Conversations on conservation

Artist Meena Subramaniam was awarded the TN Khoshoo Memorial Award for her immersive paintings of nature

The TN Khoshoo Memorial Award was instituted in the year 2004 to honour the legacy of Triloki Nath Khoshoo, a renowned environmental scientist and founder trustee of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE). The award is given, by ATREE, to a mid-career academician or a practitioner, whose work has had an impact in the field of environment, conservation and sustainable development. So far, it has been presented to 19 academics, practitioners and organisations. 

This year, the award presentation and lecture event took place at the Bangalore International Centre and was centred around the theme of Science Communication. The awardee was artist Meera Subramniam and the keynote speaker was Jonathan Baillie, the executive vice president and chief scientist of National Geographic. 

Nithin Pandit, the director of ATREE, chose this theme as he feels that the public should be more involved in science, which means that scientists have to do better in terms of communicating.

“Scientists do fabulous science, but we’re not usually trained in communications. Because of that we’re unable to get the word out and address the needs of the society. It also works the other way, unless we communicate with the external world, we can’t find out what the real needs are,” he adds. 

This year’s awardee, Meena Subramaniam, says nature is her religion. She paints large canvases of immersive and colourful scenes from nature. While introducing her Pandit said her paintings seem “almost as if a forest is being formed in layers”.

Meena urged the audience to engage with the natural world and eco-systems and to ‘create more space in our hearts to preserve, regenerate and restore what has been handed to us’. She also greatly believes that all education today should be focused on conservation.

This was followed by a lecture by Jonathan Baillie. He touched upon various aspects of conservation, and the activities that the National Geographic is doing to work towards a better future. The session concluded with Jonathan appreciating the reverence and respect India has for nature. 

Following a short tea break, the ceremony switched gears to celebrate ATREE’s educational wing, The Academy for Conservation Science and Sustainability. The institution completes a decade of formal operations this year. It has graduated 27 PhD students who have done research on various aspects of Indian conservation. 

The event concluded with a dinner organised by the organisation’s Food Futures Initiative.

Newly established by the Centre for Social and Environmental Innovation, the move aims to link consumption to conservation. Their first step towards that was the dinner that was organised in collaboration with Arbor Brewing Company. 

Attendees went home with butterfly kits. These kits designed by ATREE’s scientists included items and tools which would supposedly create a favourable environment for butterflies to thrive.

The basket, which held the items,  was woven by tribal artisans; the nectar feeders were created from upcycled beverage cans and the origami butterflies which decorated the baskets were made by rural school children as part of their crafts class conducted by the artisans.

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