Inspiration for this post came during a jog through the Evolution Garden at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on 30 May 2012. In an attempt to piece together everything I know and care about – evolution, ecosystem services, human population, sustainable development, economic growth, biodiversity conservation, education, outdoor activities.
It’s amazing how we lived on this earth for such a short time (relatively, only 200,000 years, compared to the earth being around for 4.5 billion years?), but yet have successfully managed to decimate and change so much of our natural environment, that the future of the earth will definitely bear traces of us.
How is it that we have failed to realise that the rate of our consumption and progress now, our materialistic culture and relentless pursuit of economic growth that is based on petroleum/coal will not be sustainable? And that up till now, we have not managed to find a solution, neither are we really, concertedly trying to slow the process down?
It’s true, things are not going scarce yet. (Still can find cheap stuff, especially from China.) But it will soon be, and should we not be prepared for that moment, rather than let us be caught unaware? Maybe this is natural selection at play, we’re meant to spike (our population growth), and then die out.
There are so many animal lovers out there. Yet sometimes they fail to realise that if we continue our “progress” at all cost mantra, and not take into account external costs, environmental costs, the environment of our beloved animals will be damaged permanently and these animals will eventually die.
And somehow, when people think of environment, they think of trees and plants. And when they think of biodiversity, they think of animals. But that’s definitely not true. Although the environmental problems often seem associated with energy and waste management, cleanliness of the area and stuff, while biodiversity problems are associated with sustainability (of seafood, for eg), wildlife trade etc.
But anyway, even worse, I don’t understand outdoor buffs, people who love outdoors and outdoor activities, but fail to act sensitively and sensibly. Do they not realise that if they fail to protect the environment they love, that if they do not help ensure that the outdoors is not degraded, all that they enjoy will be gone?
As for people who love kids – me included. How is it that we sometimes fail to realise that, if we dont protect what we have let, try our best to fight for conservation of resources, and conservation of the environment and our biodiversity, these kids we love so much will grow up impoverished and with nothing? And they will suffer, fight a hard war, and not have as good a life as we may have wished for them?
How is it that people can advocate for more humans on this earth, and conservation of our natural environment at the same time? Do they not realise that with more people on this already crowded planet, we will need to cut down more forests, chop down more trees to make way for food plantations, for animal ranching, for housing? That we’ll need to mine for more tin, coal, rare earths etc to supply more material goods for the increased number of people, many of whom expect what used to be considered luxury goods?
Of course, not to say that we should all stop breeding, because that is not economically sustainable right. But that perhaps, stop forcing everyone to have kids, whether or not they are able to. If people cannot afford to have kids without Baby Bonus, then don’t. (I do believe you can, only maybe you have to cut down on your holidays and your high-tech gadgets. But it’s still entirely possible. It’s a matter of choice, what you’d rather spend on) Maybe I sound elitist – but really, this is just natural selection. I’m not saying that only the rich should have kids. All I’m saying is, stop tweaking market forces, giving subsidies to encourage demand, when there is clearly limited supply. In the end, everyone suffers.
Sustainable development is not just for people like me who want to do conservation. It’s not just for tree-huggers, or vegans, or Nature/outdoor buffs. It’s for everyone. We all need to understand how we’re all linked in this web of life, how we’re all interdependent on the environment that we’re in, the natural environment for the ecosystem services that they provide – whether or not we’re aware of it, or able to compute its actual value.
That’s why environmental education is important, and being ecological literate is crucial. It’s not just for people who want to save animals or save the Earth (truth be told, the Earth needs no saving. It has existed perfectly well for millions of years, and will continue to do so, whether or not this parasite called Homo sapiens is on it.) It’s for everyone, so that we can live and survive and not cause our own demise, and bring all other living creatures down with us.
And that’s what’s seriously lacking in our syllabus now. We lack this awareness and this knowledge. And to do something about it, it’s not something that one person, or one sector can do. If we want to conserve our biodiversity, if we want to develop sustainably, if we want to save our species from extinction (personally, I don’t really mind. But that’s not the point, because by and large, we are supposed to want to survive), then we all need to work together.
Societal expectations have to change – we can’t be having double digit growth every year. Not everyone can own a car. Just because you’re not a doctor or a lawyer or a businessman, doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
And we all need to understand that it’s a concerted effort, it is as bottom-up as it is top-down. We cannot rely on the government always to tell us what to do, or what not to do. But without the government’s support, it’s also hard to get things moving.
We need to act, and soon. Must we wait for something to go seriously wrong before we take action? Yes, change is happening. But surely we need greater urgency than the rate of change now?
And while our government insists that our green cover is increasing, and that we are catering more to Nature lovers, it’s not the same. Forest cover =/= green cover, and Nature = natural environment, untouched, unharmed by humans (relatively). Not man-made environment with greenery and some urban species (synurbic animals) stuffed in it. Though I do concede that that is better than nothing.
Yeah, this post is a little extreme, with lots of frustration peppered within. I’m not an extremist by nature, and I have faith and hope that my generation and the future generations will wisen up and still be able to change something. And this requires lots of faith and hope and prayer indeed.