Few words come close to describing India better than “complex”. While being home to over a billion people, a myriad of cultures, and countless languages, it also somehow manages to be one of the most biodiverse countries on our planet. Nevertheless, being a developing nation, arguably with limited governance capacity and where there is rampant exploitation of nature, human-wildlife coexistence is regularly obstructed. Often, it is hindered by our cynicism to facilitate the same.
While we accept these realities, we a group of “conservation optimists”, aim to catalyse the formation of a hub in India, a country we all feel connected to, for action-oriented and science-based stories, tools, and resources to inspire, educate, entertain and empower people to make positive impact for themselves and nature. While we acknowledge that, as is the case in the world, nature in India faces many challenges. The human response to this is seemingly inadequate or potentially even destructive. Yet, we are aware that within these struggles are stories of regeneration, co-existence and positive change from all corners of India. It is these stories that we believe are the key to securing the future of our planet. We need to learn from them, replicate them and thereby build a world in which nature and people can coexist.
This hub is our humble effort to do so in India! We aim to facilitate the formation of a network of individuals that supports each other, empathizes with each other’s realities, learns from failures, and uses informed optimism to catalyze their actions. Because let’s be honest, pessimism at best leaves you exactly where you started, while optimism helps carve a potential path forward!
Here is a bit more about the people who are helping kick off this hub:
Prasenjeet Yadav: Hub Mentor
Prasenjeet Yadav is a molecular ecologist turned National Geographic photographer and explorer. Early in his scientific career, he realised that his real passion lay in storytelling. He now combines his experience in research with his photography skills to popularise ecological and conservation sciences in the wider society. Prasenjeet is one of the very few photographers who integrates science deeply into his photo stories. He chooses ignored subjects, landscapes, and species and find ways to develop engaging and accessible photos. For every story, he collaborates with researchers, managers, policymakers as well as conservationists. Along with the larger stories, he also produces stories that are directed at specific audiences who have the power to create lasting change.
His previous projects helped bring light on sensitive issues such as climate change and its effects to the Western Ghats, effects of windmills on the surrounding ecosystems raising questions about how green is our green energy. He is a founder member of ‘Shoot for Science’ which is an initiative to train scientists in science communication. He is represented by National Geographic Creative and is currently working in the Himalayas on a story for National Geographic Magazine. Prasenjeet’s luggage is currently based in Bangalore and he is constantly on the move.
Preety Sharma: Hub Mentor
Preety likes to tell people she is a talkative, die hard foodie who has lived most of her life outside family
boundaries. She spent a couple of decades in Kolkata, but home is in Nagaland where she eventually want to settle as well. The choice of her work has literally happened by chance while living in remote parts of the country and working with diverse cultures. Communities, culture, systems and philosophy intrigues her and drives most of her everyday life. She is particularly keen on how we assess (or rather reassess) success, especially within conservation. A huge fan of comedy culture and anything between 40s and 70s. Leaving you with her quote of the decade
“There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio –
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy”
Manini Bansal: Creative Communications Head
Manini is a graphic designer and science communicator. She works as the Art Director and Managing Editor at Current Conservation, which is a platform to communicate conservation-related issues and science in an accessible manner to a wide audience. She also works as a designer at Dakshin Foundation, which is an NGO with a mission to inform and advocate conservation and natural resource management, while promoting and supporting sustainable livelihoods, social development and environmental justice.
Trisha Gupta: Hub Manager
Trisha is a marine researcher working with Dakshin Foundation on conservation and sustainable fisheries of sharks and rays. Finding optimal solutions to keep both people and nature happy is especially challenging in India, and through Conservation Optimism she wants to create a platform to build positivity and skills for improved conservation outcomes.
Marishia Rodrigues: Hub Manager
Marishia is currently doing her Masters in Wildlife Biology and Conservation from the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, India. Feeling very passionately about conservation, social justice and mental health, she works towards bridging the gap between science, economics and local communities at Terra Conscious, which is a social enterprise based out of Goa, India.
She aspires to work in the space of socio-ecology and practical conservation where she can use her strong interpersonal skills to interact with local communities, highlighting them as ambassadors for environment sustainability and conservation. Conservation Optimism provides all the tools and messaging required to bring conservation to every individual and that is what interests her most about this space.
Munib Khanyari: Hub Coordinator
Growing up in the Himalayas of Kashmir, nature was always at Munib’s doorstep. Be it trekking with his father or walks across the ridgeline with friends, the mountains have always inspired him. Munib Khanyari is currently a Research Associate at Nature Conservation Foundation’s High Altitude Program and a PhD student at the University of Bristol and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science in Oxford.
He studies factors that affect ungulate populations at a landscape level, and is particularly interested in understanding how to align people’s socio-economic needs with that of wildlife conservation. Through Conservation Optimism, Munib sees an opportunity to engage with like-minded individuals across India and find synergies to do good for nature and society!
You can follow the India Regional Hub on Instagram @conservationoptimismindia and get in touch with the team at firstname.lastname@example.org!