Visit from Bittu Sahgal, Editor of Sanctuary Asia

Sep 16, 2008

To add to the joy and excitement – and hard work – of 2008, The Bateleurs was extremely privileged to welcome to South Africa, in early May this year, Bittu Sahgal, who is the Editor of Sanctuary Asia, and one of India’s foremost writers and activists on the topic of conservation.  Not surprisingly, Bittu has now taken up the cudgels in the fight against climate change.

To this end, Bittu and Sanctuary Asia had recently concluded a very successful photographic competition for which competitors had submitted images depicting the effects of climate change in India.  This venture encouraged The Bateleurs to explore the notion of a similar competition highlighting the effects of climate change in Africa.  We asked Peter Borchert of Africa Geographic magazine to partner with us in this venture, and he enthusiastically agreed to the suggestion.

So now, with pride and pleasure, The Bateleurs, inspired by Sanctuary Asia, and joining forces with Africa Geographic, announces the launch of a Photographic Challenge which will run from October 2008 to March 2009.  The competition calls for entries that depict the effects of climate change in Africa – anywhere in Africa – with a special category for aerial photography.  Following the judging of entries and the awarding of prizes – two impressive Nikon cameras, one for the  winner in the category for general photography and one for the winner in the category for aerial photography – we hope to mount a travelling exhibition of these images.

The overall idea is to bring home to South Africans, and everyone living on the continent of Africa, the fact that climate change is here, already, and that the adverse effects of this appalling scourge are growing by the day.  If we want to preserve the future for our children, and their children, we all need to take serious and committed action against climate change, starting today, and to do whatever we can to encourage governments and world leaders to take action against this catastrophe.

And this is why Bittu Sahgal came to South Africa, for just one week, to deliver a public address in Johannesburg on May 6th – to launch our competition.  This event was attended by more than 350 invited guests who were captivated by an inspiring and impassioned address, accompanied by a dramatic slide show, describing the consequences of climate change already apparent in India and in Africa.

Bittu’s talk highlighted the destructive consequences of global warming for all life forms on planet Earth, and urged everyone to engage with existing efforts, or to initiate new projects, however big or small, that will help lessen the rapidly approaching devastation caused by our “intelligent minds and disobedient lifestyles”.

Bittu’s visit to South Africa, short as it was, included an interview with Jenny Crwys-Williams, on the Radio 702 Environmental Slot;  a television interview with CNBC Africa;  an interview with Belynda Petrie and John Notoane of One World Sustainable Investments;  a very rewarding exchange of information and planning session with Peter Borchert of Africa Geographic; and a well-earned few days in the African bush with friends where it seemed as though all the animal species turned out to salute him.


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We asked Bittu to write a few words specifically for our readers, and this is what he sent:

“Climate Change is one of the most democratic of all destroyers.  It recognises neither geographry nor colour nor class.  Whoever is at fault, all of us are going to be victims of this catastrophe.

I travelled from India to be with my compatriots in South Africa who understood this reality, on invitation from The Bateleurs.  Nora Kreher and I have spoken for years about the need for an India-Africa, hands-across-the-oceans effort to tackle this threat to life on earth and now, here I was, in Johannesburg.

The discussion was held, appropriately enough, at a Casino (we are gambling with the future of humanity, after all), and the overwhelming view was that life is too precious to risk and that moving from a carbon- to a non-carbon economy was an inevitability.

Sanctuary Asia and The Bateleurs will work in their respective countries to lobby for effective climate policies to safeguard tomorrow.  On our side we have all those who protect wildlife, because the wilderness is their magical vault that stores the carbon we send up into the atmosphere, at our own peril.”

Anyone interested in entering this competition can find entry forms and all the necessary details at

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