Little do we realise or acknowledge that every day nature is pampering us with invaluable gifts. From the oxygen we inhale to pump our lungs, to the nourishing rain to invigorate the flora and rivers, to the generative soils to proliferate all sorts of plantation, to the different species of wildlife to roam in the forests, to the green lushes of tree to provide shade from the blazing hot sun and to that sweet and clean breeze brushing against our face; these are the gifts that we have neither earned nor paid for.
But, unfortunately, to those who are the avid proponents of rapid economic, infrastructure and modern development, such everyday miracles are perceived as merely “natural deposits”. And they are saying it in a tone suggesting that these “natural deposits” are unitarily and exclusively ours – just waiting for the right time to be converted for our use and consumption. And to some people, such miracles are just the direct services and products provided by the ecosystem.
But to me, as a fellow creature in the grand scheme of life, breathing in oxygen and watching birds flying in the sky feel like gifts, bequeathed by nature. However, as of late, it seems like these gifts are being gradually taken back by nature.
Freedom no more
Today, we no longer have the liberty to breathe with ease as the process of breathing is now being inhibited by the face masks which we have to put on for hours. Today, we no longer have the freedom to run our daily tasks without being interrupted by multifarious news on all sorts of calamity from flash floods to severe landslides.
Today, as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, every Malaysian’s lifestyle and social connection has changed tremendously from “human connection” to physical distancing and living in isolation at home. Today, as a result of uncontrolled toxic industrial waste we have water shortages and, at some point, direct exposure to hazardous fumes.
It is very disappointing to realise that we are not living in reciprocity with nature. I believe that for nature to remain in equilibrium and for the gifts to continue to flow, we must give back in equal measure for what we are given. Our survival is directly tied to our relationship with nature.
I truly think that we must acknowledge that we need to heal our physical relationship with nature. The damage that we have inflicted on nature has gone very far, with over-fishing, ocean acidification, soil degradation, deforestation, land transfiguration, climate change and biodiversity loss seriously diminishing the natural capacity of the planet that will completely defect our immediate future and that of our children and grandchildren.
As articulated by Bruce Duncan “Utah” Phillips, who was an American labour organiser, folk singer, storyteller and poet, “The earth is not dying, it is being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses”.
Dr Suzianah Nhazzla Ismail has a PhD in Politics from the University of Sheffield in the area of Animal Politics and Environmental Ethics. She is currently the one and only expert in that field in Southeast Asia.
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