Viswadarsanam is an
environmental organizationlocated in Kerala, South India, set amidst just over one acre of lush green vegetation. It attempts to tackle big world problems on a small scale, by promoting an alternative lifestyle on the family level that will benefit nature and in turn, benefit us. Viswadarsanamwas founded on June 5 1987, World Environment Day. The aim of the centre is to promote a holistic and natural way of life, one in which is in symbiotic union with nature promoting sustainable development and leading to health, happiness and peace to society. Viswadarsanam’s activities include the following: Running a development centre for humanity and nature; preparing newsletters, books, information sheets and audio visuals; and conducting guided educative wilderness trips, nature walks and trekking for interested groups.Environmental Activist Umesh Babuis the director of Viswadarsanam
Viswadarsanam was funded by Umesh Babu and his wife Janee Babu.Umesh Babu is the director at Viswadarsanam. He coordinates the centre's activities and his wife looks after the food and accommodation. Lately Umesh suffered from serious health complications related to diabetes especially a severe damage in his sight. He continues practicing his duty nevertheless as a director of the center with the help of his wife Janee and occaisionally their son Feny.
Umesh propagates a mode of living which protects and preserves the natural environmental balance, disseminating both innovative and ancient ideas which many have found refreshing. After establishing the centre for humanity and nature - Viswadarsanam - he focused his energies on the development of an eco-culture there, directed towards enabling a contented lifestyle in harmony with nature. Much of this was achieved through the creation of an international fellowship called Viswadarsanam Vrindram. The main agenda of this network is to prevent both the further abuse and exploitation of the Earth's natural assets and the disturbance of its delicate environmental balance. To this end they promote sustainable utilisation of resources for all living species. This message is most timely and Viswadarsanam engenders its adoption through various well-planned projects and programmes. The logo of Viswadarsanam reflects this new approach to our interaction with other species and our inter-dependency upon one another.
"Contentment is Conservation" is the key watchword of Viswadarsanam. Environmental work camps and nature
awarenessprogrammes are organised at the centre, thus putting into practice another of the organisation's central mottoes "Work together, live together and learn together". Participants come from all parts of the world to spend time experiencing the alternative lifestyle practiced at the centre. During the work camps participants are taken to areas of great natural beauty, and in the process experience the joys of life outdoors, camping and trekking. This provides both fun and adventure, but also leads to the discovery of a simpler way of life. Periods of contemplation and companionship, together with the self-reliance and the clear health advantages, bring participants to the realisation that humans need very little to be satisfied, and that the greatest pleasure lies in simple living. We hope that this practice of maintaining basic simplicityin food, clothing and shelter will ultimately help to develop an eco-culturestrong enough to impact on the main stream. Before deciding to opt for a revolutionary shift in lifestyle, Umesh worked in a wide range of fields. He has, at various times, been an advertising executive, a publisher and a sales executive.
In 1986, driven by a new awareness of the impact modern technologies and ways of life were having on his country's natural environment, Umesh decided to give up his advertising agency and set up Viswadarsanam, centre for humanity and nature.
In 1988, he organised an environmental campaign in his home district of
Pathanamthitta, with the support of India's Ministry of Environment and Forests. For a month he traveled in a decorated bullock cart promoting the message of Viswadarsanam throughout the region with the help of audio visual aids. The campaign gained wide media coverage and was named as one of the most successful to be carried out in India.
In 1990 he played a pivotal role in Viswa Yuvak Kendra's Youth Workers Orientation Program in New Delhi, which focused on environmental protection.
During 1991, a conservation plaque was erected in the museum gardens, Kerala Capital, Trivandrum, for the recognition of Viswadarsanam reaching its fifth successful year. The plaque is inscribed with the following timeless environmental message for the welfare of all creations:
The consumer culture which depletes the resources of the earth poses itself as a menace to the very existence of humankind. We know that the future of our planet is in danger. If we have the will to discard the trodden path, the way out is open before us, to shape a life-style in consonance with the artistic, cultural and geographical traditions of our land, providing an opportunity to the future generations to experience the peace and tranquility of this Earth. Bowing before the primeval nature, let us take the pledge to work prayerfully for the welfare of all creations.
In 1992 Umesh initiated the 'Silent Valley Cycle Trail'. He took a team of 24 people from different parts of Kerala through the "Silent Valley" in an attempt to popularise cycling as an environmentally friendly mode of transport: "
Travel without Fuel" was the campaign tag-line.
In 1995 Umesh attended a workshop organised by CEE, Southern Regional Cell Bangalore, under the EE Bank Project. Throughout the workshop he acted as Team Leader and developed a handbook entitled "Home Remedies from Plant Resources".
As well as taking part in these events, Umesh has also had the opportunity to make a significant impact in the field of green health. This is thanks to his participation in the discussions of India's National Afforestation and Eco-Development Board, and in the Environmental Education Bank Workshop, organised by Bangalore's Centre for Environmental Education. He has also attended several national and international conferences where he has had the chance to interact with experts in the field of environmental conservation.
Through many organisations, but particularly through the active participation of the Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI), Umesh has managed to develop and sustain fruitful relationships with supporters and those interested in his work, both throughout India and abroad. He has participated in many events in adventure travel trekking and camping.
In December 1997, Umesh Babu received an International Felicitation for his outstanding contribution to the field of environmental awareness. Dr. A.R. Kidwai, Governor of Bihar, presented him with this award at the 6th World Environment Congress in New Delhi.
In keeping with his active progress in the field of environmental conservation, the Indian Junior Chamber Zone XXII presented Umesh Babu with an award for his professional excellence in
environment friendlyactivities for the year 2002.
Since the center doesn't have any other means of income, the volunteers are expected to pay certain fees depending on their duration of stay. Despite the fact that they are designed to cover food and accommodation expenses, the fees are actually generous donations made by the volunteers which bring the main and almost only income to the center . The center continues to spread environmental awareness by inviting children from nearby schools to participate in one-day activities in the center. Most of the projects are left halfway however mainly because of Umesh's worsening health and lack of funds.
* Vishwadarshanam Website ( [http://www.viswadarsanam.org www.viswadarsanam.org] )
* [http://viswadarsanam.free.fr viswadarsanam.free.fr]
* [http://www.globetrotters.co.uk/bites/bite_477.html A volunteering experience]
* [http://www.library.utoronto.ca/iip/review/mar2005/news.htm Cash crops and the environment]
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