What comes to mind when you hear the word endangered animals? Chances are that like most people, you would think of forests or nature reserves. Did you know that 46 per cent of endangered species are in cities? Mumbai alone is home to 40 species of endangered birds. Aaditya Sengupta Dhar, a thirteen-year-old student at Ecole Mondiale World School in Mumbai, was spurred to action when he learned of this largely unknown issue of animal extinction occurring in our backyards. As he says, “I have always loved wildlife and the idea of existing in harmony with other animals. While I had barely heard of concepts like “conservation” until recently, a belief I strongly hold is that we humans should treat the living beings we share this Earth with fairly. When I was four years old, I turned vegetarian because of this reason, because I learned that the chicken and fish that I was eating were the same creatures I read about living on the farm and in the sea.”
Aaditya had been chosen for a Fellowship by Learn with Leaders, where a small group of teens from around the world come together to think of how they can make a social impact. He thought of combining his love for writing with his passion for the environment to learn more about this issue and pitched his idea for funding. The micro-grant funding he got from the MIT SOLV[ED] foundation enabled him to do deep research into this issue, including a large quantitative survey in Mumbai. What he found strengthened his resolve to do something about this issue. Only one per cent of respondents thought endangered animals were an issue in cities and most (88 per cent) thought the only way to help was to donate to NGOs. Aaditya through his research learned that there are many things we can do every day which can make a big difference. Just turning off all the lights at home at night can save a dozen birds a year, for instance; and taking one stray animal off the streets and giving it a home can save 2600 endangered animals over two years.
He also learned about many communities around the world which had come together to make a big difference in their ecosystems- from the Monarch butterflies in California to Versova beach in Mumbai. The young author put together all these findings and ideas in his book, Back From The Brink: Join The War Against Animal Extinction, which was released on the eve of World Earth Day on April 22. This book aims to raise awareness of the issue of animal extinction in urban areas; highlight simple, everyday steps each of us can take to make a difference and share inspirational case studies of community-based action around the world.
Aaditya recognises that this is a big issue he is trying to tackle as a young teen. He says, “I am but thirteen years old, and my voice is small, and what I can hope to achieve by myself is insignificant. However, through this book, I am trying to do my bit to increase awareness not just of the issue of animal extinction in urban areas, but how we- you, me, all of us, can contribute to solving this issue.”
However, he adds with a smile, “I’m just a kid, but as my favourite author J.R.R Tolkien said, even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”
Back From The Brink is available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.in/Back-Brink-against-Animal-Extinction/dp/1636405231/