Winter has come in with a Bang!

By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

In Curepipe at least. Call it anti-cyclone or whatever, the fact of the matter is that after a week, I really mean seven days, of what seemed to be like summer, on Wednesday morning it was suddenly winter. Oh yes the days had been getting shorter and it was still dark a good few minutes after six in the morning, but the sun was still blessing us with its warm rays as it shone through the clouds up there in the eastern skies.

For the past two days this has not happened. Instead, the sky was heavily overcast as a few people braved it to Trou-O-Cerfs, taking the usual precautions for protection against the strong winds. I have just emerged from a nasty throat infection, but that did not prevent me from hauling myself to the crater everyday. How can one miss that awesome view and still live?

These were my few thoughts when I was going through a short article in the New Scientist about a call by the International Union for Conservation of Nature half a century ago, which had come up ‘with a radical idea to advance its cause: the Red List of Threatened Species, a comprehensive and scientific inventory of the conservation status of the world’s plants and animals.’ It was reckoned that species were being lost rapidly, mainly due to human activity. But the reality is that this activity has increased and will continue to do so, as the population of the world goes on increasing.

The article therefore makes a plea for a change of focus from the traditional two goals that we have pursued: saving threatened species and restoring Earth to how it used to be, both of which are now ‘doomed.’ Species are dying because human activity is changing their habitats, or ecosystems, and it is no longer possible to restore the Earth to its former state.

The best we can do therefore, argues the article, is to go for healthy ecosystems, which may even need to be created artificially, instead of species. Much as we would have wished to, we cannot go back to an original pristine Earth in this human-dominated world.

So the new Red List of health ecosystems of the IUCN ‘should be seen as a rallying cry for the living world, and also for a planet that serves human needs: lush, thriving and with diverse wildlife that gives us essential things like food, clean water and beautiful scenery. Earth surely did that before we radically reshaped it, but that time has long since passed.’

Many of us have a nostalgia for the Trou-O-Cerfs of our childhood and adolescent days, and despite the changes that have taken place, it is still ‘pristine’ enough. Now we are hearing that there are plans to make a ropeway at the crater and to ‘develop’ it as a site for more tourist activities. We are worried as we do not know what that means in practice.

Like other developments that have taken place with some severe and unfortunate consequences that we have witnessed recently, we do hope that there will be widespread and comprehensive consultations with stakeholders – the walkers at the crater among others – if ever such a plan is being envisaged. As a unique and most prominent landmark in our island, Trou-O-Cerfs no doubt deserves to be given due consideration as a site that has no second in the world.

I cannot think of any of the big renowned cities around the world whose inhabitants can, within minutes from their homes, reach a walking track situated in lush greenery, that on the one slope looks down into a mini-canyon and on the other encompasses a panoramic view of a paradisiac island with the blue sky and its fluffy white clouds as its canopy, and with birds chirping away in abandon to one’s heart’s delight.

Even the chilling, biting cold wintry wind is momentarily a welcome visitor as it sweeps across one’s cheeks, because as one warms up during the walk the sting becomes less, though not quite a caress! And when mist fills the crater and envelopes the surroundings, with dew drops on the grassy sides like a huge mat of tiny, glittering pearls spread out, it’s nothing less than heavenly. To paraphrase Tagore, into that heaven, dear Father, let me awake!

I do not know about ‘Maurice c’est un plaisir’, but being at Trou-O-Cerfs is certainly a great joy, and that lingers for the rest of the day after the morning daily. Now that is a pristine gift that Mauritius should not lose!

* Published in print edition on 17 May 2013

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