Year after year, we celebrate ‘days’ like today to raise awareness of our impending doom, and then out of contrition, indulge in taking pledges to overcome them. Unfortunately, most of these pledges seem to last almost as long as a second on Jupiter. Thankfully, some do have the grit and determination to go all the way.

This Environment Day, I am thrilled to draw light on one of those heroes that dredge day in and day out against the undercurrent of ingrates like us to save those on which our survival largely depends – Birds. But first, why do birds matter? This is obviously like asking ‘Why should we not kill ourselves?’, but to put facts on a footing, there is ecological damage from not protecting them. Recovery efforts for any species in trouble cost far more than protecting it before it disappears. Birds are miracles, but they are also oracles. That is, they are the greatest soothsayers of climate change. Their behaviour can help us in evaluating the dangers to the environment. Birds also help in reducing insect outbreaks; they are also important pollinators. There are trees that will not spread out unless they are pollinated by birds. They are, on all accounts – aesthetically, symbolically, socially, ecologically – an inspiration. This is what brings me to the very talented artist, Niharika Rajput.

Black-necked cranes workshop, Druk Padma School,  Ladakh

Niharika is a visual artist and a creative conservationist based out of New Delhi, India. Her work solely rests on her love for nature and its sublime creations. Having been born in Arunachal Pradesh, traversing various mountain terrains, she has developed an inextricable bond with nature and wildlife, which has since then fondly grown into her passion for conserving our endangered wildlife. Through her work, she intends to lend a creative voice to those who cannot speak for themselves and save them from disappearing in the age of Anthropocene. She believes that birds are God’s messengers as they traverse all the five elements that constitute life – Water, Earth, Air, Fire and Space – both literally and in mythological metaphors. On her inspiration behind her art, she says, ‘My love for the winged species is not recent, I’ve had a deep admiration for birds and wildlife in general since I was young. Growing up, life caught on and I did not realize when I stopped observing them until I saw a flock of 10 to 12 Red Billed Blue Magpies in Himachal Pradesh. The idea of doing something creative always made me feel very comfortable. At the time, I was struggling to find the subject I connected best with to build my pieces. After my sighting of the magpies, I was certain that Birds would be my focus. However, it did not end there. That was just the beginning.”

Niharika actively uses her art as a medium to communicate. The effect of climate change, loss of habitat, hunting, poisoning, illegal trade to name a few, are some of the issues she is trying to fight. With the support of several conservationists and nature centres, she has been successful in conducting ‘Art for Wildlife Conservation’ projects in India and all over the world. From Delhi to Ladakh to British Columbia, her focus has been on various species of birds. She has conducted workshops with almost 1500 children, men and women through her projects, which tend to be educational, entail discussions, hand building activities, bird watching trips and introduction to bird guides. She believes that these workshops are a step towards getting people excited about the birds found in their region and help train them to be ‘bird sleuths’ and ‘citizen scientists’.

In this age, our environment demands more attention than ever before. That is why we need more such people. What we also need is that these exemplaries get the attention they deserve. Niharika is my inspiration and I hope that through this article, more people get to know about her. If you too know such people, comment their names below for everyone to see. Have a responsible Environment Day!

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