CHENNAI: The earth, as we know it, is crumbling right beneath our feet, and we need a trigger, to inspire a new generation of ‘earth warriors’. So, what can one do about it? “At the basic level, reinforce learning about environmental development and sustainability,” says Atulya Misra, a senior officer of the Indian Administrative Services. The bureaucrat, in his role as the Additional Chief Secretary,, Revenue and Disaster Management Department, Government of Tamil Nadu, has authored his debut book Oxygen Manifesto - A Battle for the Environment for the very purpose of strengthening our connection with the environment. “After 20 years of bureaucracy, I was back into the academic circle. I was doing a course in Public Policy where sustainable development was key. We were introduced to people like Amartya Sen and Shashi Tharoor. What I found was, a lot of people were writing in addition to their full-time profession. So, six years ago, I decided to write a book on waste management. But, a few chapters were all that I could pen down,” he shares.
When Atulya attended a talk by author Jeffrey Archer, his perspectives found clarity. “Archer asked the audience if they have ever thought of writing a book, and how many have actually taken the step to write one. I pondered over it,” he recalls. Pallavi, his wife, joins the conversation, “We have been married for 25-odd years, and from day one, he has always said that he wants to write a book.”
“Yes, it has been a long-time desire. But the urge increased when I became closely involved with environment-related activities. I started creating characters for my book. There are several good non-fiction books written about the environment. I wanted to write a book that was emotional and humane,” concurs Atulya, who has also held other highly designated posts.
His writing is engaging, and its potato chip chapters are easily digestible. Much like the earth, the book has several layers, and the story about environmental degradation and the impact of the Anthropocene takes us on a journey from its very core to the crust of the issues.
‘...The ecological and cultural diversity is reducing at an exponential rate over the last few decades. Man is promoting tailored species of plants and animals for its needs and requirements at the cost of natural diversity. The genetically modified plants, animals and microbes have the capacity to become Frankenstein monsters…’ he writes.
The narrative is knitted with issues plaguing the environment, ideas which are considered fringe in today’s times but are bound to emerge as mainstream thought in the future, an undercurrent of minimalism and veganism, leadership, displaced people, alternate philosophy and alternate lives; an element of travel, and water footprint. But in the backdrop of all the eco-centric dialogues are two characters leading the battle for the environment.
“The characters are concerned, and in their journey, they sacrifice many things. The aim of the book is to create a dialogue on environment reconstruction as a paramount duty of every human being,” he shares. The author in his book has deliberately kept away from routine politics and focused solely on the environment. “In the book, you will find shades of me and other officers and people who have inspired me. I have tried my best to keep the work as realistic as possible,” he says. Atulya worked on the book for four months. “This was quite a learning experience. I am also planning to write a book on disaster management,” he says.
(The book is available on www.amazon.in)
About the book
Oxygen Manifesto - A Battle for the Environment is a story of the triumph of ordinary people over the might of the establishment in their battle to save the environment. Atulya worked on the book for four months. “I am also planning to write a book on disaster management,” he says.