The Takshashila Institution, organised a book conversation, at its office, with author Harini Nagendra on her latest offering, ‘Cities and Canopies: Trees in Indian Cities’, co-authored with Seema Mundoli on Friday, September 20. While an evening learning about the ecology of cities was expected, it turned out to be much more, as the author answered wide-ranging questions posed by conservationist and Takshashila alumnus, Sandeep Menon, highlighting how trees are at the intersection of history, culture and ecology of cities.
“Cities are places of trees for me!”, said Nagendra, reminiscing about long walks during childhood with her mother, learning about flowers, leaves and fruits. She still feels an emotional connection with trees, even as she studies and teaches the complex science behind them. The book is an attempt at highlighting how trees are intertwined with the ways of our lives, and aims at making people reconnect with and be more involved in protecting the environment around us.
Nagendra shared a story from the book, of how a 19th century elderly couple, who couldn’t afford to marry mango trees in their orchard, did not taste its fruit for a long time. The book talks about multiple recipes which have been part of our cuisines and cultures. It describes many heart touching stories of people in different parts of the country, going out of their way to protect trees and planting many more.
Apart from the cultural, emotional and ecological facets, there are many utilitarian aspects to growing trees in the cities also. They can absorb up to 75% of the particulate matter floating around in an area – that would otherwise go straight to our lungs. Answering a question asked by an audience member, Nagendra warned against simple narratives like, ‘All alien species are bad.’ Cities evolve and their ecologies change. “Alien” species often suit modern environments better than “native” ones and we need to understand this complexity better and not fall prey to simplistic ideas.
‘Tie trees to communities! Nurture and interweave their fates and those of city residents.’ Medicinal, scented, flowering trees, all have a place in our society. She talked about systemic changes that are required for making Bangalore a tree conducive place and also gave some practical tips into how we can plant trees and nurture them at an individual level.
The book provides a fascinating look into how trees and humans have been interacting for centuries and how you can make a contribute towards maintaining this equilibrium.
The Takshashila Institution is an independent and non-partisan think tank and school of public policy. Takshashila offers 12 week certificate courses in Public Policy, Technology and Policy, and Defence and Foreign Affairs and a 48 week post graduate program in Public Policy.