Going green for a day

 When the earth weeps with every natural disaster, she makes us join her in the weeping, of course for entirely different reasons. When we mourn the losses of our loved ones and homes, she mourns her loss of purity.

Celebrating yet another World Environment Day when the country is being attacked by the now-seasonal dengue epidemic, one wonders whether we are as eco-friendly as the ‘Go green campaigns’ and green investments shout at us to be. Preserving the environment is not getting a dignitary to plant a tree and deliver a speech to a bunch of kids, who all the while suck at pasteurized milk in polythene packets from their plastic straws; nor issuing a lengthy message to the media, which nobody is interested to read.

All large-scale environment conservation projects will serve no purpose if the public is not educated on the dangers of pollution. It is sad that, even after the torrential rains that took away so many lives and the severe landslides that were reported in the aftermath of the monsoons, people rock in the blissfulness of their short-term memory. For them, destruction is seasonal, as long as their habitats are safe and their cultivations bear good harvest. Tragedy is something that comes in news bulletins.

The government, diplomatic missions, civil society organizations, and schoolchildren, would have various programmes lined up to symbolize the way we preserve nature, but going green for a day or a week is not like going green forever.

It sounds luscious, when the tourist brochures on Sri Lanka depict the virgin rain-forests rich with bio-diversity and flora and fauna endemic to Ceylon. The sad reality is that, the fairy-tales in these brochures are fast changing into elegies and most of these endemic plants and animals have made their way into the Red Data Book. Some of them have long disappeared without trace.

When the forests are constantly cleared to make way for humans, the habitats of animals and plants are destroyed, leaving them no way but extinction. It is the same fate that might befall elephants who are brave enough to break into human territories in search of food, once their habitats are destroyed by the humans. It was not a matter of who was more important in a battle between the man and elephant. What is crucial is that, one party always has to pay with their lives, whether it is the man or the elephant, he is still part of nature.

The forgotten tourist brochure will also boast about the golden beaches that charmed hundreds of thousands of tourists throughout the decades. One thing the brochure will not tell you is, how the coral kingdoms have been shattered and washed ashore, and the colourful fish which used to dwell in the shallow blue waters have followed the fate of the rare creatures in the rain-forests. It will also not tell you about the houses in the coastal belt that were threatened with sea-erosion.  Seven years after the Indian Ocean tsunami, instead of thinking about controlling damage by way of conserving eco-systems, people have figured out where to run when the next tsunami hits.

When the air above the capital cities takes the shape of poisonous gas dispensers and the lungs that are supposed to purify it keep going to the axe, it is the hope of everyone that the day we have to walk outdoors with a tank of oxygen, is nowhere in the near future.

The changes man brought to the world are so immense that not only did he change his pattern of life, but by doing so, changed the patterns of life of so many beings. The things he burns cause the temperatures to rise and as a result, the ice caps melt. Animals changed their cycles of migration with the changes of nature.

The birth of earth has so many explanations; whether it was a gradual process or a divine creation, it doesn’t make much difference. The death of earth will have only one explanation, that is we failed to look after her the way we ought to have done.

If anyone wonders why the Kohas keep singing long after Avurudu; it is not a song but a cry for survival. Only, going green for a day cannot tune its notes back to a song.

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