Environment conservation became a concern for the modern society only after humankind did collateral damage to nature.
But when we look back, we can find a lot of people across the world, who showed us the importance of conserving nature with their words and actions.
Though modern civilization proclaimed that man is the dominant species on the planet and we rule and tame nature, there were people who said, man was just a part of nature and when we destroy nature mercilessly, we are harming ourselves.
We coolly ignored them and branded them primitive, but now we come to realise that they talked sense.
Asoka, the Great, who planted trees throughout his empire is a good example to start with.
Let us go through a list of few of them.
Tissa was the King of Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka between 307 B. C. and 267 B.C. It is recorded that he created the first wildlife sanctuary and forest reserve in history. He banned hunting in selected areas of his kingdom and with the aid of local tribes, he made sure that the forests would not be cleared for generations to come.
Amrita Devi is the founder of the Chipko Movement. In 1731, when the King of Marwar ordered to cut down the Khejri trees in Khejarli ignoring the protests of the Bishnoi tribe. Amrita Devi (who was a Bishnoi) and her three daughters Asu, Ratni and Bhagubai hugged the trees to stop the workers from cutting down the trees, but all the four women were ruthlessly axed down along with the trees. The Bishnoi tribe members decided that they would sacrifice a life for every tree that was fell. The death toll went up to 363(!!!) when finally the minister ordered to stop cutting down the trees. This movement was relaunched by Sunderlal Bahuguna in 1927.
Chief Seattle was a popular figure of the Duwamish clan. When the European settlers came and colonised land from the aborigines, Chief Seattle made a spectacular speech on January 12, 1854 about ecological balance. A few lines from the speech would be so enlightening, “The idea of selling land is foreign to us, and we cannot understand it. The freshness of the air, the sparkle of the water, does not belong to us. It was given to us by our ancestors. Will you take care of our land, with that reverence if we give it to you?”
The entire speech is available here: http://www.barefootsworld.net/seattle.html
Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau wrote a book, Walden in 1854, which was about simple living in harmony with nature. The work was a satire on the trends of colonisation and proposed living in the woods, reducing necessities and encouraging a community living style. Mahatma Gandhi said that Thoreau had a major influence on his philosophy.
John Evelyn FRS, presented a paper to the Royal Society, England in 1662 about the importance of conservation of forests. After two years, the paper was published as a book Sylva. Even today, the book is counted as an authoritative text by environmentalists.
Most of the people afore mentioned, were not educated but they had sensitivity towards other fellow humans and nature, which unfortunately, today’s world lacks. Our parents, grandparents and great grandparents who strictly practised agriculture like a lifestyle can also be added to the list of these historic personalities.
And though they all are gone, they have bequeathed us a beautiful nature which they nurtured and protected with their lives. Thus, it becomes our responsibility to do our fair share to conserve and nurture nature.