Withholding information

February 7, 2011

A asked B where a lovely photograph was taken, and B said, “Bangalore outskirts”. A then asked why the information could not be shares, and B said that the locations were deteriorating, and asked A what A was doing about protecting the location and others like it.

This is my opinion, and response, to this whole business of withholding information about various nature locations:

If someone asks me for the location, I’d use my discretion and if I felt that this was someone whose behaviour would be ethical, I’d email them privately with the information. That’s what I have been doing. I personally cannot agree to withholding of information, it goes against the very concept of “Right To Information”.

I would not have liked it (when one of us met up with Sudeesh, a guide in Thattekkad) if Sudeesh had refused to tell us where the Brown Hawk Owl was, and only taken that one person there.

When you are about to refuse to give information to someone…just put yourself in the other person’s place…and you’ll understand that the other person, too, if he is an “ethical” birder, has the right to that information.

Basically, what comes across when someone refuses information is the message: “I know where it is,and I will go whenever I like…the location may deteriorate… but I won’t tell you.” That’s not a good message to send to anyone.

I’m sorry, but I find that many photographers are using this “other people going there will disturb the bird” as an excuse not to share information…and this secrecy is only after they themselves have gone and got their sightings and shots. Have these people done anything effective for the protection of the sites? I can’t see any evidence of it.

Let me cite an example. The information about an Eurasian Eagle Owl’s location was carefully withheld from us. But when we visited the location to look at other birds, we spotted it for ourselves, by sheer chance. So what’s the point of this kind of “secrecy”, except to keep things exclusive to oneself, and one’s “special friends”?

A asks people, from whom you want to withhold information, what they are doing to protect lakes. Well…A (from the fact that photographs are being posted) keeps going to those lakes, including Hessarghatta… what is A doing for the protection of the lakes, would be the next logical question. Since A seen a particular lake going to “pathetic”, in A’s own words…A hasn’t, obviously, been able to do much about it. So why is it only the responsibility of others to protect the lake?

I am very surprised that, particularly in Bangalore, many people, whose profession involves Free and Open Source Software, maintain such an opaque, secretive attitude towards sharing information. Do they not see the paradox in this?

I agree that the information need not always be made public. But when someone asks for info, do use your discretion, and email/call the person privately, and share the information.

I feel very strongly about this opaqueness that some of us seem to feel is somehow going to be beneficial to the creatures. I feel that on the contrary, everyone either gets the information in a hush-hush, secretive manner (people called up to get the location of the Mottled Wood Owl, but would not share any information that I asked for.) Or, we have the piquant situation of non-nature lovers (who definitely will not know how best to leave the bird/creature undisturbed) sighting these creatures, and those who are interested and want to sight them, never being able to.

We must remember that others have as much RTI (Right To Information) as we ourselves do….all we can do is, keep stressing the need for being ethical as we watch our fellow-creatures in our surroundings. This atmosphere of secrecy and opacity cannot benefit anyone in the long run.