The powerful cyclone that emerged in the Arabian Sea made landfall on India's western coast on Monday.(AP)
The powerful cyclone that emerged in the Arabian Sea made landfall on India's western coast on Monday.(AP)

What’s in the name? The need to rethink naming of calamities after animal species

When cyclones rip through our coasts and forests, we lose not only trees- the most common image- but all manners of fauna and flora. It is reasonable to assume not all of it is known to humans.
PUBLISHED ON MAY 24, 2021 01:34 AM IST

Tauktae means Gekho, in Burmese. Hudhud was Arabic for the bird, Hoopoe. These are names of cyclones that have hit India. But don’t you think that by naming destructive phenomenon after animal species, we show that we actually know little about both cyclones and biodiversity?

When cyclones rip through our coasts and forests, we lose not only trees- the most common image- but all manners of fauna and flora. It is reasonable to assume not all of it is known to humans.

Some species are so niche, they are found only in one spot. They are lost to us. Amphibians and insects, in particular, are disappearing from the planet rapidly anyway.

Research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison has just been reported in Science Daily as showing that the earth’s plants “are changing, at least vegetation, is changing as quickly today as it did when the last ice sheets retreated around 10,000 years ago.”

We are losing species rapidly, is one way to look at it. Destroyed ecosystems could be replaced by other, quicker ecosystems, other lives. Cyclones can create these conditions.

How informed is it to name such climate-exacerbated events in this fairy-tale character manner?

I won’t advocate for modifying naming protocols. That would reproduce political correctness, not enhance the understanding of the enormity of climate change.

But I do hope those naming these events acknowledge the irony of their nomenclature and demonstrate that they share the tragedy of cyclones in the wider context of life on earth.

(The writer is Founder and Director Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group)

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