Humans have stayed on this Earth for the last 200,000 years. It may sound long but it is nothing compared to how long the Earth has existed, which is 4.6 billion years. Despite having existed only that long, humans have caused the most damage on Earth than any other species. The Earth has been giving us all we want and we just keep on taking without giving back anything.
I have recently participated in a camp organized by WWF Bhutan. It was held from January 6 to 11. Shengana Lower Secondary School, Shengana, Punakha was our home for five days. The camp consisted of around 20 Bhutanese students, youths of WWF Hong Kong, staff of WWF Bhutan and youth volunteers. Socially, it was a wonderful time making new friends. We played basketball, did Zumba dance, sang, danced around campfires and had a lot of fun for our fond memories.
The second, but very important part, of the camp was our learning about the importance of biodiversity. We were taught how all the biomes depend on each other for its survival.
We watched an episode of the award winning series, “Our Planet.” We were also taught about citizen scientist by WWF Hong Kong. They shared that we all could be citizen scientists by doing biological surveys of our communities or a nearby forest. Using the Inaturalist App or the Seek App, we could take pictures of the species of organisms found during biological survey and upload them using the App to contribute to the global research community.
We then became citizen scientist! We were divided into groups and explored the community forest. We were guided by forest experts. We took pictures of organisms and uploaded it in the SEEK App or the Inaturalist App. The group with the highest number of observations and species were promised a reward, which I thought was a good way to motivate the kids. Through that activity, I learnt that even a very small part of the forest is rich with so much wildlife. I was amused of how an animal can adapt to its surrounding to keep itself safe. An insect we found in the forest was green in colour to camouflage with the leaves to avoid getting eaten. Later that day, winners were declared and awarded with bird badges.
One morning, we set off towards Phochhu river. The sun wasn’t even up yet. We walked along the river searching for birds. Our main objective was to see the white-bellied heron. We recorded around 20-30 birds that morning. Unfortunately we weren’t able to see the white-bellied Heron. It was a sad moment to realize that some species are becoming very rare and are at the verge of extinction. However, out of all the birds we found, the river has been a habitat to around five bird species, which I thought was fascinating.
An official, Chetna Kaith from WWF India also led some sessions. She talked about how harmful plastics can be and showed us a set of videos about how plastics are affecting the wildlife. We realized that humans are also consuming plastic. It motivated us to take pledge to never use plastic straws in our life.
The session continued with a role-play debate. We were separated into three groups: 1. The board of a mineral water bottle company. 2. Environmental Activist and 3. The Jury. The board propagated for the need of Mineral Water Company and the activists went against the motion. Finally, the jury decided, whether or not, the company should be allowed.
I was in the activist group. We tried our best and they tried their best too. After the debate, the Jury decided that the Mineral Water Company will be set up but it will need to donate some percent of their profit towards planting trees. I wasn’t satisfied with that decision because of its enormous potential to destroy the environment. A huge area of land would be lost, polluted or turn barren. What is the point of saving money to plant trees? Also, plastic bottles would add to the already growing concerns of increasing solid waste. I wished such decisions would not be made in real life.
In the following days, we were given two projects to choose from. One was Bend The Curve Challenge, in which there were 10 goals to accomplish. The other one was LAB, in which we had to do a biological survey of a place and share it with the community. We also need to plan how to save and preserve the recorded wildlife. I felt that giving students with this kind of projects would awaken the young minds, let them think outside the box and be innovative.
My take home message from that camp was that humans and the wildlife around us should have a mutual and symbiotic relationship and that we depend on each other for survival. We need wildlife to keep the air around us clean and they need us to preserve and promote healthy living environment too. I felt this camp was organized to create awareness to the youths about the beauty of nature and why we need to help save this mother Earth.
I felt so lucky and grateful to WWF Bhutan for giving us the opportunity to be part of the camp. But when I think of others, it made me feel the need to recommend every dzongkhag or school to organize a camp like this as much as possible. It helps create the most positive impact among youths to understand: that natural life is vanishing real fast; most of our activities are harming the natural life; and thus, striving for mutual relationship to live in harmony with nature is a necessity and urgent.
Bhutan is one of the biological hotspots in the world, and Bhutanese youth should learn to sustain it before it is too late.
Contributed by Sonam Rinchen
Class 8 batch of 2019
Jigme Namgyal Lower