There is no Such Thing as Environmental Degradation: There is Human Degradation

I saw the banana peel fly out of the window. A high end SUV with the most recent number plate; something that I would want to drive when I grow up. I was torn between cursing loudly and minding my own business, when a plastic soda bottle escaped through the same SUV window. This now irked me and I just did something that irritates most drivers on our roads. One long beep and several flashing of my headlights was enough to communicate my environmental curse, which as you can guess wasn’t taken kindly by the oppressor. 

This time, his hands came out of the window with one finger visibly protruding higher than the rest. I didn’t want to guess the gesture, because who knows; it could be a way people in SUVs that I want to drive greet mere mortals on our roads. I swiftly accelerated to close the gap between us just so that I can see beyond reasonable doubt the position of this protruding finger. As if to satisfy my curiosity, the guy held it high and long enough for me to clearly see that it was actually the middle finger.

Well, there are lots of things you don’t expect in such a scenario. First, a person eating bananas while driving your dream car. Second, a combination of bananas and soda meal. Third, someone affording your dream car and not being able to afford a dust bin, and forth, someone in your dream car showing you the middle finger for calling them out for littering. But of course all these happened to me and I was left wondering how much money or education does one actually require to be civilized?

Historically, Humans have been known to be masters of self-destruction. In fact, humans just degrade each other and the environment feels the pain. No other species in the world hates one another like the Homo Sapiens. Most of the time, this hatred has so much to do with some individualistic selfishness that is hard to comprehend. The human race has been through some of the worst self-inducted catastrophes that have left our environment in a deplorable state. And all this is because some humans feel some sort of pleasure degrading fellow humans whom they believe are either inferior or a threat to their existence.

Just take a look at all the major wars that have been fought in history. The environment never declared war on any nation. The environment wasn’t even aware that humans wanted to conquer more environment to destroy. The environment was just there; chilling along the beaches and strolling in the woods when all these humans were busy raining atomic bombs on one another, just to make a point. Then when all was said and done, the same humans came together to blame the environment for increased cancer cases, increased marine deaths, increased birth defects, food insecurity, acid rain, desertification, global warming; the blame list goes on and on.

I have not done the Maths, but I believe the money that has been spent on wars and military funding is in the ups of more than 50% of the global financial budget. I keep asking myself, what would the world look like if humans never engaged in these “manhood-measuring contests” and rather focus their energy on food security, good healthcare, research and innovation, and other positive social infrastructure? Would we be battling these so called environmental disasters like the current COVID-19 pandemic? How would it be if the world political class heeded President George Bush and Bill Gates’ advice on preparing our health sector for pandemics?

I may be naive on this, but it doesn’t make any sense for governments to spend billions of dollars on military and politics in a world where the healthcare system cannot fully sustain the population. I have read numerous literature on war and I have an idea how war works, and trust me, almost every war that has been fought was never worth fighting in the first place. In war, it is never about who is right, it is about who is left. I keep asking myself, why do we keep killing each other here and racing to make apocalyptic nuclear weapons and at the same time spending billions to research whether humans can live on Mars? Is it that a few individuals want to make our earth “unlivable” so that they can escape to mars and rule us from there? That may be farfetched and outrageous but with humans, every thought is a possibility.

I am not an animal rights activist but I have lately been so much against people who kill animals in their natural habitats for no apparent reason. Why kill it if you cannot eat it? Some humans will clear a whole forest and set up concrete settlement structures then call the media to run documentaries on how snakes and other wild animals are terrorizing them. They even have a name for it. Human-wildlife conflict! Shouldn’t that be called human invasion? Why would you go fishing in the high seas and then complain of shark attacks? Shouldn’t that be ‘human attack?’ why complain of floods when what you did was encroach riparian land? It is a simple matter of who came first?

The late Nobel prize winner Professor Wangari Maathai is a classic example of how humans degrade each other at the expense of the environment. Her quest to protect the environment were met by human brutality from the highest office in the land; yet decades later the present government still wants to fight with environmentalists with obvious facts, just for political gains. It is not too late though. We can still stop complaining and follow her footsteps in order to turn the tide in our favor. As someone correctly put it, “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

This human degradation is not just limited to politicians. There are individuals such as the guy up there with my dream car who believe the environment needs us and not the other way round. If you fall in the category of the mannerless SUV guy, just know that I don’t care about your fingers. You can use them in important activities like dipping them in honey and licking them. Honey from the environment. But as for now these are the questions that should be going through your mind as you enjoy your honey.

*****

If you feel like dumping that plastic bottle on the roadside, ask yourself ‘do I need plastic or plastic needs me?’

If you find yourself cutting down trees without a proper replacement plan, ask yourself ‘do I need oxygen or oxygen needs me?’

If you feel like you need to make poaching you career, ask yourself ‘do I need wildlife or wildlife needs me?’

If you are a farmer and you feel like using dangerous chemicals in your land, ask yourself ‘do I need the land or the land needs me?’

If you are a food manufacturer who doesn’t care about food safety, ask yourself ‘do I need the food or the food needs me?’

If you find yourself misusing electricity and water in the house, ask yourself ‘do I need water or water needs me?’

Our sun might be the brightest star around, but trust me, humans aren’t the brightest beings in the universe. We can fight our own wars here on earth and keep justifying whatever we do here as humans, but at the end of it all, no one ever wins wars against nature. We might never live long enough to write the history because history is always written by the victor.

 
 

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