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Every day should be Environment Day

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Let’s make the earth a place to live in, not a place to violate, to destroy, to devastate, to kill and to maim

Environmental activist Derrick Jensen begins his book, Endgame, with the premise: “Civilization is not and can never be sustainable. This is especially true for industrial civilization.” This wonderful two-volume book, which argues for a sustainable way of living and passionately defends the Natural World, concludes thus: “George W. Bush invaded two countries because, he has stated publicly, ‘God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did.’

“Bush listens to God, I listen to trees. What’s the difference?

...God does actually talk to Bush, and trees actually do talk to me. This leads to another question: Who would you rather listen to, a distant sky God — disconnected from and superior to the earth — who by his own admission is angry and vengeful, and who has preached and justified more rape and rapine than any other god we have ever heard of; or trees, who to the best of my knowledge have never once told any one to go forth and subdue the earth, and to have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the Earth; trees who have never once justified a single act of rape or rapine, trees who have never said that they are jealous, trees who live right next to us, and who are our closest neighbours?”

While reading Endgame, I thought about all the trees under whose benign shade we used to play in our childhood. There were plenty of them. The colossal mango trees that stood majestically along the roadsides, the gigantic cashewnut trees ( Kasumaavu) that stood in our compounds, the Njaaval and Kazhani trees that were plenty in every compound.

During summer vacations, we the children, girls and boys, would play under the cool shade of the mango trees which would intermittently present us with their sweet fruits. We grew up eating local mango freshly fallen from the trees, and njaaval fruits which were brought down by the wind and birds and squirrels, and sipping the sweet juice of the cashewnut fruits. We would also eat the fallen fruits of kazhani trees which were the main diet of bulbuls and orioles. They would pluck the fruits from the trees and the fallen ones were ours.

We would ask the wind and the birds and the squirrels to pull down the fruits of the tree under which we played. And they generously did.

But the trees were eliminated one by one. Not even a single tree under which we played tirelessly could escape the axe of humans. Today, there is no tree for the children to play under, nor does any child want to play under a tree. Trees and plants and birds and squirrels and winds have no place in the lives of children. And where have those birds and squirrels gone? Humans and non-humans shared the fruits of the trees and it was a more or less sustainable way of living.

Every morning, we used to see many squeezed out cashewnut fruits under the trees. The juice of the fruit is a favourite diet of fruit bats. Today, no local fruit is available, no tree is seen, children don’t speak to the birds and squirrels and the wind, and there are no birds and squirrels. When a tree is felled, the habitat of the birds and squirrels shrinks and when another tree is felled it gets shrunk further. We don’t think about the squirrels and birds and fruit bats and many other living organisms whose habitat is each and every tree.

We have completely alienated ourselves from our surroundings, from the natural world. But as we are a part of the natural world, our alienation smothers us and we are suffering for our own crimes against the Environment. Rains play truant, temperature soars higher and higher, clean water supply depletes further and further and fresh air becomes a rarity.

When there were plenty of indigenous trees in and around our village, water sources never depleted, they were renewable. We, the humans, need fresh air and clean water. The number of humans increases minute by minute but the number of trees which give us fresh air and help us have clean water falls minute by minute. Isn’t it quite dangerous?

Derrick Jensen says: “If you want to know what to do, go to the nearest river, the nearest mountain, the nearest native tree, the nearest native soil, and ask it what it needs. Ask it to teach you.” Alas! Our nearest river is dried up, the nearest mountain is levelled to fill the nearest wetland, the nearest tree is felled, and the nearest native soil, our paddyfields, is converted into real estate or rubber estates. How can we regenerate our rivers, mountains, and native soil?

The solution are trees, more and more trees. The solution is a sustainable way of living and symbiosis with Nature. Let’s shun violence against the environment, against other living beings, against women, against the less privileged. Let’s make the earth a place to live in, not a place to violate, to destroy, to devastate, to kill and to maim. Let’s make every day an Environment Day, and save the living world.

( The writer’s email: lscvsuku@gmail.com)

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Printable version | May 23, 2017 3:47:00 PM | http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/every-day-should-be-environment-day/article5129455.ece