Hope is a strong emotion which when shared and replicated, can carry ripples to distant places. At Conservation Optimism, our motto is to spread positive stories to inspire change, and the same ethos stands at the genesis of CO’s India Hub. During the 2019 summit, a group of conservation optimists from India realised that instead of “arriving” at CO’s global, inspirational gathering in the UK, what was required was to “bring” CO home. And so, in April 2020, fuelled by a few optimists, India hub came into being, to engage and echo optimism in the conservation space of India.

Starting in the grim backdrop of the Covid19 pandemic, we focussed our efforts on building an online community on social media platforms including Instagram and Twitter, to foster support for hidden narratives of positive change from all over the country. Over a year, our community has grown into nearly two thousand followers with a hundred posts! What lies at the core of any movement is people, and we celebrate this budding community of conservation optimists with our series Humans of Conservation. Aimed to echo efforts of people from diverse backgrounds and landscapes, we provided a positive platform for over twenty voices working towards bringing a positive change.

A post from the Humans of Conservation series. “Tsaba valley is a part of our lives”, says one of the herders from the cold desert of Ladakh. “If we don’t take care of it, then who will?”

The search for a silver lining had never been as crucial, as in these dispiriting times when the world came to a standstill. As a growing community we put our efforts to navigate this lonely and gloomy stage by sharing our experiences of falling and picking ourselves up, with initiatives like When life gives you lemons.. and Mental health celebration week. Humans are social animals, and cooped up in their homes, the importance of communication was abundantly underlined. Conservation as a field, demands inclusivity which inherently relies on effective communication, often demonstrated with innovative ways. In this spirit, we celebrated and showcased around fifteen artwork and illustrations paving the way for powerful dialogue with Creative Conservation Week. Although most of us were away from our field base, our inner optimists helped us recall and gather positive messages from the landscape while celebrating Shark Week, Mountain Week and Ocean Week. These efforts also helped us all in appreciating the plethora of diversity which often escapes the charismatic lens. This Species in Spotlight series shined long-overdue light on few, yet diverse fauna from bioluminescent planktons to mystifying moths!

The CO India Hub not only fostered a collective of optimists but also integrated itself in the larger and dynamic conservation community of India. As strongly as we believe in the strength of positive communication, we also firmly believe in effective action. When the world was coloured in shades of solitude, India’s forests faced major threat from developmental projects. Limited scrutiny and lack of on-site public support, made situations worse. During these times, the hub has been an active participant in citizen campaigns across the country to save fragile and biodiverse ecosystems in the Dibang Valley, the Pulicat Lake and the Dehing-Patkai and Mollem forests. 

Although the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, the hub is vitalized by a few dedicated and passionate optimists. These members have represented the hub and the movement in national (Kottayam Nature Society and Alappuzha Natural History Society; Nature inFocus) and international (Communicate 2020; IUCN Global Youth Summit 2021) platforms. Conservation optimism assigns pronounced importance on positive framing of the messages while emphasising on a solution-driven approach. Team members communicated these ideas during panel discussions organized by Solutions Journalism Network and CoalitionWild. 

“In a world where attention spans are short and movements fast, the visual medium is an effective way to make an impact and connect with others” says Nadisha Sidhu featured in the Creative Conservation week.

Towards the end of our first year, we reached another milestone by kick-starting our next series One Step at a Time vocalizing the efforts of grassroots organizations and groups. Lockdowns put a multitude of restrictions on researchers and conservationists working far away from their homes in remote wilderness. In these crucial times, the importance of local communities and grassroots organizations becomes even more critical. With few stories already up, we aim to bring focus on these seldom appreciated warriors of nature in the coming months. As we head into our second year, despite the restrictions posed by the pandemic, we remain committed to sharing stories of hope and inspiration from India with special efforts to bring these in local languages. The recent global situation witnesses our deteriorating relationship with nature. In hopes of appreciating and strengthening this relation, we plan to organize online events such as webinars and live chats to discuss the theme of human-wildlife coexistence.

As we wrap up this year, we would like to acknowledge the relentless dedication of the team, zealous participation from our growing community and efforts of passionate individuals carrying the baton of conservation. In the coming times, we hope, now more than ever, to continue building this community of support and compassion inspired by the glimmer of hope!

Blog coordinator - India hub
Divyashree Rana is a doctoral student at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in India. She is a carnivore biologist with her work shedding light on the mysterious world of small cats. She loves travelling and exploring new places, one of the many perks of being a wildlife biologist.