HIGHER GROUND
Condé Nast Traveller India|August - September - October 2021
Living simply and travelling in a considerate manner is the new urgency, says Geetika Jain
Geetika Jain

Up until just three to four generations ago, sustainability was simply baked into our existence. Banana leaves were dinner plates, bath allowance was a bucketful of water, clothes were dried in the sun and holidays meant visits to grandparents rather than shopping sprees abroad. Belonging trumped belongings.

Many tribes still cling to the old ways. Upon hunting a seal, the Inuit in Greenland thank its soul with a prayer and let the other seals return to water. The First Nation folk in America are fighting off lucrative mining on their land for they revere it and care for the future of their people. In the Omo Valley in Ethiopia, most found objects (including spent bullet shells) are saved and turned into jewellery. The Rabari goat-herders in Jawai, Rajasthan, continue to tolerate and co-exist with leopards in their midst.

Machines that reshaped our world, a modern culture of unfettered consumption and acquisitiveness and the dramatic rise in the number of humans has led to depletion of biodiversity, forests, minerals, sand and corals, and added toxins and waste to our environs in a frighteningly short period. Our ship is palpably running aground. I’ve personally witnessed the magnificent primary forests of Borneo, the otherworldly spiney forests of Madagascar and the rainforests of Brazil and all the fascinating creatures within being squeezed out by oil palm plantations, and the once-verdant grasslands of Mongolia overgrazed due to overwhelming demand for cashmere. In Antarctica, despite being cautioned against picking any pebbles—for that’s all the penguins have to make their nests to keep their eggs from freezing—I saw people pocketing them as souvenirs.

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