen her move before.

“He made a noise like this: ‘Aah, aah, aah, aah, aah, aah’,” I said. My son Tomos chuckled and soon mimicked the sea lion sound. It will make a change from his ‘nee-naw’ siren soundtrack.

“Auntie Anna was tricked into giving some of her water to a bird too,” I said.

“How did that happen?” asked Tomos.

“There were two mockingbirds on the beach, mocking us. Auntie Anna took the lid off her water bottle, then one bird hopped about in front of us, like he was doing a little dance, while the other bird was behind us, taking a precious drink from our water bottle.”

“Ha ha,” said Tomos, still at the age where other people’s misfortunes are funny, but his own are definitely not. “Was I there?” he asked.

“No, it was before you were born,” I said.

“Was it at Newport Sands?”

“No, it was a long, long way away in a magical place called the Galápagos Islands,” I said.

“The wildlife is so amazing there,” said Auntie Anna. “You get so close that you have to be careful you don’t tread on it.”

“Why?” asked Tomos (he is three).

“It has no enemies and the animals are not scared of people,” Anna said. “We were so close to the nest of a bird called a brown pelican that Mummy couldn’t take a picture of it with her camera.”

“Did you see any dinosaurs?” asked Tomos.

“No,” said Auntie Anna, “but there were some very special animals there.” Anna found a picture of a marine iguana on her phone and showed Tomos. “This animal was a bit like a dinosaur,” she said. “It’s a marine iguana and has to warm up in the sun before it can move. The trouble was, they liked lying on the path where we were trying to walk, so we had to step over them. They wouldn’t move, they just sat still and snorted.”

“Like a pig!” said Tomos.

“Tell Tomos about the giant tortoises, Auntie Anna,” I said.

“They were really, really big…”

“This big?” asked Tomos, arms fully outstretched.

“Bigger than that,” said Anna, “and   really    slow    moving.”

“Can you move like a giant tortoise, Tomos?” I asked. He went on all fours and crawled fast across the room.

“That was more like a galloping tortoise than a Galápagos tortoise,” I said.

“We lay down in front of them,” said Auntie Anna, “watching them chew slowly on a blade of grass. They weren’t in a rush to go anywhere. We were so close we could hear them chewing and yawning too.”

“We weren’t in a rush either, do you remember?” I said. Our guide had told us to take our time with the tortoises, so we did, enjoying every inch of wrinkled grey skin. They nearly sent a search party out looking for us.

“What else was funny?” asked Tomos.

“There were birds with bright blue feet called blue-footed boobies,” said Anna. “Their feet are so bright that they look like they have been painted on.”

“Boobies!” said Tomos. “Uncle Anna’s got blue boobies!”

“There were even penguins there,” I said. Waddle, waddle went Tomos. “And bright orange crabs called Sally.” Tomos walked sideways.

“Can we go tomorrow?” he asked.

“Hopefully one day,” I said, thinking the emphasis really was on ‘hopefully’, after reading an article about how the Galápagos Islands are one of the places in the world most vulnerable to climate change and warming seas.

I really couldn’t imagine a world without chomping giant tortoises, dazzling blue-footed boobies, snorting marine iguanas, mockingbird thiefs and bull sea lions providing the noisy afternoon exercise and entertainment. I sincerely hope my son can witness such treasures of nature one day too.

“Boobies!” said Tomos, bringing me back from my thoughts. “Uncle Anna’s got blue boobies!”

 

Mahed Ali Amir

BEE-KIND

It is often the smallest of things that cause the biggest impacts, yes bees are small but their contribution to the human race and the World’s existence is great. Bees may have tiny feet yet the feats they can accomplish are massive, they pollinate, they produce honey, a most nutritious food source, as humans are selfish with regards to nature, choosing only to save what benefits us, it is surprising to see that bee populations have been on the decline almost unnoticed and unmourned. Perhaps their small size misleads potential saviours about their importance. Bees, of course need no introduction.

The excessive use of pesticides, loss of habitat, global warming, again most importantly, the indiscriminate massacre of all insects and by extension many birds as well, as a direct consequence of use of poisonous insecticides and pesticides is the biggest plague that has ever befallen bee-kind. Pesticides have emerged as a major culprit in widespread bee extinctions, and they have most certainly been killing bees since they were first deployed in the field decades ago. (Benjamin and McCallum, 2010). Bee-kind should be the motto of for the fight for preservation of bees as insects or bees or bugs have as much right to life as us, there are other rather more natural alternatives for pesticides and insecticides that can not only keep the ecosystem at a point of balanced equilibrium but also maintain high crop yields, at least enough to feed us humans and some to spare.

So what will a world without bees be like? What will happen if bees go extinct? The potential consequences of such a tragedy are unfortunately very grim. According to business insider, without honeybees, there would be no fruits, vegetables, nuts, or seeds in the world. (Spector, 2013). Apart from plants, many animals like the bee-eater will also be affected very badly in case the bees go extinct. (Petruzzello, n.d.). Of course we will lose a lot of colours as well since the bees won’t be able to pollinate flowers either, if they go extinct and apart from all of these very direct consequences of a world existing without bees, there’s still the domino effects of such a catastrophe and more importantly, the unprecedented impacts that have not yet been realised and probably not will be unless God forbid, bees should actually go extinct. So yes, the human race has a lot to lose if the bees lose.

As it has been decided that the future looks bleak unless we save the bees, the question is how do we accomplish it? Well, first of all, the problem must be realized. You cannot solve a problem that you do not recognize. Awareness is just the first step on a long stairway. Afterwards, more concrete steps can and should be taken, starting with a ban on insecticides and pesticides harmful in any way lethal or non-lethal to bees. Alternatives should be sought and brought in so as to not upset the farmers’ livelihoods. Bee populations should be artificially sustained under safer, controlled environments so that the populations existing in areas where they’re under threat, can be replenished and replaced. Small-scale, non-commercial and ethical, organic farming of bees should be encouraged and farmers should be provided incentives for keeping and maintaining hives.

Bees, the cute little workaholics are in danger and must be saved, of course without compromising on the bees’ dignity, being saved is not a sign of weakness, bees. Apart from being cute which alone merits them to being saved, bees are the most important insects in the World and benefit us humans in countless ways both directly and indirectly. Therefore bees are crucial to our survival. Poisonous pesticides are the bees’ worst enemies. (We hate them as well.) These pesticides should be replaced with something that can bee-friendly. It is of paramount importance that the bees for all their virtues, be entitled to very dedicated attention on our part.

 

Bibliography

Spector, D., 2013. What Our World Would Look Like Without Honeybees. [online] Business Insider. Available at: <https://www.businessinsider.com/the-world-without-honeybees-2013-6> [Accessed 29 June 2021].

Petruzzello, M., n.d. What Would Happen If All the Bees Died?. [online] Encyclopedia Britannica. Available at: <https://www.britannica.com/story/what-would-happen-if-all-the-bees-died> [Accessed 29 June 2021].

Benjamin, A. and McCallum, B., 2010. A world without bees. New York: Pegasus Books.

 

Lucy Chard

A World Without… 

There’s something about it. The air. The sky. The animals. Even the dirt beneath your feet. There’s something about it. Close your eyes and take a deep lungful. Scrunch your toes into the earth. Listen for the sounds of the creatures all around you, try and pin point their origins. Breathe out. Open your eyes.

It’s the wilderness of Sub Saharan Africa. That’s the key thing too, the wilderness. The wildness of it, the freedom and the space, the noise and the taste. It besieges your senses and gets deep into your bones; your soul. That’s what the wilderness of Africa does.

So let’s explore this world, let’s take a walk through the wilderness.

It’s hot, even though it’s still early in the day, once the sun is up it’s hot, if you are up early enough you see the birds lining the most exposed branches of the trees, puffing up their feathers, willing themselves to warm up. We’re a few hours past that now but you can’t yet see the mirages in the distance of heat waves rising off the baked earth. You can feel the warmth of it seeping into your skin, the energy it gives you is almost palpable. Taking a step, at first unsure – there’s so much to explore, where to start? But your feet carry you forward, it doesn’t matter where you go. Barefoot is the best way to walk in the wilderness, as you become absorbed in your surroundings you forget about any tiny little stones that dig into the soles of your feet, it’s all apart of the experience, it connects you to everything around you, and you swear you can start to feel the thrum of life right there through the ground, resonating inside of you, mingling with the beat of your own heart.

Now we’re covering some ground, moving across the open plain towards the edge of a cluster of trees, the shadows creating a contrast with the morning light slanting through the trunks looks inviting; interesting. As you get closer to the trees you start to hear a bird calling, wait, one bird? Or several birds? All different birds? At first it’s difficult to distinguish but, as you concentrate, picking out each note you can define the patterns more clearly, and slowly you start to see the songsmiths themselves in amongst the branches, they’ve been there the whole time but it’s only when you really look can you see them. You’ve got your eye in now though. You catch flashes of colour, a red face of a black-collared barbet and as you travel deeper into the trees the purple underbelly of a Knysna turaco, which swiftly disappears with a flick of a green wing, melting into the canopy. Staring up convinced you see it again you turn on the spot but nothing, just green leaves again. Suddenly a familiar smell hits you, but it’s out of place, where would you find popcorn in the wilderness? Well, you see you’ve stumbled across a male leopard’s morning route, scent marking – reinforcing his territory. You see the other signs now, scratch marks in the bark of a tree over there, new gouge marks cast over the scars of older ones; this is routinely trodden path.

Heart rate racing slightly more now you start to look around more intently as you walk, not blundering along with eyes lost in the canopy but searching between the trunks for anything more… surprising. The trees become more dense, thorny creepers sliding past your skin, catching slightly but you carry on, something drives you to get through the trees, to see what’s on the other side.

You feel more at one with the wilderness now, you can identify the bird calls just on the whisper of a song, you’ve registered the call of a group of baboons, just starting to play up a little, but they’re a way off.

Pushing through the trees now, eyes scanning for anything, your breath quickens and sweat starts to bead on your forehead as you become more aware that your field of vision is reducing, limited to just within a few trees in front of you, your senses are straining; heightened, this could be dangerous, you need to get out from these trees.

As quickly as the copse had surrounded you you’re out the other side, bursting through, you pause, looking back and catching your breath, hearing the blood rush humming through your ears. Almost like a rumble. No, that’s not you, the deep belly rumble feels like it could be coming from you though. You turn slowly to see what had been drawing through the trees and you’re greeted with a large oasis, the water shining and glassy. You see where the rumble came from now. A small herd of elephants stand at the waters edge, the largest – she must be the Matriarch – has taken a drink, she’s the one that is rumbling, encouraging the others to also quench their thirst. It’s all you can do to stand stock still and watch them. You don’t need to move closer, they are still unaware of you as you are blending into the background of the trees. You can see how they move, deliberately but with ease, they have a majesty that is both graceful and terrifying. You carefully sit down, you can watch them now, quietly, in their wilderness.

There’s something about it, in fact there’s a lot about it, and you don’t want to live in a world without…

 

Emmanuel Mpundu

THE WORLD WITHOUT DIAZOTROPHS

What kind of the world could it be without Diazotrophs? Or maybe if they were to be extinct by some means of anthropogenic activities, could that effect be felt? And if yes how far reaching could it be?

So many questions I can pillar up in buttressing the imagination of the world without them. But what are Diazotrophs anyways? And why matter having them in existence? Well, in answering these questions lets dive into the microscopic realm of life !

Diazotrophs are microorganisms  that can fix molecular Nitrogen  and convert it into ammonia or related nitrogenous compounds in the soil or aquatic system . Being all this carried out by the enzyme complex called Nitrogenase found in them, using energy from the ATP and the electrons suppied by respiration which can either be aerobic or anaerobic. Some being with  mutualistic symbiotic relationships with plants, while others are nonsymbiotic living independently in the soil.

Even more can be stressed out about this tiny yet complicated  organism. But my main concern in this article is it’s relevance and essentiality to life.

Nitrogen is the most abundant  uncombined element in our atmosphere, constituting about 78% among all the elements . And not just the most abundant, but  an essential component to life. Yet it is an inert gas, meaning that it can not react with other elements unless a lot of energy is present to crack the tripled bond that links the two atoms.But science as proven that it’s present in most foods we eat and even in our bodies. That’s why Diazotrophs are there to act as linkers between organisms and the pool of this precious element to life.

See our bodies contain about 3% in Mass of nitrogen among the six major elements that make up about 90% of the whole Mass of the body, nitrogen being the fourth in mass. Nitrogen is even  key component of the nucleic acids DNA and RNA which are crucial biological molecules  to all living things. For it’s found in the DNA in form of bases which are key building blocks of the DNA , thous determining our genetics. And though the fact that humans produce nitrogenous bases endogenously and not dependent on dietary ,dietary nitrogen is also required for it’s among the macronutrients needed by the body thrive.

Therefore talking about the nutrients we obtain from diet. Will discover that largely of it is directly or indirectly connected to nitrogen produced by Diazotrophs in the soil. Like the proteins . Proteins are nutrients whose building blocks are amino acids which nitrogen is its essential constituent.

Therefore this can also draw us in considering the life of plants and animals. Plants without it  plants can not  thrive. Leaves turning yellow with tiny flowers and fruits all this could result. And at the end bad yields in the lane of agriculture. And so the wave of this effect even spans to the animals and humans who depend upon them.

Though some may try argue that despite there be no Diazotrophs, nitrogen can be made available to plants through synthetic means. And thous bonding up the nitrogen cycle. But always this type of arguments can springs from a blurred Vista in regard to the issue. Cause they can be no considerations of how largely the percent is that comes from biological nitrogen fixation carried out by this some bacterias or just how much energy can be required for the preservation of all the plants in existence. For not only crops depend or have symbiotic relationships with this bacterias in the case of legumes, but also big plants do. Let say in the forests, wetlands and Savannahs. All this trees stand because this essential nutrient is made available by the actions of this wonderful organisms taking refugee in their nodulated roots or just in the soil. And so without  them they can not stand for atmospheric nitrogen is to strong for them to crack.

And Diazotroph being a general terms of diverse bacterias and archaeaons that fixes nitrogen we find that not only on land does this happen naturally but also in aquatic systems including freshwaters and in marine. In which we find cyanobacteria  which is a diazotroh that even play a role in the carbon cycle. Nitrogen by cyanobacteria in coral reefs can fix twice as much as on land therefore creating a prefect balance in the nitrogen cycle.

So a world without diazotrophs could be a world without life period. For they couldn’t be forests, wetlands, Savannahs and agricultural crops at large. And as for our bodies. How can they   flourish without nitrogenous compounds and nutrients! It can mean no proteins and  so many medicines  and drugs couldn’t be, like caffeine for it needs some nitrogen as components to be what it is.

So great care have to be taken as to preserve these important microorganisms and knowledge of them had to be pursed. For it’s really important to life of all.

And one way in which this can be achieved is through employing proper farming techniques, stopping deforestation and preventing pollution of aquatic systems. For by employing improper farming methods depletion and destruction of these bacterias results. And so crop rotations are to be fostered . Also deforestation do contribute in the destruction of this microorganisms in the sense that, in rondom  cutting of trees those ones wuth mutualistic  relations with this bacterias can be destroyed thereby affecting those who depend upon them. And addressing the aquatic systems should be an urgent matter as others listed above , as now we witness  the dieing of most coral reefs in which we can even find cyanobacterias.

Just consider the greenhouse gas emissions done by the farming industry and the major factor being the use of nitrogen fertilizers. Which is prodigiously contributing to the global warming could have be a thousands more to keep up with life if they were no diazotrophs . which is literally impossible for life.

 

Fatima Rezaie

 A world without the fear of Taliban 

3d August 2019 marks the outset of an adventurous journey that took me through stunning experiences of my life both academically and spiritually. As an Afghan girl coming to Lebanon for pursuing my undergraduate, I’ve made a great decision in my life. I left my country with thousands of hopes, dreams, goals, and ambitions to make a bright future, not only for myself but my society, too. Living through different fears and horrors that accompanied me throughout my life in my homeland, I left them all behind and started to walk in a direction that I’ve had no idea about and I only thought of the university that I got accepted and that was my all!!!

Lebanon has been an amazing country for me where I dared to explore it alone for the first time in my life without the fear of being kidnaped, terrorized, or exposed to any explosion and mainly without the fear of being Hazara (An afghan minority ethnic group that is suffering genocide done by the Taliban). For the first time in my life, I went hiking in Akkar, northern Lebanon, where I got to know so kind people and enjoyed the beautiful weather and rivers in Akkar valley. For the first time in my life, I saw a river in the heart of a valley without fearing “now, someone will come and attack us”, or “from which place Taliban might shoot us”. I wholeheartedly enjoyed and took my time to feel nature and breathe calmly. The weather in Akkar is so fresh and reviving, much better than Beirut which is very crowded and without too many green areas. To reach there, we should have gone almost 90 km to the north alongside the coastal areas, the view was astonishing. Passing through the beautiful cities of Jbeil, Batroun, Junia, and Harissa, our trip became much more memorable. I really felt that I’m living the moment and I’m alive, no Taliban, no bombing, no explosion, no terroristic attack, nothing at all, it was just me listening to the amazing Afghani songs and a happy girl dancing in my mind all the way to Akkar. I loved that moment a lot and hoped that one day there would be peace in Afghanistan and I would have gone all the way to northern, southern, eastern parts from my home in Herat to see my people and enjoy my country’s beauty. I want to see the giant and ancient Buda’s of Bamian, I want to go to Mazare Sharif and see the blue mosque there. As an Afghan, I haven’t had the opportunity to go to other cities of my country except for the capital, but in Lebanon, I went to almost all parts of it. The fear of the Taliban, their violation, and their presence affected me and millions of other Afghans from every aspect.

Since I came to Lebanon, I traveled to marvelous places, hiked long distances in the heart of the valleys and mountains that showed how beautiful the world is when there isn’t any war, violence, murder, bigotry, or any terrorists thirsty killing me. In addition, I’ve attended so many social and cultural activities that exposed me to a different culture and opened my eyes to the beauties of diversity in culture, religion, and sects in Lebanon. During Christmas, downtown Beirut is so nice and is wrapped up like a bride and I used to go there at night with my friends. Seeing a mass of people walking there at night with their families and children, all happy and busy with taking photos, or group dances, doubled my happiness. That peace, comfort, and serenity took me far to the contrasting situation of my country in which we wake up in the morning with the sound of the bombs, close up everything before the night prayer and sleep with the sound of guns shooting to get a thief. I don’t want to call it life, they are just trying to survive and make a living. Sometimes I think we don’t belong to this world anymore, just live, be good humans, and get ready for our eternal world and life.

Another amazing experience of mine was going to the beach for the first time. The beach is called Ramlet Al Baida near the Rawshe rocks which are fascinating. It is almost 20 minutes away from the university and I go there on foot. Everyone comes from different places, enjoys the horse ridings around the area or walking along the beach. I go to Rawshe when I’m down and get inspiration just from staring at the beauty of the ocean and the sunset. That tranquility and calmness are the precious times in my life, it’s just me with no one threatening me, bullying me, or warning me. How grateful I am to be here, live in peace, and actually live my life to the fullest. This is my world without the fear of the Taliban and this is my real life.

Sarah Maharjan

A World without Green Lands in Nepal

(This essay is an attempt to share personal experience of the writer’s understanding after a trip to Mustang on human habitat and wildlife exploitation and the necessity for this issue to be addressed.)

When I was a sixth grader, my existence was limited within the Atlas book from where I drew my country – Nepal’s map, locating districts, zones and cheered with my classmates upon finding my hometown Kathmandu where I belong. It not only helped me to understand my existence but, through the Atlas, I intended to differentiate my existence with people across the world by searching their countries. It was a memorable experience as a 12 year old girl who couldn’t surf the internet as it was very expensive and not thought to be important compared to the monthly food expense at home.

Now in my early twenties, when I reminisce about those years of my life, I find myself naïve. It was only after traveling and experiencing nature closely, I could broaden my horizons and make life more functioning. One such travel experience was through my trip to Mustang. The journey to Mustang via road on a bus from Kathmandu was not easy, but despite the difficulties, this trip helped me acknowledge how travelling worked as a catalyst for our drifted thoughts to gain a sense of direction and purpose and understand human existence in coexistence with the other; the wildlife.

On the way to Mustang, at a place named Guheshwori, famous for Hindu pilgrim for a temple built on a solid marble stone, the bus I was in started twirling up and round the beautiful green hills, but then as we moved forward evidences of the exploitation of wildlife through deforestation and encroachment of wild spaces by locals were seen which had lead to problems of landslide and flooding. When we come to human civilization, we know that it is uncommon in our society to break into other’s territory without permission even when we want to explore it. However, the same doesn’t apply for wildlife and its habitats. It has become a common practice to break into wildlife and hinder their habitat’s privacy in the name of exploration and adventure. Although nature is inclusive and generous to welcome humans in their territory, still humans keep exploiting nature ruthlessly without any remorse. As long as profit is made, the heinous act of exploiting nature is made unseen and ignored.

Passing through these exploited hills and moving ahead, the green valley slowly disappeared and there appeared  huge rocky mountains, as well as, a landscape full of dust, sand, piles of stratified rocks and eroded canyons everywhere. This indicated that our bus was approaching Mustang and this thought and the surrounding itself created mysticism and fascination. This was present even in the blue sky where clouds made unique patterns like that of grazing sheep in the pasture which seemed unreal and could be seen just once, at the right moment or never again. It also made me realize how our life is and how any decision taken at the right time and moment leads to bliss but if forgotten leads to our loss.

 

Later, upon finally reaching Mustang crossing Beni baazar, Ghasa, Gugeshwori , Jomsom  and finally Muktinath, where the chilly cold winds hits, the life out there seemed harsh but then getting warm greetings and welcome in lovely stone houses of the local people, exchanging cultures and traditions brought delight and the thought that even in harshness life can still prevail. The ocean blue sky view in the morning from the small stone houses and the pale yellow sky evenings was truly magical. Seeing the sky turning from blue to dark blue to black blue to black and gazing at the twinkling stars at night beside the wooden fire and with a sip of Marpha -a type of brandy produced in Mustang of fruits like apple and apricot, yet revealed new insights and understanding of life and green lands.

 

It was shocking to know how even in the most comfortable places, like our homes, where we build and store abundant resources, memories and every possible item we need still failed to help us achieve what we are really seeking. But through traveling to an unfamiliar place where nothing is familiar or connected, we can gain a deeper level of knowledge which satisfies us despite being out of our comfort zone. Journeys are of many kinds, from childhood to adulthood, from miserable pasts to present, from internal to external, from developing to developed, journeys are uncountable. However, journey into nature interlocks us with the wildlife in such a way that we acquire higher understanding, which otherwise, wouldn’t be achieved within the boundaries of our houses and comfort zones. Thus, this trip to Mustang kindled the driving force of ‘Optimism’ and a heart to fight for justice to save the agonizing and unheard voices of wildlife which again is directly linked with our existence. And despite everything we should move by the slogan, ‘Go and Experience’ and not, ‘Never Go and Never Experience!’ because at the end every trip is worth it and insightful.

 

At last, the most insightful knowledge gained through this trip was the importance of preservation of Green lands especially in Nepal. With the exploration of the Mountains, Dry lands and Green lands through this trip, I found that though the Mountains and Dry lands in Mustang were breathtaking, the struggle to survive there was very challenging which was not a place to live for the general population of Nepal. In other words, we need to understand that all the places we explore are not places where the general population can adapt to and survive in a long term situation. There is a reason for Mountains to be less in number compared to the Dry lands and Green lands. And there is also a reason for Green lands to be more in area compared to the Mountains and Dry lands in Nepal and also worldwide. Though there are exceptions where civilization is possible even in the Mountains and the Dry lands, we need to understand that in general these places are not fit for general human civilization as they are not brought up to survive and adapt in such areas. Thus, humans have to be responsible for their actions and stop exploiting wildlife and its habitats and protect our Green Lands, the place where the general public before we lose our existence and without land to live in the entire human civilization and existence is also put under erasure.

 

Lourdes Leya-Jubac

A Little Care for Free

The summer of 2016, that gorgeous waves upon my feet

Into a deep slumber of serene waters we meet.

In a timely brisk leap, I sat and dream on

Humming the tendering ocean song.

 

Awakened, these full of life creatures greet me with leaps,

I smile and captured those playful dolphins with clicks.

Another nature’s best that day I witness,

In the blue waters of my province’s nest.

 

See ? How my early day turned out to be?

Such a wonder, very dearly to keep.

But  imagine, if they’ve gone no more,

Would you still know what is “wonder” for?

 

Came in the afternoon, the whales did appear too.

Akin to tourist, they seem very friendly though.

The sanctuary of fishes, another great experience!

Feeding the colorful fishes in their comforting rest.

 

Surely, the ocean gets alluring more and more!

With all these marine creatures whether  big or small.

Environment is their home and so it must be kept well,

For these creatures to live on and avoid extinction.

 

Natural and genuine all the way through,

Do you feel the same way as I do?

Nature is a gift, so are these animals we see,

Balancing our home – the world, we live.

 

But how could we dare claim sublime and  peace?

If the earth we own it for selfish needs?

What a waste and shame in men would it be,

If the world cannot give even a “little care” for  free?

 

Supam Roy

 Nightmare versus life

If one ever opens his eyes at the end of sleep and sees that there are no people around him, the city is filled with emptiness in an instant then how will he feel! Or if it suddenly happens, this world has suddenly changed into a world without plants, without animals, even harder than the desert! Then what will be his perception! None of us want to imagine that for a moment. We want to see everything normal and get what we need as soon as we pay money. We want credit card – debit card – cash on delivery service; means in a sentence, all the facilities available in the world are at hand.

This story is based on a man who understands nothing but his own happiness. His mentality is such that whether anyone else in the world survives or not, he has to survive. He is a Software Engineer by profession. Unmarried. His name is Nipon Das. Hobby – photography. He had dreamed of becoming a photographer since childhood but it didn’t come true. On holidays, he goes out with his camera. Most of the photographs on his camera are of roads, houses and trees. He doesn’t even take photographs of animals because he doesn’t like them at all. In the last 5 years, he has participated in at least 40 photography competitions. But he did not succeed in any of those.

One morning, he dreamed that he was riding his bike far away. He rides his bike on a road that has no end. There is nothing around except the road and the sky. Wherever he looked, only the horizon was visible. There are no plants, houses and people. The scene is like he is the only man in the world riding a bike on the only road in the world. He also began to have a strange feeling inside himself that he is the king of this world; the rule is now in his hands. There was a lot of joy inside him. He increased the speed of the bike. He wants to reach his goal quickly. What is his goal, where is his address he can’t remember anything. After a while the sun will set. His bike is still moving forward like a Duranta Express.

Soon he entered with his bike in another dream. There he sees his bike broken down. There are no people or houses anywhere near or far. Everywhere he looks he finds the desert. He walks mile after mile on the hot sand. His throat became dry; stomach began to ache with hunger. He wants water, he wants food. But there is no water, no animals, no plants, and no food. There is only a full pocket of money. But that money is of no use. He is struggling to survive. That’s when he woke up. Dreams seen in sleep also take shape just like reality. He became restless with fear. His whole body trembled with fear.

Outside then it’s time for sunrise. This is the first time he wakes up so early; and this is the first time he has seen sunrise. The humming of birds began to float around. After overcoming the fear of nightmares and getting a little normal, he went out with his camera and bike. He decided that today he would take his bike for a long distance which he had never done before. He will go as far as the birds can be heard.

He crossed the city and moved to the village. After crossing flower gardens, wheat fields, and paddy fields, he came to a small hill. That’s where the road ends. In fact, the road has been closed for that collapsed hill. There is a forest on the other side of the hill. It is heard that wild animals live there. Several times tigers and lions were seen in the village.

There he stood and took several photographs of the hill. While taking photographs of the hill, his camera caught a beautiful view. This is the first time he has captured different type of photographs on camera. A bee is playing a special role in pollination. That bee is carrying pollen to the flower’s uterus. And from this, fruits and seeds will be born later. He then understood better that nature is not actually excluding animals. Birds, insects, water, wind, and mammals all are responsible for planting so many trees without humans.

When returning, he stopped the bike in front of a house on the side of the village road. He saw a 14-18 year old boy taking out milk from a cow. He captured the scene. A little further on, he saw a widow feeding her pet puppy on the roof of the house. He also captured that photograph on camera.

He realizes the need for animals. Without them, the world would be empty. In fact, the world needs animals, birds, people, and plants. If there were no animals on earth, then everyone would be dependent on plants for food. And then there will be a shortage of oxygen on earth. Nutritious foods like milk and meat are obtained from animals. Many diseases are being treated with animal organs to save patients from dying. Without animals, the zoo will become obsolete. This clearly means that the world without animals is useless.

When Nipon returned home, he took the photographs from the camera to his laptop, edited those, and mailed three of those to the photography competition.

Except for the matter of taking photographs, his times continued to follow the same rules as every day. He now tries to portray the relationship between animals and humans. Especially the importance of animals.

The results of his photographs sent to the photography competition came after three months. His photographs were nominated and he stood second place in that competition. He is happy now.

 

Purnima Unnikrishnan

Water, water everywhere

It has been at least ten minutes on the boat, but I’m still in awe and ever so slightly disoriented by the dense placid water around me. The boatman points vaguely to the far right where the bulky backwater we are on meets a canal. That canal empties into some other waterbody way up ahead and so on. Such winding waterways are the crux of Alappuzha, gateway to the famous backwaters of Kerala, a southwestern state of the Indian subcontinent known for its unnaturally beautiful landscapes. The matrix of interconnected canals, lagoons, rivers, lakes and inlets stretches to more than 900 km parallel to the Arabian Sea coast. I feel like I have entered the generous gut of the state. It’s going to be water, water everywhere for the next few hours. I hum with anticipation.

When my friends and I had arrived at Alappuzha earlier today, an overwhelming array of boats moored to the side of the backwater welcomed us. The canvassing and bargaining began, and we got more confused on what kind of boat to choose to explore the waterways. Our initial pick was of course a Kettuvallam. The humongous boats with thatched roofs and wooden hulls are steeped in the history of the land. Made of wooden planks tied up using thick coir ropes, they functioned as cargo vessels. Refurbished, they now serve luxury boating experiences to tourists from around the globe. The bigger ones have multiple bedrooms for overnight stay. However, they can be pricey for the budget traveller. There are government-run boats as well, which are cheap and follow a set route but the seats fill out super-fast, and they can be uncomfortable for long rides. Alappuzha inhabitants rely on these boats for daily commute.

I suggest that we deliberate over fresh coconut water sold on the makeshift carts around us. The vendor deftly cuts off tops of tender coconuts using a machete and thrusts straws into them. After we empty the water, we return the coconuts to him, who hacks at them and uses small sections to scoop out the pulpy insides. By the time we are done gobbling it up, we have made our decision – Shikara boats, which can be rented out on hourly basis. Once you look past the gaudy interiors common to this kind of boat (ours has flashy red carpeting and glittery pillows) one can understand its charm. Unlike the Kettuvallam, smaller boats such as the Shikara are not restricted to the main channels, which means we get to explore more.

Two hours later, we are in a canal lined with countless overhanging palm and coconut trees. Paddy fields and islands on either side are separated by coconut grooves and small gushing streams. A gentle breeze dances with my hair as I lazily observe life on the backwaters. A woman washes her clothes standing waist deep in water. A few kids wave at us. The adults are mostly indifferent; used to the curious tourist gaze I presume. It’s interesting how life has been built around the water. We pass by houses, a school, a government dispensary, several stores and a toddy shop. The signs of urbanisation don’t take away the pristine beauty but I can’t help wondering how long the happy medium will last. Rampant encroachment of agricultural land and illegal sand mining have already begun disrupting the delicate balance, evident from the annual flooding of Alappuzha and Kerala at large in recent years.

Three hours in, the boat is moored to the side of a smaller backwater, and we are headed to a small shack for lunch. No fancy seating and the waiters tell the menu from memory. But the boatman has promised a scrumptious sadhya served on plantain leaves as per Kerala tradition, and he better be right. The restaurant also offers fried and curried fish caught fresh from the brackish waters. The star is Karimeen or pearlspot, the official state fish of Kerala. We get to choose our fish before they cook it for us. We head to the kitchen back of the restaurant to make our choices. Fifteen minutes later, there’s no sign of the food. I can eat the plantain leaves at this point. Mercifully, the food arrives followed by the fish. Everything is cooked in coconut oil, which lends a peculiar aroma. We leave the place with our hearts and bellies full.

Food comas are real. I struggle to stay awake as we head back to our boat, not wanting to miss any moment of what has already come to be a memorable day of my life. For a person who has always struggled with anxiety, it has been difficult for me to stay rooted in the moment. If it’s the stillness of the water that has grown on me, I can’t say, but I feel remarkably calm in this place.

I have lost track of time, but it must be at least two hours since lunch. Our boatman has turned around to get back to the start point. There are early signs of sunset. The billowy clouds have acquired some colouring. I spot some birds sliding through the sky, possibly retiring for the day. Soon the chatter dies and we are silent watching rose gold and peach speckling tips and crevices of everything so that the whole scene is a moment of art.

We stop by the coconut water stall again before retreating, and I realise that through the day we have witnessed several manifestations of the humble coconut, be its water, oil or coir ropes. Long before its global appeal in the beauty and health industry, the fruit has ruled life in the region. It’s difficult to think of Alappuzha without coconuts. And it’s difficult to picture a world without alluring places such as Alappuzha. Guess, a world without coconuts would be a sad place.

 

Anna Nicholls

A World Without….

…. Can you imagine a world without bees? You can’t can you? Or maybe you can’t be bothered or would very much like us to stop buzzing around your glass of juice. We’re the insects you take for granted or get annoyed with if we desperately dare encroach on your artificial grass. You may not even be aware that because of your artificial grass, you may not be drinking orange juice in the future. We simply cannot pollinate your urban deserts.

 

Starve us and you starve yourselves. That fruit smoothie you’re enjoying right now, might just be water soon. Even those clothes on your back will be threadbare as you won’t be able to afford the price of cotton. We don’t say all of this to frighten you, or to be mean. We just want you to listen, to be understood. We want to live our lives as I’m sure you do too. You have your patriarchy, we have our matriarchy. We don’t like showing off, but we live and sing in harmony. It works best that way. Something you humans have yet to master. If only you all hummed the same tune, the same note.

Communicate like us and you’d all be working in harmony. We could all live harmoniously and let’s face it, working for your good is a full time job for us. It’s what we do best and we get a real buzz and happy feeling from dancing, pollinating and indulging on sweet nectar. We don’t even mind sharing our honey with you, even though we’ve helped provide a third of your other food. The beekeepers

understand us, they tune into us, they help improve our nectar. Best of all they give us

accommodation for free and there’s pollen on tap.

It’s frustrating to feel so misunderstood. We truly mean you no harm and we certainly don’t want to sting you. We just want to ‘bee’ loved and in turn love you, by keeping the valleys green, the flowers a feast for your eyes and the trees laden with fruit.

So please leave a bit of wild, let things grow, dance in tune with us. Your world will have more colour, joy and life as sweet as honey.

 

Maria Morena Barola Malanum

Mangroves: Armour of Coastal Communities

Human knowledge has come a long way, human technology has advanced in today’s time and it is unstoppable that knowledge will continue to grow like a tree. A tree that thrives and bears fruit especially when it is well cared for. However, there are some aspects that man and tree are not the same; man continues to increase while trees are gradually being depleted especially in our forests in the mountains. This is the effect of continuous human development, increasing the number of communities that are for people such as villages, commercial and industrial facilities. In this case, we have aggrieved creatures that have no voice in society and rely only on people defending their rights. These are the creatures of the wild: the flora and fauna. The forest often focuses on the highlands but there is another quiet little forest that is in danger of being destroyed and diminished in time. This forest can be seen on the beach. One type of tree lives quietly on our shores: the mangroves.

When I was young, our beloved grandfather always took us to the beach because our vacation house was close to the sea. Just overlooking the famous Hundred Islands in the province of Pangasinan situated on the north western part of the Philippines He always took us on the boat that he rowed every morning and in the afternoon our daily routine during vacation but sometimes he walked us on our farm but our favourite is boat riding. My brother and I couldn’t believe that there was a tree growing by the sea and its leaves floating freely on the salty sea water, in our young minds, how can this tree live on the sea? We always asked this question to our grandfather but he just smiled back at us, he just said that because the sea is his home, I know he doesn’t know the answer because he never went to school because they’re very poor but I am always proud of him. He also took us on his little fish pen made of bamboo, he caught a lot of fish, squid, crabs and shrimp. My brother and I witnessed how rich in marine resources our area was, and the beaches were still clean. Our island town  is rich in these natural resources because of the mangroves planted in many parts of our island. But over time, the mangroves are gradually disappearing because the locals cut them down to use for their cooking or otherwise used to build houses. Our grandfather noticed the gradual change in their environment, especially the sea. As the surrounding mangroves shrink in numbers, their fish are also declining. So our grandfather decided to start planting mangroves on the beach in their yard. He guarded it and cared, he started with 3 trees. When we go on vacation every summer we are happy to approach it even though there are many oysters scattered around, even though our grandfather scolds us because we can get hurt. Although the mangroves are not yet high, many birds live here. There are many holes in the mud under it that are said to be home to crabs. In these three trees alone, there are small creatures that live here. What if more can be planted! Mangroves are actually home to fish where they breed and reproduce, as well as other sea creatures.

In my last year of secondary school, our school had a project for our small town and it was the planting of mangroves me and my batch mates happily planted in one of the coastal barangays in our town of Anda, province of Pangasinan. Honestly, I have never been able to return to the place we planted even though I was on vacation there because it is far from our home, but I have a lot of confidence in my kababayans that they will continue to take care of it and increase it. Mangroves also help produce our oxygen. Mangroves have many benefits, so we should appreciate them. Like the trees in the mountains, it shouldn’t be cut down because it takes a long time for it to grow and develop properly.

Then the worst typhoon hit our country: Yolanda or better known to the world as typhoon Haiyan. Our province is far from the very place where it landed, the shocking news reached us about the devastating storm surge even more intense than the tsunami. This caused the death of many in Samar and Leyte; it destroyed everything he passed. But one village survived and was less damaged by the storm surge, rescued by the thick mangrove forest in their area. In other words, mangroves not only become a sanctuary of sea creatures but can also serve as armour and shield against the destructive waves that a hurricane can bring. This incident has awakened the consciousness of many of my countrymen not only in my beloved province but also of all those living near the coast. The mangroves that used to seem to be just decorations on the edge of the beach have a much greater value than we expected. It can save an entire community. I wanted to spread this little job that my grandpa started, I want this to be my advocacy too.

They said that everything in the world and around us has balance and that what we should maintain not ignored. Authorities said that if we cannot prevent global warming, there’ll be many irreversible effects that cannot be remedied. The ocean heats up so much that it is one of the most important elements to form a strong storm. Let’s start saving our only planet because if we don’t we may lose something that is more than a home to all of us. We don’t want to see our planet destroyed. Let’s start with something simple and small, like planting for our future generations. I strongly believed that great things always start from small ones.

 

 Nazmul Islam

Title: – ” A world without borders ”

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” ~ Saint Augustine.

I too consider travelling the same way. I have already been to more than 20 districts which cover one-third of the total geography of my country. but it only incremented my thirst to travel more, to explore more. I want to know the unknown, want to see the unseen. I want to go in search of Genghis Khan’s grave, want to know the lifestyle of the Maori tribe, want to see how big a pyramid can be, want to know why the Indus Civilization disappeared. I want to smell the tulips of Holland, want to taste some balsamic from Italy, put on a pair of Oxford shoes, and have a walk in the streets of Berlin. and I have already enjoyed all of them. Yes! but only in my wild imagination knowing the fact that it is impossible to do so when I have only one passport in my hand with no visas attached to it. A man-made imaginary barrier called ” Border ” has narrowed my horizons, has blocked my path, has bound me to the limits of my wanderings with cruel ridicule. I imagine being in a world where there will be no chain named “border” to pull me back, no obstacle to stop my adventure, no condition to get in touch with nature. I imagine a world without borders.

 

There are countless different species on the surface of this planet. One of these is the human race, which has over seven billion members. In one sense, there are no nations, just groups of humans inhabiting different areas of the planet. In some cases, there are natural borders formed by sea or mountains, but often borders between nations are simply abstractions, imaginary boundaries established by agreement or conflicts. that created obstacles in the path of our exploration and adventures throughout the world. we can hardly imagine enjoying anything beyond that “border” without a visa printed on the passport. I do believe that this is offending our natural rights of being entitled to enjoy nature to the fullest.

 

If there were no borders in the world! I would make all those wild imaginations come true. Having breakfast with sushi in Japan, a short walk along the Great Wall of China, walking down the streets of the old city of Kolkata, sitting on the banks of the Danube in the afternoon with coffee in one hand, and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights in the other! Soaking my feet in the calm waters of Havana beach at dusk, watching the sunset, and finally returning home exhausted after watching last night show at the Sydney Opera House! Life seems too short to me. If I had a few hundred more lives, maybe my thirst to see this world would be quenched! Really?! Or the thirst would have increased! if one tastes the nectar, the thirst increases even more! I would quench my thirst with some Italian wine and go out on the streets of Paris having a spoon of Balsamic and go straight to Brazil to see the samba dance. Meanwhile, I will take a look at the art galleries of Vienna. Then what? the conclusion?! Not now! From the Quiet city Budapest to Bucharest, from Prague to Sophia or from Vienna to Venice or from Sicily to Athens! taking a boat ride in Giethoorn Village and having Peshawar Nehari sitting there! Then? Just continuing my constant rush in search of new adventures, in search of new experiences, in search of a new me every day.

Not Only I would think of my pleasure and enjoyment, but I would also give away some joys to the deprived and share some of their sorrows. I would give shelter to a refugee family from Syria, I would share my food with a broken family from war-torn Afghanistan, I would share my clothes with a homeless family from India, I would cry and share the sorrows with the Palestinians, I would laugh with the happiness of the Finnish. I would run to Somalia with food, I would run to Myanmar with democracy, I would run to India with some Vaccine.

 

I would work in Iraq to stop the bloodshed, I would run to a hungry family in Yemen with food, I would carry medicine on my shoulders to a refugee camp on the Turkish border, I would fly a blanket of affection on the body of a child waiting on the Mexican border, I would buy rations for a whole month for an afflicted family in Venezuela, I would take responsibility for a child who lost his parents in a terrorist attack in Afghanistan, I would take to the streets in protest on behalf of the persecuted Uyghurs, I would go on a hunger strike to save Hong Kong’s democracy, I would have been shot in the Kurdish independence movement and imprisoned for seeking justice for Jamal Khashoggi.

 

Then one day, I would come back to my nest, die in silence finishing my mesmeric journey putting a wide smile on my face saying to myself ‘” wow! What a wonderful life I have spent! ‘

 

But Alas! These man-made imaginary barbed wire fences have strangled my cherished hope of making thousands of my imaginary dreams come true, confined me to a certain boundary called “country”, deprived me of the beauty of the world, not quenched my thirst to see more, not allowed to satisfy my hunger to know more. it is as if the invisible bondage has imprisoned me forever.

 

I have a dream! dream to fly free like a bird. Because the bird doesn’t need a passport, it doesn’t have to show a visa, no one puts him in jail saying you have crossed the border. yes! I have dreamt of a world without borders.

 

John Adebisi

BEFORE WE ALL PERISH

In the dying days of Nigeria, myself and three others agreed to embark on a rescue mission to save Nigeria. We opted to drive together to demonstrate the oneness and indivisibility of Nigeria.

The radio was on, and tuning to Lai FM, we couldn’t stop laughing hearing the government official liar saying “The government is on top of the situation” and that “everything is under control.”

We left the Transcorp Hilton Hotel and drove through the rich neighbourhood of Maitama before coming to the highbrow district of Asokoro. This is Abuja we built with oil money. We also built a swimming pool filled with oil windfall.

As we drove round the city of Abuja, I had the misfortune of listening to fellow travellers misrepresenting Nigeria’s unity, peace, and progress. But while they engaged in idle talk, the Nigeria’s failing state got me thinking.

Nigeria is a country of over 300 ethnic tribes with diverse cultures and religions forced to live together. But history has taught us that we can’t live all together peacefully and we can’t leave altogether peacefully. It is sad that we can’t live in peace and we can’t leave in peace. But who knows if ultimately dissolution is the solution to the 1914 amalgamation by the British Lord Lugard of accursed memory.

I was thinking about Nigeria’s failing state until I got carried away. And as if watching a horror film, I saw a group of religious fanatics killing their fellow human beings and chanting Allahu Akbar.

“Let’s run from here.” I was shouting, “Let’s run from here.” We quickly made a U-turn and sped off. But as we were running for our lives, we ran into a herd of cattle on the highway.

In trying to avoid crashing into the Fulani cattle, we swerved and veered into a ditch.

It felt like somebody touched me. I opened my eyes surprised to see medical personnel tending to my wounds. Then, slowly, I recalled I was involved in a car accident with three senior citizens who had boasted that they would not open their eyes and watch the Igbo secede from Nigeria. According to them, we’ve been together for over 60 years and together we shall be.

“But where the hell is the Nigeria’s unity? And what has become of our peace and progress?” I asked Doctor Faith who had come to see me in the VIP ward. But somberly, he said “Nigeria’s progress is on life support. But unfortunately, the Nigeria’s elusive peace was brought in dead. And before they brought peace in pieces, a divisive figure dressed as Nigeria’s unity was brought in a body bag. I’m sorry; the Nigeria’s unity was dead on arrival.”

Oh, no! Nigeria is finished, and a world without Nigeria is upon us!

My faith began to wane and I was contemplating resigning to fate. But looking towards southwest, I asked Doctor Faith if there was anything left in this world. And his response was “Sure, there is a Yoruba nation rising on the horizon.”

Oh, what a revelation from Doctor Faith! His assuring word rekindled my faith. It was my date with destiny.

But as soon as Doctor Faith gave me his word, his world and my world began to drift apart. I stretched my hands to hold him, but I couldn’t get hold of him. But I heard him say to me to hold onto my faith.

But for faith, I would have resigned to fate. But as fate would have it, I hold on to faith.

 

Joy Henrietta Millar

Wandering Albatross 

The sky wears balm tonight.

And you are still airborne, still flying

Upon the thermals; Instinctively taking advantage

Of the updrafts. What sounds you must total!

While the warming of the earth’s surface

Slowing in sunlight stays honourably quiet.

No sign of the second law of those dynamics

Collapsing your scopic flight while

Countless Lilliputian lives come and go

Elapsing into time past and poaching

Forever unseen

Is the vulnerability of your unscathed wings.

 

Marie-Therese Toyi

Lost at Home

Sixteen years in England without ever visiting my father’s country, Burundi: no wonder my friends call me a UFO. I am ashamed of it, but my name is UFO.

This summer I said, “Enough with the insults. I will follow my father Murderous-Anger to Burundi, see that country of valiant warriors who sleep with only one eye, like Gustavus the oldest crocodile on earth. Or I will play with monkeys there”.

As we descend Monkey-Thieves slope near my father’s evergreen village, I inhale tons of oxygen and enjoy the sensation it creates in my lungs.

You can’t imagine that my father hugs everybody and praises God for seeing again his only home on earth, the place where his umbilical cord was buried. “None of my business”, I say.

In the parlor, one wooden bed stands weakly, just like the brown calf which is struggling to stand at our approach.  “Do cows here sleep on beds”? I ask my father.  I get no answer.

I soon start running in the Savannah with dozens of children who keep following me, to marvel at the wonder that I represent to them. It is the first time that they see a mulatto.  My cousin Caterpillar grabs my hand from time to time and raises it up, like   a victorious conqueror.  As if he really worked hard to earn a huge sum of money with which he bribed God to create me a mulatto.

They laugh at me when I run playfully. “Men don’t play with children”, my cousin Caterpillar tells me.   How do I tell them that, despite my height and my beard, I am still a child, that I am younger than majority of them?

They laugh, and I only smile.  Only two hours ago, Caterpillar asked me why I look like a sick bird which assisted another sick bird during famine.

“What”?

“Yes, your hair. Why does it look so long and soft?”

“Go and ask my Creator”, I tell him.  Now, I no longer care about village gossip.

Night falls. I will sleep in the parlor, with my two cousins, near the calf and its mother. Another village wonder, I think. Mad-Madam, the mother cow, quietly watches our movements. I fear it but I can’t let my cousins see my fear.

“Will the cows not finish our oxygen?” I ask my father. I get no answer.  I remain awake till sleep overpowers me, around midnight. In the darkness, I lie on the bed with no worry over   the cows’ proximity, a borrowed slim mattress, and my back bag as pillow.

At cockcrow, we get up for Fire-Burns, the greatest witch doctor around. It will be my pleasure to see with my eyes a witch doctor; I knew them only on television.

In front of one thatched hut surrounded by tall banana trees, a red-eyed man with thick eyelashes, who farts and belches noisily, welcomes us. This is Fire-Burns’ house. I know that I have to control my emotions when he gives incisions in my father’s body. Then he turns to me. I move backwards and step onto chicken eggs behind me. Animals in the parlor again!  I feel sad and filthy.  Then my father whispers: “Don’t disgrace me here. At Rome, you do like the Romans. This man is respected here”.

“This is Rome indeed”, I mumble.

The two men succeed to pin me down. Incisions fall two by two in my two wrists, my chest, my temples, and under my navel.  With no anesthesia. What a world!

“Your girlfriend carries twins for you”, the witch announces.  Shame catches me.  Yes, I secretly have a girlfriend, but is Sofia pregnant? Does the witch control people remotely?  Stupid. I leave that to the idiots.

From here, we proceed to my father’s cripple sister, God-Knows. I have learnt to call her Senge.  One’s Senge’s blessings are for a lifetime, so I heard.

Here we are, at Ruvubu River. No bridge, no house, nothing. A stout man, Nightingale, comes to us. He unties a thing which resembles a mat of sticks. Igitēbo, so they call it. My father pays the bill for both of us, but I am visibly scared.

“This is our village titanic, boy. Just drop your clothes and lie flat on it”, Nightingale tells me.

“I refuse death today”, I angrily tell my father. “Even if Angel Gabriel blows the last trumpet, I will not cross on this”.

“For Senge’s blessings, UFO. Try”.

“I am seventy-three kilograms heavy, dad. You understand that I cannot float on a river, like a feather.”

It is sadness in my heart when I watch my father climb igitēbo and reach ashore, leaving me alone in the tall grass and trees.  He says that he will be back before sunset. That’s a whole century away! What will I do in the meantime? What if….No, no danger will pass that of crossing Ruvubu River on igitēbo.

I am standing alone, watching birds weave nests in a nearby tree. It is really happy and busy. Then, somewhere in a distance, I see tall grass shaking unusually. My heart beats fast.  The movement comes closer and closer to me. Lo and behold: two adult hippopotami are coming. I run helter-skelter, ready to throw myself in the river and   swim across, when suddenly I see Nightingale back with igitēbo. I hurriedly jump on it, with a feeling of relief.  In a split second, I reach my father. While he hugs me in congratulations, I get a call from Sofia: “Do you know, honey? Today’s scan said that I carry twins”.

“I am lost, dad. Did witch doctors study sciences”?

“Your answer will come next year when we come back together”.

 

Sherilyn Choo Ming Tze

A World Without Malayan Tigers

A sliver of moonlight filters through a canopy of trees

Leaves rustling in the gentle night breeze

A hunter feels horridly unease.

 

All of a sudden, through the thick forest mist,

A pair of glowing amber eyes he sees.

Drenched in fear, the hunter dares not breathe

As the menacing eyes move across the forest heath.

 

Sauntering silently over the ground beneath,

The tiger slowly reveals its razor-sharp teeth.

Caught in a trance, locked in a freeze,

The hapless man falls to his knees.

 

Dubbed as ‘Pak Belang’ in ancient Malay myths,

The Malayan tiger is well-known among the natives.

Found in Malaysia and not other countries,

This ferocious feline is truly a special species.

 

Standing tall as Malaysia’s national icon,

It’s also the face of Maybank and the logo of Proton;

A symbol of valor, being mighty and strong,

Sadly, the Malayan tiger will very soon be gone.

 

With less than 200 tigers remaining in nature,

The fate of the Malayan tiger hangs by a whisker.

IUCN classifies them being critically in danger,

A world without Malayan tigers will likely be our future.

 

So you wonder who is to blame

For killing these majestic creatures and causing them pain.

Harvesting their body parts like it is a game,

Oh humans, don’t you have no shame?

 

With Asia’s burgeoning affluence and greed,

It has since the 1900s planted the seed

For poachers and trophy hunters to cruelly commit

A heinous, outrageous and monstrous deed.

 

In the secret groves they set up snares

That snap and grap as quick as a hare

To trap the Malayan tigers unaware

And inflict pain beyond compare.

 

A slow and painful death ensues

As the helpless tigers are badly bruised.

Swiftly and skilfully with no time to lose,

The heartless humans start the abuse.

 

The head of the tigers are hung on the walls

And fur skin rugs are rolled out in the halls;

Not to mention those expensive shawls

Are all obtained from the poor carnivores.

 

Due to traditional medicine and ancient taboos,

The tigers’ blood and bones bring in great revenue.

With parts of the Malayan tiger that are of no use,

They are merely reduced to pots of stew.

 

As towns and cities rapidly expand,

Developers have since conceived a plan

To house the growing populations at hand

In uncharted, unexplored, spacious land.

 

Thus, dense steamy forests once lush and green

Are today transformed to a horrific scene.

Armed with axes, chainsaws and other machines,

The forests are balded by the demolition team.

 

Lowland woods are converted to suburbs

And jungles are replaced by palm oil and rubber.

With thousands of trees towed away as lumber,

It is no wonder who has to suffer.

 

As the Malayan tigers lose their home,

Out in the open streets they roam.

The King of the jungle overthrown,

A road to extinction they are prone.

 

But, wait a minute, that’s not all,

The decline of the sambar deer, pigs and wild boar

Exacerbates the Malayan tigers’ existing toil

As their habitats too we destroy.

 

So, you see, it’s hardly surprising

Why the Malayan tigers are going extinct;

This ferocious feline villagers once feared

Are now merely treated like dirt.

 

A world without Malayan tigers is our looming fate

If we don’t stop our booming wildlife trade.

Into the jungles we continue to invade,

These vulnerable creatures we mercilessly eliminate.

 

The name of the Malayan tiger would soon be faraway echoes

When we one day see the last of their shadows.

Therefore, before their numbers drop to zero,

Let us step up and protect our national hero.

JEWO OGHENETEGA

GOLDEN LION

These are tales of the beautiful coastal forests of brazil.

Tales of tropical evergreen trees, whose thick canopy

overshadow a never ending carpet of lush greenery.

Tales of air permeated with the fragrance of life.

A biome blessed by Mother Nature herself.

 

Tales of rivers and lakes bordering rugged

landscapes of mangrove trees, and grassland

on which the orange sun cast its hallowed silhouette

every new dawn; giving way for the flora to flourish.

 

 

But, more importantly, these are tales of an

inconspicuous member of the great cat family.

The Golden Lion Tamarin; which first called my

attention from behind the crevices and vines, under

which it was subsumed.

It’s rasps and screeches spoke volumes of it’s very

delicate predicament.

 

I took a moment to listen and observe carefully, and that

revealed the calls and noises of a multitude of hunters, and

the iridescent pupils of hundreds of predators around it.

It stared at me with eyes; the colour of ebony.

Eyes that seemed to question why its fur- a thing of beauty –

 

had subsequently become one of the reasons why its

species was now endangered.

The question also stuck, and began to trouble me,

could it be that beauty and survival were mutually exclusive

components to life?.

 

I stared, mesmerized at the way its golden fur caught

light rays and radiated them in an almost magical manner.

and I couldn’t help thinking that a world without the

Golden Lion Tamarin, would be a little less colourful.

Alvin P. Almazar

 A World Without ME

How ironic that we think more about the welfare of wildlife and forests and give less attention to the wellness of the human species? I often wondered about this during those times when my family and I went on domestic trips and out-of-the-country vacation sprees. I enjoyed these a lot and pondered on them while witnessing the beauty Mother Nature was showing me.

All were worthy to behold. Gorgeous mountains were replete with trees, cold wind crawled inland and formed a blanket of fog and mist, gentle waves swung to and fro with rhythmic undulation, and flocks of birds flew in unison over the horizon to meet the rising sun.

However, when I gazed upon several people inching their way to witness the same, I started wondering. They would exhaust all means to travel to another place and feel excited being one with Nature. I was lost in thought for a while as I watched them push and shove each other because they were too frantic to miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime in-your-face experience.

This outing happened years back when my family and I were fortunate enough to be in Hong Kong. We enjoyed their Disneyland and felt how good it was to be in a place more pleasant and better looking.

Fast forward to this day, my thoughts still linger on that memorable moment when everything was well, every person had no worries, and every single day passed serenely. However, all changed when the pandemic scare struck. It greatly affected the mindset of most people and their way of coping with the new normal.

Many were confused, angry, unsettled, unconfident, and unsure. Each day was a struggle to live well, but they were too much under stress and disenchantment to even budge.

I am one of them since I have no idea what will happen in the coming weeks or months. More than a year had passed since the outbreak; still, there are no clear signs visible to assure everyone of a clean slate of health. Each person is scared. I AM SCARED.

Extinction is the terminal phase where everything disintegrates into nothingness. Lifelessness is its crowning glory with irrelevance as its staff. It proudly flaunts itself as the means to an end while its victims succumb to it with desolateness and apathy. If there is anything worse than death, it is extinction.

We have already dangerously entered its realm at an alarmingly rapid rate. I feel it at moments when I lose sight of my purpose and objective. It unnerves me every time.

A world without ME is about myself and everything around me falling into decay and depreciation without anyone noticing. Whenever I travel – whether domestically or internationally – the first thing I observe is how people react happily to their new surroundings. It is a paradox since extinction also emanates from the way people are reacting to situations haphazardly.

Extinction from within is unlike the sudden disappearance of any species – whether animal or plant – without the possibility of re-emergence on Earth. That latter describes how the dinosaurs and various flora perished and vanished from a turbulent yet flourishing world. I would refer to this as physical extinction.

Extinction from within is far more dangerous, and its cruelty to victims is catastrophic. My take on this subject is three-fold: first, reaction, second, turmoil, and third, death. The pandemic we are experiencing right now has triggered this extinction because it affects every one of us.

The initial stage – reaction – gave birth to speculations ranging from social experiment to bio-warfare. People reacted with so much apprehension and uncertainty that it led to a shutdown of global interaction. Fear was at the helm while doubt spread like wildfire. Our minds – my mind, for this matter – were charred with desolateness.

The second stage – turmoil – led the way to violence and disorder. As if numerous deaths from the dreaded virus were not enough, social hatred spiked while many disregarded their sensibility to empathize and sympathize with others. It was either them or us: this was the battle cry that sounded off from withering minds that used to prosper with wisdom and care. Love was dying and brute force was seeking to replace the former.

Lastly, the third stage – death – is the unavoidable result of mindlessness and regression. Once the intellectual integrity of a person self-diffuses, it goes into automatic hibernation mode and shuts itself down entirely. It leaves the person feeling depressed and lost. Extinction has set in and takes only a short time when the affected individual withers away along with a troubled mind.

Our desire to maintain wildlife and protect endangered species is a mammoth undertaking. I admit to finding it challenging to grow trees or to provide shelter to an orphan puppy. They require funds to care for them and affectionate people to support their well-being.

My purpose to a world without ME is to help bring back sanity to a functional level despite the pandemic scourge. The human mind is like the Amazon forest teeming with life but losing to an unknown force. We have to strive relentlessly to preserve and protect our sanity. It is the only way to rise from near extinction to complete regeneration.

Self-love must be re-taught, empathy and sympathy must be re-learned, and trust in God must be re-established. All of us are aspiring to win against this invisible war and reverse its effects to bring us all back to normality. We must not allow extinction from within to keep us from moving forward. We have to endure not only for our sake but for the sake of Mother Earth as well.

I already started doing my part. The path I am taking is coarser than the one less traversed. My sanity’s way to salvation comes filled with pitfalls and risks altogether. Pain felt is not a concern anymore but a valid reason to continue forging ahead. I trust my sanity to pull me through this extinction victoriously.

Sane mind.

Sane Earth.

 

Tushar Abdullah

What  is life?

What does life mean?  Is life the name of the continuum of expectation from birth to death?  When the desires of the conscious and the subconscious constantly wound our being, the heart, with the conflict of attainment and non-attainment, the question arises again and again – where is happiness, where is peace, where is life?  That’s when the insidious infection of our psyche creates a terrible tremor in the normal state of being around us-a terrible questioning obsession why this life?  What is the reason for this life?  And what is the true meaning of life?  The life we ​​usually see around us is primarily a life of unquestioning obedience;  Adherence to institutional establishment in the ridiculous farce of growing up;  Obedience to food-sleep-sexual intercourse in the name of living;  As a result, only the reproduction and production of opportunity-seeking throughout life;  Running life thus becomes comfort and aspiration, instinct and persuasion, pleasure and distraction;  Most people feel more comfortable in this obese lifestyle;  The result is an unquestioning life, unquestioning obedience.

The hands of the clock do not stop.  Every second of life is lost in every moment.  Those who can color life for seconds are at the top of the list of successes.  The struggle is to take life forward by painting every moment.  The story of that struggle is different in different people and minds.  Although the story of each person is different, everyone’s life is moving forward.  Someone is slowing down and someone or fast-everyone is counting down the hours in an effort to move forward.  To me the quality of life is exemplary for education and others

 

  1. Life is always moving.  Thinking that you are now working in the workplace is all obsolete except you.  In fact, but not.  If you leave work today it will create temporary problems in the workplace, but very soon everyone will forget your presence.

 

  1. Nothing is permanent in life.  Emotions, accusations or complaints nothing lasts forever.  Social relationships will not always be the same.  Whoever you like today may not like you tomorrow.  The one who is praising today, tomorrow he may be your harsh critic.

 

  1. Never compare yourself with others.  Learn to compare yourself with yourself.  Don’t despise yourself when you hear the news of a good job from a friend, try to pave your way with the encouragement of a friend.

 

  1. Financial freedom brings comfort in your life.  Don’t get into the habit of borrowing or getting into debt.  Try to make money on your own.

 

  1. No matter how great the grief, it will be dirty.  The pain of losing a lover, a good job opportunity or good results in exams – failure and grief can come in life due to various reasons.  Know that all sorrows gradually become lighter.  One day after overcoming all the sorrows, we become accustomed to normal life.

 

6.Success in life does not come from hard work alone.  With hard work comes intellectual decision making and creativity.  Never get stuck in a monotonous circle of life doing the same thing year after year.  Learn to take risks with decisions.

 

  1. Success or failure is not everything in life.  Life is about painting time in an aesthetic way.

 

  1. Don’t think of other people’s opinions as everything in life, work through understanding with yourself.

 

  1. One has to follow one’s own path.  Others may like you very much, but at the end of the day you have to cross your path.  Every person’s story of progress, the story of suffering is different – so never sit back and think that someone will take you forward.

 

In the end, I will say this, in my personal opinion, life means walking an endless path.  It can be like this, forgetting the regrets of the past, putting all work in front of / accepting the present.  Even if we fail in all the present tasks, we should not be distracted by it, but should move forward on the path of success by utilizing the power of failure and all previous experiences.  And life is the name of dreaming about the future.

 

Prince Foley

A WORLD WITHOUT PANGOLINS

Pangolins, also known as scaly anteaters, are the most heavily illegally-traded mammals in the world accounting for as much as 20% of all illegal wildlife trade. There are eight species of pangolins: four in Africa and four in Asia. These shy, gentle, slow-moving, nocturnal mammals are covered in scales made of keratin (the same protein that forms human hair and fingernails).

Unfortunately, thousands of these harmless animals are captured and traded each year, and they are being poached to near extinction. Pangolin numbers are being decimated to satisfy demand in Asia, where their meat is considered a delicacy and their scales are prized in traditional medicine despite there being no scientific evidence for their efficacy. These Illicit international illegal trade in pangolins and their parts takes place despite international protection afforded to the species. Pangolins are also protected species in most of their range countries under national legislation, but illegal harvest and trade continues seemingly unabated.

Research estimates that global populations of pangolins have declined by 80% in the last 20 years. Experts indicate that the Chinese pangolin and the Sunda pangolin are the two critically endangered pangolin species. This is due to high levels of hunting and a dramatic decrease in populations over the past 15 years such that they could go extinct within 10 years if current trends continue. As these species decline, demand has started to impact the other species of pangolins; therefore, they are all threatened with extinction in the near future. Without intervention, these actions will drive the animals to extinction. Recent estimates based on seizure data suggest that there has been an apparent increase in the trafficking of African pangolins to Asian markets. The equivalent of more than 895,000 pangolins were trafficked globally between 2000 and 2019 which appears to be placing greater exploitative pressure on African pangolin populations.

Inadequate public and governmental awareness of the trade itself are among the factors that make the trade difficult to combat, as well as insufficient political will and financial resources. There is a lack of reliable data on trade routes. Immediately halting this illegal trade and broadening conservation efforts is critical to the survival of this remarkable group of mammals.

Other threats include habitat loss and environmental degradation, which places additional pressure on pangolin populations. It has been suggested that pangolins can not adapt to modified and artificial habitats.

Land management practices potentially compound other threats. For example, pesticide use may reduce populations of ants and termites, diminishing sources of food, but the extent of this impact on pangolin populations is not yet known.

Aside from being a very unique, insectivorous creature and the most trafficked mammal in the international illegal wildlife trade, these scaly anteaters also have a an extremely important role in the ecosystem.

They are natural pest controllers since they help in regulating insect populations contributing to the delicate balance of the ecosystems they inhabit. They reduce the number of pests in gardens during growing seasons which also helps farmers to save money for pests control. For example, one single pangolin can consume around 70 million ants and termites per year. If pangolins go extinct, there would be a cascading impact on the environment.

According to Simon Stuart, chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission, “Pangolins helps us to save millions of dollars a year in pest destruction. These endangered creatures provide a vital service and we cannot afford to overlook their ecological role as natural controllers of termites and ants.”

Humans benefit a lot from the pangolin’s work. Researchers at Ohio State University claim billions of dollars are spent annually on repairing termite damage and treating and preventing infestations.Healthy populations of scaly anteaters throughout their historic range can help to alleviate these problems.

Pangolins are soil caretakers. Their large and elongated claws enable them to burrow underground for shelter and to excavate ant and termite nests for food. In doing so, the soil is mixed and aerated. This improves the nutrient and quality of the soil and aids the decomposition cycle, providing a healthy substrate for lush vegetation to grow from. When abandoned, their underground burrows also provide habitat for other animals.

Ecosystems are maintained only when all of their components biotic and abiotic work synergistically, with each one performing it’s functions. The extinction of pangolins may seem like a minimal loss, but the more parts you remove from a system, the closer it becomes to collapse. This threat is closely followed by habitat loss. Daily, we are inching closer and closer to losing pangolins forever, as a result.

Their mere presence, in conjunction with that of the other organisms and processes within the habitat they live in, is absolutely imperative to continued healthy ecosystem functioning. It is up to us to make sure pangolins are not exterminated, themselves.

Therefore, there is need to protect this endangered species by promoting public awareness in order to educate consumers of wildlife products about the damage being done to wildlife populations and the lack of any medicinal or magical properties in pangolin scales.

There is also need to engage communities living near these vulnerable mammals and other wildlife to provide them with tools and incentives for sustainable agriculture that allow them to move away from hunting threatened wildlife for food

Encouraging our governments to get serious on the full enforcement of laws and penalties for smuggling pangolins and other wildlife too.

It is interesting to know that in 2016, an international agreement was announced that would end all legal trade of pangolins and further protect the species from extinction. Countries decided to strengthen existing protections under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a global agreement between governments to follow rules to monitor, regulate, or ban international trade in species under threat. With this agreement upon being successfully implemented there will be hope that the populations of pangolins will start to rise again.

 

Sipho Sithole

A World Without a Southern-Ground Hornbill

When my wife and I visited the Kruger National Park in March 2021, we looked forward, not only to seeing the big five but the crawling insects as well. Little did we know about the germ that was hidden in the tall grass, a few metres from the gravel road we were travelling on.

“Stop, stop,” my wife said with excitement, “Insingizi, insingizi.” She was pointing in the direction of the two Southern Ground Hornbills, insingizi (singular) or izinsingizi (plural) in IsiZulu. They were strutting in the grass, giving us a rare opportunity to marvel at their majestic walk, black glowing backs and sparkling beaks.

Often they stopped to nibble on some insects. A chill raced down my spine and settled on the lower back as I pondered about the uncertain future of these marvelous birds. If nothing is being done now to conserve this rare bird species on the brink of extinction, South Africa will soon be without the Southern Ground Hornbill. The next generation might not have a chance to enjoy watching these birds.

I instantly made a decision to contribute towards protecting and ensuring their survival.

With a population estimated at around 1500 in South Africa, the Southern Ground Hornbill is on the route to extinction within the next 100 years. The low numbers of these birds cannot only be attributed to their breeding nature but also to human factors.

One could safely say, very few birds have such a significant role in the cultural practices and beliefs of different nations as the Southern Ground Hornbill. From the southern tip of Africa to almost all corners of the continent the bird has been associated with all sorts of different uses.

Cultural practices and beliefs that may have an impact on the well-being of the Southern Ground Hornbill can be divided into two. Those that enhance the protection of the Southern Ground Hornbill and those that have a negative impact on the lives of these birds. In this regard, Coetzee, Nell & Van Rensburg (2014), suggest a two-pronged approach to deal with the imminent extinction of the birds. They propose that cultural beliefs and practices that enhance the protection of the birds must be strengthened and those that have a negative impact on the conservation of the birds must be changed for the better.

The above writers also point out interesting contradictions or differences in the way each culture views the bird. For example, some cultures believe that the appearance of the bird announces the imminent bad omen that is about to strike the community. It could be death, starvation or even war. On the other hand, other cultures welcome the same bird as a bearer of good news that will save human life from possible disasters.

With the land becoming scarce the existence of the Southern Ground Hornbill is threatened. The growth of towns and villages has unintended results on the survival of the birds. The habitat shrinks pushing them further into the wilderness where sometimes they face hostile hosts. This leads to birds being poisoned because they are a nuisance to those who have to share their space with. According to the same article above these birds require vast treeless plains to roam.

Notwithstanding the impact of the cultural practices and beliefs and human behavior on the birds, by their own nature, the birds are the slow breeders that only produce a chick in almost ten years. According to an article titled Mission Critical: Saving the Ground Hornbill from extinction, these birds “breed in cooperative groups of three to 12”, but one couple breeds at a time and the rest of the community provides support and protection for the chicks and the breeding family. Once the chicks are produced, it takes the whole community of the birds to bring them up. The Southern Ground Hornbill takes almost nine years to hatch just two chicks although only one grows into maturity.

While governments and conservationists can come up with detailed plans to save the Southern Ground Hornbill, their success lies in the active participation of the individual members of the communities. Saving the Southern Ground Hornbill begins and ends with me.

 

Kuldeep Kumar

 jungal bina jeevan nahi
(
there is no life without forest)

My train was whistling, crossing Valmiki Nagar Tiger Reserve, the next station was Rampur, from where my village was just two km. My village is located near the Valmiki Nagar Tiger Reserve, the only tiger reserve in the Bihar state of India. I wanted to go home and keep my belongings and go towards the forest quickly. For the last twenty years, whenever I come home, I go to the forest on the same day. The forest is a major contributor to my upbringing and has made me adventurous and brave. This jungle has been my starting school. I remember very well, in childhood, when there was no food in the house for a year, not only our family but 500 people of the village depended on this forest. I cannot imagine my life without the forest.

Whenever there was destruction due to flood or drought, this forest gave us shelter and food. I got off the train and walked home from the railway station on a motorbike with my cousins. I reached home and said to my mother I am going to the forest and will come after roaming the forest, then I will eat. For the first time in the last twenty years, my mother prevented me from going to the forest in the evening. She said the forest is no longer the same. Now we have to think of our life without forest. It was very shocking for me. She told me that now people from the city came into the forest and they have become the officers here, they only see infrastructure in the name of development. The cutting of forests is going on and trees are being cut on trees, now you have to return to the city without seeing the tigers. There was no sound coming out of my mouth, I could not understand what was happening. At that time I did not go to the forest and went to the station and canceled the return ticket to Delhi.

I went to visit the village and was shocked to hear the news. Villagers were talking, recently, the conflict between animals and humans has increased. It has become a worrying situation for us. We have been living here for many years, but in the previous ten years, animals from Valmiki Nagar Tiger Reserve often came into our village. The most frightening situation happened last year. Since last year, the arrival of tigers in our village has increased. A very sad incident happened yesterday when two tigers entered the village in the night and they killed at least 5 domestic animals including one cow. I thought at the same time, I will return to the city only after decoding this situation.

The next morning, I left for the forest with my camera. I was lost in the memories of the jungles and was moving forward. It was quite healing to walk a narrow road on the surface of the soil. Both sides were filled with long trees of many species. A lot of insect sounds were making my ear pleasurable. Colorful butterflies were looking everywhere. This was such a peaceful and healing time. When I started investigating the forest keeping these human-animal conflicts in context, I was stunned. I was about to reach the middle of the forest, and the sound of tree-cutting was very audible.  In the middle of the forest, unfathomable trees were being cut. This forest, which is our means of livelihood, is the home of wildlife, is being cut down. Without any fear that tigers are found only in this forest in the whole of Bihar, now they are also about to go extinct. When I asked the people busy cutting trees, why is all this cutting going on? Then even more shocking answers were received, this program has just started, about 200 acres of land is yet to be cleared. This tiger’s house is now about to be destroyed.  Then I started a further investigation and came to know, all this is being done in the name of making an eco-city. I had asked how many people will survive with the economy of an eco-city? This forest is survival for more than millions of people living around this forest. My intuition said this was not a valid reason. I must investigate more people associated with this horrible act.

When I was not satisfied with this answer, May started talking to all the people working in the forest, and so the real thing that I came to know stunned me. Elections are going to be held in the state next year, for that a lot of money is needed, as there is no industry in the state, there is no big political funding, otherwise, money is being raised by selling and cutting trees. Today politics is using forests for political funding. As long as the exploitation of forests will continue, till the forest on this earth does not end, and with that human civilization will end. There is a local proverb, jungal bina jeevan nahi (there is no life without forest). We are about to prove this.

BRIGITTEE CONSUELO C. SUGUI

LIVING IN AN UNKNOWN PLACE

Dreams. Future. Sacrifice.

Well, you see, a world without dreams is lifeless. A world without a future is darkness. Every living organism from human beings to animals to plants dreams and has a better, brighter future.

But, in a way to have a world full of dreams and an exciting future, there are sacrifices needed to be made. After all, a world without sacrifice is not realistic. One way or another, there is something we need to sacrifice to reach our dreams and to achieve a great future.

That sacrifice for me is living in an unknown place. Well, it wasn’t really an unknown place. It was a country known for its oil industry, for its friendly economy, for its high society. But for a first timer, traveling and living in a different country 5,028 miles away from my home country seemed like an unknown place.

So, how to live in a place you barely knew? How to adapt with its culture? How do you live without pork served in your meal to which pork is practically your daily dose of energy? How do you know this woman is not that woman because all women are wearing the traditional hijab with black long dress called abaya and niqab covering the face except the eyes? How to adjust with the traditions and beliefs?

No one said it would be easy. It will give you a culture shock that is for sure. But you will adjust.

And how do you do it?

Simple.

Be like them.

Dress like them.

Think like them.

And you will survive. I survived

Easy to say. Yes. But it is kind of hard to execute. Well, that is if your heart is weak and you don’t accept and welcome any change in your life.

Living in a different country was never easy. My family is miles away from me. Sometimes, when I felt very down, I just wanted a console or a hug from my mother. There is video chat, yes, but the impact is different when they are physically with you at your most vulnerable time rather than just chatting over the phone. I missed the warmth and comfort of my home and family.

Another thing, the people. It’s true there are people with the same nationality as me but they dragged me to the darkest corner of my life. With this, I finally learned the meaning of crab mentality among my co-citizen. People of the same country exposing dirt about each other to know who gains more sympathy. Some of them treated me as a real family, some became my best friends for a lifetime, but most of them pretended they care but they only cared about the issues they are going to spread and not my well-being.

Next, people of different nationalities. Who said everyone will like you? That is a lie, at least for me. In particular, those who will hate and judge you are the people of different nationalities (Jordanian, Egyptian, etc.) working in Saudi Arabia. They will smile in front of you then 1 second after, they begin blabbering about your attitude to everyone even if you didn’t do anything wrong to them. They just don’t like you, that’s it, and they began spreading rumors to others like a wildfire. Some get your attention, show you some kindness but after accepting their so-called generosity, they will begin playing you under the table and become the meal. Others, you thought they are father-like figures, but behind the thought of being genuine comes a silent monster who doesn’t really know how to respect the word professionalism. It was an act of being an elder to an innocent child but then suddenly uttering malicious words to a kid with no experience at all.

Then there was a challenge among the capitol. Pandemic crisis hits. Establishments, medical centers closed down. I wake up every morning, go to work and I have to pretend I do not know anything. I observe things but I do not know what is real and what is not. There were hearsays but never a confirmation except for those good-poised people roaming around from the highest floor down to the basement. Still, nothing was confirmed, everything was just hunches.

Being in another country opens you to a whole new world. Work is on a whole new different level than what you used to do. But the thing was, you went to this unknown place and you should know the consequences. There will be ups and downs. I experienced that three fold. There were things that would bring you to hell and that death would suddenly whisper in your ears. I experienced that too three times. But be brave. If you’re a Christian or Catholic, pray to God. If you’re a Muslim, pray to Allah. If you’re an atheist, then convince yourself you can survive on your own. There are more than a million ways to conquer the fear and stop the downfalls. You just have to be brave. Dying may be a fast solution but it will never bring yourself back, nor even your dreams, your future.

Living in an unknown place is scary. Fear will totally cover you. You do not know what kind of things you may experience. You do not know what kind of future you will have in that place. Your experience might bring you disaster, or it may bring you fortune. This place might deliver you to your lowest self, or it may deliver you to your highest. There is no surety how you will survive, if you will survive. But there is one thing you can be sure of. Living in an unknown place will teach you a lot more than books can teach you. It will shape you as to who you what to be. It will help you find the path you longed to find or the path you lost and wanted to walk at it again.

 

Rashid Riaz

A World without Squirrels

It was a beautiful sunny fall day and we had stopped at the lower falls along the Virginia Falls Trail in Glacier national park for a short break. We were a group of twenty college students and nature enthusiasts, on a tour of this remote and majestic park. We decided to split into small groups to look around the area and enjoy the scenery for a while.

My friend Wendy and I walked up to a large boulder from where we had a good view of the falls and sat on it to eat our sandwiches. Suddenly we heard rustling sounds to our left and saw a couple of young grey squirrels about 30 feet away. They stopped and looked at us for a few seconds before one of them gave chase and the other quickly ran up a large pine tree.

Then surprisingly, the one father up the tree turned around and gave chase and the other one quickly jumped off the tree and stared running on the ground with the first one in hot pursuit. They abruptly stopped again and eyed each other before resuming this fascinating game of chasing each other back and forth, often with excited chattering. Sometime the chase was on the ground and other times they followed each other in a spiraling motion around the trunk of the tree.

We were mesmerized with this drama in nature and lost all track of time when a shout from our friends reminded us it was time to go. Wendy and I smiled at each other before returning to join the rest of the group. Back in the bus we told our friends about the interesting encounter.

Squirrels are everywhere, on our campuses and in our backyards. We often pay no attention to them. They are just part of the scenery. Yet, years later, when I see squirrels, I am often reminded of that dazzling stage show that we had witnessed.  I watch them with fascination as they go about their business. I cannot imagine a world without them.

People often talk about saving the elephants, tigers, rhinos and other endangered species. There is no doubt that these majestic animals need to be saved. Their survival means our own survival. But most of us will not see these animals except in zoos.

On the other hand, squirrels are right in our backyards. They are captivating to watch and their acrobatic abilities are mesmerizing. But they also play an important ecological role. They take seeds and bury them throughout the environment effectively planting trees. Just like everything else in nature, they have a connection with everything including the food chain.

It sounds very simple, but I believe that if we pay attention to these common creatures in our own environment and learn about the role they play in the eco system, we will develop a better understanding, respect and consciousness of how everything else is connected in nature and why it is important to save all species and not just the endangered one. This understanding will empower us to become better stewards of nature and will give us the wisdom that leads us to own survival on earth.

 

Anne Silva

Tigerrh

“Tigerrh?” she asked, looking up at me, confusion on her little face. “What is a tigerrh?”
“Tiger,” I corrected her. She looked confused. I picked up Loki, our little ginger kitten and showed it to her. “A tiger is like Loki, but much bigger.”
She stretched her little arms out wide. “This big?” she asked. “Like a doggo?”
I laughed at her ignorant innocence. “No, no,” I said. “Much bigger than a doggo.” I stroked the brown lines on our ginger kitten. “It had bright orange fur with dark black lines on it.”
I noticed her pick up a crayon and start colouring her drawing of a cat orange. “It must have had a loud meow,” she wondered out loud. “And a very loud purr.”
I smiled at the child who was busy drawing a creature she had only seen in her own thoughts. I made up my mind to look for an old picture of a majestic Bengal tiger for her sometime. “It didn’t meow,” I told her. “It roared. So loud that your ears hurt if you were close.” I stressed the word ‘roar’ so that the little one would get at least a faint idea about what I was saying.
She looked up at me, her large brown eyes full of wonder. “Raawwr!” she said.
“That’s right,” I said. “Raawr!”
“Look mommy I drew a tigerrh!” she exclaimed happily, showing me her childish drawing of a cat with pointy ears, sitting up, but coloured orange with black stripes. The imagination of a child who had never seen the magnificent beast tread slowly through the grass to hunt its prey and never heard its deafening roar.

I shook my head to cast the disturbing scene away. I don’t want my future children to live in a world without tigers!

 

Hemlata Khinniwal

A world without wildlife

Travelling to a new place is never less than an adventure, but falling deep in love with a place where we went countless times, holds special magnetic connection. Rudramata Dam is one of those place. Among the other beautiful places in Kutch (India), this dam also has its own beauty. Kutch is the place where the devastating earthquake shaken us in 2001 is famous for its hospitality and peace. This Dam is situated at a distance of 26 km from city Bhuj (Kutch). Kutch becomes hotter in summer due to desert, but the cool breeze compensate it and makes our evenings more relaxed and peaceful.

On the beautiful Sunday evening where half of the city was relaxing at home, we stepped out to drive towards the dam. It took 30 minutes to reach there. As soon as we reach there, I stepped out of the car, A gust of air blow my hair away by disheveling them.  The blue sky with white puffy clouds is covered with flock of Birds. As we start moving towards the dam, we noticed the main gate was closed so we went from small alleyway where only one person can pass at a time. The dam is at some height, where one side is water conserved and other side is temple, park and forest. As we were mounting towards the dam, the beautiful view of streams of sunlight slitting the clouds reaching to the earth was making the evening more pleasing.

Instead of sitting far away from water & enjoy this beautiful evening,  we (me and my friend) decided to go downstairs near the water where we descend 30-40 steps and walked through 40-50 meters of pathway where the bare land both the sides is full of acacia. The dam water has rocks on its strand. Seeing the water so close I can’t hold myself, I just want to jump into it. Practically this is not possible due to unsafe depth along with rocks, mud and thorny acacia. So, after a little struggle we found a rock where we sit comfortably by drenching our legs into water.

I never find words to praise mother nature, But what I feel is, she has its own way to love us, to heal us. This water is so relaxing that it was calming my soul. Its like, a mother is nurturing her child with unconditional love, who does not expect anything in return. Mother Nature is a great healer, as soon as we connects to her, it starts healing every cell of our body, mind and soul and fill ample of love and peace in us.

Out of the other beautiful things at dam, there is one more beauty which left unsaid. The dam is full of numerous numbers of beautiful fishes. We shared some snacks with them which we carried for us. Although what we had was not enough for them but I feel delighted by seeing them popping over the water, snatching the opportunity and go into the water again.

The sun is about to set now, Soon the darkness will sank upon the scene. Birds returning to home, bats came out from their roost, breeze becoming more calmer. After spending hours in such peace it is difficult to say good bye. This difficulty led us to remain there till dark. Due to absence of street lights, the place becomes darker in night, people usually leave before dark.

As it was already dark, mobile flash lights were the only lights we had. We were finding the exact way from where we came. Though it is not hard but rocky area and thorny plants making the way bit tough. While returning from utmost peace where we were carrying fresh energy with us, we crashed with a tragic heart rending view.

The peace which made us fall into rejoice , all went into vain. On the way what we saw, many fishes lying on the ground struggling for life. Few of them alive in small puddles of water( where water may last hardly for two to three hours) and few were out of the puddles yearning for life.

This was the first time when I was facing such incident. After thinking for few seconds an idea struck me. Luckily, I had a small food container in which I carried snacks. With the help of container, we started picking up fish from ground and filled  in container, but fish were hopping out of the container. So we filled the container with water, which worked. Picking up one fish at a time was taking time so we were picking fish with both the hands, where we were able to pick 2-3 fish at a time. The container was small so it could hold hardly 6 to 8 fish. Once the container is filled, we then empty that container into dam.  We repeated this process fewer times. Picking up fish from ground was still manageable but real challenge was catching them from puddles. Although the puddles were small, the fish cannot escape, but they kept hiding under the rocks. Saving them from puddles was equally important because the puddles may going to soak water in two to three hours, so the remaining fish may die.

Somehow we managed to save those fish. Not a single fish left out of the water. The numbers which we saved were approximately 100 to 120. Out of them few already died. We found, those were the result of the water pumps which has been fixed there to suck water from dam and throw into the canal. Once you shut off the pump, water flow away through the canal and the remaining water stay  into the puddles. Along with the water, pump sucks the fish also because the operators didn’t fix filters on the pumps.

Later, we brought this matter into the notice of forest department who is responsible for this so it would not be repeated and suggested to put filters on pipes so our wildlife should not get disturbed by some casualties. With the help of department those pumps are not in use anymore. A small effort saved many lives. No fish has to yearn for its life any more. The Rudra mata dam is again the same, the lover, the healer. All is well, then end is well.

Nature has given us life. Getting and giving back is what nature taught us. By preserving it we can show our gratitude. If we fail to preserve it, there will be imbalance. Lets love the nature, the way nature loves us.

After all, Every life matters !

Khoi Ho Nguyen

A world without technology

Into the wilderness I descend,

Only limited food to depend,

I set the camp in the morning,

But it soon got destroyed later by lightning,

I set up a campfire,

And it stayed,

I tried hunting,

But I ended up tripping and bleeding,

I did some cooking,

And the food was great for serving,

I also share my food with a small corgi,

Who was a cute little doggy,

I tried sleeping,

And the dog sat beside me guarding.

 

I woke up to a bear’s foot traces ,

It split into many different places,

So I followed it deep into the forest,

And I see a family of grizzly bears rest,

As I tried to escape I stepped on a sharp piece of rock,

I fell in pain as the bears woke up in shock,

It was at that moment it was game over,

And I stepped out of my VR set to take a breath in the balcony in the corner.

 

Lloyd Ericson Castro Rodriguez

“Tuloy po kayo!”

You’ll know you are in our soil when

you can stay long in the arms of your lover.

So long that you can play all the songs

on your playlist,

and your lover’s playlist,

and even all the favorite hits

of your cab driver.

You can even order

pork barbecue

from the stalls along the avenue

Without worrying that much

if there’s enough time for it

to be grilled well.

It will, for sure. And it’s all true!

Then watch a live streaming of

patience being consumed, too.

Welcome to our traffic!

 

You know you’re in our archipelago when

your vocabulary turns into a mess

of words having meanings

more than you can outguess.

Like when the local term

for ‘ant’ means ‘bird’

in some provinces.

And when someone tells you

the word for ‘soup,’

in some tiny islands actually means

ahm, ‘poop’.

Ooops! Still daring to savor a bowl?

Indeed, we have hundreds of lingos

that can make your brain scream

“Bingo!”

When you get what their tongues mean!

Welcome to our archives!

 

You’ll know you are in our land when

aside from fingers and toes,

you see people point directions

using their lips and nose,

(‘Noses’ for parallelism’s sake…)

But wait!

There are still more to take.

Like have you met people

with nicknames that go double?

I mean just along your neighborhood

There may live a Jun-jun, Ton-ton, and Bud-bud.

Well, there are some for the ladies, too!

While all foreigners are called “Joe!”

And wonder not when people let out a “Pssst…”

If you tell them your name is secret!

They only want to befriend you, though.

Welcome to our streets!

 

Well, these are just few scenarios

that you will truly encounter.

As you wander around our country,

exploring its every zone, every corner!

Superstitions do lurk behind

its every landscape and nook,

while our quirkiness and peculiarities

might always make you get ‘shookt!’

Just relax, we got this,

and these, and those, and that!

Just always keep in mind, my friend:

Your stay with us

will never go flat…

of excitement, of pleasure,

of coolness under the sun!

With us, Filipinos, it’s always more fun!

WELCOME to the Philippines! Mabuhay!  

— — —

Points to ponder about the piece:

 

‘Tuloy po kayo!’ is a Filipino statement that is expressed to respectfully welcome visitors in a place. It literally means, “Please come in.” 

 

This piece is touched with puns and other comedic elements. The inclusion of modern-day slangs, as well as of seemingly unorthodox approaches of delivering lines may also be noticed.

 

Patricia Hale

Delayed….. .  are we being?

If we fail to split the atom

Or fuse it deviously.

Life will not go on, perhaps

As we would like it to be.

 

One hundred million stars

Mimic the lights on the cars.

Powers of Earth’s chemistry

But only one Sun of ours.

 

Oceans exert a monolithic force

Even when compared with

The monolithic chip

Or I. C. of course.

 

Nofar Gruber

A world without flies

Two years ago I went on a trip to Thailand with my family. I clearly remember one of the days of the trip and an insight that is still with me. It was a really hot day and we were at the hotel we were staying at that time ,me and my siblings set on our beds and watch tv. in the hotel was one problem- the mosquitoes!

the mosquitoes were everywhere in all the time we were staying in the hotel they flew around us and around the tv and disturbed us in the middle on the show. My brother was annoyed and yelled ” Why are there flies at all?”.  That evening, I had hard time falling asleep because I was thinking about the day and my brother’s anger about the mosquitoes, Why do we need flies at all? I asked myself, and then I remembered that I have learned about the food chain, next day in the morning l woke up my brother and explained him that the mosquitoes are more important than he thinks. I explained about the food chain, and that if there are no mosquitoes what will the forges eat? And like that the animals are continue until That the phenomenon coming to us! And all this happened because such a small animal. I think that from this story can understand that no matter how small you are, you can change a lot. We can see throughout history how a lot of ordinary people became to be an important and famous people and just like this all of us need to remember that we can do much more than we and other people think.

Riya Gulati

It’s high time, stop the wildlife crime!

Our culture used to have a unique feature, whereby we respected every creature.

The modern lifestyle has made us ignorant with regards to the wildlife destruction that is quite rampant.

There has been an astonishing decline in the size of population of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles,

Ergo, we need to work for an extra mile for a while.

Habitat destruction, overexploitation, poaching, culling, climate change and pollution have not only threatened our wildlife, but also caused global strife.

In order to ensure the world’s most iconic species are secured,

It is vital to get the gremlins cured.

Saving the wildlife is the very heart of every community,

Therefore, it is our prime quest to apply the best science and work in congruity.

The growth and development have endangered the wildlife according to the technocrats.

In order to provide balance and stability to nature processes, we must safeguard the plants, animal species and their habitats.

It is our core duty to live peacefully and sustainably with other species

As the destruction of wildlife will hit us back in the same auguries.

Wildlife is nature’s greatest treasure,

Hence, we must take all the necessary measures.

 

  • Let us remind ourselves to put the ‘kind’ back in ‘humankind’ and conserve our aesthetic wildlife.

 

Chanchal

World without imagination

I travel every day into my imagination, my imagination where I imagine everything perfect, my journey into my imagination is best, it’s not even tiring. Everyone looks happy here, this world outside is a bit tougher. I feel struggling every day. I can’t even walk properly. But in my imagined world, I feel like flying, conquering the world.

I imagined this night, I was on the ride, late at night,

under this sky,  moon stars

Road took me so far

Slow music was playing

I was at peace

I closed my eyes to feel the night

I was feeling this breeze

Passing from near trees

I felt cold hitting my face

I was still going

I was smelling water

It is the ocean,

I thrilled and moved fast

Pale moonlight led me

I get near Shore

At “start of the ocean “

In the surf

I scared, at the surface

Saw this vast Ocean

I foot back

But He holds my hand

I looked at him, he was smiling

He took me forward into the water

I was not afraid anymore

We played with tides

Water was sparkling because of moonlight I saw all the stars in the water, first time on the earth

We laid on the waterfront

It was beautiful to just peeping into it

Stars started evaporating

Red light covered the sea

I stood up, surprisingly

On the horizon, I saw the sun coming up

It was big, eat the whole sea of my range

I realised how the endless night ended

Though it was beautiful

Ending and beginning

 

So,

Ever imagined a world without imagination?

Imagination that creates art, art that made an artist, artist who imagined it,

In form of painting, in form of poetry, in form of song, in form of a story, in form of a movie. All those pieces of art given to the World by an artist are the result of imagination. Imagination that makes art.

I make art every day.

I imagine every day and night about the next day, how can I erase all this bitterness around me? I  imagine myself smiling, then this poor little girl next door will come every morning for milk packets, I imagine her smiling and then me again smiling, and for that time how I forgot about all bitterness.

I made this art of forgetting, I took it everywhere I go. It eases my heart And for others, I feel less bitter.

I make art every day I offer people, some rich people buy it, many of them not buy it. They feel it expensive.

 

Lynne Ivison

A WORLD WITHOUT RATS

That Lab had been at it again. Whatever it was, they had done it again. Last

year, the world had shut down as a plague of rats had infested every house

from New Zealand to China. The solution had been epic, cunning, painless but

brutally efficient. No rats left, not a one. None in the attics, none in the

cellars, none in the streets. Dr. Zung had been the man – a short man, bald,

rather unremarkable except for the toothbrush which stuck out of his lab coat

pocket. No other eccentricities on view. Dr. Zung’s wife had worked alongside

him, both confident that since the plague in Egypt when the Pharos had been

forced into defeat by an angry God, nothing like this had been seen. Only this

time, it was not the population of Egypt, but the world. Time had moved on,

yes even plague’s had improved – developed one could say. Yes, a plague, one

that had killed every rat not only in Christondom, but in the entire world.

 

For once the world was united in its celebrations. The media, including a few

old televisions that were left in certain poor districts of the poorest places on

earth, were full of this most excellent news. The despised rat, the carrier of

plagues for centuries, the bringer of the Black Death, the thin tailed, whiskered

beasty had gone. Forever. Dr. Zung could hear the news from every wall

screen in his house. ‘Screen one’ was on and, as he walked into the kitchen

and as he buttered his toast, he would look up and see the welcomed result of

the demise of the bringers of death and disease.

However, one morning, as he was on his second slice, he looked up at Screen 1

and he heard ‘Today it was reported that an infestation of fleas, once carried

by the Rat, have adapted to the human body. The plague-carrying fleas, now

no longer having their intermediary, the rat, and have developed an immunity

to every know insecticide so far invented. Scientists say that time is not on

their side as they are producing so rapidly that certain parts of the population

in North America are dying in their thousands, on a daily basis from Chronic

Itching Syndrome. The situation has been declared an International Health

Disaster by the World Health Organisation and that they were now looking for

scientists to work round the clock to find a new insecticide which can ward off

the encroaching catastrophe.

 

Dr. Zung dropped his buttered knife and swallowed. He could see his Nobel

peace prize, receding. He paced his kitchen.

 

Meanwhile, stray cats, all over the world, were beginning to have a strange

caste in their eyes. It was a kind of ennui or boredom. Their very being, their

instincts, their life’s being and mission had been removed. Their prey of choice

had stopped running the streets, up drainpipes, down rain pipes in an attempt

to escape their feline predators and the said predators were sitting on street

corners, cleaning their whiskers, hungrier than usual and getting fatter by the

day as their exercise of running after rats had stopped and they now contented

themselves with the left-overs from dustbins and supermarkets. Street cats

were becoming as fat and lazy as domestic cats, without the benefits. They

roamed around the towns and villages of every town and village and city all

over the world, unable to capture mice who entered into too small holes

where once they chased mice. The mouse population then exploded.

EXTINCTION.

Dr. Zung hurried back to his laboratory. He began to use the toothbrush in his

top lab pocket, as he was rarely home these days and his wife moved him into

the cellar. The Professor worked through the night, to find the virus which

would extinguish all the mice in the world and after a year, he announced to a

meeting at the Laboratory the mouse population would be extinct.

And so it was. Every mouse of every colour, pink eared, pink nosed, small

whiskered mice, large mice, small mice, fat mice, thin mice died. And then Dr.

Zung realised that he had, as the expression goes ‘shot himself in the foot’ as

his laboratory was now without mice to experiment on.

 

The cats got fatter, as they now had no swift friends to pursue. They turned

their attention to birds. So all the birds in the world felt the attention of the

sharp feline eyes looking them up and down in a way which they had

forgotten. With the plague of rats, all the birds in the world had been left to fly

in cloudless skies, free from claws and whiskers and, well, cats.

 

The bird population had become endangered, and so Dr. Zung had to return to

his laboratory, and now working throughout the night he came up with the

‘end to all cats’ or ETAC virus.

The professor now had become as eccentric as Professors are supposed to be

and returned to his home – he was now living in the basement of his old

house, while his wife, with whom he remained on good terms, used the rest of

the house. Overwork had left his eyes sunken, his toothbrush had seen better

days, and he lived on bread and cheese – a cheese that the now extinct mouse

population were rather particular to.

While he considered the use of the World Health Organisation of his new

ETAC, kill all cats’ solution, he was lying in bed one night, looking at the full

moon coming into his bedroom and the light fell on a pair of sharp bright eyes,

staring at him from a hole in his floorboard. Alarmed Dr. Zung sat up straight

–he could not believe his eyes – it was a rat, a large brown rat with a very long

tail.

In that moment Dr. Zung realised that he had failed at elimating the rat

population and one of them had taken up residence with him in his cellar.

Falling into despair, the Professor never left his cellar again, and his good

natured wife would bring down a food tray once a day which always had

cheese on it. He fed the rat, which he realised was surprisingly intelligent and

he called it Reg the two of them became the best of friends and Dr. Zung

spent the rest of his days realising the folly of his ways.

 

Abdul Wahab Khanapur

TRAVELLER

I am a traveller , I travel day and night

Never I stop at one point or the other for delight.

Sometimes the roads are full of jam

Sometimes the roads are calm.

I travel with people who are sad and lone

I travel with people who are on their final sojourn.

Sometimes I wonder where my journey begin

Sometimes I wonder where it will end

Sometimes I fear whether will I reach my den.

This is the question which I ask my heart with intend.

There are at times come a ray of hope

When I see the gleaming faces atop.

Oh god make my journey safe and sound

Make me to enjoy each and every round.

 

EMMANUEL CHIOMA JUDITH

 One Less Dolphin 

 As I voyaged across the vast ocean, I witnessed a group of fishes hosting a funeral. At first glance it seemed surreal as I wondered – were fishes capable of drowning too? And what knowledge have they of funerals? – but a funeral is a funeral I thought. So I hopped off, hats off, bowed my head to show my respect to the deceased.

 

To my left, I heard some fresh water fishes sniffle a sob. The octopus did not spread a single of its tentacles as a drop of tear lingered at the corner of its eyes.

In that moment, an unthinkable thought crossed my mind. They are just like us, mourning over the death of a fellow we once knew, especially if it was a good one. This perhaps are the side of animals we don’t see.

 

The great white shark was the first to speak and his voice was pretty hoarse. Whether it was water or tears hanging at the corner of his eyes, I knew not. I only knew he was trying so hard to fight them back.

 

“The oil clogged his lungs”

A loud gasp broke out as the only emotion that the fishes’ eyes held was fear. It was capitalized and pronounced as mother fishes held tightly on to their children. Amidst the murmuring the shark spoke again

“That’s not all” he whispered

“What could be worse?” the other fishes pondered

“He swallowed a metal, his autopsy shows it” the shark added nodding pitifully “this reminds me of the smooth handfish”

 

The silence that followed was deafening. It was as though each fish retreated to his thoughts deliberating the last words of the shark – the smooth handfish.

 

“That is the height of it!” one fish yelled breaking the silence

“Just when we thought being caught and taking up shore was worse, now this? Dying in our own homes” another added

“That’s just inhumane!” the fishes broke down into sobs pondering on what they had done to deserve such treatment from above

Surely under the sea and the shore were worlds apart, with the resident of each having only a fingertip of knowledge of what constituted the other.

 

Of all the cries, one was distinct, it was the whale. The sound of his cries vibrated the waves and the ocean at large for he broke down completely in front of all the other fishes not holding back at all how he felt at the demise of his now floating friend.

 

Simultaneously my presence was noticed and all the eyes of all the fishes gathered fell accusingly on me. I could only guess the level of grudge and resent they held towards me, surely I was not the one that murdered one of them, but this was not their concern for I shared the same identity with whomever was guilty of this death. I began scanning the area for a way out should incase they turned violent and sought revenge. I saw my ship from the corner of my eyes, surely If I swam to it I would be safe. That is assuming the whale does not flip it over.

 

However, to my greatest surprise they retreated and swam away from me, each wearing only sadness. They all headed for the shore. The last to leave was the great white as he stared at me and said “You can have the ocean, its not safe for us anymore. One less dolphin” then he too headed for the shore, only when he and the rest of the fishes were out of sight did I finally come in contact with the deceased. I was standing one on one with a dolphin who had its belly facing the sky and floating with eyes closed and a smile. It looked peaceful I thought, just laying there surrounded by sea weeds and multi colored shells.

 

“One less dolphin” I said to my self. One less dolphin? Weren’t dolphins the friendliest of all fishes and incapable of holding a grudge. Did they not always wear a smile that was unavoidably contagious and harmless to whomever it came in contact with?

 

One less dolphin. This was the thought that lingered in my heart as I turned around my ship and headed for the shores. I contemplated what I would say to my fellowmen to help them understand what I had just witnessed but I began to imagine the ridicule that would follow. Surely they would assume that my intake of alcohol had gotten to my head and caused me to hallucinate. One less dolphin. How many had fallen, how many was left? The answers to these I did not know just as I was not aware that fishes could drown and shed tears like we did. Alas there was a lot we did not know about our aquatic friends after all under the sea and the shore were worlds apart but each still was what some called home. Why then do we build our homes and better our lives at the expense of others?

 

When I finally touched land, I made an undisturbed journey to the biggest factory I knew. I knocked on the door and retreated to the corner. The first person to open the door was a man who wore an all white coat, black leather gloves that reached his elbows, high black boots and a respirator mask. His eyes nearly fell of its socket as he wondered what a dolphin was doing laying in a coffin at the front of their door. His eyes fell on the white note at the tail of the coffin as he plucked it out and read in a trembling voice:

 

“One less dolphin”

all the fishes.

 

Immediately he dashed into the factory drawing the attention of his fellow workers as he showed each the note and they themselves saw at the door the lifeless dolphin laying in a coffin with the most innocent and friendliest smile there ever was.

 

Okechukwu Nwokem

UP IN SMOKE

If you grew up during colonial and early post independent Lagos, Nigeria and maybe travelled overseas for years and then decided to come back in the 2000s. I’m certain that what you will see, smell and feel will make your jaw drop. You think that you boarded the wrong flight.

The once beautiful city of Lagos that was lined with jacaranda and other trees, parks with serene gardens and other spots with cool ambience have all virtually take leave of absence.

What jolted by attention was when I glossed over a book about Lagos that l found in my dad’s library. It was so dusty that I had to take it outside for dusting. When I opened the book, I started looking at the pictures of various places in Lagos. What I saw made me to check the cover of the book whether it was truly about Lagos.

I saw pictures of beautiful places during colonialism and early post independent Lagos. Beautiful beaches free from litter and birds having a field day unperturbed. There was Tinubu Square and its roundabout laden with blooming flowers and fountains. The Marina lined on both sides with trees and different species of birds nesting on them. It was Shangri-la! I asked myself why I didn’t grew up during this golden era of man and nature living mutually side by side (It’s the same that can answer that question).

I asked my old man about these pictures that behoved my eyes whether they were real or Photoshop. He told me that they were actually real and he experienced it. I just opened my mouth and clasped my  hands on my head.

The question I asked myself was “What in God’s name happened?!” It is so bizarre that the Lagos of my generation is a complete ‘Hyde’ of ‘Dr. Jekyll’. It is so terrible and quite depressing. I’ve been hearing of climate change, ozone depletion, deforestation etc but I didn’t show much concern. But now I’ve realised that man is a victim of his actions.

When I enquired from a friend of mine who studied Geography about what antecedents that led to this sorry state of Lagos environment, he told me that the chief masterminds of the disappearing act of those beautiful serene places were as a result of a triple effects, namely ‘Development’, Population explosion’ and ‘Economy’.

He said that due to the pressing need to ‘develop’ the city and sustain the ever northward population – some by birth, while others seeking for jobs or businesses, the surrounding beautiful spaces and forests had to go for houses, factories and shops to be built to sustain the situation. This caused my jaw to drop (again!).

Lagos now virtually lacks gardens, parks, reserves, beautification, forests, serene atmosphere and orderliness. The situation is alarming and if nothing is done to stem this nightmare, I believe the city will self implode.

The animals, especially birds, are relocating in a hurry (sadly, some to the cemetery) to search for a safe nesting place. The trees that beautify the city and stabilizes the atmospheric environment are racing against time to survive.

I sincerely wish that Lagos would do without these ‘Development’, ‘Population explosion’ and ‘Economy’. This will enable man to go back to living mutually with nature. This is the only planet that we have that can sustain our lives.

I call it ‘The Water Planet’.

 

Samantha Ncube

A world without 

You taught me how to befriend ghosts.

How to make gravesites home.

How to never think everyone has thoughts like my own
Or love like I know.
You showed me death in the eyes of passing strangers.

I knew from your words that the world is not like it seems.
Broken souls cross paths and the prayers of many are wavering, searching for the heavens in thin air.
Your lessons dwelled in dark places I visited often when I wanted to play catch with demons.
In the gardens known only by those with faint marks of permanent scars tattooed beyond their skin.

It was you who took my light.
You dragged me with your luring eyes to pits of darkness.
Surrounded by hopelessness ,scared of breathing and feeling less.
You numbed me with your fists and with your words you killed the god in me.
Convinced me that my happiness lay in the palm of your hands.
That my only desire should be dancing to the rhythm of your hands landing on my face.

You were a ghost with gravesites in your soul.
You tamed my thoughts to be in sync with yours.
You knew nothing about love.
I saw death whenever you blinked.

Your pessimistic words painted a world with no hope.
You were a Creator of broken souls and the gods stopped answering prayers from your dirty lips
So you attempted resurrection.

The world was better without you.
You were the dark place.

You were hate
You were a garden for little hate monsters and all demons knew you by name
They all had traces of you ,the mark of the beast.

The beast is the enemy of love.

I washed it all off
Your fists, your words, your existence.

 

Priyanka Varatharajan

A World Without My Singing Friends

 

I am not a traveler. But the desire to travel around the world and see and learn many things has always been the one special wish among many wishes of mine. Here, my writing is going to speak about the truth piece experienced in the travel of my life. It is about my singing friend; I played with and forgot on the life run. Not only me, the whole world forgot about it and remembered again because of its reduction

Right from my birth to the age of 10, I lived with my family in a rented and small house. We lived there from the year 1995 to 2005. In those days, I woke up every morning hearing the sound of house sparrows singing and flying around the home. In Tamil, House sparrows are called ‘chittu kuruvi’. Straight opposite of my home was the backyard of my neighbor’s home, where they had planted guava tree, banana tree, moringa tree and few other flower plants. Every morning in their garden, the sparrows would chirp and fly around the garden and I used to wake up to that sound. Seeing all this, I don’t feel like getting ready for school then. Even While I am writing this I am getting goose-bumps and it is giving me a nostalgic feel of my childhood. After a few years we vacated that home, I moved to higher secondary class and started learning seriously for the future. In the midst of my life run, I even forgot this beautiful creature. At some point of life; in my free time; when remembering my childhood day; this childhood friend came to my mind. Where did they all go?! Why can’t I find even a single bird now in the city?! . That’s when, I get to know about its reduction that due to the human activities, these birds lost their place of stay; food source; and pushed to the situation of extinction

What I got from reading a few articles is that the continuous reduction in bird’s population is due to urbanization, technology development and change in lifestyle of the people. The first and the biggest reason for the bird’s reduction is said to be the increase in mobile towers in the city. Because at present, each person in the family has a cell phone. Due to the increase in mobile usage traffic, building of mobile towers has also increased. There is no problem in increasing the towers; but high frequency setting in towers in the range of 900 – 1500MHz has increased the bird’s death rate; decreased the bird’s reproduction ability; and the bird’s egg lost its ability of hatching. The EMR (Electromagnetic radiation) from the mobile towers is also a pollution like water and air pollution, but people are not taking it seriously as it can’t be seen and has not created a big impact in the world. Mobile towers are not the only one reason for its extinction, it is one of the reasons and there are some others like urbanization, change in building architecture and lifestyle of the people. Because of deforestation, birds switched their stay to crevices of the buildings. But now, even that space was taken from the birds due to the new glass buildings which are not suitable for building nests.

Also, the articles on sparrow’s extinction stated the fact that the lifestyle change of Indian women and the change of grocery store to departmental stores has also played a major role in bird’s reduction. Because in older days, Indian women dried the grains in the terrace to get rid of small insects, which was a major food source of many birds. But now it was all changed to packet foods. Due to these changes, not only house sparrows but other birds’ species like red-whiskered bulbuls, brahminy kites and spotted doves were also getting reduced. On the other hand, this decrease in bird’s population could lead to the increase of scavengers like crows. Even though those bird populations are in continuous reduction, they were not pushed to extinction, “Fortunately, we have good numbers of sparrows in the rural landscape and certain urban patches. Birds become extinct when only a few hundred individuals are left. That is not the case for sparrows at the moment” said the Mohammed Dilawar, the ornithologist known as India’s sparrow man in an article written by Syed Firdaus Ashraf for rediff news. He insisted that great research has to be done to find the correct source of bird species’ decline to prevent it from extinction. Because the EMR is an emerging invisible pollution, He also suggested adding an alarm checker for every tower in the city to check whether it is working under the permissible limits of radiation as like the one in Delhi for controlling air pollution. Some other general suggestion in articles is to hang a false nest in front of every individual’s home for birds to stay. These days, my mom is keeping food for sparrows in a bowl at the front gate of our home

Since I have experienced the world with and experiencing the world without sparrows, I wrote this essay for it.  And I also personally miss that beautiful singing friend. Even though it is not in the extinction stage, we can’t see a bunch of sparrows like we witnessed in the good old days. Its reduction is not giving any impact now; but if this situation persist; we will also suffer in the future; and we will get to show only the photos of sparrows and recorded sound of its singing in our phone to our grandchildren. So, it is only in our hands to save our remaining friends.

 

Paul Berry

Because It Is There.

A world without adventure is only half a world.  The mountain is a reflection, whatever form it takes, the same obstacles and tests are present, asking repeatedly if our desire is to reach the summit or simply to say that we tried.  Even though every expedition is a team effort, you perform the ascent to an audience of one.  A week along the foothills and small river crossings we had reached the glacier.  The journey to this point is trying, under the weight of so many supplies, both material and human.  The good thing about sardine tins is they do not try to barter for higher wages when the journey becomes a little tiresome.  I trusted Sherpas to do the right thing, whilst being acutely aware of how canny they could be, having a century of experience dealing with climbing groups and knowing how to get the best for themselves and each other.  For mountaineers, the glacier is a dividing line between civilisation and the cold, lethal peril whose siren call had drawn us here.  As far away on earth from any form of human comfort one could get, a trying journey indeed so far.

This inhospitable arena attracted me because of love, as if each brush with death, broken limb or debilitating altitude sickness made the climb seem more fulfilling.  The allure of the challenge proved time and again greater than that of any spouse or kin.  The more climbs attempted, the fewer offers or requests for explanation needed. We reached the mountain and observed its deceptively calm greeting, it seemed to stare down at me in a passive aggressive tone.  Fair weather is a positive welcome, we set basecamp.  Soon battle would commence, and the peak would surely attempt to take my life.

We constructed camp two on a cornice which ran along the increasing gradient slightly higher up.  Again, my load was lightened, this place would be stocked with food and the means to melt snow into water.  In the event of a problem descent, the ability to nourish weary bodies and potentially save lives would most likely be needed here.  At daybreak, the first real assault would begin.  My mind prepared.

Putting one crampon in front of the other at first it seemed I could go on without rest, be all done within a day.  Until a great clap echoed through the landscape.  Like springbok detecting a lion my head snapped to see the avalanche, the mountain fired its first shot.

Thunderous cracks rang out at regular intervals, it was exhausting to look around and find the source of the disturbance.  Look I must however, lack of vigilance could spell disaster when navigating a couloir with no fast route of escape.

Sunlight fading and weather deteriorating we had no choice but to bivouac down for the night. The summit unlikely now, the morning would bring a simple choice – up or down.

I could not stand in the wind.  Defeat has come.

One goal remained to strive for in this arena. Survival.

We begin our decent, at the mercy of the elements.  We need the weather to hold and my body must withstand its own cries for rest. Fear is our companion.

With the mountains permission I pressed on.  There is no choice in the matter despite the knowledge that tragedy could strike from anywhere.  The end could be hastened by avalanche from above or hidden crevasse below. It is treachery incarnate.

Over a small ridge I notice something I had not seen on the way up, a body.  Reclined against a rock in a serene pose, this person had accepted his fate when it came and appeared quite relaxed about it.  The shock of this sight caused a timely adrenaline boost.

Descent was a strange medicine, having to push on for survival’s sake.  Oxygen levels increasing in perfect sync with energy levels dropping, even now fatigue threatened to win the battle over hope.  I allowed my mind to indulge thoughts of the future, of plans to binge watch a good tv show with an accompaniment of unhealthy food.  I decided to dedicate the rest of my life to comfort and warmth.

After one last wind battered night under an increasingly fragile tent, the weather turned for the better.  Our gas supplies for melting snow had almost gone, getting to basecamp was still a daunting task given the distance and our weariness.  Some of the guys were quite ill, stooping over their pickaxes with hacking coughs.  I had lost an enormous amount of weight.  Sardine tins will get you so far until real sustenance is needed.  A monumental effort getting over the last ridge and there was base camp, in all its dry warm tea bag stocked beauty.  It was nearly complete.

All were present, including the last Sherpas.  Despite the hardship and peril, we had all made it.  One poor chap had removed his glove at some point in the descent to adjust his rope, the result was three badly frost-bitten fingers.  They were quite gone.  I took a warm bath made using heated water and a barrel, then ate cooked food and lay a while staring up at the mountain, enjoying the delicious sense of fatigue without responsibility.  Gradually our party shrank as people made their own way to wherever they needed to be, we all looked forward to familiar faces and catching up in an actual real-life pub.  Inevitably, the first topic of conversation; what shall we attempt to conquer next?  The loss of a friend was almost inevitable if one pursued such a life for any stretch of time, this gave way to dwindling numbers for each expedition.  Still, on every outing one always came across other intrepid explorers, searching the peaks for something they were never going to find.  Through kinship and understanding, new alliances could be formed.  Some of the greatest climbing partnerships had never encountered one another before a chance meeting on some ferocious realm.

 

BINDU SAXENA

The words in my head fight for a place on the paper,
Meanwhile, thoughts drift away much like a vapor.
I wonder what it would be like
– a world without certainty and which way to go,
I purely planted seeds and allowed them to grow.

With no safety gear, survival, and clothing
In the most punishing environment on this planet
When I felt it worked against the current
I swam frantic to hunt for a shore
I cried I yelled and I gasped for one breath
I failed to rise again several times in a minute
Until I met a Samaritan who ferried me out on his boat
I wondered what it would be like
a world without souls – no humans, no humane

I drove past so leisurely on an under path
That was beneath the bridge over my head
Suddenly a truck overturned just when my car was right below at that point
It crushed my car and me inside
My right arm trapped under the steering wheel
I cried I yelled I was torn apart in the place remote
Added to the problem was my no disclosure where to were I headed for
The colossal bad luck with nothing to survive
No bread, no water, and no snacks
No one knew where, when, and why, and how, and what of me
I opened my eyes guessed were I flown to in the hospital
Where doctors told my organs completely failed.
I knew not he who flown me here
For what I saw then was my family and sphere
I wonder what it would be like
A world without compassion
I would’ve gone buried in my heart with that impression

The words swirl around like water down a drain,
And look for the connection between my heart and brain.
I wonder what it would be like
– a world without connections with what I think and feel,
for when connections get made, my soul begins to heal.

I hear the moans and groan of human race
Engulfed under the load of an invisible enemy
Not letting to breathe and millions lost because of o2 lack
Of this, that, and everything under the Sun I could name
I wonder what a world without peace
Where happiness and tranquil bliss were ease

I journey day in and day out
Hearing pains and pathos of brethren
It rings in my ears like a shooting pain
I wonder what it would be like
A world without warriors
Who brought us to life without a hint of their pain

I hear some voices, but which do I follow?
Some ease my mind while others are hard to swallow.
I wonder what it would be like
– A world without a voice,
when silence surrounds it without any choice.

I imagine a world where I am openly free,
So I can write about all I think, feel, and see.
No walls to contain – you go with the flow,
What it would be like – a world without
my words and how it would go.

So finally, I sit to record all the words in my head,
As they join together, I find a common thread.
I imagine what it would be like
– A world with my words in sync.
These roll onto the page and become my ink.

 

Madelaine Couch

A World Without Trees

There are eighteen in my garden. I’ve just counted, after four years of living here. Oak, hazel, apple, plum, pear, eucalyptus, acer. Standing tall, they hover above us, shading my family from the bright summer sun. When rain falls, water droplets sit gracefully on their branches. We breathe deep, inhaling oxygen – these invisible forces always at play.

 

Before lockdowns and motherhood, I once travelled all over the world to learn about Indigenous wisdom and its connection to nature. Calling their native trees Kauri, New Zealand’s Maori people believe ancient spirits dwell in these trees and encourage us to take action and move forward in life. The Aymara people of the Andes, in South America, respect Mother Earth (Pachamama) and believe the spirits of their ancestors inhabit the trees around them. Sensing a deep connection to nature which they call Tawai, the Penan people of Borneo are aware of the forest’s pain when trees are burnt or cut down. All these communities hold a deep respect for nature, believing trees to contain both life and spirit.

 

If someone arrived in my garden and cut down all the trees, my heart would shatter into tiny pieces. I’d plant my broken bits of heart deep in the soil, watering those places, and praying for new growth.

 

From the oak in my back garden to the ceibo in Ecuador, the green ash in North America to the white pine in Japan, the olive in Spain to the baobab in Madagascar, trees are all connected to each other, microbes, plants and other animals. And we are connected to this natural world, its existence profoundly influencing our wellbeing.

 

It’s not every day we take the time to sit and meditate on the beauty of this planet, with her life-giving energy we are so privileged to receive. Our footsteps keep ploughing on through, seeking the next best gadget, the in-fashion, our next pair of shoes – always seeking more to fulfil an aching void in the human heart.

 

But what about our friends sitting in gardens and forests around the world? Those tall wooded beings who communicate with one another, generous enough to feed our lungs with life. Do we take the time to say thank you?

 

I plead, try this, spend a morning sitting under a tree, smelling its scent, touching its bark, observing the leaves. Meditate on all it brings to humanity and the rest of the natural world – ocean, land, animals. How many years has this tree been growing? We are all connected through the thread of life.

 

A world without trees is a world of tarmac and telephone poles, empty landscapes and a garden without birdsong. For if we are not careful, there’ll be a world without trees. What a tragedy that would be. We’ll all wake up from this absurd slumber without a tree in sight. And our children will ask, ‘What did you all do?’ If we are here at all.

 

Nancy Hogg

Rewilding 

The sun still rises in the east. It illuminates the top of the multi-story carpark and moves tendrils of light through the slats of our treehouse. I like to get up early and do a few sweeps of the perimeter fence. After this, I settle down to a breakfast of mango and banana. It’s all about the glycemic index. I’m very into wellness. But sometimes the fruit they give me is too ripe and I get massive sugar rush. Last time that happened I tried to rip my cousin’s arm off. He was very understanding under the circumstances. We go back a long way me and him.

After I’ve done my business, I take a large handful and throw it at the fence. It’s a bit of a tradition round here. After that, I do my usual workout: 50 stomach crunches, 200 bicep curls and then a 20-minute freak out where I beat my chest and howl like a total loon. It’s known these days as ‘primal scream therapy’ but I’ve been doing it for years.

It’s cold today so I’m lying on the roof of our treehouse. It’s the only place that’s heated. It’s not very private though. One time, I felt a little frisky and embarked on a bit of afternoon delight with my wife. That went down like a lead balloon. Next thing I know they’re hosing us down with cold water. Talk about killing the mood. Besides, what’s wrong with a bit of rampant exhibitionism? I am an exhibit, after all.

It’s a Tuesday, so there’s a steady stream of little people past the side of my cage. One of the big ones is handing them pencils and colourful leaflets. The little ones look around them and then make little jaunty movements on the paper. They’re talking about the environment again. It’s like they’ve only just realized it’s a thing.  After this they’ll trail off to the gift shop and buy a ty-shirt with my gurning mug on it. I suppose I should be flattered. Besides, I don’t begrudge them a keepsake, how else will they remember the day? But they are sweet, the little ones. I’m sure even the people who caught me were sweet when they were little.

A big one is staring at me. He’s one of the round ones; looks like a squashed orange. He has tribal marks on his arms, they’re a bit rubbish though, he must be from a really primitive tribe. If he thinks he can outstare me, he’s mistaken. Once I’m in the zone I can sit and watch for days. Maybe he thinks he can connect with me on some ancient level. Unlikely. My interior life is a cave in nirvana, his is a static caravan in Hunstanton.

I’m actually feeling quite thoughtful today. It’s my mum’s birthday. I still really miss her. She practiced what you would call ‘attachment parenting’. She never put me down. We climbed from branch to treetop together. I can still remember the rush of the air on my body as she swung strong and graceful against the sky. Best mum ever. I had a wonderful childhood. Until the poachers came. They made her hands into ashtrays.

It must be nearly closing time because the one with the red hair is doing the rounds. I like her the best. She has a soft voice and eyes that sparkle like dew. Although she never looks that well fed to me. I often throw bits of leftover fruit at her but she never eats any of it. But I’ll keep throwing it, we all need someone to look after us.

The sun is escaping to the west. It falls slowly behind the gift shop and is gone. The air is still tonight. The only noise is from the spider monkey cage. A newbie is crying; calling out the name of her child. She’ll give up in a week or two. After that, I’ll try and get a message to her. I usually suggest a course of mindfulness. It’s an essential life skill in a place like this. It’s about focusing on something outside of yourself; being in the moment. But I prefer to use it as a means of escape. You start by concentrating on a patch of green. You need to hold it in your mind. Now let it seed your consciousness. Let the lush green fronds permeate every cell in your body. Allow it to enfold you. To carry you to another place. Let it reclaim you. Take you back to your home. Know that your mother is there. Know that your baby is there.  Now carry them with you as you run.

HELI MEVADA

A world without Bees

“If bees disappeared from the face of the earth all of a sudden then humans probably would have only four years left to live on this planet.” – Albert Einstein
A question comes to mind that why would the greatest genius of all time say that and what is the relation between bee’s extinction and human life?

It takes more than soil, water, and sunshine to make the world green. At least 30% of the world crops and 90% of all the plants require cross-pollination to spread and thrive. Crops that depend on pollination are five times more valuable than those that do not, and bees are the most important pollinators, according to studies. But today unfortunately population of bees around the world is declining. The reason behind the decrease in the number of bees depends sometimes on climate change as it has lead flowers to bloom either too early or too late than usual and leaving the bees with fewer food sources for the rest of the season. Also development, abandoned farms, bees suffer habitat loss.

Bees are small flying insects, known for their role in pollination and western honeybee species for producing honey. The greatest contribution of bees and other pollinators is that they pollinate nearly three-quarters of the plants that produce 90% of the world’s food. A third of the world food production depends on the bees. Therefore, bees play a critical role, which not only ensures food production and security but also helps in the growth of plants and trees that could protect cities from climate change impacts.

Most of the plants require a transfer of pollen from the male part to the female part of the flower. As bees move from flower to flower in search of nectar, they leave behind grains of pollen on the surface and allow it to grow and produce food. By indulging in this process, bees pollinate around billions of plants each year including millions of crops like apples, cranberries, broccoli, melons, etc. Worldwide, three out of four crops depend on pollinators like bees, butterflies and other small creatures, without them many plants we rely on for food would die off. And not just crops but also wild plants depend on pollinator insects. Many tree species, like willows and poplars, couldn’t grow without pollinators like bees. As pollinators, bees play a part in every aspect of the ecosystem. They support the growth of trees, flowers, and other plants, which serve as food and shelter for creatures large and small. Bees contribute to complex, interconnected ecosystems that allow a diverse number of different species to co-exist.

Among every other country in the world bee’s population is at high risk. More than a third of the commercial honey bees died during the winter of 2009-10, and the drop is continuing for the past 3 to 4 years. Several European and Asian countries have also reported the same. One of the Asian countries, India’s agricultural economies are at high risk. One of the research conducted says that without bees India’s food production will reduce by one-third. Not only India but almost all the countries in the world have the same story.

According to researches, one of Ontario’s most common species of bumblebee recently became an endangered species.
And if there are no bees, we may lose all the plants bees pollinate, all of the animals that eat those plants and so on up the food chain. Our supermarkets would have half the amounts of fruits and vegetables. This means that the world without bees could struggle to sustain a global human population of 7 billion. The good news is that the gardeners can help bee populations bounce back. Planting a bee-friendly garden will not only lead to healthy and vibrant plants but will also ensure that bees continue to play their critical role in our ecosystem. There is no doubting the importance of bees to our food supply. Without them, our gardens would be bare and our plates empty.

It is in human nature that if the lives of loved ones are not threatened, they would not take any aspect seriously and without any selfish motives, humans do not tend to care about anyone but themselves. If we want to change the mentality of people around us first, we have to change! Therefore, along with all the animals and birds, we must not forget about insects like bees and butterflies after all they are cute!

 

Cherilyn Chin

A World Without Manta Rays

Hello! I am Moby, a reef manta ray.  Reef manta rays are the second largest ray species.  We can weigh up to 1,500 pounds (680 kg) and grow as wide as 16 feet (5 meters).  I’m not nearly that big yet, nor am I that scary.  I don’t even have a stinger on my tail like stingrays do.  Whales aren’t the only gentle giants in the ocean–manta rays are too.  I can’t imagine a world without manta rays because, well, I am one.

I gracefully fly through the open ocean by flapping my wings in unison.  My head fins are often uncurled so they can help funnel water into my cavernous mouth.  Curled up, my head fins resemble devil horns.  Fishermen have unfairly given us the nickname of devil rays.  They don’t like that we manta rays often get tangled up and ruin their nets.  They think of us a nuisance, but I’m proud that we’re essential to the ocean ecosystem.

Manta rays are large animals, who indicate the health of the ocean around us, and are crucial to the ocean environment.  Manta rays are much like whales, as our poop helps fight climate change.  No, really. My poop helps bring carbon from the surface waters to deep into the ocean, where it is stored.

As seawater is funneled into my mouth, it flows over my gills and gives me oxygen and food in the form of plankton.  A sponge-like material covers my gills and are called gill rakers.  But, alas, the very appendages that keep me alive may lead to my species’ downfall.  Fishermen now target manta rays for our gill rakers in a new controversial formula in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  This unproven formula is a false marketing ploy that may lead to the manta rays’ extinction.

Today there is something else wrong.  Ouch!  Why does my mouth fin hurt when it’s curled up?  Darn, something is wrapped around it.  It hurts even more when my fin is curled up, so I’ll leave it unfurled.  Fishing line is wrapped around my mouth fin.  A dolphin once told me that it got a fishing hook and line removed from its mouth after visiting some human scuba divers.  Humans look ungainly underwater with all their equipment, but they have such compassion for ocean life.  Maybe they will help me.

I don’t live among other manta rays, so no help there.  We live our lives solo, except for feeding aggregations and mating.  I attend one feeding aggregation every night off the Big Island of Hawaii.  Every night, human scuba divers create a plankton “campfire” by placing their dive lights in one spot on the ocean floor.    My fellow manta rays and I feed on yummy plankton attracted to the light, while the divers gather in a circle around the dive lights.

It’s fun for both humans and mantas.  Human divers get quite a show, and we manta rays get a free meal, or at least a very concentrated one.  Then we don’t have to work so hard.  I just hope the human divers tonight will help me out.

As the sun sets, the water gets dark.  The plankton campfire grows brighter with each additional dive light.  Plankton swarm like mosquitos do on land.

White specks are everywhere in the lights. This really gets my blood pumping and my stomach growling.  But tonight, there will be no eating until I get this fishing line removed from my mouth.  It hurts!

I enter above the campfire and notice many eyes on me.  Some divers point at me.  Swimming in and out of the lights, for once I’m glad for all the attention.  My first time to a campfire, I was nervous I’d bump into the humans, their dive lights or camera equipment.  But that nervousness went away once I gulped my first mouthful of concentrated plankton.

One diver swims up and away from the campfire and towards me.  I hover near her while still slowly flapping my wings.  If I stop swimming, I will suffocate and sink.  She has something other than a dive light in her hands and uses it to cut away the fishing line bit by bit.  The minute it takes feels like many more, but soon the line is gone.  There is a red gash on my mouth fin, but it will heal in time.  I feel much better.

I’m free to swim away into the black water, but I want to stay.  My mouth opens to sieve seawater, while my body does loop-de-loops in the water.  Plankton get stuck in the spongy gill rakers on my gills, and I swallow.  I’m safe here, but that’s not the case for many manta rays in the ocean.  Unfortunately, some humans only care that a dead manta ray may fetch up to five hundred USD.  But a manta ray alive in the wild, and fueled by ecotourism, may be worth one million USD over its lifetime.  Fortunately, those ecotourists revere us manta rays and prefer seeing us alive in the wild.

Like some whales and sharks, I eat plankton. Plankton are the microscopic plants and animals that make up the base of the food web in the ocean.  They play a similar critical role as insects do on land.   Plankton might overrun the ocean if we manta rays and other filter-feeders weren’t around to eat it.

Sure, other filter-feeding animals live in the ocean, but no fish is as smart as I am.  Humans have been surprised to discover that we manta rays might possibly recognize ourselves in a mirror, something previously attributed only to mammals like chimps, elephants and dolphins.  So now can you imagine a world without manta rays?

 

Neha Singh

A World Without…Us

India is a challenging, but rewarding country to travel and explore. To its north lie the beautiful Himalayan mountain ranges; while its western parts are home to the endangered Asiatic lions that roam the forests of Gir. The majestic river Brahmaputra gives life to its Eastern regions while the remote hills of the Northeast remain still verdant and unspoilt. The South has unique cultural riches, architectural splendour and fertile regions where the magic of monsoon creates landscapes almost too green for the eye.

The Indian peninsula is vast, diverse, complex and full of surprises. Much of it lies undiscovered, under researched, and not too well understood, sometimes for political reasons. For example, the majority of people in India today are Hindus. But Hinduism came to India from the outside, centuries ago, when people known as Indo-Aryans, came from somewhere around the Caspian Sea, and brought their religion and culture to this land south of the Himalayas.

However, the Indo-Aryans are not the only people to populate India. The country has several indigenous tribes scattered all along its length and breadth. The tribes show significant racial, linguistic and cultural diversity, from the Jarawas of Andaman, to the Nagas and Mizos in the north east, to the various Central  and South Indian tribes. These tribals or ‘adivasis’ (meaning ancient dwellers in Sanskrit) arrived in India in different ways, over land, mountains, seas, rivers and oceans, at different times in the history of human migration.

For instance, if you travel to Eastern India, across Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Orissa, you will meet the Munda adivaasis. According to anthropologists, the Mundas came to India from Southeast Asia around four thousand years ago. Their language, Mundari, does not belong to the India Aryan family to which Sanskrit belongs. Rather, Mundari is part of the Austroasiatic family of languages. The lives of the Mundas have traditionally been intertwined with the forest and land that they have inhabited for so long. Some of them own vast tracts of land known as ‘khudkati’ land (khud means self and kati means cut in Hindi), land that once was jungle, but their ancestors transformed into agricultural and grazing land. They, and other tribals of mainland India, live in elegant mud houses and create beautiful art like Sohrai, Khovar, Gondi, and so on, using natural colours (mostly earthy shades of red, black, green and white)  derived from the soil, the flowers, fruits, even insects that surround them. With these they create art and decorate their red and brown walls.

In that same area live the Birhor adivasis. ‘Bir’ means jungle and ‘Hor’ means men in their language. The Birhors are related to the Mundas but, unlike the latter, they are traditionally more involved in hunting and gathering for survival and not so much into agriculture. They are excellent rope makers, trap setters (for rabbits and birds) and honey gatherers. Over centuries they have learnt to live harmoniously with their forest surroundings in a way that does not put undue pressure on the natural resources.

However, in the 21st century many adivasis of India live poor, unequal, and marginalised lives as much of the jungle resources that they depend on, have disappeared. In fact, they have been socially discriminated against and left bereft by the government, powerful non-tribals and private companies that have taken over the forests and rivers. Trees, animals, plants that the tribes depended on, not just for food and livelihood, but for housing and medicine, have all depleted significantly. Their survival is dependent, even now, on these forest resources. In fact, in India the demand for tribal development, that also resulted in the formation of the tribal intensive state of Jharkhand (the name means ‘bushland’) is linked to their demand for forest rights and this can be seen in the adivasi demand for “Jal, Jungle, Zameen”, or ‘Water, Forest, and land.’

Interestingly, according to some theories, like the one proposed by Michael Witzel, there may be a linguistic (common Austroasiatic language family) and cultural (the bronze Indus valley dancing girl and its similarities with the bronze art of these adivasis) link between the Munda adivasis in Eastern India, and the ancient Indus Valley civilisation whose ruins can be found in the western Indian state of Gujarat and Pakistan. So, there may have been proto Munda tribes living in India back then, and they may have been driven eastwards once the Indus valley civilisation declined. There are differing accounts as to why this great ancient civilisation simply disappeared. These theories range from Aryan invasion to climate change and resultant drought to major earthquakes and changes in sea level.

What emerges from this journey across space and time in India is a lesson on how nature can wipe out a mighty civilization while tribes that learn to respect nature can still find a way to survive. Man is not the centre of the world, but rather, a part of it. The real terror of climate change is not that the world at large will end, but that the world of human beings, of our children and grandchildren, will end.

Though India has a great diversity of tribal races and cultures, all these tribes have certain things in common. They respect and worship nature, even fear it. Because, the wisdom that has been learnt and passed down the ages tells them that human beings need nature because they are dependent on it. But nature in turn, is not really dependent on us and can carry on without us, maybe even improve upon us. As they say in the movies, life will find a way. Even as we pollute the Earth, suck up its resources, and perish in the process, our planet will probably survive us, and be green and living for a long time to come. Nature would have passed its judgement upon us by then and decided that things are better off without us.

 

RAKOTOVELO Andriaminosoa Hary Joel

A world without…lemurs 

What am I but nothing ? Nothing but a point, a frame, a name, a prey and anything that is weak. My name was inspired by ghosts and gods from thinkers and intellectuals from an empire that I don’t even know, they were dead centuries ago and so I will in a few decades. At this point, I don’t even care about it anymore, my family called me the nihilist lemur and I think this appelation suits me more than Lemur Catta, the ring-tailed one. The whole world sees our land, our beautiful green land as a paradise on earth for animals but the fact is that movies are much better than reality and Madagascar is an utopia of the real island. There, humans and animals live in the same deep hell of poverty and deforestation. Each year, chilliads of my species are hunted to feed mouths, arrogance and ignorance, I guess we would be extincted in twenty years. Unfortunately or thanks to God, I will probably die next year.

But honestly, who cares ?

I am just a primate, we are just animal like billions of us. My species is just a tiny chapter in the great library of life where nature, as a terrible book lover, picks one and removes it from that place like nothing happened.  This is what you, humans, call the natural selection. The weak dies, the strong survives. The good book, the good part, the good chapter stays in the library while the bad one are removed and went to extinction. Humans are just puppets like us, they were programmed to survive and to eat everything that can contribute to their caloric and egocentric needs and I won’t blame them for destroying us, nature is meant to be like this. I won’t blame humans for being humans, if we were as strong and as smart as them, we would be doing like this too. If we get extincted, the earth will still dance around the sun and our species will be replaced.

But this was just the layer of the wicked behavior of nature. Weak or strong, everyone die at the end. Natural selection just chooses who will die first. Nothing last forever and entropy will lead us all to our unevitable fate that predicts that one day, everything on earth will die. But, again, who will care ? Nobody because nobody will be there to judge if our death was meaningful or sad, no one will cry for us because there won’t be nobody anymore. So who cares if I die ? Who cares if our species got extincted ? A world without lemurs won’t be that hard for the world. After centuries, they will find another cute and awesome animals to cherish and to protect then to destroy. Years after our extinction, we will be forgotten by everybody, even those who pledged to protect us or the unlucky starving bellies who pledged to offer a shelter for our flesh as meats inside their body.

Therefore, one day, I was saved from bushfire by a young and brave environmental activist. Then I asked her these existential questions. Why did she save me ? Why did she want to save my species ? One day, I will die. One day, my species will disappear from the surface of the red island. One day, we will all vanish with a blazing red sun. So why did she keep wanting to save us ?

She was confused about my question, she might never ask herself about the real reasons why she chose that path. And according to my own opinion, she didn’t do much philosophy during her daily life. I argumented about the meaninglessness of our existence during hours. The world will remain the same without us. So why trying so hard to survive ? Why did she still want to save us ?

Then she looked at me in my eyes and said the purest and the simpliest but the deepest words that defined the whole meaning of our existence.

« We don’t need to have reasons to be kind », she said

I was shocked by her answer and said :

« But…this is absurd », I said

« Not as much as a talking lemur. Everything is absurd, the world is crual but when we still can choose, I choose to be good even for no reason… And also, I like you a lot, you and your species », she told me

Our death may not change the world but our life would change her world and hundreds of environmental activists’ too. After talking to my savior, I stayed awake late and thought about all of that. And I guess, what am I but nothing ? Nothing but a point, a frame, a name, a prey and anything that is weak. We are just lemurs but still we deserve to live even if everything is meant to die.

Yes, we deserve to live.

Anshu Choudhry

 A WORLD WITHOUT….

….a Sting,

the one who has had it will swear by it, bite

their own tongue and scream with not pain but

the fear of it living. In memory, in remembrance

of the tremor, the quiver of the orgy

that struck life in the accident of dying,

that the sting lodged itself in bone and flesh, set fire

to blood, ignited the soul to the miracle of hurt ; that

which was poison born of ivy, rose, jasmine, wild

as the nectars of the wild, of all the wilderness blooming

purple, red, blue to give a black, that which killed

a thousand Steves of discovery, geographic in the midst

of a cold ocean and the same which gave  the sweet

sip of elixir on winded roads to Neverland, a kiss of honey

from a Queen  not just a bee  fragrant of fresh

bread off the shaft of golden wheat that mated

through a  wasp, the match- maker. Starved, hungry

— without passion, victuals

is a world without a sting.

 

 

Sofie Möhrle

 Out in the open

Where the sun kisses the sea

out in the open what might there be?

Drip drip drop

Such bloody harvest we reap

Drip drip drop

Shedding tears for the creatures of the deep

for their pain remains in silence

Hidden unprecedented violence

too far from land

exposed to the merciless hand

of greed.

Peoples’ insatiable need

for power and dominance.

It’s time to take a stance!

 

What will the faith of our oceans be

facing ravenous hunger of humanity?

The undisputable top predators in the sea

are no longer the sharks but you and me.

When will we come to the realization

overexploitation will mean human extinction.

Don’t fear when a fin breaks the surface of water

but the moment the very last one faces slaughter.

 

Let’s strive towards a world without fear

because fear is the only true enemy here!

A world without biodiversity

would lead to global catastrophe.

Let’s come together with motivation for action

and save what is left with hearts of compassion.

 

Patience bassey

If only education knows what I have been through,

it would have given me an award.

 

If only it knows the tears I shed severally,

if only it knows the times I went deep into depression, it would have given me an award.

 

for I have lost a whole lot just to attain this educational height,

I turned into a beggar for education,

I swallowed my pride took insults for education,

I was mocked by peers,

I was hurt,

broken and shattered, yet my love for education kept growing, because I wanted to reach the finish line.

 

I thought, family, peers and everyone,

will support me for agreeing to take a noble ride towards education, instead what I got was devastating, because my body was now the price to get help for education.

 

Same education that comes to others on a platter of gold, girls like me have to toil, every single minute with our lives at risk, to compete with those born with a silver spoon to get it,

even after getting there,

we still feel left behind,

because better opportunities come to them on a platter of gold whereas we on the other side of life have to continue to toil and struggle to climb the ladder of success.

 

I have been asked several times, “What about your guardian?”Oh how I weep day and night, how I keep giving countless excuses for their negligence, I keep asking myself where did I go wrong? Why wasn’t I born with a Silver spoon?

 

Even now, filled with emotions and bursting with mixed feelings, I ask myself “Is my guardian’s heart still with me”, “Will I beg to get to the finish line?”

 

Nonetheless, I have resolved with all the strength left within me and God helping me, I MUST REACH THE FINISHING LINE.

 

As champions, we set our hope on our dreams.

till it becomes a reality. Yes, I’m saying it again, Education truly owes me an award

 

MOIRA SMART

ROOTING FOR PENGUINS.

The boundless indigo sky melted into the shimmering ocean. Cries of the circling gulls were carried out to sea by the wild Patagonian wind. It seemed to leave nothing untouched, except the scene playing out before me where hundreds of Magellanic penguins went about their daily activities, unperturbed.

Loving couples preened one another, while donkey-like braying came from those standing upright, flippers spread wide and beaks pointing to the sky. Energetic chaps paraded back and forth from their nests to the water. A marvellous transformation occurred when they entered the crystal sea: it was as if the circus clown dropped his costume and became an acrobat as he dived and glided through the water. Their element is undeniably the sea.

I was on a day excursion from Puerto Madryn in the Chubut province of Argentina 1600km south of Buenos Aires. My viewing deck was a three-kilometre raised wooden walkway at the Punta Tombo Reserve; an opportunity to observe the penguin colony without disturbing them or their habitat, also avoiding foot contact with accumulated guano. I welcomed the fierce wind in its swift removal of the not-so-sweet smell!  Park rangers keep a strict watch on visitors in this pristine reserve. The nests were either deep burrows where the birds disappeared like miners or scrapes under scraggly bushes.

Among the plodding penguins the graceful rust coloured guanacos grazed calmly. It was these wild relatives of the llama that the tall, hardy, nomadic Tehuelche relied on during their winter sojourn on this barren steppe. Sadly this tribe, who wandered the coasts and plains protecting only their families, are no more after sheep ranches were fenced off and occupied by belligerent farmers with rifles.

Despite the abundance of penguins before me, there was a time when they were on the brink of being turned into gloves, handbags and animal feed. In the 80’s a group of Japanese businessmen approached the Chubut governor with a request for “rational culling”: to harvest thousands of penguins every year. The Argentine public vocalised their outrage through conservation groups, media campaigns, demonstrations and marching to the governor’s house in protest, which resulted in the scheme being rejected.

Alarm bells rang. The Wildlife Conservation Society sprang into action and established the Magellanic Penguin Project. The Project Director, Dr. Dee Boersema voices this alert: “Think of penguins as ocean sentinels. They’re on the frontline of sea change. We had better listen to what they are telling us!”

Penguins are key species for monitoring the health of our ecosystems as they are extremely sensitive to environmental changes. Because they live most of their lives at sea migrating in winter to warmer seas but return to land to breed, they are accessible to researchers. Scientists use the knowledge gained to develop effective conservation strategies.

After their lengthy migratory journey, as far north as Brazil, the Magellanic penguins return to Punta Tombo in September to breed. The male – using a system his namesake Ferdinand did not have – navigates around the myriad burrows, to find the same nest he occupied the previous year. His distinctive call reaches his lifelong mate who arrives to a warm welcome in her refurbished home. Elaborate courtship ensues, usually resulting in two eggs. The parents alternate incubating the eggs, caring for the chicks when they hatch and foraging for food at sea.

Disturbing results were found when Dr Dee tagged and followed the fearless birds via satellite: the penguins’ foraging range, previously close to shore, now extended many kilometres further out to sea. The parent’s delayed return resulted in the chicks dying of hunger. Back home at the nest the partner is forced to watch them die rather than expose them to predators – like the grey fox I saw lurking around, the sneaky armadillo scuttling along like a clockwork toy or the sizeable skua screeching overhead.

The reason for lack of prey is mainly due to commercial over-fishing. Finally in 2016 the Global Penguin Society celebrated two victories at Punta Tombo: a designated UNESCO Blue Patagonia Biosphere Reserve of 3.1million hectare of land and sea, and a Marine Protected Area which will protect their feeding areas and routes extending up to 12 nautical miles. A two-year experiment with a MPA for the cousins of Magellanic penguin, our African penguins, at St. Croix Island in Algoa Bay showed immediate benefits for the birds foraging and survival.

Oil spillage has also had devastating effects. Action taken to have tanker lanes moved 40km further offshore of the Chubut coast has reduced this threat.

Further research has also revealed that climate change is affecting the survival of chicks. Beside temperatures rising, storms are more intense and occurring earlier, flooding the burrows and causing unfledged chicks to die of hypothermia. World Ocean Day, which is held worldwide the eighth of June every year, has contributed to making us aware that the ocean is the heart of our planet. As we reduce our individual footprint, support NGOs and conservation groups, we are working together for the future of our oceans and its inhabitants. Results of action taken by the Argentine public is an example of what can be achieved.

When I reflect on my day spent among the Magellanic penguins I no longer think of them as entertaining little jesters. I now envisage them in the darkness of long winter nights riding the swells of stormy seas; intrepid and resilient, facing the challenges of an unsure future in the race for survival.

Wherever would we be without them?

 

Johanna Boal

The Seashore Life of the Arctic Ocean

 What if the explorers didn’t go?

Turned their backs and we didn’t get told

about the treacherous, icy conditions,

 

stories of whales, large tusks on walruses

and polar bears swimming for miles.

What if the impenetrable ice didn’t melt?

 

Temperature didn’t change and shipping lanes

didn’t open, the shortcuts to get around the world

Greenland to Canada and Alaska

 

What if the world leaders, scientists, military

the commercial opportunity didn’t know.

 

The pristine waters, no discovery of the corals,

sea angels, anemones, oil, gas.

The seashore life of the Arctic Ocean.

 

Dr. Bhargavi Chatterjea Bhattacharyya

Holidays by the sea:

I love the sea. In 2003, we went to the Andaman Islands. During snorkelling, we peeped into the underwater marine life. The coral reefs were magnificent. The pristine beaches and the emerald green sea in the backdrop of the azure sky helped us to relax and unwind in the laps of nature.

 

In December 2004, during the Christmas break, we went to Chennai and took a brief detour to visit Pondicherry. The bus route was along the coast. The view was breath-taking. You could see the vast expanse of the blue sea on both sides.

 

Our room was sea facing. We could see the dancing waves relaxing from the balcony of our room. But our stay was brief. We had breakfast early next morning and set out to return to Chennai. Soon after, we found that the road was blocked. We could vaguely figure out that local residents were protesting because water has entered their home. The bus could not go any further. So, we went back and took a different route. We were sad that we couldn’t see the sea this time.

What we didn’t know, was that the road has been swept away. We didn’t have advanced warning systems. The tsunami struck. We are alive to tell the tale because of the road blockade. People who took the earlier bus were not so lucky.

 

This year (2021) we visited the Sunderbans. No, this was not a holiday. I was a member of the team who went to distribute reliefs after cyclone Yaas. Water everywhere, houses submerged, the misery of the people, I could not hold back my tears.

 

Weather events are becoming more frequent because of global warming. Small islands in Sunderbans are submerging due to the rising water level. We are destroying the habitat of the flora and fauna and driving them to extinction. Will the coral reefs be bleached when we visit Andaman again?

 

Amara Sajjad

A World without proper waste disposal and recycling

Introduction;

Production of waste has become a habit of our daily activities. Waste disposal is as required as food is per person. Recycling is a process by which used materials(waste) is collected and reprocessed to use them in the production of new materials. It has become a central task for many countries to increase their recycling units and convert more and more waste into reusable items by rehashing trash. Unfortunately, with all developments we are still deficit in waste recycling. Only 30% of waste can be recycled and remaining 70% totally depend on disposal and dumping techniques to get rid of it.

Outline;

  • Rapid increase in waste generation
  • An average person’s waste usage per year
  • Types of waste
  • Improper waste disposal
  • Hazards of lack of proper solid waste management;
  • Environmental pollution
  • Public Health problems
  • Destruction of ecosystem and biodiversity
  • Water pollution
  • Waste impacts on economy
  • conclusion

Waste production has started with the birth of ancient civilization. In early ages, it was not a critical issue but with the rise in population of the world and rapid urbanization has generated more and more waste production resources.

According to EPA, the average American person produce about 5.91 pond of trash, with about 1.51 pounds being recycled. This rapid growth in landfills indicate the severity of global waste production and how it’s contributing on daily basis in our drastic climate changes.

Waste is of two types on the basis of recycling process;

  1. Recyclable items
  2. Non-recyclable items

Recyclable items could be processed and used in making new usable items. this includes; steel and aluminium containers and foils, papers (cardboard, newspaper, Magazines), Plastics (bottles, tubes, jugs, and jars), glass (bottles and jars). Whilst, non-recyclable items include such waste which is difficult to process and reuse. This includes; plastic bags, plastic wraps, hangers, ropes, cords, textile or shoes, diapers etc.

On an average 70% waste produced on daily basis is non-recyclable and only 30% is reusable. Improper waste management result in liberation of hazardous gases (methane gas and carbon monoxide gas), chemicals and toxins which are constantly polluting our soil, air and water. Approximately 40% of the world’s trash is burned in open environment, emitting carbon monoxide which is a greenhouse gas and is heating up our planet. Thus, there is a great need to develop techniques for efficient disposal of non-usable products to save our ecosystem. Many developed and some developing countries has recognised this serious threat to environment and started formulating plans for proper disposal and recycling of waste materials in production of new usable items.

With increasingly improper and excessive production of waste if recycling and proper solid waste management does not occur world will face climate change, rise in environmental pollution, damage to aquatic and marine life, serious health issues including generation of new diseases and spread of existing health problems; Cholera, pinworm infection etc.

Environmental pollution is the key to all other disasters. Pollution will change our climate and climate change will be the biggest issue for whole world over the next decades. According to WHO 90% of humanity breathes polluted air. Respiration is an essential system of human body and this much gross level of air pollution including food and water contamination due to improper waste disposal is resulting in generation of serious respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and other systemic illnesses.

Drastic climate changes and improper waste disposal practices are threatening our ecosystem especially marine life. Those aquatic animals cannot process the trash they consume which result in death. Scientists have already found plastic fragments in many species including fishes, turtles, seals, whales etc. Our waste system is severely destructing world’s biodiversity.

World is already getting near to water scarcity. Our 70% of agriculture depend upon clean water supply. Excessive landfills and Improper waste management will drastically affect our food production. Water is essential for energy production. Its contamination and scarcity will affect our hydropower systems. Reduction in energy production with population growth will be another challenge for the world.

A sharp rise in urbanization has made it difficult to dispose waste and garbage accumulation in streets, roads, pipelines and other public places create great difficulty for inhabitants to live over there. This also give rise to political conflicts which directly or indirectly has created instability in country’s economy.

World’s population rapidly urbanizes with increase intentions towards economic growth. Each country is fighting for economic stability and dominance. This is achieved by mega projects of building infrastructures, urbanization and industrializations. An economic survey was conducted by collection of data from North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural resources (DNER), Division of waste management (DWM) and econometric analysis has shown that disposal is primarily driven by industrial waste production. Firms’ waste is a part of economy. Firms use raw materials for manufacturing goods and mainly focus on their profitability. In one hand they are contributing a positive role in world’s economy but on the other hand their excessive waste productions and imperfect dumping and disposal techniques are burdening the environment and world’s economy. Waste collection and management are executed by making policies at public sector level. Government has to spend a heavy amount to the local authorities for making these policies. Intervention requires usage of machinery and modern equipment, which themselves are a burden on economic sectors.

In conclusion proper waste management is an essence for survival in upcoming decades. Waste production and its bad impacts on soil, water, air, humanity, animals and economy of world outweigh its benefits world is getting by recycling. Proper policies for educating population to limit their daily waste production and disposal techniques should be developed. Rapid measures to save climate and ecosystem should be taken. This is a vicious cycle if waste is not disposed it will deplete our natural resources. We will be left off with technology and non-recyclable resources that further excruciate the situation and hasten this vicious cycle. World without proper waste disposal will be a world full of garbage around our houses and air full of toxic chemicals to breathe.

 

Sorcha Doyle

City People

The city is different without people. The city is humble without tourists. The cracks are exposed, there are no queues or crowds or swarms to hide them, to hide the shops that are no longer shops, to hide the doorways that have become beds or the corners that have become bins.

However, where you look matters. There is also a peace in the city without people and without tourists. Although the concrete and tall buildings haven’t changed, haven’t moved, the city feels more like nature, like green, like animals and like breathing.

The coffee shop on the corner is open for business and I see the owner standing in the makeshift order station. I see some strolling locals stop for a latte. His face lights up when he speaks to his customers and he has a vase filled with wild flowers that he picks one from to give to each customer. For him, a world without people is quiet and lonely and doesn’t smell like coffee or flowers.

A man sleeping rough on the main street shares his lunch with a black bird. The bird dances with him, testing the boundaries, enjoying the game. The man smiles at the bird who shies away from his tough hand though approaches with caution when some bread is offered. For the bird who has only known to feed on human food, a world without people means hunger.

The bus drivers diligently follow their routes though their typically packed busses are almost empty. The essential workers travel together in small, dispersed groups. Each of them knowing where the rest are going, it has been the same story for weeks. On the busses it depends on who you ask, for some drivers a world without people is a lonely existence, for others who are lucky to have real people waiting for them at home, they say it’s peaceful.

It’s not a world without people. The people are here. And when everyone is back and the crowds and swarms and queues cover up the cracks once more, it will be too crowded, too busy, the queues will be too long. Because that’s the thing about people in the city, without people they’re lonely, with people they’re lost in a crowd.

Jay Ngo

Buddha’s Udum Flowers

Grandpa was an artist. I say grandpa was an artist, not a farmer, even though he spent more time working the rice field than sitting at home drawing, because at heart he was an artist. The farmers in the village, when they were not working the fields, would sit around drinking rice wine, smoking bamboo pipes, playing chess. When grandpa did not work the fields, he would sketch. His drawings were all charcoal on white paper. I don’t know if charcoal was his medium of choice, or forced on him by circumstances. Back in those days, even white paper was a dear commodity, such artist trappings like oil, paint, paintbrushes, canvas, would have been out of reach. He sketched something or other everyday, most of his works he gave away. But sometimes the villagers did pay him, not in coin, but with a dozen of chicken eggs, a bunch of bananas, a bag of corns, a bag of sweet potatoes, whatever their little farms could spare. Those things don’t sound like much to us nowadays, but back then food was scarce, and they showed people’s appreciation for his talent. That was probably why grandma let him indulge in his impractical labours, when work around the house was always too much and hands too few to do them,  because his indulgence sometimes paid. One time grandma picked up a newly rendered lotus pond, looked at it, and made a throaty sound that could either mean “Nice”, or “Nicer if you could give me real lotus seeds for the soup”, and went on her way. Even that amount of appreciation from her was rare, sparing a few seconds between coming back from the fields and rushing to feed the screaming hogs, or tending to the drying crops in the yard, then back to the fields, then rushing home again before dark for house chores. Life taught her to be practical. Be practical or be hungry.

There was one drawing by grandpa, however, that grandma kept. It was a simple yet beautiful plant-like structure, a dozen of shiny and slender stalks like wineglass stems, growing in parallel out of a twig, their tips gracefully bent down with white globs that looked like tulip heads. They were called udum flowers. The drawing was not hung on the wall or perched on the chest to be admired, but installed on the family altar. I assumed that, other-worldly looking as it was, it was there for the enjoyment of our ancestors’ spirits along with the offerings of food and fruit and fresh flowers. After grandpa passed away, his drawings disappeared one by one, some given away to relatives, some just vanished, and the udum flowers on the alter became the only artwork left to us by him, to which grandma still prayed to every full-moon.

After graduating from the Agricultural College, I went to work as research assistant in the Agricultural Research Institute. One day, while waiting in the staff room for the water to boil, I flicked through a scientific magazine and came across a picture that looked very much like grandpa’s udum flowers. Except for the fact that the photo was colour, the flowers were upside down, and growing from a leaf instead of a twig, they looked just the same. Curious, I read the caption and was told these were lacewing eggs. Intrigued that these insect eggs should look like the alien flowers, whose artistic replica was so sacred grandma kept and treasured and prayed to all her life, I took the magazine to my desk to study some more. However, work deadlines of the day prevented me from pursuing such a personal matter, and the magazine picture lapsed into oblivion.

It was some time before I saw the udum flowers again when we went back to the country to visit grandma. I asked her if she had ever seen the udums in real life. Yes, she had seen them many times throughout her life. Whenever they appeared, that year promised to be a particularly good year, harvests in abundance, orchards bursting with fruit, people happy and prosperous. So we prayed to the Buddha to grant us many of the udum flowers. She told me one year they were offered discounted pesticides, and she used it for her crops. To her horror, some time after the spraying, pests and insects seemed to multiply tenfold, and all the udums that had appeared before vanished. It was a disastrous year. They prayed fervently for Buddha’s forgiveness in destroying the sacred flowers, and resolved never to use the diabolical chemical again. She had stopped working the fields long ago, sold some of the land and retired in comfort. But she still prayed for the Buddha’s udums to come and bless the land with its good fortunes.

Later I researched the lacewings and learned that they were natural enemy of many pests that plagued farmers around the world. In warm climates, they lay large amounts of eggs, when hatched their enormous appetite will cleanly wipe out the noxious insects in their environment. They can be relied on instead of insecticides for sustainable and organic farming. Grandma did not know this. She did not know that she and farmers like her were among pioneers in organic farming, not through scientific research or modern equipment, but through direct observations of natural phenomena. She treasured Buddha’s udum[1] flowers just as modern farmers cultivate and protect lacewing eggs, though in her case the uncertainty from lack of scientific knowledge also inspired a sense of wonder and deep, reverent gratitude.

 

Shubhangi Ojha

A WORLD WITHOUT YOU- POETRY.

When the world is shining bright
And you are dark from inside

Listen to the beat of your heart
See the shine of your smile.

Watch colourful fruits and the splendid trees.
The lake flowing, sparkling gold and silver like your wings.

Absorb the sun.
And glitter in the light.

Shine bright in the night.
And listen to the trill of songs that the winds bring you.

Even when it feels dark like a cave inside you.
Walk, and talk, and listen to your echo and know that you are alive.

When you listen a drip of water.
Or a trickle of a bird song.

Know they are telling you a secret.
A world waiting for you.

The lights waiting for you.
And when you’ll sparkle a light inside you.

The world will clap.
And sing songs for you.

Every moment will shine, and you will shine with it.
The dark in you will never be afraid of light.

The light of you will make the world a little bit more bright.
Live for that day.

Live for that moment happening right inside you.
Right now this very second.

The struggle that feels endless,
Is just a part of your journey.

To be born and brought up in the world.
You are like a flower growing with every drop of sunlight and water.

A world without you,
Would be a world, lost.

Give the world you,
And the world will give you.

Saahil Harisinganey

A World Without A Cure….

Are really those days gone,
When we stepped out of our houses with no fear
When with every new dawn,
The sun brought a sky so clear,
Oh, so clear
Wrapping the earth like a divine sphere?

With a shield over our faces,
Walking the streets that I now see
With the rising cases,
Left where people once used to breathe free,
Oh,
So free
Unlike now when the entire world is Without a Cure; a World that has gone down to one knee…

Now what do we hear?
Prayers, pleas and cries?
The words that come to the ears
And bring tears to the very eyes?
Tears in the eyes,
Tears of bidding many final goodbyes…

Now, feels as if we can’t walk through the corridors of the grocery stores
As they are now left just like a dark shack
Oh, will we be able to walk freely across our doors?
Or will those bright old days never come back?
Will they come back?
Or our lives will remain just black
With the Covid pandemic denting our future lives like a crack?

With cancelled flights and lockdowns coming in,
An apocalypse it seems today
Oh God, have we committed a sin?
To which you have made us see this day?
Oh this day…
Where sadness is to stay,
Where not even a single little pray,
Can undo our sins,
As now it’s our time to pay…

A huge salute to those doctors who sacrifice their lives for the fallen souls.
Along with immense respect for the police who do the same.
With not abandoning their roles,
They continue to fight in this cat and mouse game
Oh, with an aim
And aim to fight back and defeat Covid which is the blame.

Boosting our immunity is our duty,
Along with sanitizing the corners everywhere.
As now, It’s time we bring back the world’s beauty,
By prayers that purify the air.
Oh the air,
The air we all share,
The earth, about which we need to care
With our job to bring brack happiness there.

Oh we wish that a vaccine comes soon

To protect us and our friends
A vaccine like a boon
Capable enough to cure the world and meet the required ends…

All we need is a drop of nectar; a World with a Cure, in the form of a vaccine,
By God’s and technology’s grace,
A vaccine to wipe out every Covid trace,
And mark the infected world back to clean.
Oh, so clean
Wiping out darkness and making it green
Where only happiness is to stay
A place where no sadness has ever been…

Oh I swear,
That happiness will rise once again,
With the pandemic to go soon
It time to revamp
Our lives and stay united,
With faith and optimism
We wish for a vaccine
To vaccinate every living form and make lives bright
Deviod of any fright
Full of love
And make the earth as pure as a white dove…

 

Susan Jefferies

 The Pigeon

The trees look on knowingly

They’ve been here before

The gull cries echoing

A shriek of red feathers on a newly shorn lawn

Lie breast up to the blue circling skies

Reflecting in newly dead eyes, innocence,

& wonder why

The greasy breath of a suburban summer

Pants careless by

& tv voices mumble on

Restless, relentless & grind

Through the jaw dropped windows,

Half open, half blind,

Muffling all the beautiful things

Torn up

On the vast emptiness of life,

yeah.

 

Ruth Kindness Omubo

A World Without Relationship In The Human Society

Since the moment it came into existence, life has created a relation. The growth and life of the baby in the womb depends greatly upon the general habits of the mother such as feeding during pregnancy. The world being a building, relationship is the pillar upon which it stands and from the Japanese noun “amae”, it’s verb form being “ameru” meanning ” depending from”, it can be said that, the world is a network of systems existing and progressing or living on by “depending from” each other and on the basis of this, the equation of life at it’s best will be incomplete and unpleasant without relationships whether good or bad.

 

Relationship is a connection between individuals such as romantic or intimate or parent-child relationship or groups or nations have relationships with each other.It is the way two or more people regard and behave towards each other or a state of being connected. Forming relationships is forming connections and a sense of community with colleagues, neighbours and the various groups that make up our identity(such as Spirits, hobbies, religious and community groups). It encompasses romantic, family and  professional relationships and friendships. Relationship can be formed in context of social, cultural, other influence and based on interference, love, solidarity and business interaction or social commitment regulated by law, custom, mutual agreement and other basis of social groups and society as a whole. Some elements of relationship are trust, flexibility, uniqueness, honesty and self disclosure for a good one or compatibility issues, avoidance and burnout(trapped,tired, depressed,helpless or let down) for a bad relationship. Even with daily technological improvement, relationship is just irreplaceable, infact, it births most technological inventions and aids.

 

What then would a world without relationships in the human society be like?Can you imagine a society deprived of love, friendship, family bonds or even basic communication between individuals? Due to man’s great need for care, understanding, companionship and participation, man is created to be in relationship and immunity with others. These needs can be clearly understood in our study of the theory of needs. Abraham Marshlow’s theory of needs takes us through needs ranging from physical to self-actualisation needs.Just as a child is incapable of meeting his/her basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing and education by himself at the early stage of development, Marshlow’s list of man’s needs can’t be fully met because, “No man is an Island , entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…”, J. Donne.

 

Imagining a world without relationships is the same as a world without the touch which drives the flood of darkness such as would have been to us a lamp or light to darkness or a tooth brush without  a tooth paste.Its usefulness is small, or a fish drawn out from it’s natural habitat (water) to land, it’s survival time will be acute. In other words, first, without relationships, man’s need for support, strength, lifting, praise, respect, affection and love would not be met. It is from the web of relationships and connections with others and what make up our identity that we draw our strength. Such communities can lift us and help us gain capacity to deal with the challenges we encounter in our day to day living. It helps people live protected and happy and achieve career goals and facilities the process of meeting their needs. A society void of relationship can’t meet these needs. There will be depression, emotional breakdown, greater death rate and increase of crimes and mental problems which will make the world full of disaster and unconducive for living.

 

Also, people’s rights will be trampled upon carelessly and as such , injustice will come to reign as there will be no upholder of justice and truth or a defender of the oppressed. The next is, the beauty and advantages of  different inventions and innovations will elude our world. This can be accredited to those  who have used their minds effectively to invent things like machines and various equipments or inventions to make life and processes less stressful and tasky and increasing development rate  in a short time span. Time also would have been costlier or more expensive and less would have been achieved so far in the world.

Moreso, ignorance and illiteracy would have been at a high rate. This would lead to greater rate of low standard of living and poor development. Via relationships, civilisation and better means of getting mass literacy have come. For instance, phones and good network have made knowledge easily accessible. Furthermore, large projects, empires, estates, kingdoms cannot be built or gotten.This is the essence of team work, human resources that  possess various abilities, qualifications or characteristics or skills. If one man decides to build a tower, how would he possess all the skills necessary or how many years would it take him? The vision might start with one but relationship is key to its completion. The Northerners in Nigeria marry more than one wife. Even some other tribes like the Ijaws do, to get more hands on deck for their agricultural engagements.

 

Finally,  without relationships, the world wouldn’t stand the test of time. It is the day to day network of the various systems and resources of the world that keeps it going. Relationship is as important as the fish’s natural habitat to fish, if brought out of the water and left on land, it’s chances of living is reduced and with time, it dies.

 

In conclusion, though relationship has also brought about frustration, drug abuse, weight and mental problems, less production, war and unachieved vision among others, the world will simply be a mess or would have crashed  without it and so, it’s essence is overwhelming and without relationship in the human society in our world, it would have simply been one man in the world!

 

Reference : Internet and personal work.

 

Sheriff Olanrewaju

TRAVELOGUE; SATURDAY AT SABON-BIRNI

How can I ever forget the dancing donkeys often crossing the roads on my way to Sabo-Birni. The early morning parade was over and the last point of call for the military personnel who conducted the National Youth Service Corps training was to ensure that participants left the camp for their place of their primary assignments, the driver of the bus that would take us on the journey to Sabon-Birni was already set to leave, and Corps members were anxiously taking their seats.

 

Soon as the journey was about to begin, some members of the Christian Association of Nigeria appealed that we should endeavour to persevere, that we might enjoy our stay at the border town. The driver drove calmly out of the camp as we made way out of Farfaru to the nicely tarred Wamakko highway. It was three hours later when it dawned on us that we were heading out of Nigeria. The first shocker I had was the disappearance of MTN network on my phone, all I could see was the Orange network which indicated that we were closer to Niger republic than we were to Nigeria. Any attempt to make calls would amount to extra charges as if we had roamed our phones for international calls. That was when it became apparent that we might be treated as foreigners in our own country.

 

I hurriedly asked the driver if we were still in Nigeria and he said: “Sabon-Birni is a border town between Nigeria and Niger Republic, though there are more citizens of Niger Republic transacting businesses at Sabo-Birni even though it is under the control of Sokoto State government,” he said.

 

It was amazing to discover that you could buy a cow at so cheap a rate as you would buy a goat in other parts of Nigeria. So Sabon-Birni remained one of the biggest livestock markets in the northern part of the country.

 

After the rigour of travelling through the deserts, we were received by other members of the NYSC who offered us good meals amidst tears of joy. Surprisingly, it was while we arrived at our final destination that we discovered that one of the eloquent Christians who preached ‘perseverance’ had never been to Sabon-Birni before; she was kept crying profusely, cursing that she detested her place of primary assignment- Sabon-Birni. When I tried to remind her to persevere, she got angry and insisted that she would file for redeployment.

 

Then, Sabon-Birni was with a population of about 150 thousand people with about 5,000 of them into animal husbandry businesses.

 

One could easily identify millionaires driving the latest cars on the dusty roads. They were those who preferred  to ride on donkeys and even in carts. Sights of cow herders heading to the abattoir as well as hawkers of masa and other snacks were regular on the road. They often exchange pleasantries by saying ‘salam alaykun’, their appearances and mode of dressing warranted the fear exhibited by my Christian colleagues. “The men on turban would make you wonder whether they were trained by the Talibans of Afghanistan,” said Chioma, another corps member of Igbo descent. For those of us who understood, the turban was itself a protective garment during thunderstorms and a traditional mode of dressing which was also in tandem with their religious beliefs. But, the fear often shown by strangers at the men donning turban could be blamed on the heart-wrenching news about Boko-Haram. The first day at Sabon-Birni to some corps members, danger loomed, to the adventurers it was the beginning of an experience to relish.

 

The desserts, a classical recipe of Fura-de-Nunu depicting the sumptuous taste of the founding fathers of the Fulanis.

 

Our lodge was about one hour drive to Illela Local Government secretariat but less than thirty minutes to Niamey, the capital city of Niger Republic. Motorcyclists were available to take on the journey for whoever wished to visit Niger through the porous border. Amazingly, there were apparent challenges between riders and commuters. Most of  Sabon-Birni motorcycle riders only accept Naira as a legal tender which implied that those with Niger’s CFA Franc would have to visit operators of Bureau De Change at the market. This sales of currencies sometimes happened in violation of control and total breach of given rules and protocols.

 

In a saner clime, one would expect that security operatives would demand visas from merchants who engage in trans-border businesses, but they do not really need to bother to get visas before plying the unmanned routes.

 

Apart from being a booming market for the sales of cows and rams, Sabon-Birni prides itself as the home of gigantic camels.

 

Should a serious government oversee trading at the market, market forces would earn the government more taxes and merchants would also derive more gains which would go a long way in boosting the economic development of Sokoto state. Visitors who might have read the famous award winning novel “Things Fall Apart” would understand that events at Sabon-Birni bring to minds how a country’s economy is gradually falling into ruins. Chinua Achebe’s book gives a picturesque account of negligence, tyranny, avarice, and exploitation. Hence, Sabon-Birni stands as a pivotal point for leaders intending to chart a new course towards attaining economic greatness within that particular region.

 

Throughtout our stay at Sabon-Birni, we couldn’t feel the turbulent account of killings and kidnappings often associated with the northern part of Nigeria, even though it was a reality that had currently dawned on us all as Nigerians due to the negative activities of Boko-Haram terrorists.

 

Nevertheless, despite the scary reports about the northern parts of Nigeria, I saw Sabon-Birni as a bouyant business hub with cheerful merchants who were always willing to assist strangers.

 

Be not haunted by the troubles of tough times

That could make a tangerine taste like lime—

And poison your mind against all climes

Self-abnegation would bring no dime

And no comfort in a cocoon of crimes.

 

Sheriff Olanrewaju

TRAVELOGUE; SATURDAY AT SABON-BIRNI

How can I ever forget the dancing donkeys often crossing the roads on my way to Sabo-Birni. The early morning parade was over and the last point of call for the military personnel who conducted the National Youth Service Corps training was to ensure that that participants left the camp for the place of their primary assignment, the driver of the bus that would take us on the journey to Sabon-Birni was already set to leave, and Corps members were anxiously taking their seats.

 

Soon as the journey was about to begin, some members of the Christian Association of Nigeria appealed that we should endeavour to persevere that we might enjoy our stay at the border town. The driver drove calmly out of the camp as we made way out of Farfaru to the nicely tarred Wamakko highway. It was three hours later when it dawned on us that we were heading out of Nigeria. The first shocker I had was the disappearance of MTN network on my phone, all I could see was the Orange network which indicated that we were closer to Niger republic than we were to Nigeria. Any attempt to make call will amount to extra charges as if we were making International calls. That was when it became apparent that we might be treated as foreigners in our own country.

 

I hurriedly asked the driver if we were still in Nigeria and he said: “Sabon-Birni is a border town between Nigeria and Niger Republic, though there are more citizens of Niger transacting business at Sabo-Birni even though it is controlled by the government of Sokoto State, Nigeria.”

 

It was amazing to discover that you can buy a cow at so cheap a rate as you would buy a goat in other parts of Nigeria. So Sabon-Birni remained one of the biggest livestock markets in the northern part of the country.

 

After the rigour of travelling through the deserts, we were received by other members of the NYSC who offered us good meals amidst tears of joy. Surprisingly, one of the Christians who preached ‘perseverance’ had never been to Sabon-Birni before, hence she was amongst those who kept crying that they detested their place of primary assignment- Sabon-Birni. When I tried to remind her to persevere, she got angry and threatened to file for redeployment.

 

Then, Sabon-Birni was with a population of about 150 thousand people with about 5,000 of them into animal husbandry businesses.

 

One could easily identify millionaires driving the latest cars on the dusty roads. They were those who preferred  to ride on donkeys and even in carts.  Sights of cow herders heading to the abattoir as well as hawkers of masa and other snacks were regular on the road. They often exchange pleasantries by saying ‘salam alaykun’, their appearances and mode of dressing warranted the fear exhibited by most strangers. The men on turban would make you wonder whether they were trained by the Talibans of Afghanistan. For those of us who understood, the turban was itself a protective garment during thunderstorms and a traditional mode of dressing which was also in tandem with their religious beliefs. But, the fear often shown by strangers at the men donning turban could be blamed on the heart-wrenching news about Boko-Haram. The first day at Sabon-Birni to some corps members, danger looms, to the adventurers it was the beginning of an experience to relish.

 

The desserts, a classical recipe of Fura-de-Nunu depicting the sumptuous taste of the founding fathers of the Fulanis.

 

Our lodge was about one hour drive to Illela Local Government secretariat but less than thirty minutes to Niamey, the capital city of Niger Republic. Motorcyclists were available to take on the journey for whoever wished to visit Niger through the porous border.

 

Amazingly, there were apparent challenges between riders and commuters. Most of  Sabon-Birni motorcycle riders only accept Naira as a legal tender which implied that those with Niger’s CFA Franc would have to visit operators of Bureau De Change at the market. This sales of currencies sometimes happen in violation of control and total breach of given rules and protocols.

 

In a saner clime, one would expect that security operatives should demand visas from merchants who engage in trans-border businesses, but they do not really need to bother to get visas before plying the unmanned routes.

 

Apart from being a booming market for the sales of cows and rams, Sabon-Birni prides itself as the home of gigantic camels.

 

Should a serious government oversee trading at the market, market forces would earn the government more taxes and merchants would also derive more gains which would go a long way in boosting the economic development of Sokoto state. Visitors who might have read the famous award winning novel “Things Fall Apart” would understand that events at Sabon-Birni bring to minds how a country’s economy is gradually falling into ruins. Chinua Achebe’s book gives a picturesque account of negligence, tyranny, avarice, and exploitation. Hence, Sabon-Birni stands as a pivotal point for leaders intending to chart a new course towards attaining economic greatness.

 

Throughtout our stay, we couldn’t feel the turbulent account of killings and kidnappings often associated with the northern part of Nigeria, even though it is a reality that has dawned on us all as Nigerians due to the negative activities of Boko-Haram terrorists.

 

Nevertheless, I saw Sabon-Birni as a bouyant business hub with cheerful merchants who were always willing to assist strangers.

 

SABON-BIRNI OPEN YOUR EYES!

 

The wrestling—

Be not haunted by the troubles of tough times

That could make a tangerine taste like lime—

And poison your mind against all climes

Self-abnegation would bring no dime

And no comfort in a cocoon of crimes.

 

Those verbal floggings from devilish foes,

And the seemingly endless clog of woes:

The travail and other disheartening throes—

Were expiations meant to douse

The troubles unknown and those in your house,

 

All you need do is— open your eyes

 

 Harish Surendra Bhat

A World without… India’s ancient Heritage.

 Has anyone, who travelled far and wide across our wonderful home planet, reflected over, in their lifetime, about this large south asian country(Just over 1/3rd the size of its neighbour China, Appx. 3.2 Million Sq.km, Pop : 1.3 Billion) and its contribution to the profound knowledge and culture to the contemporary world ?.

Her most notable contributions to the world ranges from the mathematical “mother” numeral ‘zero’, to as far as the science of Astronomy, the physics of Yoga , accurately predictive Astrology et al. Indeed, one’s lifetime is not enough to achieve mastery over some of the discoveries of this great nation of ancient wisdom.

This ancient country showcases its multi-faceted roots by its innumerable people of various ethnicities, right with subtle cultural nuances within one society, right from aborigines to foreign invaders, who intruded into India’s culture, altered the social fabric of the society, influenced deeply the some of the primitive ways of leading lives, nurtured their(foreign) culture and education on its soil, although the ingressed foreign culture came with price and prejudice, like sewing newer fabric on her old body and soul, beyond where lay strewn across her beautiful landscape, thousands of small and large kingdoms, passing onself through the sands of time,spanning through several Millenia in her history, while carving out the pillars of civilization of the ancient world, like ancient civilizations of China, Egypt et al.

In a gist, India’s creativity and unique culture is not only was limited or known within the Asian sub-continent, but the entire world. The difference between the Indian civilization thousands of years ago and the rest of the world was a vivid reverence and adoration of their Gods, which no civilization spread around in those days.

As my mind wanders, hither and tither, between her lofty and icy Himalayas as her crown, in the northern boundary, running down south a Thousand miles and plunging into the mighty Indian Ocean to the south, kissing her legs and feet, my mind seeks the nostalgic revelry of travel memories of a bygone era, and the ignominy of what a world without India and some of her heritage sites with such an unique architectural splendours, would look like, makes my mind unwind itself , bringing the flashback to one of the best known historical travel sites in India- The UNESCO Heritage Site called ‘HAMPI‘ in Karnataka, a county facing the Arabian sea on its west coast, in the south-western peninsular India.

Zeroing back to around 450 Years ago, the tales reveal the deft handiwork of King Krishnadeva raya’s highly skilled artisans’ chisels, tamed these stony rocks, unfolding their graceful artistry and mastery of bringing these barren stony landscapes to life by depiction of well known Hindu figures on those stones, nothing less than poetry & prose of the well preserved Hindu culture that had emanated from times immemorial , all scattered in thousands of rocks landscaping over the patch of land around the place.

While these rocks have been the pillars of representation of man’s passion to unfold the Hindu culture to the world, the historical photo-frames etched in there, as one of the several architectural wonders of the world, this one, truly its signature class, known to man since the 16th Century, depicts the once glorious cultural remains of the great Vijaynagar empire in the medival times of Indian History.

Indian History is one of its kind in that, its people have chillingly witnessed in cold blood, the most number of armed invasions by barbarians, and arisned from the ashes from time to time, like a phoenix. Those invaders, vilifying and those who systematically tried to erase the glory of its cultural heritage by uprooting the cultural and social identity only found its next generation facing the same challenges on further invasions.

Like a catastrophe survivor, the musical pillars of Hampi sets an example of resilience exemplified, to rise to glory despite the fall., sings for its visitors, as amongst similar hundred other sites, where one learns more gut-wrenching, soul stirring tales of her sporadic history, for which, i would love to spend my entire life to travel and find more symbols of reverence and glory of the culture, the world would not know without the resistance of the noble people of India., as one need to understand how these glorious sites has withstood the acrimony of the barbaric invaders over the sands of time.

The sands of time sewn in to her history, the wheeled stone chariot, a world in itself, is the silent reminder to the glory of the Beautiful Site HAMPI.

 

Mehak Vijay Chawla

Mom- I Miss You.

When mom had worn out her fingers from working,

I thought she was okay with all toiling,

When I saw mom cry in the middle of the night,

I knew but never asked despite,

And now she left me in a dark sight.

 

The one who loved me for the very first time,

On whose laps I used to climb,

Even in sleep she worried about me,

I knew everything but always disagreed.

Because I am an idiot,

I thought she would always be with me.

 

I didn’t realise when heart teared,

I am crying and saying that I am sorry,

I couldn’t even say I love you,

Because I am an idiot,

I thought there’s going to be a lot of other days.

 

Mom, who loved me so much,

Mom, for whom I didn’t do anything,

I didn’t realise how happy I was in her swing,

I care and love myself,

Last time, MOM just come and yell.

 

The one who lived to embrace me not even care about herself,

Who was always sad when I used to rebel,

Because I am an idiot,

I thought she will always be with me,

I couldn’t even say I love you,

Mom, who loved me so much,

Mom, for whom I didn’t do anything,

I didn’t realise how happy I was in her swing,

I care and love myself,

Last time, MOM just come and yell.

 

Mom, I know the day will come back,

As if nothing happened,

People changes, situation changes,

But I wish our relation never changes.

 

I am in so much pain,

I miss you so I am calling for you again,

I am calling you through the universe,

But I cannot hear any answer,

I am wrapped in tears,

Mom…Mom…Mom.

 

(Feel the pain and we can realise our life without Mom.)

 

Denis Hackett

KINGDOM
Ancient tree on yonder hill
Countless years and standing still
You’ve seen such change along the way
Yet still those leaves gently sway

And to the east, the old city walls
Timeless wonder ignored by all
What memories you must hold inside
Lives played out in another time

We must not forsake
the gifts that were bestowed
To dwell in hollow chambers
made of dust instead of gold

But shallow waters
have breached the shore
We cast out treasures
that we should behold

What beauty there is
in a soft mountain stream
The songbird in the Willow
Children playing in the fields
A bounty of riches for all to see

What sorrow will our blindness bring
If no more we hear the blackbird sing
The time has come, we must awake
to the treasures that abound
We hold the keys to the kingdom
Now we must wear the crown

There will be times when we must travel
along those barren roads
But we must not forget
The road that takes us home

 

Rex McGregor

A World Without Us

(Ta Prohm, Angkor, Cambodia)

The jungle tames

The temples there.

The jungle claims

The field.

The jungle cures

All worldly care.

The jungle lures.

I yield.

 

Shqiponjë Ahmedi

A WORLD WITHOUT YOU

I know what you may be thinking. The title. It does sound very flimsy. I can explain. By YOU I mean you, my Anthropocene epoch, my Great Acceleration, my ottava rima. You, all the people who reconstructed me from the brittle shards of my being. I mean, the boy who held me the way one holds a torn paper grocery bag pressed to the chest in order to retain its contents, the boy who tied my uncomfortable Dr. Martens in a 1933 cocktail bar. You, who sang “Duerme negrito” when I could not sleep. You, worthy of Aivazovsky’s brush, or any brush for that matter.

 

“I am tired of vases, I want a garden,” I said to Franceska, as I was sipping Vermouth on a Sunday afternoon in Magdalenes Street. I had met her twice, the first time I was too intoxicated to remember anything we had talked about. This was the second time, for her it was a potential repetition of our first meeting.

“You know you don’t mean that” she replied, observing me in a way that made me feel exposed.

 

I almost felt as pathetic as Enrique Vila-Matas, dressed in black, with his pipe and fake reading glasses in a Parisian café. My heart blinked like a broken neon sign of a Chinese-owned bar in Eixample. Nevertheless, there I was, a girl with the cobbles of my village on my shoes and soil on my eyelashes instead of mascara.

 

I kind of meant it. I did want to see what a garden felt like. I had changed countries every year, this was the longest I had been in one place, and I really thought I could take care of a garden. And what did Franceska know anyway? We were not even friends; she did not know me that well.

 

The truth was that I ended up staying longer by accident. The pandemic outbreak, lockdown, you know where I am going with this. This time, I felt like two hundred hours of yoga would not be able to uproot this city and the people in it from my miscellaneous prologue.

 

“It’s time for you to come back home” my father had said to me a few days ago. My village, my home, where we had a garden, where I had planted a rose on my twelfth birthday, where bees were still happily buzzing and had not read the news regarding their extinction. I was too embarrassed to admit to him that now I had started referring to my apartment as “home”. That I had lost the sense of what it meant because everyone called their temporary apartments casa here. I was too proud to admit that I had been happy here, that I had been neglecting the writing of my Ph.D. thesis on purpose, so I would have an excuse to stay.

 

You, my Dionysian mystery, reading the news on my velvety sweater that surprisingly fits you, me a Titan. “Turn down the music a little bit,” you say politely, and I turn it down, although the garbage trucks outside are making more noise than Ed Maverick and his fans. You, my Dionysian mystery. I can finally crack my chest open without the fear of the world drowning in darkness for centuries.

 

“I will come home soon” I cowardly rep(lied).

 

Abundio Noel M. Libot

TREE PLANTING

Celebrating the great mother
Of a holy wisdom lover,
I feel th nature’s laughter,
As we unite to care.

On the mountain where the cross is,
We climb as the sun rises,
On our hands are some baby trees,
Graduating from their nurseries.

We have found new home for them,
Where they can freely spread their wings.,
At the way of the cross we have them,
Some shade and sweetness they may bring.

Then our friendship begin to sprout,
As we uproot some of our doubts,
Trust and care start to come out,
As we share some whereabouts.

 

KHADIJA  NOOR

POEM   :  HOW  I CAN  LIVE WITHOUT  MY  WORLD  (MOM)

When  I was a child  then its just you take care of me  a lot.

When  I  was  crawling  then you  teach  me  how to walk.

When I try to speak  then it’s just  you  teach  me how  to talk.

When  I was  crying  then you  listen  from  heart  my pain.

When  I  was  hungry  then you  feed me  like an angel.

When  I fell  down then  you  hold  my hands  like my  Lord.

When others have beaten me  then just you  protect  me like my  God.

When  others try to hurt me  then its  just you  (mom)  to fight against  them.

When  any problem  come towards me then its just  you  to take  stands  for me.

From  day one of my birth  its just  you  mom  who cares a lot like my God.

When  strangers  come towards me  to grab  me from you  then  its just you to protect  from  this world.

 

How  I  can  live without  you  mom?

When  I thought  about you.

How  I can feel like  flying  bird?

When  I  cannot breath without you.

My whole world  is with you mom.

My  world  is incomplete  without  you.

Oh!  My  Lord  tell how  I can  live  without  my  world (mom).

Oh!  My  mom  you are  my whole  world whom  I  can’t  live without.

Oh!  Mom  its my time to protect you from  enemies of  yours.

My  world  is only seem complete  when I  stand  with my mom.

Oh!  Mom  don’t  worry about your enemies  because they are also  my enemies.

Today  its my time  to hold your hand  and take  stand  for you  and I will do.

My world  without  You mom can never be completed.

 

Mrs Gauri Maheshwar Wagle

 Poem Title :  A  WORLD WITHOUT TREES

As  I lied down on the velvety lush grass

my face kissed by the balmy breeze

I sensed how beautiful was this landmass

since it was embellished with elegant trees.

 

The succulent green trees stood in silence

opening their leafy arms in benevolence

But their leaves rustled in a sad cadence

They were worried about their tree’s existence

 

I could hear the trees wail and bemoan,

How can the intelligent man condone,

the precious gifts on him we shower?

Without us, will there be a single flower?

 

Thousands of us are mercilessly cut

while we are blossoming in our youth

Our wood was used to build man’s hut

It hurts, to see how man is uncouth

 

Who gives living beings nuts and fruits?

Do we ourselves eat these healthy foods?

Has man found our generous  substitutes?

Will they be kind, will they be good?

 

We gulp pollution and ozone

So that all can breathe in clean air

Yet, man had the guts to disown

the truth about how much we care

 

It is man who caused pollution

Yet we provided the solution

The intelligent man is aware

Then why towards us , is man unfair?

 

When man cannot bear the scorching heat,

He seeks solace into our cool shade

By cutting us, he shows his prowess to cheat

Our selfless Mother nature feels betrayed

 

As I listened quietly to the woes of the trees

My ears felt tortured by the buzzing of bees

These annoying bees urged me to combat

But soon they sought shelter in their habitat

I was pleasantly surprised  to see that,

A flowering tree was their habitat

 

Trees are not mere home for bees

They help all bees to forage

I joined my hands and fell on my knees

To pay these kind trees, my homage

 

Now I heard the trees complain

It is we who cause perpetual rain

Without rainwater, rivers will be dry

How would crops get water supply?

Would life in the rivers and sea thrive?

Without water, they would not survive

 

Without water, would man survive?

No, we are sure he would not be alive

By slaying us , what does man gain?

Without us, can he himself sustain?

 

We are the ones who hold the soil

We protect useful soil from erosion

Man causes Earth to feel this turmoil

Ruthless man plays with everyone’s emotion

 

We are the brave ones who combat

change in the climate caused by man

Our efforts of gulping carbon, fall flat

The only cause is Man’s game plan

 

While the trees were on an accusing spree

A thought flashed across my worried mind

Medicine is extracted from parts of a tree

These medicines are mainly useful to mankind

 

We release Oxygen, enhance the life span

This gift from us, is not valued by man

To cause us no harm, if man agrees

Then there would not be a world without trees

 

Saanvi Dwivedi

A World Without Love

Love is like trees

It holds families up and

Helps you breathe.

Imagine life without love.

Without someone who loves you,

Or without someone who you love.

What’s the use of anyone

If they can’t even spread love?

 

This world was (once) without love,

Where peace and happiness,

Wasn’t seen even miles away.

Brothers weren’t brothers to their sisters,

And sisters weren’t sisters to their brothers,

But enemies.

What’s the use of anyone

If they can’t even spread love?

 

War and hatred spread all across the world,

And gifts for birthdays were the stingiest presents ever,

Sometimes even nothing.

People grew, and their envy grew,

Becoming a pointy sword, destroying Earth,

And love withered and withered, until it died.

What’s the use of anyone

If they can’t even spread love?

 

The new law was to be mean;

The new cool was to be cruel.

They didn’t know that mean was a demon;

Cruelty was a beast;

And love was an angel,

That couldn’t be seen.

What’s the use of anyone

If they can’t even spread love?

 

Those who lived long lives,

Couldn’t bear to see the suffering,

But continued to be mean,

Setting a bad example.

What could save the world

From this horrible misunderstanding?

What’s the use of anyone

If they can’t even spread love?

 

The only things that held love firmly

Were animals and their family;

Soon enough humans saw

That what they were doing was bad,

And bought the word ‘love’

Out of the bag of extinct words.

For what’s the use of anyone

If they can’t even spread love?

 

Pooja Sangale

A World Without Bees

A world without bees, would you notice if they were gone? Do you think such a small insect would make a big difference? When someone sees a bee flying nearby, they hit it with some object, right? When you hear its buzzing sound, you get a little bit of panic. This is the fact that many of us have the fear of being stung by the beesThis is very tragic because bees don’t attack unless they feel threatened. Would you even care if there were no more bees?

 

Most people don’t realize how important some animals are for our survival. Although you may not believe it, life would be nearly impossible without bees. This small insect, which a lot of people are often afraid of, plays an important role in bionomics. There are thousands of species of animals in the world, both small and large, that have different habits. However, the one that keeps life going on the planet is the bee. Yes, you read that correctly. This yellow and black insect travels repeatedly from flower to flower and plays an important role in pollination.

So, without bees, agricultural production could decline and, consequently, malnutrition of millions of people and animals. Nature is very wise who has created a food chain. Pollination creates plants, which are consumed by herbivores, which are eaten by carnivores. If the first part of the chain disappears, so will the rest. A world without bees, we would be in a barren world, without many of our favorite fruits and vegetables.

                   These small insects have disappeared by 25% in the last 30 years. This is due to several different reasons, all of which are man made. First, to augment agricultural production, the man started to use much more pesticides which are responsible for the loss of native flora and fauna habitats. Second, pollution makes it difficult for bees to survive in different environments that are plagued by smog and heavy pollution particles in the air. 

 

As the summer starts, it’s exciting to see some of our favorite produce like stone fruit, peppers, luscious mangoes, juicy melons, and succulent strawberries. But what if the arrival of these nutritious fruits each summer were to come to an end? Our diets would still suffer tremendously. The variety of foods available would diminish, and the cost of certain products would surge. A world without bees would have major food shortages and possibly famine. A world without bees would be a world without honey, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

Albert Einstein once stated that if all the bees disappeared from the Earth, humanity would last no more than 4 years. Nature has set up а connection between nature and bees with а purpose. Plants bear beautiful, colorful flowers to attract bees which feed on pollen and nectar. They pollinate the male and female flowers and that ostensibly simple mechanism brings to life all the delicious Cherries, Apples, Pears, Mangoes, etc.

The reality is that bees play a decisive role in feeding the world by pollinating the crops. It feeds 90 percent of the global population. Bees are said to be involved in the production of one out of every three bites of food that we take. This means that the ongoing slump of bees and other pollinators would lay a serious threat to the future of the world’s food supply.

According to the BBC, the production of crops that bees pollinate is around $30 billion per year. If we had no bees left on the planet, we could lose all of the plants that they pollinate, and eventually all of the animals that eat those plants. The food chain would be disturbed all the way. Many birds and animals would disappear if bees were lost. Honey, nuts, and beans would also be extinct because they rely so much on bees. The number of fruits and vegetables would mitigate remarkably, and meat would also become extremely limited as cattle depend on pollinated plants for food.

By learning a lesson from this threat, measures should be taken to save bees, otherwise, there would be a time to imagine, “A World Without Mankind……”  (Touchwood…..)

 

V VAIDEHI

THE DWINDLING TRAVELLERS

I sat there on the damp rock, the grass wet under my feet, surrounded by a profusion of flowers, breathing in the pure air and the heady fragrance of the lush vegetation all around. In that enveloping silence, all that I could hear was the gurgle of the brook on its way to meet the mountain stream that we had crossed. I could just about see the outline of the mountain peaks through the mist that had descended on the valley. If there is a paradise on earth, this must be it!

 

Of all the hikes that I have done in the Himalayas, this is the one that I hold close to my heart.  Not just because it was my first hike or because it took me to a unique high-altitude valley in the Uttarakhand region of the Himalayas.  A valley breathtakingly beautiful, serene, and strewn with wildflowers as far as the eye can see, with snow-covered mountain ranges as the backdrop. A valley with a name that conjures up a vision of heaven – The valley of flowers.

 

I was a total novice in the hiking world.  Though in my twenties, I had as much knowledge about the Himalayas as a middle school student in India might have had from the geography lessons. This was before the internet and so, I set off for this hike with a group, with very little information and my mind a blank canvas waiting for imprints.

 

Thirty-five years have passed but I can still recall every detail of that hike. I can hear the ferocious roar of the mountain stream Lakshman Ganga, a tributary of the river Alakananda, with its clear waters crashing against boulders as it flowed along the hiking trail of seventeen kilometers from the road head to the Valley of Flowers. I can still see the never-ending steep trail that we walked on and smell the fresh dung dropped by mules along the trail.  I can recall in an instant the taste of the hot and spicy chana(whole black chickpea) soup that was sold by the few makeshift kiosks along the trail. It was nutritious, filling, an energy booster, and great comfort food in that biting cold.  And, of course, I can bring to my mind, at will, the enrapturing beauty of the misty valley, its meadows covered with native alpine wildflowers, predominantly of pink colour.

All this without the aid of a single photograph.

It was before digital cameras had made their presence felt in the Indian market. Cameras worked with film rolls and I did not own even a basic own. Today, I have nothing to show that I have been there, walked through this unique valley at 12000 feet, a valley that blooms only for two months during the monsoon season in India. A valley that was discovered accidentally by three British mountaineers returning from an expedition. A valley that is protected as a National Park of India and is now a World Heritage site.

But my experience and the sensory perception of the journey to the valley is so complete and fulfilling, perhaps because I did not have a camera. Otherwise, I would have been occupied for most of the time in capturing images on that device instead of absorbing everything through my senses. What a boon it was that I could wander through the valley and sit there contentedly among the flowers, present to the abundance of natural beauty, with no compelling need to ensure posterity to those moments.

Cut to another hike, many years later. We were sitting inside our tents by a high-altitude lake that evening, watching the soft rain drench the entire landscape. Unexpectedly, the clouds parted a little to allow sun rays, and in a minute or two, an iridescent rainbow came up across the sky, with its reflection on the rippling waters of the lake. There was a sharp intake of breath from all of us at this magnificent display.  Within seconds, we were scurrying for our cameras and there was a flurry of activity setting up tripods, bringing out the zoom lenses, setting the wide-angle, the works. Not one of us just sat still, looked at the rainbow and its reflection on water with eyes gifted to us by nature, and experienced those precious moments.  This glorious rainbow was meant to be gazed at directly by the human eye, not through the camera lens.  All too soon, the rainbow disappeared and there was a smug satisfaction among the hikers in checking and comparing the images captured by their cameras. In time, these pictures found their way to the world at large via the internet and through social media platforms.

The camera is, no doubt, an excellent device to capture images that open windows to places and things that one may not be able to see otherwise. It gives us glimpses of the wildlife in their natural habitat, inaccessible landscapes like Antarctica and deep Amazon forests and wondrous natural phenomena like the Northern lights. Its importance in documentation cannot be undermined.

But sadly, the camera panders to human nature to ensure posterity to all its experiences. It prevents the traveller from absorbing the experience with all the senses. The very presence of the camera tilts the experience towards the sense of sight, often to the exclusion of all other senses. A place or a thing is much more than just a sight to behold – the sounds, the smells, and the touch on the skin add to the enrichment.

I have to admit that the tourist in me has taken over and cannot do without the camera. Sadly, the traveller in me has taken a backseat and wistfully dreams of a world without cameras.

 

ASBishnoi

 Article on importance of Kolleru lake

STORY OF A GLORY LOST – KOLLERU LAKE

  1. The Annual Flamingo Count, by the BNHS, is an exercise by said organization, where volunteers are requested to carry out a census of the flamingos at one specific day and time; and the details are collated to arrive at a conclusion about their population and habitat. Being members of BNHS, we(my wife-Shakti and daughter-Kanan) were asked to cover Andhra Pradesh (Kolleru lake). So we, left for Flamingo census at Kolleru lake. All of us were ecstatic and a golden opportunity to spot them in wild. I was excited to make our contribution in bird census, which led to us volunteering for the annual bird census, centrally monitored by BNHS, Mumbai. It was Saturday, the 23rdof February 2019,  we started our journey from Visakhapatnam early morning towards Kolleru Lake and reached in the evening.

 

  1. The Kolleru Lake is the largest freshwater lake located in Andhra Pradesh. It serves as a habitat of migratory birds, supports the livelihood of fishermen and riparian population in the area. The lake was notified as a Wildlife Sanctuary in November 1999 under India’s Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, and designated a wetland of international importance in November 2002 under the international Ramsar Convention. It was also identified as an “Important Bird Area” of India by the Bombay Natural History Society.

 

  1. As per plan, we reached watch tower of Kolleru Wildlife Sanctuary (KWLS) looking for flamingos. Our trained binoculars and naked eyes gave us the message that the thousands of fish tanks have been dug up inside the wetland converting the lake into a mere drain. This has resulted scarcity of drinking water for the local people as we could see young children and women folk carrying steel/earthen pots to fetch water.  The area under agricultural practice in the wetland also increased, sewage inflow from the towns of Eluru, Gudivada and even Vijayawada and industrial effluents, pesticides and fertilizers from the Krishna-Godavari delta region contaminated the lake.

                                      

  1. We were looking for pink beauty Flamingos, and all of a sudden, our ears heard the first gun shot and the birds flew helter-skelter particularly river terns, egrets etc.  The shots were fired by the fishermen who were busy shooting birds, to prevent them from feeding on the fish. The early morning hour, with an equally rare presence of any tourist or forest officials, gave them liberty to exercise their option, which seemed to be a routine activity. We were questioned several times by inquisitive fisherman (as I was carrying a camera); and when they realized our purpose, stopped shooting and withdrew from the location to another, out of the reach of the watch tower. Today the situation of lake is grim and lake has deteriorated to the extent that recovery is near impossible unless intervention of humans take place to restore it.

 

  1. Traditionally, water was seen as a responsibility of citizens and the community collectively took the responsibility of not only building but also of maintaining the water bodies. This, over a time, has led to the neglect of the water bodies and catchments areas. People have become used to getting water at the turn of a tap and are no longer interested in maintaining water bodies. However, there is still hope as concerned citizens across the country have to come together to fight and halt this degradation of urban water bodies.

 

  1. The Kolleru Wildlife Sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh, known for its rich bio-diversity, is under threat from illegal fishing tanks, industrial pollution and a number of other factors. The lake serves as a foraging ground for resident as well as migratory birds. At present, 6,000 Spot-billed Pelicans, 5,000 Painted Storks and 5,000 Asian Openbills are estimated to be found in Kolleru. The lake also supports 63 species of fish. The Kolleru Lake plays a vital role in absorbing carbon, which in turn, mitigates the effects of global warming. Currently, the emission of carbon into the atmosphere is a major global issue. This freshwater lake acts as a carbon sink similar to any other thick forest area. It also acts as a filter for pollutants released as a result of industrial activity.

 

  1. The ongoing construction of illegal fish tanks, apart from those already in use situated in the lake, pose a major threat to the lake at present. The aquaculture farmers should find alternative ways of releasing water contaminated with pesticides and fertilizers instead of letting it into the sanctuary portion and concerned about the habitat of birds. But this can happen if we involve local population into conservation and educate them about birds and their advantages.

 

  1. Many villages of fisher-folk and more than 50 other villages in West Godavari and Krishna districts do suffer as the lake  dries up at the beginning of the summer season. Even migratory  birds are migrating to the nearby tanks, fields in search of food.  All that one can see now are parched fields, small pools; and cattle and birds searching for food in the largest freshwater lake in the country. The Kolleru was the safest place for the pelicans and other migratory birds. It was world’s largest pelicanry and now it on the verge of losing importance as Important Bird Area.

 

  1. There is constant pressure from vested interests to encroach and destroy environmental hotspots like the unique Kolleru Lake, primarily for the production of food(rice) and aquaculture. But it is wetlands like this large freshwater lake and the flora that it supports, that scrub and cleanse the effects of the Greenhouse gases being produced by encroaching urban development. We cannot imagine THE WORLD WITHOUT KOLLERU LAKE. The Kolleru Wildlife Sanctuary is also a second home for thousands of migratory birds that come here in winter. The lake provides them the food required to take the long flight back to the area where they roost. All these birds will become extinct if the lake is destroyed.

 

Shakti Bishnoi

Article on Importance of Western Ghats and our Travel experience shared

Western Ghats- Neelakurinji Blooming

 

  1. Starting late July 2018, the Anamalai hills near Munnar in Kerala will be resplendent, clad in a purplish blue carpet. The famed Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiana) will burst into flower – a phenomenon that occurs once in 12 years. Munnar(Western Ghats) is home to the highest concentration of Neelakurinji plants in the country — spread over 3000 hectares of rolling hills. The spectacular mass flowering of neelakurinji happens only once in 12 years — each shrub reproduces once in its life time and dies after flowering. It takes another 12 years for the seeds to sprout again and grow up to 30 to 60 centimetres high, for another glorious bloom. The mass flowering Neelakurinji provides a feast for butterflies, honeybees and other insects. The purple flowers hold a large amount of nectar, which especially attract the eastern honeybee(Apis cerana).
  2. The ecosystem that supports the kurinji plants plays a major role in bringing water to the Amaravati river which is a tributary of the Kaveri river, a main water source for Tamil Nadu. The Kurinji reserve is in the catchment area of Amaravati river and is part of Western Ghat which is biodiversity hot spot of the world. The Western Ghats are internationally recognized as a region of immense global importance for the conservation of biological diversity, besides containing areas of high geological, cultural and aesthetic values. The fact that it blooms once in 12 years was enough for us to visit and see the wonderful creation of God and appreciate them with our eyes. Before our plan materialised, Kerala was devastated by floods. We had been eagerly waiting for three months to watch the Neelakurinji blooming, so neither rains nor landslides could dampen our resolve.

 

  1. The fact that we will  cover Western Ghats(Wildlife Sanctuaries/National Parks) en-route and  watch blooming of Neelajurinji will also help us escape from all the stress induced from the regular hustle-bustle in the urban concrete jungle that our urban cities have become as well as avoiding the incessant honking of vehicles while traveling to office and the smoke laden city air, made it a more enticing proposition. At least 325 globally threatened (IUCN Red Data List) species occur in the Western Ghats.

 

  1. With our 10-year-old but nimble and trusted Santro car always ready for a long drive at a moment’s notice, traveling by road to distant destinations is always a pleasant experience. We were transiting through wildlife sanctuaries en-route, and there was no vehicle entry in the register for past few days due to Floods in Kerala. The forest guard looked at us with many questions in his eyes but neither he could ask us, nor we could have answered as we had a language barrier. The devastating Kerala floods had ensured that there were no other tourists. With peaceful forest area and only our car on road made us all excited and all of us were thrilled to spot wild animals and different species of plants and trees there.  The forest of Annamalai was covered with different hues of greens, the way you see in paintings and art works. Watching such greenery was a delight to your eyes. Among the wildlife species, we successfully spotted peafowl, spotted dear, wild boar, quails. Sholas are unique as they have evolved over thousands of years to its current state. We found various types of tree species as well as a few species of animals/birds/plants which are endemic and not found anywhere else.  Neelakurunji is one such flowering plant which is only found in these Western Ghats.

 

  1. We reached our hotel Kerala Tourism (Yatri Niwas) and the sun hid behind the nearby hills. We all got into cozy costumes to forget heat for few days. Next morning, we commenced our journey and the cool breeze of the mountains hugged us from all the sides giving us tears of joy. On the way we saw beautiful waterfalls, few of them were very close to sprinkle water on our peeping excited faces. Our daughter’s favourite part is to fly her silk scarf from the window. Watching it enjoy the winds of hills gives her immense pleasure. She calls it dancing scarf and personifies it and speaks on scarf’s behalf. Kids are lovely story tellers. Unfortunately, the pressure of the society kills their imagination.

 

  1. On a hairpin curve we saw the first plant blooming with bluish purple Neelakurinji flowers. It was heartening to see them.     Due to heavy rainfall and little sunlight, Neelakurinji too could not bloom as expected and this is first impact due to global warming, wherein incessant rains and unseasonal rains devastated the blooming of flowers. However, nothing could dampen our spirits as the present blooms were enough for us. It was our daughters’ dreams to see and be there. We all were glued to the flowers which bloom once every 12 years with open mouths, as if we were watching a movie. We were so happy to be there on that day despite natural calamity, broken bridges, detours on lesser-known roads and landslides. We all realized, if we want to do something, we can do it.

 

  1. The next Neelakurinji blooming flowers will see our girls as adults, one will be 18 and other will be 24 years old. Hopefully these young adults, having experienced the mesmerizing beauty of Neelakurinji as well as the peace and tranquility of the Western Ghats, along with many others of their generation can take the lead in protecting this amazing Western Ghats landscape. For Neelakurnji to bloom again the seeds have to remain in the ground without falling prey to concretization or forest fires. We cannot imagine THE WORLD WITHOUT WESTERN GHATS AND NEELAKURINJI BLOOMING, which is hotspot of biological diversity in the world. It is high time we realise the importance and protect this amazing landscape. May be our girls might drive us to Neelakurinji-Western Ghats next time which will bloom in 2030. We live in hope.

 

Paula Tagle

A world without Wrangel, the island with the last Pleistocene survivors.

I am at Wrangel Island, transported to the very Pleistocene. As if to confirm it, a muskox shows up. Anastasia, our Russian guide, prepares her spear. She calmly announces that she respects them even more than polar bears. The about-twenty people in her group freeze. Worse than a polar bear! We covertly hide behind this young woman of light blue eyes, who looks gigantic underneath her many layers of coats.

The muskox is feeding at a fair distance. Not too long ago I had no idea about their existence, and now I cannot imagine a world without muskox and polar bears, the last Pleistocene survivors, a world without Wrangel.

How did I end up here, above the Arctic circle and hiding from an almost extinct 300 Kg-hoofed mammal of musky odor and long curved horns, protected only by the spear of a young Russian?

I was traveling aboard the National Geographic Orion, an expedition ship for 100 passengers. We crossed the Bering Strait from Alaska to Siberia, in the opposite direction that my ancestors (and apparently of all Native Americans) followed more than 10,000 years ago.

The strait is a shallow sea, with an average depth of seventy-five meters. During the last glaciation sea level was 120 meters lower. Alaska and Siberia were connected in a vast territory 2,000 kilometers wide, the world of Beringia. It is the land that mammoths, muskox and human beings walked from the old world into the new.

The Orion continued its navigation into the Chukchi sea to arrive at Kolyuchin island, 11 kilometers north of the coast of Siberia. This was an introduction to what was about to happen later at Wrangel. We found several polar bears, a colony of approximately forty walruses and hundreds of puffins. How in the world could it get any better at Wrangel?

It apparently would. Wrangel island is a World Heritage Site for UNESCO known as the “Galapagos of the Arctic” because of its rich biodiversity.

Several people over the last two hundred years tried unsuccessfully to find it. Russian explorer Ferdinand von Wrangel looked for it for three consecutive years with no luck. Jules Verne mentions the island in one of his books, and the unfortunate Jeannette Expedition saw it at a distance but was never able to set foot on it, as the ship drifted for two years and finally sank 1,300 Kilometers north west of Wrangle. In 1921 Canada attempted to settle a claim on Wrangel for the British, but everyone perished, except for Ada Blackjack, an Inuit woman. In 1926 the Soviets relocated a group of Chukchi onto the island and the tiny colony remained until 1976 when it became a State Nature Reserve.

Five hundred and eight people visited Wrangel in 2019, whereas Antarctica received approximately 50,000. On September 9 that year, I had the privilege to be among the chosen ones. At six am we spotted the rounded hills of Wrangel’s southern coast for the first time, and kept sailing along its western shoreline. That’s when we started the polar bear count.  They were following the slopes uphill, crossing paths with others walking downhill. Some contemplated us from the edge of cliffs of metamorphic rock, beautifully bent. Wrangel was crowded with polar bears, all living in apparent communion. On our first day we counted one hundred and eighty-three polar bears, and dozens of dens.

A realm that looked like a Tolkien creation, of strange inhabitants and colors. Even the act of chewing on a walrus seemed naturally serene. Four bears shared, without any noticeable quarrel, the victim’s body. A bear walked along the beach with a fish in its mouth, another one ate a dead seal by itself. Wrangel is the domain of bears. In an area of 7,600 square kilometers, there is a population of about 400 polar bears, the largest density of polar bears on the planet (the world population is estimated to be 22,000). They patiently wait for the ice to come back, which now, with climate change, is taking a month longer than before.

On September 11, we left the ship to walk the tundra and steppe, a little concerned about the density of bears on land. We were guarded by Park Ranger Anastasia, in her late twenties.  Anastasia smiled and explained that there were more than 400 species of plants on the island, while she held her sort of spear in one hand; she also carried a flare in her pocket. That is how she was going to protect us from the bears! An added detail to this surreal world, where the eternal ice sheets never arrived to cover the land, where mammoths became extinct 8,000 years after they disappeared from the rest of the world.

So that’s how I ended up here. I am the smallest of the group, if we have to run, I might become the easiest prey. Then it would become a world without me!

But the Muskox leaves. Slowly, we recover our composure and try to act normal. Anastasia looks the same, at ease. She then tells us that to appreciate Wrangel, one needs to plunge into its world without fear. “You discover something new about your inner self when you are in Wrangel. The island does not offer its sweets at first sight. You must open your eyes and heart to understand its essence”.

After several hikes on polar bear land, climbing hills at the pace of strong Russians full of energy and stoicism, in the silence of the steppe and surrounded by the survivors of the Pleistocene, my eyes are definitely open, as is my heart.

I cannot imagine a world without Wrangel Island. Wrangel is a relic of what Earth was like before the arrival of its most feared predator: Homo sapiens.

I am living in the world of Beringia among the last Pleistocene survivors. Beringia rises up again here on Wrangel island.

 

Antek Gordon

The dragon that fell in love with a bubble

“Behold” Iryod said. Holding Elemi over his head.

“The kid has just been born and you are already on the verge of killing him. Lower him. Besides, we need to go deeper into the cave. There’s a big wave incoming. The dragon has taken flight. We need to take shelter.” Sania said.

“All-right” Iryod replied, lowering Elemi from underneath the ceiling.

“This just had to happen to us; One of the greatest threats we could face at the moment our child is born. Couldn’t the dragon choose another place and time to pop-up?”

“Iryod, we do live at the edge of the great sea. I promise you, the day I see the dragon i’ll ask him. But for now this is out of our control. Come on, i’ve prepared a bed for Elemi. It’s the same bed we used for three generations in a row. He’ll be safe there.”

 

Days it took for the waves to settle, for the dragon to stop flying.

 

“You know.” Sania said.

“I have heard of an ancient device that lets us talk to the dragon. It is to be gathered in one of the caves down the riff, at the end of the village. We could try and talk to the dragon ; see if we can get to some sort of agreement? Maybe even ask him to leave this place for good?” She added.

“Killing me in the process.” Answered Iryod.

“Who will take care of you and Elemi if something happens to me?”

“Oh, please. We will be fine. How do you think I survived before I met you?” Sania said.

“Well… Thank you. I may as well go if I am useless here.”

“It’s not like that, you know it. What we need to do is inform ourselves to see if it is feasible. Who knows, we could be giving a whole new life to Elemi and the village. A safe haven, safe from the waves and the dragon.”

“What do you think?”

“Hmm. I have heard of that device in the past. It’s called, if I remember it well the dragons whisper, stemming from when both bubbles and dragons lived in peace. You know the dragons used to protect us?”

“I did not knew that. Who said that?”

“It was Ketenes Living down the riff. His grandmother as I remember it well was one of the bubbles hiding the artifact from the now menacing dragons. I’m gonna go and have a talk with him. Iryod said while putting on his hat.

“What has wifey put into her head this time.” Iryod tought to himself while leaving the house.

”Her ideas are gonna kill me one of these days.”

He knocked on the neighbours door. An old man opened.

“Dear neighbor. I have a request of the highest form for you. I am looking for the Dragon whisper do you know where I can go and get it?”

“Yes.” The man said.

“That does not mean I will give it to you.” He added while closing the door. Iryod blocked the door with his foot.

“Look, I am just trying to give my wife what she asked for. I promised i’d do it, for Elemi’s future.”

“How is that my problem?” The man answered.

“This will help the whole village. Who are you to try and prevent me of this.” The man stopped pushing against the door.

“There’s always a backlash. You may be ruining our future, some things are better left alone. Things are not that bad, as long as we remain inside while the dragon roams by.”

“Oh, come on. What can I possibly do wrong. You once talked to me about it, you said your great-grandmother had hidden it.”

“Correct.”

“Where is it?” The man closed the door. Iryod, bummed, turned around to get back home. He had just turned when he heard the door open again.

“I lied, she never hid it.” Ketenes said while holding a shell in his hands.

”I just didn’t wanted anyone to use it. Everyone wants to talk to the dragon. No-one thinks of the consequences.”

 

He said while handing over the shell to Iryod.

“Watch out you don’t cut yourself there, that’s an instant death. This is a dangerous artifact. You must go to the ceiling of the ocean, there where air replaces the water. Wait for the dragon to pass by, survive the tides and, as he is flying above you, you must say the words
“I hereby summon thy.” You, then, if everything goes right, will be in direct contact with the dragon. I must warn you, this may not be a gentle dragon, he may try and kill you.”

“Thank you. I’ll return it as soon as possible.” Iryod said.

 

He searched for a upwards going stream that transported him just underneath the surface. There he hid himself in the riffs connecting sea to air. awaiting for the dragon to come back.

It took it’s time but the dragon, coming home resurfaced and Iryod said the words.

”I hereby summon thy.”

 

“You, stranger talking into my ears. Who are you?” The dragon said with a deep, gromming voice.”

“I am Iryod, I am speaking to you trough the dragon whisper, I have a question for you.”

“I do not speak to those I cannot see. show yourself.”

“I cannot, I will die if I leave the water.” Iryod said. But the dragon didn’t wanted to hear it.

“I do not speak to those I do not see.” The waves settled as the riff covered Iryod in darkness. The dragon had landed, awaiting for Iryod to show his face.

 

“I cannot do this, I will die.” Iryod repeated to the dragon.

“No you won’t, the dragon whisper grants you temporal immortality. You can come up.” The dragon answered.

“How do I know this is not some plan to kill me?” Iryod said.

“You contacted me, why would I kill you.” The dragon answered.

“Come on up, I don’t have the whole day.” He added while putting his paw into the water. Creating a rush that almost swiped Iryod away.

“Allright, here I come. Please remain calm.” Iryod gathered his courage, taking the dragon on his word he let himself float to the surface. Seeing, for the first time in his life, the sun.

“What a beautifull ball of fire.” he said to himself.

The dragon, seeing him floating around put his paw into the water and lifted him up. Out of the sea, onto his nose.

”Did you create that?” Iryod said while pointing at the sun.

”Nonsense” the dragon said.

“Who are you, ignorant little being and why do you fear me as much?”

“Look at those teeth.” Iryod said.

“Look at those eyes.”

“Look at those wings. You could wipe me away in one sweep.”

“That is true, but why would I.” The dragon said.

 

“I have slayed countless beasts, from lions to gryphons to hypopotamus. You are insane. Now, why is it that you took this risk. No-one does something like that without a reason.”

“I come to you to give my kid a future. One worth living.”

“Go on.” The dragon said curious about the next words that would come out of the bubbles mouth.”

“Every time you fly by, our waters are disturbed. For sometimes days in a row. I was hoping we could come to some sort of agreement.” Said Iryod not noticing until now how his request sounded.

“days…?” The dragon said.

“Time must be seriously distorted down there. And what do you suppose I can do about this? Those are natural laws, those I cannot control. And I am certainly not moving to please a couple of bubbles twenty miles under the sea. Can’t you guys just move your village? I mean, you are a couple of bubbles, how hard could this be? I have a whole castle to move, stone by stone. This is an impossible task.”

“You are a dragon, you are alone. We are bubbles, we are hundreds. To me it seems it is up to you to move that castle.”

“Not happening.” Said the dragon.

“This being said.” Added Iryod.

“We may come to some sort of solution? Something that comes us both in handy? I mean, is there anything you want or need that we, the bubble people would be able to give to you in exange ?” The dragon laughed.

“There isn’t.”

“I’m sure there must be. You are not lifeless, nor dauntless. What is it you seek.” Iryod said.

“I was alone since I was born. My parents disappeared before my birth. All I ever did was building nests and eat. This castle has costed me over 300 years to build. How long have you been down there?”

“For generations.” Iryod said.

“So, for a couple of months, a couple of years tops.” The dragon said.

“You do realize your demand is out of this world. I’m guessing that you, your kind, are  taking it out on me since day one. Blaming me as evil, even tough I was here first.”

“I am not here to blame anyone, I am just here to talk. To ask.”

“Hmmm….” The dragon mumbled.

 

“You do know that everyone has a weakness. We both need to live in the same environment. It is better for us to get along. You never know when we may need each other.” The dragon laughed.

“Treathening me will not help your cause, at all. When do you think I will have a need of you?” Iryod tought for a good five minutes,

”I noticed you felt reluctant lifting me out of the water. You, by any chance, aren’t afraid of a bit of water, are you?” The dragon continued on laughing.

“I can bear Lava, the blood of the mountains. The water of the earth. You do not think I am afraid of some cold, wet substance?”

“You can’t swim, do you.” The bubble said. It became silent.

“I never needed to.” The dragon answered.

“You are afraid of water. Do you.” The bubble giggled.

“That means you are afraid of half of me.”

“Nonsense” The dragon said trying to turn his gaze away.

“Either way, isn’t it better to talk about it than to fight for years? Both sides will suffer. For something that could have been sorted out right here, right now. In this moment, by means of words and honor.” Iryod added.

“I don’t know, I guess so…” The dragon said.

“You still haven’t got anything to offer me. Using my fear against me is not an option. Remember, I could crush you with the flick of a wrist.”

“I am immortal, as long as I talk to you.” Iryod grinned.

“Hmm, you are starting to piss me off.” said the dragon. Spewing tiny flames trough his nose. Heating Iryod to unbearable heats.

“That is not funny.” Iryod said.

“It isn’t, for you.” The dragon replied.

“I could learn you how to swim?” Iryod said.

”A skill is more valuable than any gold…”

”I am not moving my castle and need to fly over your village to get to my hunting grounds.” The dragon answered.

”I’ll learn you how to swim if you promise to try and avoid this area by flying either higher or trying to find another hunting ground. All we want is not being bothered by those giant waves anymore. We, without counting on our grattitude, will forever be in your debt. And, may you, you never know, someday need us. Then we will be there. Helping you with whatever you may need at that given point in time and space.
May i ask, how come such a big creature is afraid of water?” Iryod said.

”It’s a long story.” The dragon answered.

”There is nothing as unforgivable as water. The gift of life also is a curse. You cannot know this, you live in it. But we, the land and air creatures are constantly seeking for it. It never shows it’s face when needed, and if you do not watch out it’ll take your life in a matter of minutes. Water is, in some aspects, even more dangerous than me.”

”Nonsense.” Iryod said. Adding:

”So you just don’t like it. It’s not like you are allergic to it or something like that?”

”I am not.” Said the dragon.

”This is gonna be a piece of cake” Iryod cheered.

”Don’t cheer too quickly.” The dragon said.

”You don’t get it.” Iryod said.

”Teaching you how to swim will be easy. Look at those wings, look at those muscles. Your strenght is your greatest attribute. But, first things first. Could you take us to another place, somewhere my village will not be bothered by the waves. There i will teach you, if you promise to bring me back.” Iryod said.

”I promise. My word is my everything.”

 

So they did. Iryod held on for dear life as the dragon took flight, landing on a abandonned island with a single palm tree a couple of miles away.

 

”Perfect.” Iryod said. The dragon, lowering his guard gave Iryod the opportunity to jump of of his nose, on the beach and spoke;

”So… What is it you need me to do ?” He asked.

”That’s simple.” Iryod said.

”Just jump in the water. Nose first, dive.”

”Are you joking?’ Do you think i am stupid? Don’t you know i know this?” The dragon answered.

”Seems obvious, doesn’t it.” Iryod said.

”Then why haven’t you done it before?” He then added.

”That’s because you, in all those years just had put a cross on it. You accepted that the you who couldn’t swim was a fact.
A obvious something that you, i’m guessing, since then have tried to avoid at all costs. It’s that easy, just jump into the water.
Your ancestors have been friends with many sea creatures, for hundreds of years. Atleast, that’s what our legends tell us at home. You know how to do it, you just have forgotten that you can do it. You have forgotten that all it takes was one small jump into the deep.”

”Yeah… I’m not doing that.” The dragon answered while putting one paw into the water.

”You should, there is no way but the hard way.” Iryod added.

”What if i drown?” The dragon asked.

”But what if you succeed?” Iryod replied. The winds had been picking up pace. They started having such a grasp on the bubble that he attached himself to the tree. That same tree cracked, louder and louder. As if it soon would break. Iryod used this to his advantage.

”WATCH OUT FOR THE TREE.” He screamed. Taking the opportunity to scare the dragon.

 

The dragon tried and evaded it, jumping into the water. He panicked, looking around in search for the fallen tree. Clapping his wings, using his legs and his claws he found an equilibrium. It didn’t took long before he noticed that Iryod had played him, seeing the tree standing straight. Cracking as it probably did for years before they arrived on that same island.

 

He returned to land safely and threatened Iryod

 

”If you do this one more time i will throw you at the sharks myself. Abandonning you on this island never to return again, do we agree.” The dragon angrily said. Iryod scratched his troath and pointed towards the dragon, arrogantly smiling.

”What is it now?” The dragon said.

”Look, you are wet.” Iryod answered.

”Yes, because of you. You have no idea what kind of predators await me out there. I have many ennemies. There’s a known Megalodon that is roaming these seas. Iryod caughed even louder. The dragon kept on yelling and blaming him.

”You know that not everyone will start swim…” His face turned.

”I swom, i swimmed my way back. I did it.” He said.

”You did.” Iryod said smiling proudly.

”I told you, you needed to shut that voice in your head saying you couldn’t do it.” Iryod said.

”I promise i will take another route towards my hunting grounds. You have my word.”

”Thank you. I may now return home, in peace. Knowing that, thanks to you, my son. Heck, even the whole village, will have a safe haven to grow up in.’ May i ask to you to bring me back.”

”No.” The dragon said.

”What do you mean, no.” Iryod said perplexed.

”I’d love to stay friends with you. I, if i get you back to your village will probably never see you again. I propose a peace treaty between me and your village, and, i would like for us to meet once a week, once a month. In your time this is once a year, once a decade. Even if for a mere year, i’d love to spend some more time together.” The dragon said.

Adding,

”You know, if you keep the dragon whisper active you will become eternal, don’t you.”

”I know.” Iryod said.

”But i have the love of my life and my son awaiting me. I must go back. I accept your offer and you may count on me to honour it, as long as i am alive. But, for now, could you please take me back home? I miss my wife.”

‘Hop on.” The dragon said. Bending over for Iryod to detach itself from the tree and get onto the dragon’s nose. They both hapilly flew back towards Iryod’s village.There, Once under water Iryod prepared himself to sever the bond and go back to his family.

 

”Before i leave.” Iryod said to the dragon.

”I have one more question.”

”Yes ?” The dragon answered.

”What is your name ?” Iryod said.

”Rotgaut

”Well then, greetings, Rotgaut, and goodbye my friend.”

 

Kelly Cookes

A world without…seeing elephants in the wild for the first time

Stepping into the South African bush I feel my body start to react. It isn’t my first time here and I know it won’t be my last but every time, the same reaction. A sense of wonder and also impending loss. The heat drains out of the day and dusk settles in, a light breeze relieving the relentless burn of the sun.

As I look out at the vast savanna with my baby girl named Savanna after what I see before me, in my arms I begin to whisper in her ear ‘This my darling, is how I wanted you to see elephants for the first time. Not in a cage or even in a rehabilitation centre but here wandering, free, seemingly aimless but with such a gentle calmness. This is how they should be, free.

Of course I know that it isn’t that simple for these beautiful creatures. The odds are stacked against them, their numbers decreasing daily through poaching and loss of habitat which is why I made the journey here again with my small family and why we are standing transfixed by them having their evening drink at a watering hole.

As we begin to turn away a slight movement catches my eye. From behind a bush, a calf emerges following its mother down to the water bringing a tear to my eye. The simplicity of their routine and the beauty of their connection as a family group never fails to fascinate me.

So I turn back to my Savanna and say to her ‘ We must cherish our planet and these animals and protect them. Always remember where you first saw elephants and that this is how they should be, free.’ As she gazes back at me with her big blue eyes I can only hope that by showing her this she will become one of the next generation of fighters.

 

Shivani

World without DANCE…
I am a dancer. I was not just dancing with the rhythm of music, but also with the rhythm of life.
I learnt that dance is a game which could let a person enjoy with all his senses and at the same time learn the essence of the story.
I was asked to stop dancing so that I could focus on something else. They said complete focus on one thing would help me succeed in it. I stopped dancing.
In other words, I stopped living the way which could make me happy.

When I used to dance, every expression and every movement handled by my soul would add some great essence to my performance.
Even if the rhythm ruled my body, my soul could still be able to dance without letting the rhythm overrule it.
To perform well, one needs to be aware of what is going on. My soul needs to be aware of the performance that it’s dance but not me.

But now I was made to leave dance.
I am no more being able to balance my soul. The heavy dressing, heavy setting, the combined sounds of instruments and voices merge my body with my soul.
I was no more being able to let the surroundings overtake my body where my soul could still be able rule it.
Too much involvement made me miss the rhythm. I am not being able to act with the rhythm of my world.
I tried not to be involved. It didn’t give me the essence.
Dance is very important for my body, my soul and obviously my life.
A person who could understand how to tune their body and soul as per their surroundings (rhythm) can excel the performance.
A person who can’t drowns into the confusion, and imbalance.
It can lead to depression, anxiety and many more.

There needs to be the world with dance.
Where there is no dance, there is no essence to life.

One needs to learn how to dance in life.

 

Chandrama Deshmukh

Title: A World Without Me

 

How would I know, I am not here?

A stagnant period. A sudden fear.

 

Who will open my window at dawn?

And snooze my alarm when I am gone.

 

That creaky cupboard and stubborn drawer

Who will take my warm water shower?

 

Sleepy mirror, would you forget this face?

Will the air suffer? Just in case!

 

My words, poems, books and its pages

My stifled thoughts, unimagined images

 

Will they wait for me in vain?

Or stick to someone else’s pain?

 

Unseen tomorrows, unheard talks

Smiles and shivers, winks and walks

 

Where will all of this suddenly go?

Replacing life with an empty flow

 

Nihility is such a curious bliss

When I am no more,

Who would be imagining this?

 

Yonas Mesfin Getachew

Non-Transcendence

A delicate flower,

Only blossoms

With beholding.

Away from the burning kisses

Of its visible stars

Remote in time

Remote in place,

Forgets a forgetting

That withers

Its tender blooms.

 

Petal tears morbidly dancing

Towards the hungry earth

Build monumental shrines

Burying consummate moments

Spent within the pleasant blaze;

Morsels of eternity

That wedded it

To its Suns.

 

Resembling

An earthly Fire,

Kindled at and raging through

The buds of temptation; never

Transcending its corporeal parentage

Stunted, not able to reach

The beyond of its arm-length

Horizon. Dying away,

Marauding tongues dwindling

Throughout the aging day,

Unable, to prolong

Its ravenous stay; starved

Out, of the womb of existence;

Birthed into the dusky

Realm of the faded and the fading,

A world without

Contours and colors.

 

Nikko Nabasca Gorne

A World Without?

As a traveller I came across

Great sights and scenes and thoughts.

Many have asked, many have thought.

Many tried to ask me about what could stop.

 

What do you think of a world without that?
Of that? And that? And that? And what?

There are things that make one stop.

The life. The care. The smile. The share.

 

Humanity it is, from an adventurer’s lips.

As I walk the many roads of the world

Of heat, of dry, of cold, of wet, of ice

I see people near or beside.

 

Of different dress, of different tongue.

They would offer you with their smile.

Some would sell cold refreshments

While others would sell warmth.

 

All of these are of reflections

Of what they have and what they don’t .

Humanity I see in the streets and roads.

The help everyone has to give, to sow.

 

So to you, whom who ask.

A world without humanity?

As for me, a traveller it seems.

Packup and walk the road, so you may see.

***

 

David Meech

Eyes Before Dawn

Blackness and the darkest of thoughts. Always this panic just before
dawn sets in. The faintest twitter of birds and my mind flicks to her
eyes; there is terror within, I hear her little voice with the soft
press of her hands but she has slipped away.

This is why I am up and moving before light can break. My blanket tucked
away in the leather satchel and my boots open at the mouth. A quick
inspection of the blisters on the edges of my feet and about my toes. I
have packed soft fern leaf into the toe of my boot for everything
depends on this. Once again I head north into the sun, the rigid,
canvassed weight bearing down into the leather shoulder straps
supporting my burden.

Let the river run. The morning is most comfortable as the sun’s rays
peek over the ridge, striking my frozen face. I pick my way through
tumbling rock but I cannot cross until I am sure of the widest passage.
A calm strait of white-capped river current and I need to cross this
morning so that I will be dry by nightfall. Hours pass but still I have
not found a magic place so I resolve to build a raft. Not for me, just
to take the weight on my back and wide enough to hold on to as I drift
across. I spend hours selecting wood that will float and cutting the
cabbage tree fronds and flax to use in securing my load.

I am in the icy water now. It sucked all the air from my lungs so I gasp
at the shock. My boots, jacket and rifle are secured up on the raft,
together with the weight wrapped in canvas and my satchel perched on
top, but my woollen socks are still on and kicking about in the water. I
am moving backwards away from the mountains, dragged back the way I have
come but slowly I make my way over just before the wide neck of the bend
where flows have slackened. With great effort I lie flat in the middle,
where the current pulls strongly and I concentrate on kicking with my
head low in the water. Finally my toes barely scrape the stones beneath.
I will make the far bank.

A moment to rest, exhausted after I pulled the raft up onto shore. I dry
my numbed feet in the sand and my clothes and socks are discarded over
the larger rocks. The rifle has been dried and wrapped and put away
again in the deerskin that I use to protect it from the rain. I have not
lost my boots for without them I could not  complete this journey. A
moment to reflect, to think of you my wife, Margaret Elizabeth, what do
you do at this very instant? Did you feed our little mouths and did you
spend a moment to think of us? The sun touches my skin but small tears
are sliding; I must unpack the raft and stash it here so that I can use
it for my return.

North over these mountains. The fear of that dams back those maudlin
thoughts, preparing me for the grand effort ahead. The ground undulates
as the marshy area falls away and I begin the rise and fall of the
approaches to the range. The bush thickens about me and after some time
there is a canopy, growing higher and there is no clear path but room to
pick my way between bracken and scrub. A tiny fantail darts and dances
like a pixie crossing my wake.

I begin to feel the push of an incline. I am not stopping for lunch,
there are only the scraps of meat wrapped in muslin that Margaret stowed
in the deerskin. I will conserve this to cross the snow. It is all a
question of timing, you see. I must make the snow line by late
afternoon, not too close but within striking distance so that I can
spend the next morning searching for the lowest saddle.

“Skirt the snow line,” Toss explained in the firelight, his chin on his
knee. “Find the lowest point, try to get over in a day. Once you are up
on that ridge look for the valley and if you cannot see it, turn back
for the grace of God. There are men still up there who will never be
found.”

I won’t make the snow for two days yet. That endless up and down, always
slowly rising, falling away, yet rising more than it falls. I feel the
ground harden. Rising, falling, up and down until my mind is cracking
with it. Judging the hours before the sun sets, longing for that moment
when I can build a fire and dig in a shelter from fallen branches and
silver-backed fern. Cutting out sod with my knife if needs be and using
clumps of earth to shelter from the wind. Each night I get better at
building my tiny house, better at selecting the materials, faster at
tying the frame. The same little shelter, over and again each night and
the routine doesn’t help.

Just that one problem. Always at night when the wood begins smoking with
the dry ferns in the shelter packed ready to take my tired bones. The
question of what to do with the canvas bundle. Heavy, rigid it must be
stowed off the ground yet sheltered from the rain and out of reach of
the rats and birds. I feel them in the dark waiting for my eyes to fall
lidded so they can claim their reward. I have a metal spoon on a tin mug
that I use to scare these thieves away.

Morning falls softly and I wake to that noise of birdcall just before
the dawn. I see a fine drizzle blanketing the ridges. As long as I can
make out an insistent fuzzy ball of light in amongst the grey cloud, I
have my bearings. At any rate I must head up the incline. I can sense
the snow now. The drop in temperature, that crisp dryness where before
all was humid and wet. The mosquitoes that fed at my ankles and wrists
have long since deserted. All I need is the rifle dry and perched ready
near the fire. The smell is rife now, the smell of the canvas bundle,
and I place it far up on a rocky outcrop, well in view but with the
rifle pointed toward it, and it doesn’t bother me. Next to the bundle I
place berries in a smear of the honey I kept in the satchel and slowly,
quietly I grease and clean the weapon. At last in the gloom I can make
out the plump, white chest of a wood pigeon, feeding on the berries. A
single crack of the rifle and I have him in hand ready for the plucking.

This will keep my mind busy. For in the darkness the same sense of
panic, the chilling fear and awareness of dawn’s fanfare. The blackness
and the darkest of thoughts and her young laughter as she gushes
forward, soft kisses, warm skin. I rise quickly toward the canvas bundle
and I will not linger now. Within moments all is packed and shouldered,
the meat wrapped in muslin and stowed away in amongst the deerskin, fur
inwards, along with my rifle, and I pick my way upwards.

I have lost count of days. Steeper the incline with an escarpment of
rock. No longer wet underfoot but solid and frozen with drifts of soft,
white flakes up in the birch. I wait for it to settle against my face
but it never comes, sun and wind claim it before it ever alights. I
sense a glare now, behind the trees, above where snow begins. I skirt
this line for hours looking for some low point but none will show
itself. The sun has crowned, high above coaxing a fool’s crossing.
Talking to myself; reasoning, arguing, furious. Bickering. By afternoon
nothing has presented itself and despite the smirking sun I must wait
for another day. Another night as miserable as any beast, chipping flint
and teasing the wispy smoke of soft against hard wood into flame.
Another night chewing scraps of stringy meat, hunched low in the fern
with Margaret’s blanket about my shoulders.
Guarding the canvas.

I make the crossing now. Into glaring snow, angling, zigzagging. I did
not find any decent saddle but I resolved to climb to the ridgeline to
see what can be seen. The falls are heavy going, slow, my boots are
heavy and the ridgeline deceptive but curiosity burns like a warm flame.
Just as I think I have reached it, another angle, a further ridge, not
so vertical and higher in the softness. I no longer talk loudly to
myself but merely mumble about what Toss counselled. Bickering with the
old goat about when to turn back. Yes the sun is fiercer now as if to
goad on my bad judgement. The leather straps are biting deeper into the
bone of my shoulders and I contemplate leaving the rifle behind to save
the weight – but no, don’t be a fool, we must continue…

At last I have mounted the ridge. Lo and behold such a magnificent view
and far away the light grey of the forest’s edge, running away to a
glimpse of a valley. Nothing will stop me now. Nothing. My bundle frozen
solid and it is impossible to separate canvas, blanket or anything else
if I do need to spend the night up here. It will not be comfortable on
the lower escarpment for there is no wood, but my feet will be out of
the icy sludge. My hands will thaw and I will feast on the last scraps
of meat and berries for this will be the most difficult night.

I have woken again and it is too early but I will push off. I managed to
doze, it was not quite sleep, cold against the rock until voices and
eyes began to swirl about the edge of my sanity. I need to make it
further down into the valley, to wait for the sun’s arc and then to
sleep.

Back into the bush now. Like an old friend for in here I can survive and
it will not be agony. High in the beech forest canopy I spy two green
parrots chattering, talking of us. Waiting till they can get at any
shiny thing on my back. Back into the mud and the hard slog and the
welcoming crunch of dead leaves underfoot. Safe again, under the trees.
I must stop talking to you, I am sorry my dear.

“Keep back you little demons! Away!”

When I stop tonight I will be ready for them. My rifle will be loaded
and cleaned, propped within the fork of a broken sapling. The fire is
blazing and there are long boughs of wood, not cut, just edged to the
flames and ready to be dragged in as they burn away. My darling I will
never forget. The bundle is stowed and I am ready to sleep like never
before.

Tears.

“I got you little devil! Who is king now?”

They call him king you see.

I knew before my eyes were open that it was that pair and that they
would be perched on top. Now their beaks down, now eyes up and wary. I
knew not to move, not to commit till that last moment when I was
accustomed to the soft, breaking light. Breathe, relax. Pecking away
insistently at the straps securing the canvas. I knew that the gun was
primed and I needed only to tighten the middle section of my finger
about the trigger. I got the male fair in the chest and it was sweet
revenge.

No sign of his mate now.

Walking downwards coming down into a great valley of green. I can make
out in the distance the gentle patchwork of green and brown and it is
toward this high country pasture that I move with great speed. Great,
wide meadows of salvation and settlement. Fence lines and stone walls. I
no longer feel tiny blisters, the bite of leather on my shoulders. I
will find a fence line and follow it down towards a track, any track and
that will lead me to a settlement.

On the wide trail now I dab my eyes as an old man makes his way toward
me. A pig hunter, bearded in a battered, felt hat, his forehead shining
brown and furrowed like the coarse trunk of a tree. With few words and a
tight wad of tobacco he shared with me, I am on my way down the bullock
track that he indicated. Onward through the mud with not a soul to see.
Gingerly now as here is the settlement I wanted. Near the entrance a
tiny, white church with cottage close-hauled.

I wish to avoid any contact but the Vicar. Smoke billows from the
chimney of the cottage, a woman’s lightly scuffed steps to the wooden
door that I have knocked on.  Grey eyes squinting, slightly shocked
beneath a bonnet and pink cheeks from the heat of the stove. A small
pause as she takes it all, and her nose draws back with the stench.
“May I help you sir?” A Dorset accent and she is wiping her hands over
her apron. The smell of baking within makes me ache with hunger.
“Is the Vicar about if you please?”

She glances up towards the settlement.

“Do you wish me to fetch him? Can I tell what it’s about?” Her clear
eyes querying, a little aghast at the rifle on my back and the dirt
smeared on my face.
I’d be obliged if you would send him to the church so that we can
discuss matters…”

“Don’t you wish to wait inside?” she calls but I have quickly moved
away.

“No Madam, by the graveyard if you will – tell him it’s urgent if you
will…”

And now a flicker of understanding. These moments by the edge of the
graveyard with the sun on both of us and the memories of our last days
together. Talking softly, touching. I see a quiet corner of the yard
with tiny gravestones and crosses. I see him make his way up the path
now, memories have all flooded back. Dear, I must end this talking with
you now.

“Where are you from my son?” he asks, puffed from the walk.

“Jackson’s Bay, six days’ journey over the ranges Father.”

His arms bracing my shoulders. He draws in a slow breath.

“Your child?” he asks softly.

I cannot meet his eyes and the sun warms my face.

“She was six years old Father. Taken by a fever. We simply want a
Christian burial.”

 

Glyn Matthews

Earth Abides

When my turn comes

take me to the West, to “The Knoll”,

Barclodiad y Gawres,

where we used to stroll

around the stones

fashioned by ancients

and burnished by time,

embraced by the tumbling waves

of a Celtic sea,

sliding silver into a sunlit bay,

chided by gulls, rising on updrafts,

white flecks

against a scudding sky.

 

For now….

 

Summer tourists

blunder across the mound,

taking selfies against the light,

squinting and listening to the sound

of thunder from the rocks below.

Afraid to fall, they lean

into the white-lipped wind,

hair whipped across

half-baked, grinning faces,

rigor-mortis faked

and pixelated,

then transported in an instant

to fair-weather friends.

 

Meanwhile.…

 

With Neolithic grace,

I’ll nurse my bones and slow my pace,

feeling with blind eyes for ley-lines

that once played across the face

of this prehistoric land,

tracing ghosts

that stride between the stones,

waiting for silence

beneath the tumbling sky

and the yearning of the gulls,

soaring high

above lonely promenades

and abandoned summer homes….

 

After all….Earth abides.

 

Onela Meerwald

A World Without Sri Lanka,

What do you think?

It ain’t so great like the rest,

That’s what you will think,

 

Let me tell you a secret.

About my people’s pride,

I know it’s unexpected,

Next time do be polite.

 

On top of Rock Sigiriya roars our song,

Polished stone floors shines as light,

Beautiful poems written in the stones ,

Proving that I was right.

 

My friend, why don’t you see,

The beauty that I see,

But please don’t be angry with me,

When I say Ceylon is the best country.

 

There is so many places to travel,

Like Gal viharaya, sigiriya and many more,

The gems are in  plenty,

With places to go,

 

Beauty sores around my country,

Under mountains and waterfalls,

Our humbleness and hospitality,

Makes one feel a lion in all.

 

So many Lakes made by Kings,

So many temples and statues have I ever seen,

Still more to visit still more to travel,

One life isn’t enough to succeed,

 

Temples made by Kings,

Churches made by Portuguese,

Kovils made by tamils,

and so much to visit still.

 

So this is why I think my country is great,

With the lions roar, And the wonderful place,

Which you all should visit,

Before  never too late.

 

Matheus Nakaonga

A world without plants

Can you ever imagine

a world without Oxygen?

Is it really going to be a place; or perhaps a grave?

Without medicine these days; are we going to be brave?

 

Listen: plants are so vital

for our growth and survival.

For we breathe in their air.

And with us they share

Good Medicinal Care

Plus the cotton that we wear.

And because plants are fair:

we eat the fruits that they bear.

 

And what do you use for decoration

at your party or commemoration?

Is it not plants’ children: the flowers?

Then leave the plants to paint the world

with their decorative colours.

 

Respect the plants.

They are our best friends.

 

Vocabulary

brave – strong in terms of immunity

vital – important

Medicinal Care – having to do with medicine production

Cotton – clothing from cotton, which we wear

bear – produce

commemoration – an event aimed to remember something or someone, officially

decorative – made to attract

 

 

Eithne Cullen

Visiting the Komodo dragon

Our purpose today is to see the Komodo dragon

so, ladies and gentlemen, listen a moment

leave the non stop buffet, leave your drinks,

lay down the deck quoits and game of cards

to hear about this excursion and what

it holds in store for you. It’s not the last

but may be soon, they’re going fast –

don’t put off this trip today as you may

never see one again, even if you pass this way.

The largest living lizard on the earth,

weighs in at fourteen stone, that’s big!

You’ll be astonished by its nine foot length.

Komodo dragon, you’ll have heard of it,

now you can see it for yourselves, waiting

on Komodo Island for your viewing delight.

We’ll take you on a boat to the shore

then you can start your walk, in unspoiled

nature with a local and an English speaking

guide (surcharge for other languages).

You’ll see buffalo and deer as well,

cockatoos and other birds and pigs.

The walk’s two hours, no Zimmer frames allowed.

The price includes your entry fees and guide

and in the national park, free for you

a bottle of Evian , no camera fees to pay

so you can click away . And when we pass

your guide will say: “There it is!” and step

aside for you to see, to snap, to gaze.

Then, we’ll turn back to the ship

passing souvenir stalls set up along the way –

top up on local crafts, ices, Coca Cola

and Komodo dragon t-shirts, key rings, pens.

Then, back to the ship for canapés and cabaret;

and when people ask  you what you did today

you can tell them you saw, not the last

but almost the last Komodo dragon on the planet

and it made your day.

 

Zoe Wilcken

When the walls disappeared, we were in the kitchen making tea.

We were watching the kettle in the corner of the room when it stopped being a corner altogether. And instead of the place where two walls meet, it became the place through which we could see Mary from next door, standing up from the toilet in a hurry, pulling up her trousers and looking about with a strange expression on her face. Wondering if it was a dream, we thought. And then we looked around, and there was Mr Das, on the other side of us, wearing jeans and no shirt. And Rosie, still in bed, head poking out over the duvet. Her face was so red we could see it glowing from the kitchen, a whole house away.

 

The first few days after the walls disappeared we were quiet. We spoke in almost-whispers, so as not to be heard. And we held towels around each other when we needed to get changed, and hid under blankets when we didn’t want to be seen. Which was often, in the first few days.

We glanced over at our neighbours, every now and then, after the walls had gone. Just to check that they were still there, or sometimes to see what they were doing. But mostly they were just doing Normal Things, like eating a bowl of cereal, or reading a book, or leaving for work.

 

And so it wasn’t long, only a few weeks, before we stopped paying attention to them. Most of the time, anyway. Sometimes we couldn’t help ourselves. Like when Rosie proposed to Mr Das. We all watched that. And then we pretended not to know when Rosie came round to tell us the next day. Just like we pretended not to hear them arguing over where they should live. Louder and louder, across the table and then all through the house, until Rosie hissed at him and pointed at us with her eyes. After that, they whisper-argued, like snakes.

But the next time they fought, I think they forgot about the walls, and we tasted every word. It didn’t matter by then, though. Everyone had done it at least once. So we just blocked our ears and turned the TV up, and tried not to listen.

 

It was around that time, after the walls had gone, that people started taking baths again. And we stopped bothering with the towel when we were getting dressed. I think we all just stopped caring. That invisible string that used to yank on the backs of our heads and tell us that Something was happening seemed to have gone. It wasn’t that it had snapped, or faded away. I think we just gradually realised that it had never really been there, to begin with.

 

And when the walls disappeared, the creatures came in. They made little homes inside ours, all the mice and the crickets, and the spiders and the birds. There were screams, at first, every now and then. And you’d know someone had found a beetle in their sock, or that a family of rats had made a home beneath their bed. It was like that for a while. And then one day I think we must have forgotten that we were ever afraid of them, each of us, one by one. Or maybe we just realised we didn’t actually mind sharing, not so much as we had supposed.

Anyway, there the creatures were, when the walls were gone. And there the screams weren’t, after a while.

 

Then there was the night that was worse than the screams. A sort of choking, gasping, broken noise that came from across the way. Like something was clutching at air, scraping at the sides of it, just barely holding on. And so we looked. And there was old Mr Grey, in his house, on his own. And there was his back, heaving with sobs. And there were his lungs, clawing for air, and his hands trying to hide it.

 

We looked at each other, all of us, across the street, and for a moment none of us moved. And then Mrs Peabody, the lady with the cats, got up from her chair that had been rocking her to sleep. And she shuffled across the way, slowly, quietly, and she sat down next to him for a bit. Just sat there and didn’t say a word.

A long time passed and nothing happened at all. And we watched. And then Mr Grey’s throat stopped constricting, just a little. Just enough for him to whisper quietly to her, something that might have been,

“Sorry”.

And then he whimpered, and his back shook silently, and she pulled him to her and she held him.

The next day, long after the walls had gone, Mr Grey baked rhubarb pies. We smelt them gently browning, and watched them, one by one, come piping hot from the oven. And then he beckoned us, and over we all went.

We ate the pies together, with little bowls and spoons, and vanilla ice cream on top, and greedy mouths that couldn’t wait for it to melt.

 

We stayed there into the night, playing games and eating food, and spilling out the edges of old Mr Grey’s house because there weren’t any walls to stop us. The next week we did it again, and the week after that. The pie-smell, and the house and the games and the night.

 

After the walls disappeared, Mary’s piano sailed through the street, loud and clear. And we danced, every now and then, as her nimble fingers crafted the air into feeling. It was almost like we had no choice, once the walls had gone. She was our piper and we were her children. And we were happy.

 

When the walls disappeared, we almost forgot that they had ever been there at all.

And then one day the walls came back, and it was sort of strange.

I wished they’d go away again.

 

Mrs Jane Scripps

A world without

We dare not even breathe…

Lions from the ‘Masuma’ pride were sighted less than a km away that morning but our efforts to track them this evening proved fruitless.

As my husband and I lay completely rigid under canvas in the dark of the Zimbabwean night, three male lion’s roars reverberated around the campsite. They sounded frighteningly close, in front and to the side of our tent.

Each time one of them roared I tried to establish if they were mobile and when we didn’t hear anything for a few minutes, my tense body started to relax…until the next roar when my body would freeze again! After several choruses of powerful roars, it became apparent they were stationary in camp!

Mothering instinct on high alert, grasping my husband’s hand, I prayed our teenage son would be ok in his tent a stone’s throw from ours. Sharing the tent with our good friend, a very experienced African guide of many years, our son is well trained on how to behave in the bush having encountered his first African safari when he was five years old and many since, but I was still mega anxious.

The three lion’s resounding roars echoed around the camp every fifteen or twenty minutes, sometimes individually, sometimes simultaneously. Each had a formidable rendition.

Lying motionless, whizzing around my head were images of people’s experiences of encountering lions in camp … The pair of male lions fighting over their kill beside a guide’s tent all night, bashing against the sides and then finally settling down there for the day. The guide and his wife having to be rescued by a colleague in a vehicle luring the lions away by lassoing the remains of the kill. And our friend who, asleep on a sofa felt the breath of a lion a whisker’s width away.

I had often wondered if I would panic should this type of incident occur, would I scream, would I run? After travelling in Africa ourselves for over twenty years, we had been given safety briefings by very experienced guides on numerous occasions and had walked and canoed countless times, so I knew the drill, stay calm, motionless and quiet!

Just as silence ensued, we heard what sounded like footsteps on our groundsheet outside the tent. There was a crisp crunching sound as if a foot was being placed, then another one and another one. I clung so tight to my husband’s hand, I thought I was going to crush his bones.

The three males roared from their same positions again, so I imagined this must be a lioness or inquisitive cub creeping around our tent. Exactly how many of the pride were surrounding camp?  Was this to be the end for us, at what point should I decide that maintaining silence may not have the desired outcome?

Then all went quiet for a few minutes, so perhaps they had moved on, but no, the crunching recommenced at the zipped entrance to our tent and continued intermittently several times.

My heart was pounding so hard, I feared it may be detected by the lions!

Roaring continuing for over three hours, desperate for the bathroom all this time, I was mightily relieved to hear the clinking of pots and pans at the campfire behind our tent.  Finally, it was dawn and we had made it through the night!

Having been signalled the all clear by our guide, at the camp fire over a mug of coffee, my son marvelled at our harrowing night, he, having heard the roaring lions once had then turned over and gone back to sleep as did our friend!

Our camp guide, suggested we track the lions. My intrepid husband, son and friend were very enthusiastic but I, the one who usually absolutely jumped at the opportunity of the adventure and thrill of tracking was more than a little apprehensive.

Hastily finishing our coffee after filling our bottles with water, the guide armed, we commenced the tracking on foot about thirty metres from the front of our tent. With the spore still fresh, the lions may not be far!

My heart started pounding again, as we weaved our way through the bush, the tracks often dividing up and re-joining, we could detect several different lion tracks, some male, female and sub adults.

As the tracks led us to very thick bush, to my relief, our guide called a halt to the tracking as it was unsafe for us to continue.

Over breakfast we made a plan to walk to see some ancient engravings then have a siesta before taking an afternoon drive to try to locate the lions.

We didn’t find any fresh lion spore and had no visuals.

Relaxing by the campfire at dusk with an iced gin and tonic, we were suddenly startled by shouting, scurrying and dust flying at the back of the kitchen tent… one of the staff had just exited the shower and came face to face with a huge hungry lioness!

Our game drive vehicle was hastily driven straight to us at the camp fire, to enable a safe board to view the lions and follow them on their hunt.

To our amazement, in the dappled torchlight through the thick mopani vegetation we detected five lionesses and eight sub adults. On a mission, they trotted through the vegetation, dodging the tangled bushes, finally disappearing into the dark of night.

The camp staff revealed that along with the lionesses and sub adults, the  huge three males had quietly slept in the thicket behind camp all day!

I tracked prints at the end of our tent, made in the middle of the night, to a small mouse hidden in our rucksack!

A thrilling adventure and surreal experience which I will treasure forever.

A world without these magnificent creatures would be devastating for the whole ecosystem and communities in which they live, the economy and the people who just love the thrill of encountering them…

 

Melissa Rajalingam

A moment in childhood

I remember walks in the woods with my mother,

I remember the warmth of her hand as she gently guided me across the path.

The crisp smell of autumn filled the air,

Glittering silver droplets trickled down the leaves like crying crystals.

The ocean of colour decorating the floor,

Mum’s laugh as I drop pinecones, trying to collect more than I can carry.

I loved running in my welly boots,

Dancing with the leaves as they fell from the sky.

 

Gopal Meena

A WORLD WITHOUT DREAMS   

Are you only one who is getting hurt every second by the peoples around, even the animals are in same situation as you are but they never complain, even don’t show their grief, they don’t have feeling of anger, harm, negativity or being judging others they just have unity and happiness with them which is more expensive then anything else. you are more better even best then you thing of, don’t let yourself hurt by other words. You are pretty, good enough than the people who are pointing you. Nobody is perfect and don’t let anybody to turn you as they wish to as its your life do what you really want to do, don’t let anybody interfere in your life, let it be like as you wish. you  are just like a bird which is in search of dreams which is completed in your eyes but accomplish in reality. Don’t see heights, dangers ,things and persons to be a stone in your way. Just close  your eyes and say it to yourself that nobody can stop you and come between you and your dreams as they don’t have right to. let open your wing and just fly away……..

 

Smita Pathak

Theme: -A World Without . . . .–Poem            Date: -16th May 2021

Greatest Masterpiece

The Chitter chatter rivers flow, meandering through the woods.

With scattered trees on left and right,

Giving oxygen, shelter and food.

Sunset, sunrise are visions of delight,

Which spell the beauty of nature.

Birds soaring high and diving low,

Flaunting their stride and stature.

The animals also give a show,

Of poise, speed and gallant.

The snow capped mountains display charisma

Which entices the inner soul’s mansion.

Waterfalls are like flowing hair

That makes your heart beat faster.

Awe struck you are to see these fascinations

The greatest painting ever.

I wish I could seize these marvels

And store with me forever.

Cause all these sights are special and rare,

Created by Almighty Savior.

God has modeled a beautiful world

Filled with various kinds of talent.

Let’s travel far, wide and explore,

This magnificent marvel is like heaven.

Accompanying these masterpieces are human made wonders

Which give us various reasons to go closer and under.

Amusement parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Cafes and hotels,

Skiing clubs, Water sports, Scuba diving and Mountaineering treks.

All these give us a chance to build an everlasting relationship,

That will stay in our memories as admirable trips.

I cannot imagine a world without all these visions.

Let’s hold on to them before they reach extinction.

We humans should thus not disturb,

This ecological balance,

Because a world without their existence,

Will wipe us off this planet . . . .

——————————————————————-

Kokila Kishor

We humans have been getting greedier as time goes by. I am sure that even when it comes to the point cutting the last tree or killing the last animal, we will not hesitate. We only thing about the concrete jungles multiplying every moment around us. We don’t think about the situation where we will be left with the buildings and our precious possessions but not with some fresh air to breathe. The flora and fauna on the earth play a tremendous role in keeping everything in balance and in fact keeping us alive. When we cut the last tree, or poison the last river we will understand that we were just a pawn as in a game of chess, rather  than protecting our mother earth we have done a big deal in making her bleed and as for this we will suffer .Even a small child has the knowledge to know that plants are needed for survival ,but is wildlife that important?. Every animal on earth is important to keep the food chain in balance, vulture is one of the most important. Its not a new information that we get meat, milk, eggs, cheese and a wide variety  of things from animals. Now lets imagine a world without wildlife. There will be food shortages like milk and butter the daily used things will be no more. As in short ways, life will not be possible. Even though we know the importance of wildlife or how much it needs our help, we cannot be much of a help until or unless we become responsible or when we feel that its our duty or we will have to face the hard way. A world without wildlife is never possible but a world without humans is. So think it that way. Its really we who need the earth, it is not compulsory that the earth needs us. So start doing your part and always spread awarness.

 

Wathleine Aladin

A world without fireflies

A little flash here, a little flash there

Fireflies ignite the dark air

Children’s little stars

Collected in clear jars

Pleasing our sight

They beautify the night

Nature’s beautiful prize

That comes in all size

A world without fireflies

Is a world that’s paralyze

Little stars that twinkle at night

Displaying its glamorous light

A small insect that is bioluminescent

Very nice and innocent

Firefly comes like a little spy

Roaming gracefully under the sky

A world without firefly

A world we should say goodbye

Fireflies are harmless

It’s the beauty of darkness

A beautiful luminous insect

It’s species we need to protect

The family of Lampyridae

That illuminates everyday

Beautifully glowing creature

Displaying the talent of nature

Cute little beetle

That marvels all people

Firefly, firefly

Fly, fly up high

We say no to the extinction

Of fireflies of all distinction

SIDHARTH SHARMA

 FLASHBACK: A WORLD WITHOUT COVID

I looked up from my window seat 6F with strings of inner joy and excitement to the announcement by an airhostess clad in a yellow colour peach shade saree to the safety demonstration as the Airbus A320 rolled into the main runway 27R for takeoff from Kolkata International airport. As an avid traveler and a freelancer, I had booked my destination to Dimapur in the pristine northeastern state of Nagaland known for its abundance in flora and fauna. Apart from rich biodiversity enveloping the beautiful Nagaland, the northeastern state of India also boasts of historical significance pertaining to WW2. On the final approach to Dimapur the Airbus A320 flew over the numerous folds of mountains covered with thick canopy of green vegetation, foliage and dense jungle which seemed impenetrable from the altitude of 10000 ft. Occasionally the reflection from hut shaped tin rooftops in the middle of nowhere caused mild distraction to the rolling film before my eyes. Just then the sound of “Ping “resonated inside the cabin followed by a sharp announcement by Capt Kunal “cabin crew prepare for landing “. The arrival at Dimapur airport terminal was somber as compared to the vibrant bustling departure terminal at Kolkata airport. To my amusement on arrival, I found one and only conveyor belt for luggage dissemination for the waiting passengers. Maybe rightly so because the departure and arrival ex DMU is only a couple of domestic flights connecting to the rest of India. I waited for nearly thirty-five minutes before the solitary conveyor belt came to life with a rumbling sound and started rotating and I along with co-passengers looked with anxiety over each other’s shoulders for the rightful luggage. No sooner had I walked past the exit gate I noticed my name on a cardboard based placard held by a middle-aged man with sharp oriental features looking inquisitively towards exiting passengers. As I walked towards him I saw him sprung into action and raised his right hand to acknowledge the acquaintances.  I boarded my pre booked cab for my final destination to Kohima, the capital of Nagaland. As I commenced my road trip to Kohima the cab driver introduced himself as Patton from Wokha district of Nagaland. My cab had now crossed the 7 mile and was racing towards the plateau of Chumukedima, a small hamlet at an elevation of 500 ft. I noticed that as my cab was nearing Patkai village, the river Dhansiri flowing downhill was almost parallel to the NH-29. No sooner had I reached Y junction to Patkai Christian college, there was a prominent signage from Border Roads warning “Hill road starts”. The landscape changed from paddy fields to shrubs bushes and graduated to a dense canopy of tropical jungle. Even the fair-weather road now became narrower with frequented sharp U turns uphill through forested terrain. The journey was made musical by the constant whistling sounds of insects and wildlife all along the highway. As I crossed Medziphema town I could see the difference in weather and terrain. As  we sped past kiosks of pineapples along NH-29, Patton, my cab driver suggested that I have a go at one of them. So we stopped at one of the ram shackled kiosks and both of us enjoyed the pineapple as well as the gentle cool breeze skirting our face. I gave a parting smile to the old Nagamese women selling pineapples, who faintly waved with a generous smile back to us. The 80 km road trip took nearly 4 hours for us to reach Kohima. The fair weather road turned midway into a potholed kutcha dirt track. Leaving aside the traffic jams, the bustling town of Kohima seemed from another world. The town had a canopy of grey colour clouds over the horizon akin to English weather. Men and women were  wearing cots wool woolens and largely blue coloured jeans were busy walking and going on with their lives. My journey by air and road finally culminated at Hotel Vivor located on NH-61. After exchanging pleasantries at the hotel reception and checking in , I was delighted to enter my room no 103 on the first floor. The hot water shower made me cozy and I slipped under my warm quilt. I ordered a hot Cappuccino from the room service desk to unwind myself. Next morning my room was lit by bright sunshine. After my complimentary breakfast I headed for Commonwealth War Graves memorial. The cemetery also referred to here as Kohima War Cemetery lies on the Garrison hill, the place of fierce battle between the invading Japanese and allied forces. The visit to the cemetery was a tribute to the unknown soldiers from Commonwealth nations and a poignant reminder that thousands perished for our freedom in one of the fiercest hand to hand combat in 1944. The visit to the cemetery left me overwhelmed and I was filled with emotions of sadness. With a somber mood I walked back to my cab. On reaching back at my hotel Vivor I made notes of my visit to Kohima and downloaded the pictures on my laptop. Next morning, I checked out and took the cab with Patton as my travel mate to Dimapur airport for an onward journey to Delhi via Kolkata.

It was 0500 am and I was awakened by the alarm bell “Good morning Delhi”. I woke from my slumber and saw the timepiece, the date was 05 May 2021 and we were in the middle of a pandemic. I had a FLASHBACK. I prayed with my folded hands silently “A WORLD WITHOUT COVID “.

 

Denis James

A World without…

  Making Ends.

Sadie has travelled and has now arrived into a friendly staffed, airy reception area, having entered her name into the visitor’s book. Then she spends a few moments, admiring filled vases of freshly cut scented flowers. Aromas of life and colour adorn the varying surfaces and as though a professional, conciliatory arranger has played such a significant and ceremonious role She’s now waiting to be escorted to the impatient unit within the London St Brelades Hospice. It’s a 27 bedded unit.

 

After receiving a three page, neatly constructed letter from Yvonne. Sadie decided to phone and request a personal visit.

 

When she walks into the space, Sadie notices immediately, how radiantly spacious and far nicer than many hotel rooms this one feels. With a large panoramic, clear patio-style window looking out into an almost meadow-like flower garden. The serene pastel mix includes exquisite poppies, amongst the pallet of soothing and appropriate luring’s. Sadie for a brief moment could even imagine a cow wandering past and an artist poised in front of an easel. The June sunshine offers an azure, clear and cloudless sky.

 

Yvonne attempts to be welcoming, but it’s a revealing strain to wield herself upright. Sadie quickly responds by saying, ‘please, not on my account, stay comfortable please….especially as you have all that wiring and gadgetry around you.

 

The patio door is open about six inches and there’s a quiet fan over in the far corner which is effective and creates sentience. Sadie can see that Yvonne has a lot of hair above her sunken narrow face. Her hair is long, high on top and quite curly. Yvonne says, ‘sorry about my scruffy King Charles hair, it just keeps growing. It’s actually a wig but, her hair was not dissimilar until it disappeared. The staff added the wig at her request before Sadie arrived. They both smile and contain any unrestrained laughter. Yvonne though, senses an ice breaker as Sadie takes the comfy chair.

 

Yvonne announces gently, ‘thanks for coming it means a lot. It’s in my bones and all over. It spread so quickly. And I am hoping to leave tomorrow to die at my parents’ home in East Sussex. Robert wants all the family together. My parents are preparing and have a few spare rooms for people. They can accommodate nursing staff too. It’s also for my little girls. They are so young. I have organised as best I can. It’s all for them really. I just want things in place.

 

Sadie is listening with discern, she would like to weep. But she can’t somehow. A life unrelated to anything she knew or at present scarcely understands. A scene of a liminal Mother, a dying fallible wife The contrite worlds some of us live or somehow unbeknown create. The doleful atonement and so often immersed in a situation surrounding the inequity of others.

 

Yvonne goes on disquietly to say, ‘isn’t easy being married you know to bisexual men. So do be careful. At least if you know what you are exactly, you can pin it down and get on with it. And yet, here in 2019 and men are still lying about their preferred gender. I didn’t want a complex being. I avoided men that drank too much, took drugs or had other addictions. Mainly because I had known people in our surroundings. Family members too, that spent their whole lives living in a clandestine hinterland. Much remained unsaid, concealed of shameful partners with vices. I never had a clue this situation of mine was ever going to be one of them. Robert had everything on paper. I thought that he would be resourceful and caring. A safe father and a husband. Now I worry for the future of my beautiful girls. Of course he is not going to tell me the real truths, especially now that I’m dying. I have some redress, only in the fact he wants to protect me. But I am angry. I mean did he cause my bloody cancer? His father was a gorgeous and kind man. And so I thought I was sort of marrying a piece of him. That’s the flaming problem with well-educated Etonian men. They are implicitly informed and entrenched with being special and the world is theirs. So they exploit their sacrosanct privilege.

 

Sadie’s eyes widen and her emotion surfaces. This mordant thought of cervical cancer hadn’t crossed her mind.

 

Sadie’s mind spools. Holding rein for a couple more minutes. Then says securely, ‘I did try and drop those charges you know. I did go to the Police to beg them not to press ahead. But they refused. And it was the CPS made the final decision because of the cyclist and the danger to other road users. I am sorry, I did try honestly. And I did wish to travel here today after reading your pleas.

 

Yvonne begins to weep gently. Then pauses after a couple of minutes and she tearfully answers with delicacy. ‘No, I deserve the charge. I behaved irresponsibly and I pushed you in front of the bike into that road. I was angry and besieged with such painful emotions. But I should not be excused. I harmed you and endangered others. I am as I wrote in my letter deeply sorry. Please believe me, I am very upset for the mess and hurt I caused you. I just assumed it was you having the affair with Robert and it turns out to be your 24 year old son…..what a journey and what an ending.

 

September 25th 2020. Instagram to Sadie reads: Mum, Robert and I are just married here in Vegas with love Jethro xx ………Segway?

There’s a photo attached with Robert’s two young daughters, standing in the front of them wearing matching, pretty floral dresses and holding small bouquets. The girls aged 9 & 10.

 

Yassin Abdallah Senge

CIVIL ENGINEERING WAR

Suffocating in the smoke of weed

Piped from the wild bush fire

Set by the gorilla war

Yet they blow the brains off.

 

Being chocked by the dusty cloud

Blown by the gold-ground mine blower

From the civil engineering war

Yet they let it go off.

 

Freezing in the cold wind

Breezing at zero degree fever

Pressurized from the cold war

Yet they take the drones off.

 

Lokeshwari Muthukumar

   “A World Without…”  

A world without Machines
is a way to nature

A world without War
is a way to peace

A world without  Failures
will not see big leaders.

A world without Mistakes
will never learn lessons

A world without Innovations
cannot see creations

Finally,

A World without HUMANITY
cannot win DISASTER!!!!!

 

Anapurani Ganesan

A  World  Without …..

0ur planetoid now faces a all-comprehending dematerialization imperativeness nevermore witnessed by humankind.0ur anticipation of extinction is not something we plan for, but it’s already been a topic on our minds.Add to that, researchers foresee that more than 1 million species are on target for annihilation in the coming many years.The loss of a species unfolds the world around us a little bit. Not just for the places and the species affected, but for everyone. This includes tangible losses like crop pollination and water purification, but also spiritual and ecological losses.

 

Although diluted by the noise and rush of contemporary life, people retain deep emotional connections to the natural world. Wildlife and plants have influenced our history, myths, languages, and the way we view the world. The presence of wildlife enriches us all. Extinction has been entirely manmade. For over 100 years destroying habitats, polluting, spreading invasive species, over-harvesting from the wild, climate change, population growth, and other human activities have driven the natural world to the brink.The loss of biodiversity is most noticeable when it comes to plants, as many of the medications we take are made from or with plant extracts; fabrics for clothing and much of our food all come from plant species.Animals and insects in plant environments provide pollination and propagation for plants. In return, those animals and insects depend on crops for nutrition and housing, just as we do. When pollinator species go extinct, plants — and the species that depend on them — also disappear.

 

As of the current year the IUCN Red List has 41,415 species, with 16,306 of them being endangered or threatened with extinction, a rise from 16,118 a year earlier. This includes both endangered animals and plants.

 

Among developing nations, Indonesia has more endangered mammal species than any other country, a World Bank study finds .It’s disappointing that even though many countries have endangered species, the whole world must work towards fighting the cons together.

 

Exceptional processes, such as migration, do not have a chance to be reversed, but  we can certainly find ways to prevent them,To safeguard endangered species, we must first educate ourselves about how fascinating and valuable they are. By reducing the amount of water used in our homes and gardens, we can give animals that live near or in water a better chance at survival.

 

Referring to that we also should never dump chemicals, such as paint, oil, antifreeze or anything similar into the water because they can harm you and wildlife. Never buy products that contain endangered species, like ivory, coral, or tortoiseshell. Buy exotic plants and animals exclusively from reputable retailers.We can learn what happens to the world’s ecosystems on the back of previous extinctions. The woolly mammoth, for example, fertilized grasslands in Siberia, which became icy and barren after it went extinct.These actions should be taken by all of us with all responsibility to save this precious world. That’s my belief.

Kramat Mughal

 Today is Sunday so I am still lying on my bed. On Saturdays I sleep in

drawing room so that I could deep late on Sunday without letting anyone disturb

  1. Have to compensate for sleep of six days. I don’t feel like getting up untill my

body aches, my eyes swell and sunshine reach in my room everywhere.

Sometime I wish that everyday would be sunday and I could sleep for late. No

one would ask me to wake up.

“Look the day has arrived, are not you going to work.” But who agrees to

one’s will. there people are not living according to their will, they are just

breathing. Breathing, perhaps is a compulsion. Sometimes humans don’t want to

breath but they have to, what can they do to avoid breathing? A holiday stays

only to the period as I control my breath according to my will.

Tonight something weird happened. Not weird for me but it will be weird

for people. I had a dream at night. I had that dream after many years so it was a

weird thing for me. After having that dream when I woke up, I picked my diary

which was besides my pillow and wrote my dream in this way.

“Sun was not yet arouse, Moon was not that shiny now. so there was

mighter light nor dark in my room. I heard a knock on my door. I wished to beat

the one knocking on the door with brick. They don’t let me rest even on a

holiday.The door was again knocked. Unwillingly, I got up and opened the door.

There was no one there. There was wind outside and one of its wave touched

my body and entered in the room from the cracks of the door. While rubbing my

eyes when I went to bed after locking the door, I found like someone sprayed

perfume in the room. A pleasant smell was coming. A fragrance of flowers which

cannot even be named. A sweet pleasant smell. to get rid of the confusion. I took

a deep breath and that aroma entered into my whole body. I felt that I became a

part of that aroma. Now that aroma was coming from me, and.

“Divide everything, divide everthing.” The voice outside broke my dream.

After getting up I smelled myself and the aroma was not more. Then I thought

dreams come true but I could not even see a complete dream. If it comes true

then will it matter as it was an imcomplete dream.

After that I could not sleep. I checked my room thoroughly as I was

searching for the source of that aroma unintentionally The door was still locked

as before. I looked onto my palm conciously as I were going to read all lines.

Then I don’t know what came into mind that I took my hand to my nose and was

amazed to have that aroma still in my hands for long time as if I wanted to

absorb that smell in me.

Divide, divide everything. I heard that voice again. That voice was coming

from street. On the other side of drawing room, there was a busy street. Whether

It is fine in morning or one in night you find people, women there. Drawing room

has one enterance in that street. Besides that enterance there is a window on

right side which I shut before sleep so that no one could sit in early morning

there.

The Dream breaker….. I don’t know what I muttered and saw outside. A

teenager having untidy hair, drooling, wearing dirty clothes, having no shoes,

was sitting on the gutter in left side and was saying loudly:

“Divide, divide everything.”

I thought he was not in his senses.

“Get lost, what noise are you making. I shouted in anger.

“Divide everything. he said to me in an angrier tone.

“What….. I was about to say something else when the shopkeeper of the

dairy shop infront of my home, said in loud tune.

“Buddy, he is mad, leave him.” This statement was accompanied with he

moving his finger in circle motion on his temple indicating that he was not in his

senses.

“Divide brain, divide everything “,He was saying after getting what I said.

I cursed him and came back. It was like I was having a fire burning inside.

I got one day to sleep after six days and this damned man ruined it. I laid on the

bed again after muttering many things.

“Divide, divide everything.” I was hearing that voice after small pauses but

it was not making me angry anymore.

I kept changing sides while lying on bed. tried to close my eyes but it was

like slumber became angry with me. Since a long time I was wishing to have a

beautiful dream, a dream in which all good things happen. Perhaps human is

that dream which he wants to see.” Does God knows about the dreams?” I

began thinking.

“Divide potatoes, divide cauliflower, divide melons.” That boy, perhaps

was saying that seeing a vegetable vendor.

I was not feeling happy while staying in room but it was just ten in

morning. I could not have a sound sleep. As i was thinking that, the other door of

house knocked. I didn’t reply. The door knocked again.

“Who’s this?”

“Papa, mommy is calling you for breakfast.” I heard my daughter Pari’s

voice.

“OK child tell mother I am coming.”

After sometime, I got up, washed my face and hand and had breakfast.

One of my daughter ate breakfast with me. The other wanted to sleep like me so

she kept sleeping. Their mother was cleaning the house, setting chairs, dusting

curtains, I tried to make her understand that have an off on Sunday but she said

that as it was a holiday so any unexpected guests can come. So the house

should be neat and tidy. After cleaning the house, she would clean herself then

would bathe the daughters and wear them clothes and afterwards would not

spare me until I get myself fresh.

“Divide, divide everything” the boy outside said loudly.

“Dad, who’s this telling?”

“Some mad man child.”

“Mad?”

“Yeah”

“What is it he talking about to divide?”

“everything”

“Like Mom gives things to me and elder sister after dividing them

equally?”

“yes, just like that,.”

“Right, then how is he mad?

“Because he is asking to divide everything.”

“One saying divide everthing is mad?”

“No child, It’s one’s own will to divide or not. In this way he doesn’t appear

to be sensible. That’s why his family disowned him and threw him out.”

“Mad people should be cured.” Being serious and sincere my daughter

Pari tried to make me understand.

I would have talk with Pari more but her mother had ordered her to bathe

and change dress. I was helpless in front of that order.

When I went to my room to take my glasses so that I could read

newspaper, I found a sparrow flying in my room having straw in its beak. It might

be searching for a place to make a nest. When I saw it, it threw that straw and

flew outside. I threw that straw in the dust bin and went in the other room to read

newspaper after closing the door.

While reading newspaper, it came into my mind that today was cricket

match. I turned on the TV and then ,,,,, started watching T.V

When the match ended the sun was set. Darkness outside was increasing

When I opened the door to go outside for walk, I saw the boy who was saying

divide divide, perhaps he was asleep or fell unconcious while saying that. The

shopkeeper of daily shop was there having a glass of butter milk which he

wanted him to drink but then he again started saying loudly, “divide, divide

everything”

“Die, but don’t be unthankful to God.”

“Divide God as well…..” He might have said something else if the

shopkeeper would have not shut his mouth with hand.

When I came back at night at 8 PM, he was still there, saying “divide,

divide everything” with pauses and I was like used to listen to that . When I

opened the door, the aroma of pulao came. perhaps someone opened the cover

of dish having pulao in it. I was so hungry. My daughters and their mother were

waiting for me.

When we were about to start, I just thought that the one saying “divide”

since morning is also hungry, he did not eat anything. Let’s give him something.

“I put rice in the bowl for that mad man, go and give it to him.” When my

wife said that to me, my daughters’ eyes orderd that to me.

“Father be back soon, we will eat together.” My daughter Pari said that to

me.

“Without answering her I opened the door and while seeing me he started

saying me, “Divide, divide everything.”

“Yes divide, take it, eat rice.

“This is your share.”

“Divide my share too. divide everything. After saying he got up and ran so

fast that he disappeared in a blink of eye. For long time I kept looking for him in

dark; and then came back worried.

“He is gone.” I told the people waiting for me about the boy who was

asking to “divide.”

They started eating without answering me.

All were hungry and were tired of waiting for me.

Then we ate our share alongwith his share after dividing it among us.

 

Samira Gholami 

The Fish City

When the sun began sparkling on the water, fisho gently opened her eyes and yawned. She heard her mother’s voice talking to her dad. fisho who belonged to a family of fish with yellow and black stripes on their bodies lived in a stone cavity at the depth of 4 meters in a lake with her father, mother, brother, and sister named fishal and fishant.

fisho and her sister and brother were getting ready to go to school. After they finished their breakfast, their mum gave each of them a lunch box and an umbrella and warned them to be very cautious.

“I am tired of this umbrella. How long should I hold it over my head?”, said fishal.

“I am tired too. I can’t see my surroundings properly”, said fishant while swimming and spinning around herself.

“Sometimes, when I’m playing with the algae, my umbrella falls out of my hand and I forget it,” said fisho while chewing the rest of the green algae left from the breakfast and quickly getting bubbles out of her mouth.

Laughing loudly, fishal said, “Yeah, a fish can was nearly to hit her head yesterday”.

Daddy Fish and Mummy Fish were sad and anxious. Piles of garbage had been dumped under the lake in the area where they were living. Locals used small umbrellas when they went out of home, holding them over their heads to stay safe from the dangers of wastes including plastics, bottles, and cans.

“Do we always have to carry an umbrella when going out?”, fisho asked Mummy Fish.

Suddenly someone started shouting and screaming.

Rubbing his claws on his head, the crab father said his youngest son has been stuck under a plastic bag and is not able to free himself.

All went after Mr.crab.  All of them had taken their umbrellas with them before leaving the house and after going down a path where exotic garbage and objects were falling on them reached Mr. crab’s house with difficulty.

The son of Mr.crab was crying and struggling to free himself. He was shouting “Help me! I Can’t Breathe!”.

The plastic bag was so big, heavy, and thick.

“I think I know someone who can save him,” reacted  Daddy Fish very quickly, explaining that Swordfish can tear off the plastic bag with its sword.

They went to the Swordfish’s house together. He was sitting on a little rock hill, quickly making bubbles with his mouth.

” “Swordy” (by that he meant my very dear Swordfish) please save my son,” told Mr. crab to Swordfish. But as soon as Swordfish heard about the incident told them that “that does not concern me”. Everyone could feel sneer in his voice.

All were shocked by Swordfish’s answer and asked together “Why it does not concern you?”.

“I never forget that Mr. crab always felt superior to me when we were young. He always thought his claws were sharper than my sword and now that he is old, he has come after me! So that does not concern me!”, replied Swordfish while dancing with his sword.

Nobody knew what should they do. fisho, fishal, and fishant looked at each other and very quickly moved their fins and started swimming toward the son of Mr. crab.

“Each of us takes a corner of the plastic bag and pulls it apart,” suggested fisho while standing beside the plastic bag.

Lady oyster who had just become aware of what was happening, said “I cannot help you because I may break my shell but I applause for you”.

Mummy Fish bursts out laughing.

“Was it funny?”, asked Lady Oyster.

“A drink bottle cap is in your mouth!  Let me take it out,” said Mummy Fish.

“Hah? How I did not understand?”, screamed Lady Oyster.

All helped, and with difficulty, removed the plastic bag from the head of Mr. crabs’s son. Mr. crab’s son came out breathless. All cheered up and started dancing and rejoicing.

Mr. crab was dancing happily moving his claws in the air that suddenly a scream was heard from afar.

It was Swordfish. All went to him. The entrance of Swordfish’s house had been blocked by pieces of clothes, plastic bags, water, and drink bottles in such a way he was not able to come out and just his voice, which screamed for help, was being heard.

fisho joined the group and said, “Oh My God! I went up and can you guess what I saw? A new group of people have come and are throwing their garbage into the lake one after another.

“I had told you not to go to the water surface. You are not even safe beneath the surface and many disasters may still happen to you here. Why did you again go to the surface without my permission?”, said Daddy Fish with anger.

“It is not the time for talk,” said Mr.crab. He added Swordfish has stuck in, so hurry up.

All went to the garbage and started removing them one by one from the entrance of Swordfish’s house. Lady Oyster was rapidly clapping to encourage them but with each clapping pieces of drink cap, plastic and iron were being entered her mouth.

“I am sorry dear crab.  I shouldn’t have behaved that way,” told Swordfish to Mr. crab as soon as he was saved.

“I think we’re no longer safe here. Even with an umbrella, we cannot continue living in this location. It is better to move to another lake,” said Mummy Fish as she was taking little pieces of rubbish out of Lady Oyster’s mouth.

A day after, all neighbors were on their way to immigrate to another lake. Somewhere on the way, fisho stopped and looked behind her. She gazed at the stone cavity which once was their family home. she felt sad.

“Don’t worry darling…maybe a day comes that nobody throws garbage to the lake and you can come back home,” whispered  Lady Oyster into fisho’s ear.

fisho smiled saying that “Lady Oyster! A button is in your mouth! Let me take it out of it!”

 

Muhitur Rahman

A World Without… Sundarbans

The “Sundarbans” or “beautiful forest” as it is literally translated in its native Bengali, is the largest block of continuous mangrove forests in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It lies in the vast delta on the Bay of Bengal, spanning both India and a large section of southern Bangladesh.

 

Bangladesh, itself, celebrated its half-century birthday on 26 March 2021. It is a country with a strong bond to its land; nothing better depicts this than the national flag itself with the “blood of the martyrs” set against the backdrop of the “lushness of the land“.

 

Ecologically, the mangrove forests are dominated by the indigenous sundari mangrove tree and also famous for the endangered, yet majestic, royal bengal tiger (from which the Bangladeshi national cricket team is affectionately nicknamed) amongst numerous other significant flora, fauna and animal species.

 

The retreating forests not only provide natural protection from the multitude of tsunamis, cyclones and monsoon floods that befall the area regularly but the mangroves themselves operate as important carbon sinks – at threat from climate change – and, undeniably, of existential importance to the area.

 

Coastal flooding, as modelled by the non-profit organisation, Climate Central, is likely to displace large swathes of Bangladesh’s already poor population. It is likely to further exacerbate the suffering experienced from the humanitarian crisis of the Rohingyas, who have been accommodated in the low lying lands in Chittagong after fleeing from violence in neighbouring Myanmar. This extreme generosity by Bangladesh towards its brethren is even more exemplary considering its own economic woes.

 

Furthermore, sustenance is at risk, with rice comprising not only the staple food crop of the region but also a crucial part of the national economy, with increased salinity from coastal flooding risking not only human habitation but the entire sustainability of the country.

 

The “Jibon Tari” (Boat of Life) or floating hospital provides hope for many in the poorest and remote parts of Bangladesh. The model could be adapted for schools and other civic services. The determination of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, symbolised by its national flag, remains unwavering in the face of a climate crisis the population has no alternative but to adapt…

 

Amy Tooke

No More Selfish

Look at that thaaaaaaaat bitch

Best dressed? Worst dressed!! Best couple?? *shrug*

Men invisible or worse just an accessory

Brownlow night – the ‘bit’ for the ladies

Blah blah blah, wonderful supportive wife

Bitches slashing those same WAGS

Not a mother choosing to stay with her eggs

Your either a Feminist or you are not one – Hang on!!

Is it not about the right to choose?

Daughters only have that right to vote

Where are you going? In a group?

Not wearing that, it’s just not safe sadly.

Sons don’t be soft, don’t cry, don’t care

Don’t be a pussy

Want to be different? Oh Absolutely

Please select from this large array for labels for different – just so others are comfy

You understand don’t you

Vagina, a Mother does not make

Boys need their Dad’s

Oh so the sad eyed cookie cutter McSurries – aint an absent father symptom?

Boys! Sex, boobs, pornhub

No means no, despite what the Net says

Sandra tried to warn us

Live your life perfectly, virtually and filtered

IRL? Blah – no thanks too messy,

Mum?

Dad?

Working, fighting, posting, taking their Me Time

Cracking a second bottle

Fifo work, coming home to strangers, meanwhile next door

14 hr days at a second job, come home and start the real work all alone

Couch occupied by the other 14 – beers that is

Progressive, inclusive, non-discriminatory

A sad desperate effort to group individuals into a comfortable herd

What if you just be?

What’s so fucking wrong with that?

The words say nothing – embrace, celebrate

The actions say everything – Just. Fit. In. somewhere – anywhere

  • aejt

 

Oluwayose Damilola

TITLE: A WORLD WITHOUT INSECURITY.

I stared rather intensely out the window in a way that one would think I was seeking answers to questions . Yes, i had questions so much, so much anger, grief and sadness. I indeed had a lot on my mind. Travelling has been one of my favorite things to do since God knows when. Why was this time different? I used to be fascinated by nature and the wind. To me, I felt they speak peace, a world of freedom and happiness. How come I don’t enjoy the company of them anymore? travelling turned from a hobby to a means to find safety. Once again, as I looked disgustingly at the window of the moving vehicle I realized why I hated travelling. it was because of my country Nigeria.

 

The safety of me, my family and friends were not guaranteed, my country home became a place where suffering, killings and corruption reside. I could no longer tour various states in my country without the fear of being raped ,kidnapped or shot dead with no justice. I would say a prayer every time I left home. Made sure to kiss my parents and tell my friends I love them because who knows? it might as well be my last.

 

The sudden halt of the car jerked me back to reality. It was a new country. Somehow I knew this because the air smelt different. i heard my mom say “come Toby, this is our new home” but it was not. it could never be. I hope one day I can travel back to Nigeria and feel safe again. feel loved by my country and not feel like she was out to get me. Till then I’ll wait and dream when such day would come, oh what a glorious day it would be. A world without hate, corruption and insecurity is one i long for.

 

 

Bwalya Mbewe

 A World without Rhinoceros is not a complete beautiful place

So in the bush all animals feed on trees, fruits, berries, grass and many more bushes but there

was this one exceptional tree known as the Jackal berry tree or the African ebony tree, the explanation for (jackal berry) is… the berries are not very visible and thus as elusive as the Jackal. The berries are ripe in winter which is May/June to late August and all the animals love them because they are so sweet!

So to try and accommodate each and everyone to get the taste of the sweet berries, the animals sat

together and agreed that whoever goes to pick the berries from the ground, should only use one hand in picking them – if there will be anyone using all their hands in picking them then they will deserve some sort of punishment, which will come from the heavens by the gods!! Everyone was so excited and shouted, agree!! Agree!! Now one cloudy-afternoon started falling with tremendous storm so the mother Rhino had thought of getting some quick food before the dark comes in a storm and she told her baby to go together and they ran quickly to the jackal berry tree and found the berries scattered on the ground under the tree. So the mother Rhino instructed the baby not to pick the berries with two hands , so they all started picking very quickly and as they were winding up their picking, the baby got so overwhelmed with the abundance of the berries and forgot to stick to using only one hand – it started using both hands huh it happened so fast… the tall building just dropped and trapped the baby Rhino from above them and the mother Rhino got so scared and knew that her baby had broken the rules, immediately she ran through the storm screaming and reached home, explained to the family what had happened.

So the mother Rhino took some food in the morning for the baby but she had to sing a song begging the building to open the door so she can deliver through food to her baby trapped inside. Nearby, out of sight of the mother Rhino was the Hyena listening to the song which went like… ‘learn… learn my

baby, I told you to use only one hand when picking the jackal berries and not two hands!’ Then the baby heard the mother’s voice and recognized it and replied… ‘I have stopped mother it won’t happen again… I have stopped mother.’ So the gods opened the door and the mother managed to deliver food inside and waited and they swapped stories whilst the baby was eating. When the baby finished eating, the mother said bye I will see you tomorrow again, the door shut back, now here comes the hungry Hyena who wanted to eat meat and because he saw all what was happening , he waited until the mother Rhino disappeared so he came to the building hoping to catch the helpless baby Rhino – he started singing the right song but with bass, very different from that of the mother Rhino and the baby inside knew it wasn’t its mother and shouted at the Hyena; ‘ go away’! The Hyena was ashamed started laughing and giggling and said ‘whoops! whoops!’ then disappeared into the bushes and the baby Rhino had a peaceful night till the next day in the morning when it just heard the voice of its mother from the distance, coming, singing again to be permitted to deliver food to the baby, this time the hungry Hyena listened very carefully and copied the tone of the mother Rhino and waited for the dark to come meanwhile the baby Rhino was explaining to the mother that there was a Hyena which came and tried to sing the same song for the door to open but it did not succeed! The mother Rhino warned the baby ‘not to answer anyone apart from herself!’ and said their bye again for the next day.

The dusk came and the night fell, the Hyena woke up this time he had done so many practices in singing like the mother Rhino so the baby could think and be convinced it is the mother really coming to see it, anyway the Hyena approached the tall building in which the baby Rhino was trapped and never hesitated to start singing in the tone of the mother Rhino which captured the attention of the baby that it did not doubt it was its mother, so it replied and the door opened, the Hyena quickly jumped in and grabbed the baby Rhino before the door could shut and managed to drag it outside and happily started eating it all night long. As the day light was approaching, the Hyena did not stay at the spot, he moved farther on into the bush. The mother Rhino came and tried several times singing , hoping to get a respond from the baby but it was all quiet and she looked around and found no any signs or remains of her baby but just a trail of a drag mark and a lot of Hyena foot prints so she knew exactly the Hyena had taken her baby, then she ran back to the family and explained the matter so they all came to check around the jackal berry tree and even more shocking, they found that the tall building had also disappeared and they all knew that the baby Rhino had gone forever they will never see it again so they turned back home but continued coming for the sweet jackal berries.

 

Stephanie Holliday

SITTING ON THE QUAY AT 4.00 A.M.

Remembering and re-living this magical moment made me realise what I, and many, many other people, have been missing. A world without travel and the wonderful experiences travel gives us is a much darker and drabber place to live than I’ve ever experienced before.

I vividly remember sitting outside the Taverna with everyone else off the night flight to Kos, staring out over the flat, dark sea. The sun is slowly rising over the horizon, raising it to a beautiful sparkling turquoise. The air’s soft and just warm enough to only need a cardigan.  We can’t believe we’re here at last; willing the ferry to arrive for Kalymnos.

Everyone is slightly dishevelled in their new holiday clothes, mussed up hair. Drooping a little after the overnight flight. Some are grumpy and the barman looks as though he wants to get back to bed, but we are so excited that we can’t wait to start our first Greek holiday for years. The coffee isn’t great but, who cares, it’s Greek – we feel like running around shrieking into the still air ‘We’re here, we’re here.!’

This tiny port with statues at the harbour entrance, the early sun just starting to strike them, is so beautiful that it makes me want to cry.  It’s the perfect way to start this new adventure. Who knows, we might find a new home here and decide this is where we want to spend the rest of our lives.

At last the ferry comes in to view and everyone wakes up and starts to gather their possessions together.  It looks more like a cruise ship towering above us, painted white and huge. Three decks with large salt stained windows above the enormous  gaping entrance that leads in to the vehicle hold.  It comes alongside, turning slowly and putting down its ramp for the lorries, cars, and motorbikes lined up waiting to board.

People start to appear from other areas of the port; these are not holiday makers but ‘real Greek people’. It’s so different to the UK; elegant ladies, smart business men, Orthodox priests (very scruffy and stained), lads on scooters eyeing up the teenage holiday makers and, to our sheer delight; grannies swathed in black, one or two carrying chickens. Can you believe it; chickens! Everyone carrying bags, suitcases, carrier bags and Hessian sacks holding heaven knows what.

There’s a lot of shouting and gesticulating from the sailors who are trying to get the vehicles on first.  No-one takes any notice and we are propelled by the weight of the passengers behind us to walk up the ramp, nervously looking behind at the vehicles advancing and adding to the noise with their hooters. I don’t know where they expect us to go – we ignore them but hope that they won’t take offence and mow us down.

We haul our cases right up to the top of the ship and find a seat on the open deck.   Rather chilly but we remember from years ago that amazing first view of Kalymnos The white houses with orange roofs clambering up the bare scrubby hillside. There it is and the only bus on the island is waiting for us. Nothing’s changed.

 

R. Jahan

The Cell Phone Connection

Imagine a world without cell phones.  When I was seven, I moved to the United States from South Asia along with my parents and siblings.  It was not voluntary on my part.  I loved The Tropics.  It was like Paradise to me.  No way did I want to leave my beloved Tropics.  Not even for America, the land of opportunity.  (Even I sort of believed the roads were paved with gold.)  Ironically, I was made for America.  My father delayed coming here for some years or I might have been made in America (like the first cell phone).

 

My father had two conflicting desires: to go to America and to stay in his beloved country.  America won over his divided heart.  My father married my mother for a green card to the United States.  Her older brother was already living here and working as an engineer.  He could apply for his sister and her family.

 

By early the 1990s, my father and family finally made it here.  We went to live with my uncle and his family.  That lasted seven months.  We didn’t have cell phones then.  A call to relatives overseas cost $1 per minute.  That was not affordable for an immigrant family.

 

Soon after moving here, my uncle took us to visit his cousin-in-law and friend and his family in New Jersey.  He was also an electrical engineer.  But I was seven and I didn’t know or care.  I liked their big house and the garden with a variety of plants.  (Gardens and plants had been my favorite part of the Tropics.)

 

Many years later, an article in an ethnic language newsletter revealed a long held secret:  My family uncle was actually one of the electrical engineers who had designed the cell phone.  He had been friends with my uncle since school days.

 

A few weeks ago, after a year into the Coronavirus Pandemic, we buried my uncle at Washington Memorial Cemetery in Long Island.  Even in death, I felt distanced from my uncle.  He was Aspie like my mother and not always easy to approach or socialize with or understand.  I mourned the missed connection, made worse by misunderstandings due to some meddlesome relatives.  My uncle didn’t understand me but I understood his Aspie nature, what made him amazing and, annoying.

 

Ironically, my uncle’s best friend gave a legacy to the world: cell phones.  Cell phones enabled me to connect with the outside world more easily and quickly than computers had done years ago during the early years of the Internet made available to the masses.

 

Now, I do a lot of things on my cell phone: from writing poems to posting on discussion groups to searching for money-making opportunities.  The only paid work I have had over the past 2 years has been through my cell phone.  It’s sort of old but useful.  It is like the trusty friend I never had.  I  cannot imagine a world without cell phones.  My cell phone allows me to travel all over the world and back inside my head.

 

 

Helen Grimbleby

A world without birdsong.

Birdsong and music have inspired and soothed man through the ages and today they inspire and soothe me, often when I am out running.

 

Many classical symphonies pay homage to birdsong in the natural world. Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” was published in 1720 with explanatory poems. The spring movement begins:

 

Spring has arrived with joy

Welcomed by the birds with happy songs,

And the brooks, amidst gentle breezes,

Murmur sweetly as they flow.

 

In both the music and poetry there then follows a storm which temporarily silences birdsong before the storm passes and the birds “Take up again their delightful songs”.

 

Beethoven’s “Pastorale” Symphony Number 6 also starts in gentle appreciation of nature before a storm arises, after which there is a sense of restoration of tranquillity. The clarinet call of the cuckoo is as unmistakable as the birdsong.

 

A few years ago, I was running along a countryside trail. Accessed from another track, through a narrow entrance in the bramble laden hedgerow, the trail moved sharply down hill over small boulders, a part-time stream bed. A while on, the trail flattened and broadened whilst remaining largely hedge bound with occasional open views of the rolling fields on either side. It was not a particularly picturesque track for the most part but as I followed its final journey on my run, there in the nearby trees and the unmistakable cuckoo. I stopped to listen as it called me and to properly record in my memory the sound and joy that followed.

 

The musical cuckoo calls in Beethoven’s symphony are followed by a “Merry Gathering of Country Folk” before “Thunder, Storm” strike. As the different attributes and forces of nature are represented in the music so too are reflected our human emotional responses, awe, peace, pleasure, startle and fear when raw and dangerous and relief in the face of redemption from our frailty in the full force of nature.

 

Birdsong is just a tiny part of the natural world but the relationship between birdsong and human emotions points to something bigger. Research shows that exposure to some birdsong alleviates stress and restores our capacity to pay attention.

 

This may be because humans have spent most of their existence in the wilderness not in towns and cities. In evolutionary terms we have spent little time living in the ways we do now, often disconnected from nature. Pure biology and genetic heritage may still ensure that time in the environments where we originally lived and were constantly exposed to birdsong are restorative. In essence, the sights and sounds of nature may represent safety and environments which can support human life to survive and thrive.

 

Birdsong may also be helpful to us because our lives now rely on a limited number of mental processes. The ways in which we work and spend our leisure depend on relatively few neural pathways in the brain. Time spent listening to birdsong may switch some of the other, different and perhaps balancing neurones, mental processes and emotions.

 

It is not just birdsong that taps into our neurones to influence mental processes and emotion. Man-made music also has the power to inspire and sooth. Consider then that when comparing birdsong and human music, researchers have found commonality in rhythms, harmonic relations, retentions of melody and some music scales. In essence, the fundamental traits of birdsong are the foundations for our own man-made music.

 

One late February morning I was awoken by a small bird in the border hedge to the side of my bedroom window. There was just light but not yet true morning light and this sound was the start of the dawn chorus providing a rich and varied background soundscape to start my day. Later, when the sun fully risen but low and bright revealed a cold morning, I strapped on my running shoes and headed out across tracks and fields and through woods.

 

A scene which was inspiring to the eyes, provided the context for an assault on the auditory senses. Birds were all around and signs of spring were evident as pairs of birds appeared; collared doves resting in a tall oak, a male and female blackbird darting in and out of hedgerows and woodpeckers hammering the trees.

 

I stopped to listen carefully and the birdsong enveloped me. At first it was the individual melodic top notes of the orchestra, the flautists that stood out. Then the reed like quality of an unknown corvid, somewhere between then oboe and the bassoon filling in the bottom tones, cradling the whole. Finally, now fully immersed in my orchestra of birdsong, I noticed the mid-section, not distinct melodies, or complex rhythms but a depth of sound as the combined effort of the string section.

 

It is not just classical music or from times gone by that references and reflects the songs of birds. Recorded in 1968, The Beatles wrote about a Blackbird singing in the dead of night and their record includes a sample of a male common blackbird on the track.

 

Later in the 1990’s Annie Lennox wrote about a Little Bird:

 

He sings the clearest melody,

It makes me want to cry.

 

The song lyrics speak clearly to the deep connection between birdsong and human emotion whether that is in sadness as here, or in joy, or as before.

 

Birdsong is undoubtedly a muse for the songs of man, and both songs provide us with insight into our human emotional landscape. The landscape is a product of our relationship with the natural world throughout which birdsong is interwoven and that natural world is stitched into our very DNA. A world without birdsong is a world without man.

 

Seerat Sofi

“Letter”

If you were a season, You will be my spring. Our distance did felt like the scorching heat of summer. My confrontation did leave me naked like autumn. Our separation left me in endless winter. But our memories always rescued me. The little of us always held a bigger room in my damn, Heart. I hold you closer to my heart, the way spring hold its blooms.  Like the early spring morning, You held my peace (but I have always been in melancholy).

.

I am often asked, Why do I hold onto you? I reply, “Cause I can”. But that’s a partial truth. More truth is that whenever I talk about you, my eyes light up and the brightest smile finds a way to my lips. No matter, what chaos I live in, talking about you has always got me out of my gloom. You are my happy therapy (a disease and a cure, simultaneously). They say I am romanticising an illusion and holding onto a lie. I reply, “the season of warmth arrives when it’s meant to be”. I will let you go when it will be meant to be.

.

In my despair days, I miss you most. I wonder if I can ever gather my courage, dial your number and listen to your hello (where all my despair disappears). Or can I ever gather my courage, and type you a text. You have shrouded my courage to text you ever again. You have been kind to (n-1) people, (-1) is me. And I have been loved by (n-1) people, (-1) are you. I am happy for our (-1), at least we don’t have to pretend to be anything other than us.

.

I don’t glorify your absence, which I acknowledge will never turn into your presence. When I pray for us, I pray for the individual you and the individual me. I never knit my prayers to meet you again. I never pray to see your face again, but I always pray it retains its smile, always. You know, the showers of rain or blows of cold wind don’t make spring less of itself. Our separation, communication barrier will never make you less of you for me. (The one I raised my hand for the first time to say hello to, with a smile).

 

M.Sahana

A WORLD WITHOUT YOU- MY MOTHER NATURE

 

I, not a lucky usual frequent traveler,

Just An Indian girl filled only with exotic dreams of travelling

Happily, like a bird flying wherever she wishes to fly and whenever she wants to

Like any other girl of this society, wish to be born as a boy so that I could travel anywhere

Anytime, without any fear of hearing the usual ‘NO’ of the so-called “safe strict patriarchal society”.

Oh, to a tour? Alone to a camp? To an excursion? Oh, To Here? To There? To Anywhere at Any time? And yes at last,

Maybe to your wonder- Oh, by this time, all alone to the terrace (of our own house)? with clicking of their tongues – “No No No”.

Among all the “NOs” of a typical Indian girl’s life, I wonder till now how just a normal day turned into one of the happiest days. Yes, I had one.

It’s on my birthday, , before four years, started just as a wish to travel to a Zoological park, turned into a beautiful day to be pictured in my mind forever.

It began just as a tiresome travel in the local bus on a hot sunny day, filled with sweat and dust of a polluted city with my silly colleague, Who, same as myself,

A young south Indian girl, yearning for an entry into the nature’s everlasting beautiful world, like other visitors we entered but with some small stars shining in our eyes

Because of our new experience of being alone in such a big place, with an unknown crowd of two and four legged beings. Like two little kids running around the world of candy,

We ran around. Oh see, swimming ducks, a big chimpanzee, zebras; there some bathing hippos, some sloth bears; Oh there is the elephant; there giraffes; there few deer with their fawns;

Ready for lion safari now? For meeting the kings of the park, we waited. Taken inside the well protected area with all safety measures, we saw just four lions there, two named Rahul and Indra.

An official working there revealed their names to us. To our surprise, they were playing like any other cats in our houses. But, really? Are they the kings of the forest as told for centuries? Really?

Looked lean and tired, gasping under the summer sun with very less mane and ribs that could be seen easily, just beneath their skin as though its skeleton is covered with its hide. Maybe they are on diet.

Excited, like small children, even in our early twenties, looked happily at them taking pictures, to keep their sight cherished in our memories forever but sorry we don’t have those pictures to show you now.

Even then, when we close our eyes now, can see everything vivid. Sight of every bird and animal there-some with their families, some with their friends playing happily and some sitting all alone looking sad.

All of sudden dropped from the heaven, droplets of nectar which really made our day a very special one. Fell on us are such heavy drops of rain that we could not even open our eyes and see anything around.

Everyone ran searching for a place to hide, to avoid such sweet drops of heaven, but not us. We spread our hands; drenched ourselves fully; enjoying to the fullest, the God given gift. Not peacocks this time,

But two peahens danced in such a heavy downpour as there was no one around us to look and think whether we have gone mad. Oh, I forgot to mention about the big NO usually said for playing in rain.

Enjoyed the blobs of ecstasy, we felt ourselves to be the happiest persons in the world at that time. Stagnated water up to our knees and drops falling over us, we laughed and shouted crazily there.

Just a few minutes, then ended the downpour show and came chill wind. Like two little drenched wild birds, shivering in our wet clothes, we amazed how beautifully she washed every tree;

Cleaned every dry leaf away from the plants; bathed every animal and bird there and threw the flowers of all trees all over the roads. How elegantly the shower has changed everything!

Yes even now when I close my eyes, after four years of my visit to the park, I could feel the chill drops and the sweet smell of rain; I could see the sight of the flower thrown roads.

I could hear the sounds of chirping birds afresh after the heavy rain and feel the chilling wind and drizzling that goose bumped our drenched bodies. How can I forget that day?

Such a normal day and very normal experience for some other people turned to be a very special day that still stays in my mind. What other gift could I expect from her?

Whenever I close my eyes and think, with its entire crystal clear picture, the day stays forever in my mind and bring back the same cheerful smile I had that day.

Making my birthday a happiest one, Nature in her own way made me happy and gifted happiness forever. Do I need to go back there to be happy again?

In every big tree and its every beautiful green leaf, in every sprout from a seed and rustle of fallen weed, in every drop of heavenly rain,

In every blooming bud and every fragrant wild flower and its sweet drop of honey, in every chirping bird and running squirrel,

In every this and that around me, with nature as its mother name, I could see the sweet lovely lady smiling at me,

Tenderly, with all her bounty of beauty; with her soft lovely caring hands open to gently caress me.

I, with great hope and desire, yearn for wings to break through every barrier and fly happily,

With wind on my face into every cloud enjoying delightfully on this Earth,

The beauty of my mother nature.

 

Sarah Blake

A world without magic

I believe in magic, just not the conventional kind. Magicians can keep their top hats and wands, witches and wizards can keep their sorcery and potions, just give me the deep ochre eyes of a baboon, the curious snuffle of a bear, the clacking of stork beaks or the silent musings of a sleepy anteater.

Animals hold the ultimate magic for me and coming across them in the wild is the holy grail of all experiences. Whilst watching wildlife, I become bewitched and never was that more apparent than with the Langurs in Vietnam. Nothing could break the spell, entranced as I was by the antics of these beautiful Primates.

A local friend and I made a spur of the moment decision to leave Hanoi and visit a beautifully undisturbed marshland one evening in the hope of spotting some of its very rare inhabitants. The atmosphere was teeming with life, surrounded by lush forests and distant mountains. We sailed through the reed covered water in a tiny bamboo boat. The twilight was lazily descending and for once there was no threat of a looming storm. It was the perfect evening to spend in the company of a weathered old Vietnamese woman who was the power behind our little vessel. Drifting through the reeds, silently and steadily led to a crackle of magic shimmering through the air that evening. It was the anticipation of what we might see.

As the woman rowed us onwards through the water with the reeds bowing to let us through, we passed bright red blobs glued to grass stems. My friend informed me that these were Snail eggs. The Bird life was abundant and the Insects were even more so. Dragonflies danced around our boat, enthralling us with their aerial acrobatics as we ploughed ever onward through the vegetation.

The sun was sinking just low enough to tinge everything with a hint of gold and the silence that surrounded us was exquisite. The heat was thrumming through the air and glistening off the water but for once the oppressive temperature couldn’t eclipse the beauty before us.

We drifted past some of the impressive limestone rock formations, made so famous by Ha Long Bay. They were in the distance but their sheer height and stoic stance in the balmy evening gave them an eerie, towering feel. Our guide slowed our boat, her keen eyes crinkled in concentration as she scanned the hillside. Excitedly, she started pointing and there they were; Delacour Langurs, one of the most critically endangered Primates on the planet.

Large, lanky and almost entirely jet black, they looked like they were wearing a stark pair of trunks due to the bright white patch around their crotch and thighs. I have puzzled over the biological implications of these colourations for a long time but, from a distance, it appeared as if each Langur had decided to don a pair of bright white shorts, fresh from the wash. The contrast in colour was really striking and made them very obvious to spot, even with my short-sighted eyes.

We sat adrift in the reeds, watching them on the other side of the bank, mooching about their rock fortress, deftly rooting through the vegetation with their dextrous fingers. There were several individuals and our ancient guide told us that she occasionally saw babies which was fantastic news for the species. Not only were they surviving, they were thriving. Watching them jump from rock to rock and through the trees, impossibly wedged between crevices, was remarkable. All three of us settled down in the boat to watch them as they hopped in and out of our field of vision, far enough away to be comfortable and undisturbed by our marvelling gaze. Although the evening was setting in properly, the heat, in typical Vietnamese fashion was still intense, coaxing the sweat from our backs as we watched the Langurs. The old woman became concerned over how hot I was and plaited my hair to keep the heat off my neck. Normally this kind of uninvited human contact would create a lot of uncomfortable tension but I was too ensconced in the magic of the moment to care. The evening blanketed itself around us with a mysteriously cosy quality as the Langurs foraged for their evening meal. Eventually they delved deeper into their rocky home and out of our sight so we meandered back to shore. Through the reeds and the water we glided, whilst the glow of the sun silhouetted the nearby mountains in great contrasting peaks of black against the golden skies.

As we alighted onto dry land, the spell was broken. There had been so much beauty that I could barely comprehend it. As for the fate of the Langurs, I hoped that they would not perform a vanishing act that would see them disappear from this planet forever. My sincerest wish is that they continue to cast their spell over anyone who looks upon them and that they are forever protected by their own brand of enchantment. A world without them is a world without magic.

 

P.J. Roscoe

A World Without…

I am small, perhaps to many, insignificant, as so many of my family surround me, tower over me, blotting out so much light; yet, I survive, therefore, I am alive. You may not even be aware of my existence as you stare upwards at my brothers and sisters, cousins, uncles and aunties; my mother and father have long gone, the space they occupied, now a heaving settlement of brick and slate and concrete.

My family whispered stories on the wind of a time when humans revered us, held us in high esteem, worshipped and adored us, feeling only gratitude for our diverse colours and shapes, our textures, our sizes, our shapes. But alas, long forgotten, by you, as you no longer offer us your loyalty, your devotion, your love. Yet, I am your best friend, as small as I am, and you don’t even realise it. I am your future, your necessity, your life. Without me, there is nothing. Without me, there is only death. Without me, your children have no future. Without me, your world will never exist.

I feel the power on my leaves, down my spine and into my roots, even as small as I am, of the wind and the rain and the poison that kills you, and there, I feel the warm sensation of the sun, a tingling through my veins and there, is your breath, your lifeline, your living element.

I am happy to do this, for you. I am happy to live, for you. I am growing for that purpose. Why do you not offer me the same courtesy? You look for us instinctively whenever you are outside; and we will be found somewhere, be it on the horizon, a solitary figure along your concrete walkways, or surrounding you in nature’s space. We hold you when you wish to climb, swing, and play.  We offer you shelter when the rain falls, or the sun shines. We gladly submit to our fruit being eaten, our conkers to be used in your games and our chestnuts to be roasted on your fires. We give you a blaze of colours to admire, to watch, to keep track of the seasons. And yet, you do not hold me dear. You do not hold me in high esteem. Once I am gone, it will be too late.

‘For every tree we fell, we’ll plant two more…’ and you fall for it every time. Do you not realise how long it took for me to grow to this size? How many battles did I overcome to push my first limb above ground? Do you not understand how much history has passed since I was first conceived? I see the piles of what had once been family, stacked neatly, awaiting a purpose to be decided by you. And I remember the sounds as they were torn, limb from limb, by treacherous machines, and I commit to memory the screams of the animals as they scurry from their homes; terror etched on their faces, the loss not yet registering.

My roots, they burrow ever deeper within Mother Earth, as my head inches ever closer to the open sky as my family have done before me. Never faltering. Never wavering. We are proud to offer you this lifeline. We give it willingly. Will you offer us anything in return?

I feel the tremble of the soil deep within Mother Earth, as your machines move ever closer and I accept her formidable embrace within the dark, moist dirt that has held my body for so little time, and together, we sing one last tune before our song is erased, forever…

I am small, to you, insignificant right now, but not so for my family who surrounded me, towered over me, blotting out so much light. Alas, I see the sun and I see the sky, the clouds, without obstruction. I experience the wind and the full pelt of the raindrops, no longer protected within my family’s cocoon, and so, I breathe, I survive, I am alive…

 

Melanie Putter

MEMOIR TO A COBBLESTONE

I see you; I see your head lowered your expressionless eyes darting back and forth,

I feel your pacing feet heavily against my smooth surface, I know your transgressions, as time as taught me the weight of such burdens.

Marching towards territories already ransacked, the oceans cry out, look! See what you have done, but still, greed has devoured your ability to be kind.

You have destroyed so much, leaving bare minimal, tiny fragments for our descendants to enjoy.

The ebb bashing against my mere existence, screaming with helpless cries, an echo of once was flourished with excitement, left with an empty gong.

I see you; I see what destruction you have bestowed upon this immense once array of beauty and desire, now left violated.

Do you not know or understand your acts or are you just a cast in this grim play of depriving the few that have a fearful soul, do you walk a path of arrogance? Perhaps.

Our seas, our beautiful seas, such intelligence taken for granted, taken over and over, you know your role in this devastation yet you continue to allow magnitudes of grief.

I see you; I see.

 

Megan O’Brien

What If? If Only? – A World Without

I walk, one bare foot in front of the other

Toes curling in the coarse sand,

The Sun’s emboldened rays

Make the tread a furnace,

I feel the scorch on my soles

Even through the calluses

Formed by a dozen such steps,

A dozen more;

My protection and my shield –

A defence against the ground.

 

I met a traveller from an antique land,

Yet here I now stand,

How long now? A year passed, another and another,

Since first I longed to be this?

Alone against the endless, barren, drifting sands –

I sit, shove my fingers deep within, and feel each grain,

A tiny part of what once was, what?

A building down? A man? A beast?

The sands of time indeed,

Created each fine molecule, each shard

Of what was, what could have been.

 

The horizon shifts,

Heat rising, like dancing wraiths,

Ghosts on the breeze allow me to view

The object of my dreams long since,

Tall against the skyline

And the colour of that same sand,

No. A shade darker perhaps, a touch bolder, broken by time

A shattered visage, man made –

Nothing else. No ones like me in this scorched emptiness,

No other sound, except my laboured breath.

 

I take my bottle from my pack.

I feel the pain of it,

Cool water against my chapped lips,

The scratch of grit trapped between my hand and the plastic,

A laugh catches in my throat and I wonder,

In this place where only we remain, outlasting,

What if? If only?

I close my eyes and fall back –

Feel the sun against my lids,

The touch, like feathers, of my lashes,

Toes buried in the sand.

 

When I wake, the illusion so real

I think perhaps the time before was the mirage

I stand, brush the dirt from my palms,

The last fragments of a half remembered dream

And tread, one bare foot in front of the other –

The grass tickles my toes, cool moisture on my parched heels,

The whisper of life against my instep,

The emptiness remains, I am alone,

In this, wilderness,

Void, though not of life, of me;

 

Of ones like me –

Oh, life there is, this world hums with it

Buzzes with it, vibrates with it,

I can feel it and it can feel me,

A thousand eyes,

A hundred thousand questioning eyes,

Not void of life, of me, of ones like me,

Come to build, and burn, and take, and take

And thirst, and grasp, and need, and want,

And more, and more, and more and always more –

Progress for progress sake.

 

What is this? The eyes ask,

What purpose have you in this place?

I think perhaps I have a goal in mind

My feet continue with independent will

The tread a counterbalance to the thud of my heart,

A march. To what? My kind?

They have no place here,

Here, where the wild things are,

Have taken root, have taken hold,

Hold. Hold still my beating heart.

 

Alive. Without.

A world without.

What if? The question revisits my addled thoughts,

If only? What if?

A stream, interrupts my reverie,

Splashing into it all at once, the cold,

A shockwave to my consciousness,

I close my eyes –

A world without,

What if? If only?

And wade into the quiet of the stream.

 

Red raw and burnt,

I force open my eyes

Its in my mouth, the sand,

It’s a layer of dust across my lips,

Like powdered glass, it scratches

My nose, my cheeks, my throat

It’s in my ears, it clings,

Burns my palms as I sit,

Rubbing my hands against my knees,

Brushing away,

The last hopes of a half remembered dream.

 

And oh –

But how I cry to dream again.

 

Kurt Jacobs

GET OUT

There’s nothing wrong with getting out

That’s what this world is all about

It was made to explore,

And experience more

Stepping out of your environment

Could free you of your daily torment

Observe and respect new cultures

Don’t be caught up like scavenging vultures

Just getting away for a few hours

Can reveal the potential powers

Once you see how much there is in this world

Your hand, you’d never fold

But to travel and get out,

You’ll have to be bold

The people you’ll be meeting

The food you’ll be eating

Different

Yeah

Like in Scandinavia and Europe,

The honey’s are upfront

Sometimes, it’s scary because

It’s just like they on a hunt

Everyone on the trip

Is cool and hip

They all on a two wheeler

I had to take time to figure the deal here

It’s in another sphere

So!

What do you do?!

That’s the first question to come on through

Ambition, profession, plans and who’s who

I would say,

That’s cool!

To get paid to go to school!

Everything is free here

If I had that opportunity

Life would be a breeze here

I’ve got ambition!

I’ve got a vision

But when I compare our different cultures and conditions

It seems like it’s totally different missions

and that mine has undeniable complications and inhibitions

I definitely learn

Cos it’s for knowledge that I yearn

I take what I need

To stay in the lead

This shit!

I don’t read, so just take heed

It’s like every time I sow a seed

When cared for and watered

It grows strong, fruitful

And never get slaughtered

That’s why getting out

Should never be aborted

The landscapes not the same

The humour, kind of lame

The sun just claims

A few months of fame

Mostly, it’s darkness, snow and rain

It’s just not home

Now!

Afrika!

Feels like a pleasure dome

But don’t get me wrong

It’s still essential to roam

Just make sure that you cover it

With a fine comb

This might be your last chance

So don’t just take a side glance

Or

Walk around inna trance

Cause this, will enhance

Your perception of the world

And into this situation

You won’t feel hurled

It was good to find, live and love

with my foreign brothers and sisters

back in Cape Town,

I never thought I would see where there shit is

But, I was so hooked up

I even got a date with thee ‘Liz’

Gee whiz!

That night

was just, so tight

We got it on, just right

Experienced each other

From midnight till the dawn light

She said I was one of a kind

So to leave, I had to put up a fight

When I wanted to get out she started to shout

But, by then ,

I knew what’s it’s all about

But, I couldn’t stay,

No way!

I wasn’t ready for this play

I had to get back

Learn from this experience

And get on track

Enough of this flak

Let’s fly away

This experience is over

But!

Wait!

I have something to say,

Just about now, I’m ready

To setup and lay in the bay

Absorb this mighty Afrikan sun ray

And,

After all that flying,

One Perfect Love

Is still

The Only Way

***

SPIRIT JOURNEY

So! I hear you say you free

Yes!

I hear that you say you are free

With everything happening around us

That’s not what I see

Let’s take a break from the norm

Observe our surroundings and

What we have in another life form

Those that say they soldiers,

Come!

Take a journey with me

First we’ll burn some incense

And drink some special tea

To reach the higher heights

We going to have to set our sights

On opening the door, to our reality

Let our mind and body go through,

And see, what’s in store,

For this reality

Yeah!

This deal is raw, so get your asses off the floor

We going for a night trod to the mountains

If you keep it tight,

Maybe I’ll show you my special water fountains

First!

Let’s say a prayer and make it one

To appreciate the creation

Try and keep the balance between serious and fun

I’ve spent many hours in this creation

Dealing with the paths and untouched vegetation

The night brings out a special light, from within

The blackness, eliminating your outer vision

And makes you,

Deal with it!

Don’t forget to watch your step

You don’t want to hurt your foot or your toe

Comfortable, getting used to it

I presume you ready for the start of the show

We just getting started,

This isn’t for the faint hearted

DO YOU SEE IT?!

DO YOU FEEL IT?!

DO YOU HEAR IT?!

The connection and the consciousness of creation

Everything starts and ends at this point,

Upon lamentation

That energy connection

Your goodness, being your protection

Because,

If not,

You might lose the plot

Now!

It’s a thin line between sane and insane

So don’t let it get channelled wrong to your brain

That kind of clarity

Demands a balanced polarity

Between you, the moon and the stars

And yes, even the city

Our emotions are running higher

Intensified and on fire

The mentals and meditations are taking over

Stay Strong!

I know the road seems long

But come on,

Let’s push on

We need this blood to push through

And pump on

Pumping!

The Energy

Equally, Through our body

TRUST ME

That’s what this trip is all about

I don’t know another route

We can even make a fire

But,

I think,

That’s just going to make the situation get higher

We almost there

So, wipe away that aimless stare

Tonight,

We don’t need a fire or a flare,

Just keep your own, unique flair

Let’s burn some more incenses

So that you can get grounded

and slowly come back to your senses

As we move along, we’ll see

The beginning of the mystery

To be

We going to the top of that mountain

Yes, to that cave

As you can see,

This mission is strictly for the brave

The way there isn’t safe

Not easy to be saved

It’s worth the walk

You’ve come this far

I know it’s not just talk

Before the next hour

We will see the power

Of the dawn, push on through

Believe me,

This is one of the best places to have a view

I have to admit,

That this has only happened to a few

And each experience

Has been different and new

WOA!

WOW!

Here we go again

See the sunrise

Busting that horizon

Energy waves

Radiating, all over Cape Town

As we give thanks,

For life and this new day

Creation!

Awakes in its own blessed way

We make sure that the incense is burnt

To keep all that negativity away

Now that we’ve learnt what we’ve learnt

We at the waterfall,

So pass me some nuts, fruit and Lindt

Energised?!

High Enough?!

Get ready for the downhill extreme

Trust me

It’s shit you never dream

I’ve seen bros wipe out and scream

Tucked in right

Fasten your seatbelt and

Get ready for the flight

NO! NO! NO!

There’s no, I might

We’ve reached the height

It’s time to go down

So lose that frown

This experience,

Has got my mind blown

I’m ready to chill out

Work shit out

Another stocktake

To filter everything that is fake

THANK YOU!

Hope you all enjoyed the experience?

Soldiers!

For me, it was another good trip

I enjoyed the company, even the lip

REMEMBER!

CALL ME!

This General is always ready to rip

 

Claire Edwards

The Significance of Glittery Air

In my opinion, February snow is the best kind. And on this particular winter’s day in the very middle of the month, a fresh dumping had thrown a crisp, white blanket across the plains of the French fields that I, in my (mistaken) wisdom, decided would be a great ‘short-cut’ back down to the authentic Alpine farming village of Montchavin. I always cherish my stays here, bathed in the shadow of Mont Blanc. This ‘chocolate-box’ village resembles a picture postcard of a typically rustic bourg; rickety wooden chalets with uniquely patterned carpentry, winding cobbled streets and magnificent views of the valley below.

 

As I trudge down the mountain in my moonboots I look forward to the freshly baked baguette I’d ordered earlier from the boulangerie, and I even long for a waft of goat pasture – at least the stench would indicate that I’m finally nearing my apartment.  For now, the air is fresh with pine phytoncides and the village below seems tiny; it shrinks into the distance as my trail twists through pristinely blank openness, dotted with clusters of trees that seem insignificant from a distance but transform into sprawling forests once I’m inside. Occasionally my route is interrupted by a random collection of empty stone and timber buildings, derelict and eerie, emblazoned with intimidating lead crosses and ringed by broken walls.  Another day this situation could easily set the scene for a horror movie.  On the contrary, I’m fortunate to experience a peaceful, uninterrupted traverse through isolated culture-rich pistes  – pure adventure, and my adrenaline relishes it.

 

The strange silence of the remote mountainside encourages my senses to awaken and I focus on every exaggerated detail of the present moment. As the afternoon sunshine wanes through the sporadic copses, moisture in the atmosphere begins to freeze around me, creating an effect of minuscule glittering particles suspended in mid-air and illuminating my pathway… until the dusky rays disappear, taking the sparkle with them.

 

As the sun dips deeper, so do my thoughts. Though the glittery, frozen air will likely return tomorrow, I start to wonder what might be taken from this beautiful landscape more permanently in the coming years. Will there still be thick patches of forest next time I get lost out here? Will the abandoned buildings – and their history – be revamped into holiday lodges, or form part of a new town? Will climate change steal the snow completely? What if the air becomes too warm, and I never witness the ‘glitter’ again!? Life without the magic and wonder of sparkly air would be tragic, I ponder, growing both sad and angry that I might not behold the same glorious topography in this panorama again; a great theft from both me and future explorers.

 

So far I had seen but one other local rambler. Yet, halfway down and in the centre of a dense thicket, I suddenly detect the fixed stare of a watchful eye cutting through me. It’s an odd dichotomy; being so alone in the snowy wilderness whilst concurrently feeling the gut-squeezing sense that I had close company.

 

Then I see them.  A step. Then another step. Followed by another; printed in the snow in front of me. They aren’t my steps. They aren’t even footprints. Stopping dead, I peel a glove from my hand, by now sweaty from a mixture of exercise and anxiety. I place the glove on the snow next to the pugmarks that precede me, and the glove is far outsized by the alarming but equally intriguing impressions. I look around;  there’s nothing in sight. No movement, no clues. Any potential sound is deafened by the high trees and absorbed by the thick snowfall. I snatch up my glove and inspect the fresh, impressive prints more closely – paws. The indentations spring in groups of four, separated easily by a metre in length, leading across the white-sheeted floor to the base of a looming fir tree… then simply cease. Frozen in more ways than one, I visually follow the trail into the branches, unnerved by what might await my sight, but also terrifyingly excited. In the evening haze I can’t locate my invisible companion, but feel my eyes lock into a mutual gaze of inquisition. I know in my soul I’m not alone here. I should be afraid, though instead, perversely, I feel comfort; enveloped in an aura of the purest connection to nature I hadn’t experienced before, nor truly have since.

 

Reaching the village feels like a victory, and as a bonus I’ve made it back in time to collect my fluffy bread from the baker. With “merci beaucoup, au revoir” I turn to leave, after taking the opportunity to recount my tale… “Lynx sauvage!” he confirms, his eyes as wide in wonder as mine.

 

Whilst Eurasian lynx are no longer considered ‘threatened’, I learn I’m exceptionally lucky to have spotted the tracks, as tracing the wild population is near impossible. Their numbers once fell to just 700 in Europe between 1930 and 1950, and only recovered following intensive reintroduction programmes in Switzerland. It’s not only the climate crisis threatening mountain ecosystems and the biodiversity within them.  As human populations increase globally, so does the need for land and space for living and agriculture. Thus lynx, like many other species, are faced with habitat loss and hostile conflict from mountain communities as people expand to higher altitudes and encroach on wild spaces. I discover approximately 16% of the human global population now live in mountain regions that were historically inaccessible – protected from human intervention – and sense it’s only a matter of time before activity impacts on lynx populations once more. Perhaps even in the very mountains I treasure.

I conclude that a world without iced sparkly air has many more implications beyond me missing the phenomenon. The real magic is in the mountains; the isolated forests, the bitter cold, the February snow, the wild fauna… which could all disappear before our unconscious eyes just as casually as the waves of glitter at sunset.

 

Isobel Stewart

 A World Without Indigenous People

Growing up, I was always fascinated by stories of indigenous tribes from across the world, from places as far apart as the prairies of the Native American Indians to the nomadic lands of the Aborigines of Australia.

The one thing that always struck me, was, that at the heart of each culture, there was a wish to protect and preserve the ancestral lands where they lived; each society managing their environment carefully, taking only what they needed to survive, thus assuring stability within nature.

In my naivety, I never realised what a threat these cultures posed to the greedy governments and large conglomerates who saw the lands as places to increase their wealth, to the detriment of the environment.

This threat really only became apparent first-hand, when the wanderlust within me encouraged me to work and travel extensively in Botswana, the original tribal lands of the San people, also known as the Bushmen of the Kalahari. The San are thought to have lived here for 80,000 years, spending their days as hunter-gatherers and using their survival skills to exist in an extreme environment.

I was soon to learn that these environmentally friendly people had faced oppression and eviction from their homelands for many years, and like many other indigenous people, their once thriving culture is now on the edge of extinction.

The main reason for this change is due to the diamonds and mineral wealth to be found in the San’s hunting grounds. Also, expensive safari camps have been granted permits to take over the lands, allowing the owners to set up luxurious camps that will lure wealthy members of the public into disturbing the environment even more.

One of the teachers I worked with was descended from the San nation and I often wondered what her old gardener thought as he tended her flourishing plants and fruits. Did he remember what life was like when he was a young man living and hunting in the Kalahari? Often, he could be seen, ruffling his tight knit cap of woolly hair, streaked with grey, and could be heard speaking to the plants, in his strange clicking language.

His grandson, who only knew of life in a San township, told me that his grandfather would tell the children tales of his young days, living as a proud member of the San, hoping to keep alive the history of his people.

Growing up, his grandfather had lived with a group of fifteen people, male and female, who were all considered to be equals. Women were shown the same respect as the men and as a group, they would make collective decisions should disagreements arise.

Everything the people needed – clothing, food and tools – came from the men hunting with hand-made bows and poison tipped arrows, the poison being made from ground beetles. The women went out with digging sticks and were responsible for gathering fruits, insects, berries, tubers and ostrich eggs. Empty eggshells were used to store water and were sealed with straw to keep the water from spilling out, particularly when the men needed them on a hunt that took them far away from their home.

In Summer, the San moved with the wildlife and lived in temporary shelters, whereas, in Winter they set up permanent homes near to a waterhole. Sometimes they made their home in the caves of the Tsolido Hills that soon became a religious centre for the people.

The rock art found here is famous today and depicts images of the history of the San in the early days, as they set out on their hunts and performed their spiritual ceremonies. There are many images of the animals they hunted, as well as those depicting the sacred eland antelope that the San believed was capable of giving supernatural power to a specific place.

The old man could not understand how the government could be so cruel as to move the San out of their homelands where they protected the environment and the wildlife and encouraged the stability of nature to prevail.

Sad to leave after seven years in this land we called our second home, I was very touched when he gave my daughter a genuine San necklace, whose beads had been constructed from the shell of an ostrich egg. It now hangs in pride of place beside the Bushman hunting set my friend presented me with.

On various occasions since 1997, the San have been forced out of the Kalahari after homes and schools were destroyed, medical centres closed, and the main water hole capped.  The life of the once proud San is now to live in government camps where alcoholism, depression and illness are rife.

The San have applied to the courts to reverse the decision that bans them from their ancestral homeland and won a landmark ruling that they had been evicted illegally and unconstitutionally. However, as of today, the government is still making life very difficult for the those who have returned to live there.

As we all know, our future depends on how we view the past. Will modern man stop to consider how the culture and beliefs of indigenous people, across the globe, can be a step towards saving the planet? Shouldn’t we be using the knowledge of these peoples instead of rejecting their culture in favour of material benefits?

Only time will tell but time is running out and action must be taken now.

 

Cherie Magnus

The Monarch Milagro

(Imagine a world without butterflies)

 

Long before we see a glint of their orange wings, we hear them, hundreds of millions of them. What appear to be acres of trees in brilliant autumn foliage is instead the multitudes of butterflies roosting so thickly as to entirely hide the trees. Because it is warm and sunny at that moment, they are beginning to stir and fly and fill the air, thousands mating as they are mysteriously drawn here to do every year.

It was a cold and wet February in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, but the sidewalk sign under the arcade had announced MARIPOSAS! BUTTERFLIES!  Curiosity made me climb the stairs to Tours Mexico Colonial to inquire, “What’s with the sign about butterflies? It’s the middle of winter. What butterflies?” As a fledgling expatriate in Mexico, I was curious about everything.

“That’s why we have the Monarch Butterfly Tour—to see them in their winter home before their migration back north,” Jaime the tour owner explained. “We can only visit from November to March.”

I had heard about the Monarchs resting in a particular tree the same time every year in Monterey, Northern California, on their way to Mexico, but even though I was from Los Angeles, I had never seen the famous phenomenon. “Sign me up,” I said.

That night a huge storm hit San Miguel and the neighboring highlands, the worst in many years. Streets flooded and the temperature dropped to below freezing.

When a few days later the morning dawned cold but bright, Jaime, a couple from Canada, and I set off on the three-hour drive to Michoacan and the butterfly sanctuary at 10,400 feet. As we climb up the Sierra Cinqua mountains, we pass through the old silver mining town of Angangeo, hung copiously with festive flags of laundry, since today is the first dry day in a long time.

No one really knows exactly why the Monarchs come to this part of the world every year to hibernate, but some people think that the butterflies are drawn to Sierra Cinqua because of programmed insect genetics. Others believe they are attracted by the magnetism of the minerals still in the earth, even after centuries of mining.

At last we arrive at the El Rosario Sanctuary, owned by indigenous groups with the mandate to protect and preserve. The biggest problem facing the conservation of the winter home of the Monarchs here in Mexico is the prevention of clandestine logging and deforestation. Felled trees are today’s money for family food; butterfly conservation is tomorrow’s lofty aspiration.

Jaime pays to park in what I suppose is a parking lot, but today it is just our one car in a field of mud after the torrential storms. As we get out and look around, a posse of horses and riders crests the hill—for rent in case we don’t feel up to the long trek to the Monarchs’ sanctuary way up in the pines.

Nevertheless we set off on foot with our guide, Maria Elena Mondragon Chavez, a tiny indigenous woman of 68, who leads us up the hill, through the piney woods, and over the snow for hours. A guide is necessary because the butterflies’ refuge changes according to the sun and winds, and it takes a specialist to find them. The insects have their favorite trees and foods (milkweed) and are carried from area to area in the forests by warm thermals. Guides insure that visitors don’t damage either the insects or any part of their haven.

The storm three days ago had wreaked havoc on the sanctuary—freezing cold and tree limbs breaking under the weight of heavy snow–and millions of Monarchs lie dead in the snow at our feet, creating a frozen carpet of orange and black. I see the butterflies everywhere, surrounding me below and above and filling the sky, and the world is a magical orange and black of movement. They light on us, on our faces, soft as whispers, cover our hair and gentle our breathing. Engulfed in swirling emotions and butterflies, I feel a wave of intense mutual love and connection to the infinite.

Our silence and awe and the quiet sound of millions and millions of wings beating turns the forest into a church, a holy mystic place of wonder, with tiny living fragments of stained glass knowing something that we don’t. Here is a wonder no one really understands, a mystery taking place each year for millennia that even scientists can’t figure out.

In another couple of months, the Monarchs will begin their annual 3,000 mile return flight north to their summer homes in Canada and the United States. For now they hang like clusters of Spanish moss from the fir trees high up in the mountains of Mexico, and then, when warmed by the sun, mate in the snow. As the males die, the females lay their eggs in the milkweed that sustains the Monarchs. Soon the caterpillars hatch to begin the cycle again with the flight north.

The ancient peoples of Mexico believe that each Monarch butterfly is the soul of a dead child. The butterfly is a Christian symbol for the Resurrection. There’s no doubt that their yearly 6,000 mile roundtrip migration to the same forests in highest Mexico is a mystery—and a miracle.

The vaqueros with the horses again appear through the trees as we, drained and weary, begin our descent. Jaime hikes down on foot with Maria Elena, but the Canadians and I mount our horses and set off through the snow, surrounded and serenaded by beating wings.

 

Kaley Alysia Thatcher

“A World Without Beauty”

Anywhere one travels, near or far away,

Every place bears beauty in a special way.

Ireland, the isle of every shade of green,

France, its Eiffel Tower waiting to be seen

A visit to America gives the passers by

Such abundant beauty so pleasing to the eye.

Travelling to the great Swiss Alps or sailing the Seven Seas

Beauty around the world never ever flees.

A world devoid of beauty would mean no oceans to adore,

No birds to fly up in the sky its brilliant blue to soar.

Asian gardens in glorious hues or a summer day in Spain

Without the beauty of each place our world would be so plain.

A visit to any country to the North, South, East, or West

Would show the beauty that makes each one its best.

A world without its beauty everywhere

Would be so very empty, and a sadness we would share.

Yet we see no matter where we are that beauty does abound.

And each busy city or quaint old town has beauty to be found.

A world without this beauty oh so very vast

Deserves no eyesight or tourist’s camera ever to be cast.

But never worry where you go, by foot, by plane, or car

You’ll always see some beauty no matter where you are.

Be thankful for the beauty that all around you see

For a world without beauty will never come to be.

 

Mary Palmer

A World Without Insects

 

Did you hear through the grapevine,

The insects are in decline?

It sounds quite concerning

The facts, I’m still learning

 

So what? Who cares?

There are millions out there!

We could use a few less

They’re often a pest

 

You’re wrong, I protest

They aren’t just a pest

Youre too quick to condemn

Without them – mayhem!

 

For amphibians, birds and fish

They’re a vital, tasty dish

A key component in the food chain

Equilibrium, they help to maintain

 

If that’s not enough, they’re a main pollinator

In feeding humans, a key facilitator

Without them, our end rapidly nears

Einstein predicted only four years!

 

Insects are needed, there is no doubt

It’s time for action, we must help them out

The easiest way is to let nature take charge

Stop cutting grass, let habitats enlarge

 

Quit using chemicals, nature’s pretty enough

Who really cares if the edges are rough?

I know it’s alarming, but there’s no time for sorrow

Let’s fight for the jnsects to save our tomorrow

 

 

Rajesh Radhakrishna Tikam

A World Without Leopards.

It was the early 1950’s and my village in India was still surrounded by the dense jungle. The jungle had its music that always inspired me. Birds singing along with pattering rain, frogs interrupting sweet music with their offbeat noises, peacock stretching out his gorgeous dotted feathers to start a classical dance and mighty tigers roaring to remind everyone of their royal existence. It was a perfect pleasing surrounding until human greed gulped everything like a wildfire.

For all trees in the jungle, those were the frightening days. No one knew which tree would get sacrificed in the fire of human greed or which animal would drown in the ocean of human thirst. Enormous trees were not only cut down to create homes but few were burned because they were not beautiful enough to decorate pleasing gardens.

I can still listen to those silent screams of trees and the painful howling of animals. They believed that some miracle would save their forest, but nothing happened. Everything burned in the greed of human wildfire.

When this fire of human greed reached its peak and the jungle was disappearing like a river in drought, only one animal drew her sharp paws to challenge humans. She was a beautiful leopard with gorgeous dotted golden fur.

That gorgeous leopard was still there to show humans the stubbornness of the jungle. When there was not a single deer left in the forest to hunt, she wisely drew her paws on helpless dogs. No one knew when she was sneaking into a new town and where she was disappearing after hunting dogs. She was a ghost with frightening amber eyes and humans got scared to even step out in the darkness.

After a long game of hide and seek, finally, a battle sparked among human greed and helpless hunger. Each day a different trap was set to capture the rebellious leopard who denied human rules, but the result was the same, “She escaped again!” Disappointed humans used to shout like frustrated kids. “Oh! She is too fast.” They used to admire her skills in amazement. But unfortunately, each intelligence has its limit, swiftness exhausts with distance and hunger has its mistakes.

When humans realized that it was impossible to compete with a predator’s instinct of survival, they came up with a cowardly idea. Humans tried to poison her. I always wondered why she was risking her life to be around the nanny’s garden. She could have escaped with other leopards but yet she decided to challenge the greed of humans.

That night when she arrived in the nanny’s garden and jumped around the old mango branches, she discovered a dead goat lying beneath the old mango tree. The goat was poisoned. Her instinct knew there was something wrong but an irresistible hunger forced her to fall into a human trap.

With a few silent jumps, she quickly landed on the ground, grabbed the dead goat by the neck and returned among the mango branches. Coward humans were hiding behind bushes and were watching a dangerous yet honest animal satisfying her hunger.

As they predicted, soon her wild eyesight blurred and strong legs lost their strength. She was struggling to keep balance among the old mango branches. But before the humans could capture her, she again disappeared like a ghost and even death refused to help humans.

She was gone, the last soldier of this forest disappeared. Everyone was curious where the leopard went? For her golden fur, humans conducted several expeditions but failed. I was hoping for some miracle and wished to hear the good news of her safety, but Mother Nature was silent.

I asked clouds but they sneaked away without uttering a word. I asked the blowing wind to tell me about the brave leopard, but the wind was speechless too. She was so silent that I knew it’s a silence of tears; instead of answering, the wind carried two old mango leaves with her and blew towards the deep jungle.

As I followed those leaves, I realized the jungle was changing. Half of a forest was already gulped by a concrete jungle and the other half was being transformed into an artificial garden to keep the green garland alive. But this garland had no space for animals. Birds were welcomed but they too preferred to escape.

When those old leaves crossed a buzzing river and entered into the last remaining narrow forest, they sensed a fear. As if all animals knew this concrete jungle will soon gulp their new homes too. Suddenly the silent wind whirled around a bush and threw those tired leaves into a cave. I silently followed them and stepped into the cave.

Inside, I saw a gorgeous leopard with beautiful dotted golden fur, lying on the ground, battling to grasp as many breaths as she could. She wanted to live, only for her little cubs. For those little cubs, it was a normal night to annoy their mother before sleeping. They wished their mother would whirl her tail and they would fight to catch it, but her tail never whirled, it was motionless, silent and dead.

It’s been 11 years and the leopards around the world are still fighting for their existence. How the world would be without the beautiful leopards, I wonder again and again.

 

Amy Louise Strydom

A world without me.

Warm droplets of tears filled with my last hint of hope, race their way down my corpse like face as my burnt-out mind grasps the sickening yet reliving thought of a world without me. My aching abdomen remains knotted and these wishful thoughts consume me piece by piece like a glass of water being filled up to the brim. My clenched fist and sweaty palms grow weaker and weaker at the mere thought of living to see another disappointing dawn break, dragging my life less into a new chapter lasting twenty-four hours but feeling like eternity.

The reflection of the mesmerizing moonlight lays itself gently upon the numerous glossy answers to my never-ending agony in which we call our lives. The soft, soothing blue coloured capsules seal my one-way ticket out of this mundane lifestyle in which we all flauntly prevail on social media everyday wishfully thinking someone out there might pick up on the subliminal cries for help. With the last ounce of energy draining from my battered body, my dried up tongue plunges a problem-solving amount of pills down the hatch. The sound of the last pill entering my inner chambers crashes against my sensitive eardrums sending the last spark of pain and agony through what is soon to be my stone-cold mind. The overpowering taste of metallic blood floods over every last taste bud that makes up my sore ridden mouth, leaving a beautifully wine-red stain on my chapped broken lips.

My heavy chest crashes into the cloud-like bedding causing my air packed lunges to release its last capsule of breath allowing my cracked worn-out voice to let out a life-less sigh breaking the sharp ringing that continuously pierces one of my very few functional organs. The dull colour left in my ocean blue eyes gets consumed by the empty blackness that fills my defeated vessel piece by piece till there is nothing but emptiness and darkness that remains. My impaired vision starts to blur out bit by bit as all that can be “seen” is the mere concept of my lonely depressive imagination. My tear-filled eyes make their journey to the back of my beaten-up head that weighs heavily on my weak shoulders. It is all coming together now like a never-ending puzzle, the last missing pieces start to prevail themselves making the brightly coloured gateway so clear and enchanting as the mere image lays itself to rest on my what is now “dead” still mind. My tired lungs lay themselves to rest as they peacefully exhale their last warm soothing pocket of air out my chapped bloody lips.

My heavy eyelids lock out the last batch of warm teardrops on my pale cold cheeks. The beautiful thought that’s set to rest on my life less body sends one last wave of relief through my altered bloodstream allowing all my long-awaited wishes to be granted and everyone’s most desired thought to be answered. Finally, you can have a world without me.

 

Lillian Tounokon

A DIVE INTO THE   PACIFIC

Could I really describe the unruly things we do to you?

Oh we’ve gone too deep into deep…deep…. blue waters.

Everyone talks about diamonds and stars.

But stars I can’t reach and diamonds I shall never find.

But you…..Oh my coral.

How easy it is for me to simply hug you.

Into these tropical waters I dive and there you are without search.

Oh but I’ve  been pondering, what’s a world without corals?

And I didn’t have to research the answer.

I simply know well, it will be a world without atolls.

A world without crystal clear turquoise waters.

And I also ask the world, what’s are you without corals?

Okay! You’ve got your answers but here’s mine.

It’s a world without my brothers and sisters.

I see them slowly but already scrambling as the ocean is rumbling.

With vengeance it roars for breaking it’s bones.

I see a world without a Melanesia, a Micronesia, and a Polynesia.

A world without corals will be a wide…..wide….and deep…..deep…..Pacific.

Oh hear my Pacific’s cry and pacify with her by restoring her bones.

Because I don’t want to imagine a world without corals.

 

Gemma Hegarty

 A World Without Wildlife

 A world without wildlife would be insane,

Especially with humans at the top of the chain.

You book a safari with a plot,

setting off early before it’s too hot.

Cameras at the ready for the drive,

You know all about the Big Five.

 

You see a lion, under a tree,

Bet you wish you were me;

His teeth and claws put him in danger,

changing your jewellery, seems a bit saner…

Take your picture; it’s time to go,

Reality bites, don’t you know;

 

You carry on going, you see some spots,

Seeing a leopard you know is a long shot;

His skin and bones leave him unsafe,

Synthetic rugs should be embraced…

Take your picture; it’s time to go,

Reality bites, don’t you know;

 

You have a wager, with a ranger,

Seeing a black rhino, now that’s a game-changer;

His horn puts him in high demand,

use in traditional medicines should be banned…

Take your picture; it’s time to go,

Reality bites, don’t you know;

 

Buffalo’s a plenty, at the watering hole,

There’s just the elephant to go;

His ivory tusks – he’s under threat,

Next time please, leave the statuette…

Take your picture; it’s time to go,

Reality bites, don’t you know;

 

A world without wildlife, would be a sad place to be,

Conservation though, does not come for free…

You book a safari, not with glee,

You fear there’ll be little to sightsee.

If only you had taken a stand,

Maybe more wildlife would roam the land.

 

You’re out on safari, with a pout,

Knowing your children will go without;

Your children know all about the Big Five,

how humans led to their demise.

Cameras at the ready for the drive,

Couldn’t feel less alive.

 

You don’t see a lion, under the tree,

an urban development is where it used to be;

You don’t see a leopard, or his spots,

A mine ‘s taken on his plot;

You don’t see a black rhino, or his horn,

His land became war torn;

As for the elephant, at the watering hole,

Global warming took its toll…

You don’t take any pictures, there was nothing to see,

Your children give you the third degree.

 

A world without wildlife just should not be,

Don’t make me plea, you must agree!

Next time, when you see a campaign,

Don’t be lame, engage your brain…

A world without wildlife is a choice,

Be a smart human, and use your voice.

 

Jackie Walton

A World without Kindness…

 

What would the world be like without kindness?  It really doesn’t bear thinking about.  Kindness binds us, mends broken hearts and worlds.  Kindness inspires and guides us; it gives us hope and support.

 

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to organise a round the world trip.  I experienced a LOT of kindness during that time, especially from those who had very little.

 

  • I didn’t want to rush, that wasn’t my style at all; I wanted to deeply experience people and their culture.  My passion for wildlife and nature guided a few of my choices.  My first country was Costa Rica.  I’d really wanted to witness turtles nesting naturally.  That dream came true.  I remember a group of us waiting patiently for a signal from the patrol guy on the beach.  He would radio across if/when a female turtle decided to visit from the sea.  The first one came, then turned around and left!  The second one came.  We formed a line, no white clothing, filters on torches (they’re guided by the moon, so any bright white would confuse them) and off we stepped.  There she was all 1.5 metres of her.  We slowly and quietly formed a semi circle behind her.  I watched in awe at just how huge she was this gentle giant.  She went into a trance as she dug her nest chamber with accurate precision.  I was mesmorised!  Once it was deep enough, she lay between 80-120 golf ball sized eggs, and then covered them.  At this point we backed away and left so as not to disturb her.  Those precious moments were incredible.

 

  • Another dream was to swim with dolphins.  I fulfilled this dream in New Zealand, South Island, Kaikoura (before the horrific earthquake of 2016).  I loved the company’s ethics; they told us clearly that we were the entertainment for the dolphins!  We watched an introduction video and were given a talk before heading out into the open sea.  Once the pod had been spotted, the boat would slow down and we were invited to head into the sea and sing, whistle and make noise!  The dusky dolphins were very inquisitive and attracted by our noise.  I had 3 swimming around me at one time!  It was one of the most moving moments of my life, one I will cherish forever.  Knowing that it was their choice to swim with us was such an honour.

 

  • My third memory took place in Thailand.  I wanted to work/volunteer with elephants, but again, not somewhere touristy.  We’d been in an internet café in Chiang Mai, talking about our plans.  The place I really wanted to visit had a 6 page application form (if people were genuine, they’d persevere and fill it out!)  The café owner overheard me and came over.  She knew the owner of the Elephant Nature Park and contacted her for us and we went to visit.  We were immediately greeted by many dogs!  As a dog lover, this was rather wonderful!  Lek observed how we reacted to the dogs and we chatted with her.  She seemed a very intuitive woman and invited us to volunteer.  There was a small charge, which went directly back into the centre.  We watched a video, it’s been banned in Thailand, mainly as it demonstrates the cruelty many elephants suffer, before being rescued by Lek.  We were fortunate enough to be there when they had a 4 week old elephant calf.  He had a little mop of fuzzy hair and was very inquisitive and surprisingly strong.  Elephants are very family orientated and the bond which formed with him, his Mum and his Aunty was beautiful.  The time we were there, the park offered one ride per person, per week.  There were no wooden seats, as these can cause sores on the elephant’s back.  It involved sitting on the elephant’s neck and having a short ride.  The elephant I chose was the guide elephant to a blind elephant.  She got down on her knees so I could get on and then gently stood up.  Elephants usually flap their ears to keep themselves cool and to displace flies.  This elephant gripped my knees with her ears and didn’t move them.  I said I felt like she was holding me on.  She was, she could sense I was nervous!  Now I doubt there’s a bigger act of kindness than that.  An elephant, who in her previous life, had been so horribly abused and now, here she was holding me steadily in place to ease my nerves!

 

I began thinking about other acts of kindness around the world and came up with these…

 

  • Everyone doing “their bit” during the Pandemic.  The medical staff, people staying home, a friend sending a much needed card, a phone call, a text message…never in our time have we experienced anything as both separating and connecting as this.

 

  • Campaigners, fundraisers and petition writers – their kindness is shaped by passion and a need for a change.

 

  • People who donate blood and organs to save a life.

 

  • The person who smiles at a stranger for no reason.

 

  • Those who gave and continue to give their time to help with the Australian bushfires.  The fire-fighters, the animal charities and the world responded to a crisis.

 

  • People who give a sandwich, a cup of tea or their time to chat and listen to a homeless person, any of us could be that homeless person.

 

  • Kindness is inclusion, whatever the culture, colour, size, age.

 

  • People who donate clothing and goods to charities.

 

  • People who are ditching the plastic, each tiny step and change contribute kindness to an overwhelmed planet.

 

  • Those people who plant trees, the lungs of the earth.

 

If our every decision, every action, every thought, every word could be shaped by kindness, the world would definitely be a kinder and better place.

 

Elijah James

‘A World Without Explorers Against Extinction. ‘

A World Without Explorers Against Extinction is a travel-writing piece because only a travel writing piece could begin to explore the notion of why travel writers are so crucial to opposing the extinction of species’s as well as living lives of exploration!  There was a world before this.  There was a world before.  There was a world.  A world where, previous to the global pandemic, we were allowed to travel and enjoy God’s creation, with all of it’s magnanimous creatures.  But then the virus spread and that world became a nightmare …

 

I was in Africa once, once-and-once-only, Adam ha’Rishon, and I remember a wonderful encounter between an Old Woman who had only seen humans two times in her life and me.  This Old Lady asked, “Why do people go on such long trips?  Why go anywhere?”  But I had to have my answer!  It was on a postcard.  But, where was home underneath the same starry sky as I had become accustomed to, light years away from where I was then; same constellations, though.

 

In the first place, people like us enjoy nature, and we need to have a safe place to experience it, for our own amusement and recreation.  Our pleasure does not mean that we wish to harm anything, or even to make an impact on anything either.  So, we love the land and things and live in harmony with the environment.  Secondly, the Earth is an ideal destination for all who wish to live in a peaceful way and enjoy the wonders that life has to offer.  Thirdly, many of us enjoy the diversity of life, which is something we should all experience.  No less!  And so, in essence, the reason for traveling is as simple as this: We want to experience and enjoy what is possible for all of us (including all of God’s creatures — magnanimous as they are).

 

The thing is, it is not as simple as that.

I think we should be concerned not only for other living creatures, but for ourselves as well.  We are a species that does not want to be alone.  But, in reality, it is the Earth that does not want Us to be alone.  Indeed, the very Earth is a species, with other species arising from her, from which these other species’ also do not want us to be alone as much as they do not want to be alone either.

 

I think there are times we are tempted to take the blame for other people’s shortcomings.  Call it a special thing.  Special relating to species.  Special; species’ial ! …  I think we all know where the blame lies.  But the truth is, the blame rests on all of us for not understanding the interconnectedness of all things.  For the Earth does not want us to be alone.  Yet if we become too isolated, it does not matter if we are happy or miserable.  It is only a matter of time before we are all destroyed, for we are a species that destroys itself by not understanding that there is only one Earth.

 

One or many?  Many.

 

“One?  Or many?”  The African way of counting children, as was recounted to me: “How many children do you have?” I asked the Old Lady.  “One?  Or many?”  “Many,” she replied.

One Earth, many children; all of us a species.

{ … }

Caroline Blake

A World Without You

Dear Joanne,

I had already been there a week when we met. His opening line was something about if I showed him my tan marks, he would show me his. I was sat on the wall at the edge of the beach in Calpe, reading a book.  I was going to tell him to do one and leave me alone, only in words that weren’t so polite. But when I looked up, I saw this gorgeous boy with the deepest blue eyes you have ever seen. He had the cutest freckles over his nose. I don’t think I have ever seen a boy with freckles before.

He sat down next to me. I didn’t object.

We ended up sitting on that wall for hours, just talking and looking out to sea and watching people on the beach. You know how much I love to do that.

He asked whether I had any brothers or sisters. I could have just said no and changed the subject.  But I told him that I had a sister, but that you weren’t with us anymore. I told him all about you.  It wasn’t awkward at all. He didn’t walk away. He just let me talk.

It felt nice to talk about you.

Then he bought us both an ice cream and, and a bottle of a Coke and we sat and watched the clouds racing across the sky, as though they were heading towards some beautiful place that we could only imagine. Heaven?

I kicked my legs against the wall and one of my flipflops fell down onto the beach. He jumped down, picked it up, shook the sand off it and put it back on my foot. “It fits!” he said.

I think that was the first time I had laughed since you went.

He told me I had cute feet. I tried to shake off the compliment and stop the blush from rising to the surface. If he noticed the pink in my cheeks, he didn’t say. He jumped back onto the wall next to me and took hold of my hand for the first time.

I feel sad that you won’t ever meet him. But I suppose I have to get used to that kind of thing happening.

A world without you.

On the first day we met, he walked me back to the villa when it was starting to go dark. He introduced himself to Mum and Dad. He even shook Dad’s hand. It was like something out of a Jane Austen book.

I spent most of the next day with him on the beach. We ate watermelon and pineapple for lunch from a boy who was selling slices of it from a basket on the beach. What a great job, walking up and down the beach all day selling fruit.

He walked me back the villa again but just as we got to the gate, he pushed me against the wall and kissed me. The most gentle and delicious kiss ever.  It was so romantic. He put one hand on the side of my face and the other hand on the back of my neck.

When we managed to break away from each other, I wanted to run back to the villa, find you, grab your arm, pull you into my bedroom, jump on the bed and tell you all about it. You weren’t there.

But I know you can see him. Did you send him to me? Is that your job now? I wish I knew what you did up there.

I didn’t see him the next day. He was going on a boat trip with his friends. One of those where they pour Sangria down your throat from a big brown jug and have party games and make everyone take shots. I wouldn’t have wanted to go. Forced fun.

He sent messages and photos to me all day. He said there was no-one on the boat as pretty as me and he wished I was there. I told him to chill out and stop stalking me.

“Never,” he said.

The day after, he said he wanted to take me to dinner; a proper date. We went to a Spanish place called El Toro Blano. He ordered his steak rare. I had a paella. I would have preferred a burger, but can you imagine eating a burger in front of a boy? Absolutely not.

I wore your pale blue dress. The one with the tiny straps, that you would never let me borrow. You don’t mind do you?

He said I looked beautiful. No-one has ever said that to me before – apart from Mum and Dad, but that doesn’t count. I didn’t tell him that the dress was yours. I didn’t want him to judge me or think it was weird that I am wearing some of your clothes.

After our meal, he held my hand and we walked down to the promenade. We sat on a bench facing the sea and talked and kissed and talked and kissed, for hours.

I put my head on his shoulder and could have stayed there all night.

I was late back.

Dad phoned me at ten past midnight. I had promised him I would be back by twelve.

In Spanish time, it wasn’t late at all.

He ran with me all the way back to the villa and he said that when he is old and he looks back on his life, he will remember this night, running through the narrow streets, dodging people as they tumbled out of the bars, holding hands with the most gorgeous girl he had ever met.

We ran past a street vendor selling barbequed corn on the cob, dripping in butter and wrapped up in brown paper. The smell would have been enticing, in normal times. But I can’t eat sweetcorn anymore. I can’t help remembering that we had sweetcorn on the night you died.

Love Sophia x

 

Tolga Aktas

A World Without…

The environment around us is cold, desolate and in ruin from the past and present inventions of mankind. It is no longer familiar nor welcoming to life other than us humans. What happened? With an absence of natural and abundant ecosystems around our societies; it has been difficult to survive as a single species. How did we get here? If only things were taken seriously during humanity’s existence on Planet Earth; perhaps the biodiversity that fuelled our planet with beauty, hope and meaning would still be here. A world without wildlife and nature is no world at all. Each moment-to-moment decision and action a species makes contributes to the vital environmental services all life on Earth depends upon for survival. Replacing these important interactions with anything less than its wonders means that whatever remaining life on this planet has only a few moments left. Protecting wildlife and wild spaces isn’t only a necessity; it is a fundamental requirement for existing and surviving on this blue marble we call home. For what we do to our planet, in the end we do to ourselves. A world without life is just a giant piece of debris in the middle of the solar system. As far as we know, Planet Earth is the only planet we know of that inhabits various forms of life. It provides the essential microbes needed to grow our crops in the soil, it provides us with trees not only allows us to breathe but also captures carbon, our natural world blesses us with huge diversity of wildlife which provide us with company, fulfilment and awe – it is home! A world without these wonderful privileges would be a scary thought and we must all work tirelessly to protect it. We, all 7.8 billion of us must never forget that we are inextricably linked to our natural world. We are neither atop of the food web nor detached from it. We, just like many other organisms must all work together to fight for our place to experience our existence on Planet Earth!

 

Amanda Butler

A World Without…….

Each morning I wake up and see

the whole wide world stretching ahead of me

But wait! – what’s all this that I hear

Things are happening, starting to disappear!!

 

I hear the news, read the scientist’s claim

They’re saying the world might not be the same

For all the generations following me

What will be the world they wake up and see?

 

A world without wildlife, the big and the small

Species extinct, names I can’t recall!

No elephants, no cats, no butterflies or bees

No corals in the oceans , no fish in the sea

 

What of the insects beneath, the birds up above

The shade of the trees and the flowers that we love

Our precious planet is so teaming with life

We can’t just destroy it with wrongs that are rife

 

So now is the time to say we must SAVE OUR WORLD!

 

STOP! – We are causing all of this pollution

STOP!  -We need to be part of the solution

STOP! – what you’re doing, this is totally absurd

So many conservationists are there to be heard

 

LOOK!  – For a just moment, at the bright blue sky

LOOK!  – At nature’s rich bounty, feel spirits lift high

LOOK!  – it’s all around you, if you choose to take time

To see such wonderful wildlife, nature’s giving a sign

 

LISTEN! Beyond the world’s busy throng

LISTEN! Hear the smallest of whispers, this can not be wrong

LISTEN! to the flutter of wings and the shrillest of tweets

Escape, so you can hear the rustling leaves at your feet

 

To save our planet, we can all do our bit

Making small changes from right where we sit

Reduce plastic, recycle and eat less red meat

Save the ozone, drive less, yes- use your feet!

 

Now let’s make that difference, so each morning I see

A world full of the wildlife, I imagined it to be

Let’s learn all about it, take time to reflect

Make an effort to help, there must be no regrets

 

It’s time for the people of earth to stand up

To make all the changes and start the clean up

We can’t change the past but the future we must

Starting right now, the present is us!!