#TGATJ (The Garden And The Jungle, October 08, 2016):

Is dingo in danger? What are forests and gardens ‘for’? Is the wilderness a place where humans are absent? What is the history of the conception of wilderness? Can nature be sculpted? Are gardens a space on a continuum between the city and the jungle? Why do we build gardens? What do you introduce into gardens? Are visually remarkable species preferred in this process? Why are only certain trees planted? Are there ‘local’ plants and animals? Are starlings American? Are potatoes Indian? Why aren’t all alien species invasive? Are we an invasive species? When does adaptation succeed, & why are animals more constrained than plants in this context? Is Subabul the same as Kubabul? Must and can (some) plant species be eradicated? How do plants and seeds spread? What are the uses of trees in an urban landscape? Can gardens (or even jungles) collapse? Can gardens become forests (as stable networks)? (How & when) can rewilding be done? Why are planted forests sometimes sterile? What is the future of pulsating ecological forests? Do forests need forest departments? Can we just let the jungles be? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from ‘ecological gardening’ (Pradip Krishen, New Delhi), environmental history (Prof. Mahesh Rangarajan, Ashoka University, Delhi), and crop physiology & bioprospecting (Prof. R. Uma Shaanker, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore).

Listen in….

SynTalk is pleased and privileged to have hosted the following SynTalkrs (in alphabetical order) on its #TGATJ show.

Pradip Krishen (‘ecological gardening’) was a filmmaker and is an environmentalist based in New Delhi. He graduated from St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi, & then went to Balliol College, Oxford. He spent the first five years of his working life teaching Far Eastern history to undergraduates at Ramjas College, University of Delhi. He then made popular science documentaries for the next three years. In 1980 he won a screenplay competition and a few years later went on to direct his first feature film, ‘Massey Sahib’. Being regarded as a somewhat quirky voice in Indian New Wave cinema, he went on to make two other feature films: ‘In Which Annie Gives it Those Ones’ (1989), ‘Electric Moon’ (1991), as well as an incomplete TV serial, ‘Bargad’, before deciding to give up film-making in 1994. Pradip taught himself field botany and began identifying and photographing Delhi’s trees, and extensively exploring the city’s green habitat. He has also created ‘native-plant’ gardens in Delhi, west Rajasthan, and Garhwal. He calls himself an ‘ecological gardener’ now. He has spent the last 11 years restoring a rocky swathe of desert, the Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park, next to Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. The rewilding work in Jodhpur started in 2006 with the aim to restore the natural ecology of the rocky tract. The park now boasts of about 300 species of trees, shrubs, climbers and herbs, including grasses and sedges. He has also published two books: ‘Trees of Delhi’ (Penguin/DK, 2006) and ‘Jungle Trees of Central India’ (Penguin, 2015).

Prof. Mahesh Rangarajan (environmental history) is Professor of History and Environmental Studies at Ashoka University, Delhi. He studied history at Hindu College, University of Delhi (1982-85) and at Balliol College, Oxford (1986-88), where he went as a Rhodes Scholar. He was awarded a D.Phil. in Modern History from Nuffield College, Oxford University (1993). He has been Professor of Modern Indian History at University of Delhi (2007-2011) and served as the Director of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (2011-2015). He has also taught at Cornell University, Jadavpur University & NCBS, Bangalore; besides working as Assistant Editor of ‘The Telegraph’ for one year. His area of research is environmental history and his first monograph, ‘Fencing the Forest’ was published in 1996. Prof. Rangarajan has been unique in conceptually welding together ideas on wildlife management, conservation science, and environmental history. His most recent works include ‘Nature and Nation’ (2015) and the co edited books, ‘Shifting Ground’ (2014) and ‘Nature Without Borders’ (2014). He was Chair of the Elephant Task Force of the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India in 2010. The Elephant Task Force was formed to formulate measures for the protection of elephants in India. He was a member of the founding team and a corresponding editor of the Cambridge-based journal Environment and History headed by Richard Grove, and also a member of the executive board of the Association of South Asian Environmental Historians.

Prof. R. Uma Shaanker (crop physiology, bioconservation)  is currently a Professor at Department of Crop Physiology and School of Ecology and Conservation, University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Bangalore. His key focus research areas are bioprospecting and bioconservation. He obtained his Masters degree in Genetics and Plant Breeding and a Ph.D. in Crop Physiology from the UAS. Prof. Shaanker is an elected Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore. He was a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and a Honorary Fellow of the Jawaharlal Nehru Center for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore. He is currently also a Senior Fellow at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bangalore and a Honorary Research Associate at the University of New Burnswick, Canada. He has published more than 265 peer-reviewed papers, about 30 articles in books and monographs, besides authoring or editing fifteen books. Prof. Shaanker’s research contributions over the past three decades span the areas of plant evolutionary biology, conservation biology and bio-prospecting in that order. His work along with his colleague, Prof. Ganeshaiah was instrumental in extending for the first time, sociobiological concepts (such as sexual selection, kin selection, sibing rivalry and parent offspring conflict) to plants. His work on bioprospecting has been widely covered in the popular press, especially after the H1N1 virus pandemic.

Note: Any & all errors in the brief profiles above are SynTalk’s own.

#TGATJ mentions: Charles C. Mann, Eric Dinerstein, Romila Thapar, Aloka Parasher-Sen, Daud Ali, & Renee Borges, among others.