This IPL team chairman believes future of the human race lies in nature
Ranjit Barthakur has been actively championing the idea that ecology is economy
Ranjit Barthakur’s is a face cricket followers might remember seeing at stadiums in Rajasthan Royals colours, cheering for the team from Indian deserts in the Indian Premier League (IPL) every year.
Barthakur is not a cheerleader, though. The 66-year-old entrepreneur is the chairman of the Jaipur-based IPL franchise and a tireless engine that ensures the Royals operations run without a hitch.
It’s only fitting then that the chairman of a team that scripted one of the greatest underdog triumphs in the 2008 IPL is now championing the cause of nature amid a grave threat posed by global warming.
In 2007, Barthakur helped set up the Balipara Foundation in Assam in northeast India. The foundation has helped conserve natural resources while helping the local community restore “4,000 hectares of degraded forest land with five million natural assets and creating over $3 million in community incomes”.
“Since 2007, we have been building on the idea that ecology is economy, which led us to our proprietary concept Naturenomics for the interdependence between ecology and economy. Balipara Foundation was founded on this idea,” Barthakur tells WKND.
This eventually led them to the Rural Futures model for socioeconomic mobility through rewilding. “The model incentivises communities towards restoring forests through initial payment for restoration, creating initial socioeconomic mobility. Added sustainable business components such as agroforestry enhances natural capital values. This enables communities to become self-sufficient, accessing and delivering universal basic assets and services such as healthcare, education, renewable energy and access to water.”
Now with the world grappling with a raging pandemic, Barthakur believes the future of the human race lies in the rural world.
“Ecology is economy. A recent study shows that if we invest just $9 billion annually in protecting forests globally, we could avoid the costs we have seen during this pandemic — trillions of dollars,” he says.
“We also need to systematically invest in nature for a resilient future. Whether this is protecting forests or minimising virus transmission risks, for our food systems, for livelihoods or to manage climate risks — our hope for the future lies in nature.
“Thirdly, the future is rural. Urbanisation has been one of the drivers behind ecological degradation — and cities have been the sites of mass breakouts during this pandemic.
“We have to build incomes and businesses pegged to natural capital enhancement and ecological restoration. Only then can we unlock sustainable growth and development to create resilient communities and healthy lives and livelihoods.”
Public figures, says Barthakur, have fantastic platforms for education and mobilisation, especially among people who may not be reached through ‘scientific’ channels.
“People who may otherwise never have known about the importance of protecting the Amazon or of switching to no deforestation palm oil will learn about it because a celebrity like Leonardo DiCaprio supports it,” he points out. “That critical mass support that celebrities bring can be the difference between the survival or extinction of a species or a forest.”
The cricket personality also doffed his cap to Jadav Payeng, a villager in Assam who single-handedly turned a barren sand bar into a 1,300-acre forest. “Jadav Payeng is a unique, inspirational story that shows us the truly incredible things people achieve — often silently. Balipara Foundation has been supporting earth heroes like Jadav through our annual awards programme since 2013, because they drive the real change on the ground,” Barthakur says.
“However, one man cannot be burdened with the responsibility of changing a system. Forests and biodiversity can only be meaningfully preserved if governments, businesses and non-profits come together alongside individual heroes like Jadav Payeng.”