What animals can teach us about nature conservation
I remember some years ago, I was reading an anthology about ecology, in which an article opined about how Christianity seems to focus only on the salvation of humankind, without really advocating nature conservation or environmental consciousness.
That view didn’t really sit well with me.
After ruminating on this topic for some time, I believe that we humans can actually learn some useful lessons about animals from the Bible, or the gospel of grace.
Animals serve as symbols or object lessons
While walking through Bukit Batok nature park earlier this evening, I was fortunate to witness a mother hen protectively covering her chicks under her wings to shelter them from the rain.
As the park was close to my apartment, I hurried back to fetch my long-zoom camera, hoping to take good pictures of this rare, meaningful, heartwarming scenario.
While I was cycling towards downtown to start my food delivery shift this morning, I spotted a lone smooth-coated otter on the other side of Kallang River.
I noticed debris in the water, which includes litter from drains probably washed into the river by the recent storm.
There is also some algae bloom on the water surface, which could be caused by eutrophication, which can harm aquatic plants and animals.
It occurs to me that while many of us have the privilege of staying in our cosy homes during the coronavirus crisis, our beloved otters have their homes threatened by pollution time and again.
It is a reminder of the fact that how we treat the environment matters a lot because as the Covid-19 virus pandemic has demonstrated, we are all interconnected and our actions affect both ourselves and others.
As we continue to practise safety measures such as social distancing to protect ourselves, let’s also continue to keep in remembrance those who are most vulnerable among us, including the less privileged or disabled folks as well as our animal friends who are voiceless and cannot speak up for themselves.
P.S. You can also help by sharing this post to spread the message on environmental awareness. It costs nothing, except perhaps a few seconds of your time.
I happened to see the recent news coverage on racist and xenophobic attacks on East Asians in Australia, the US and Europe, including the latest one involving a Singaporean Chinese student in the UK, which are related to coronavirus fears. For example, one article reported:
“Since knowledge of the outbreak first occurred, disheartening incidents have been reported in Australia, Europe, and the US of people of east Asian appearance being verbally abused, kicked off public transport, denied entrance to shops, spat on and even violently attacked.”
I think that it is a wake-up call for East Asians, especially Chinese, to realise that despite their efforts in trying to act like “honorary Whites” or being labelled as “model minority” (which is anti-Blackness in disguise), in reality, they are treated no differently than the rest of the people of colour, aka Black and Brown people, by the majority White demographics in the West who use systemic racism and White supremacy to their advantage.
It highlights the fact that racism is more than just about skin colour — it is also rooted in economic privilege and classism. For that reason, “reverse racism” doesn’t exist. For example, it is impossible for a privileged White to be subjected to racism from a person of colour who belongs to a less privileged demographics or identity. (The same can be said of a privileged Chinese in a Chinese-majority country who benefits from the system at the expense of the minority races.)
If anything, instead of simply calling out racism in these recent incidents in the West, the East Asians should also, individually and collectively, take a long hard look at their own internalised self-hatred towards their own race and towards those who are of darker skins, and ask themselves whether they have been complicit in their own systemic racism and light skin privilege that has resulted in the marginalisation of Black and Brown people all this while.
After all, where have the Chinese and other East Asians been when activists, such as Sangeetha Thanapal, have been pointing out that the other Asians who are of darker skins are not represented equally in the movie “Crazy, Rich Asians” (which “is simply the ongoing systematic erasure and oppression of Singapore minorities on a global screen”)?
I, for one, do not sympathise with the Chinese or East Asians who continue to be wilfully ignorant or in denial of their own light skin privilege, even if they become targets of race-motivated attacks due to coronavirus scares in the West, until or unless they own up to their programmed desire to become like Whites or worship White, and they consciously seek to divest themselves from the oppressive racist light-skin privileged system and stand in solidarity and speak up for the marginalised Black and Brown people in their midst.
As for me, dealing with social injustice, such as misogyny, systemic racism and racial privileges, has become part of my personal awakening journey. When we realise we share a common destiny and humanity with the marginalised minorities and participate in their pain and suffering, we are compelled to stand in solidarity with them.
As the late civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr once said, “no one is free until we are all free”. It is a perennial reminder and inspiration for me, hence I want to share my knowledge and observations of such issues through writing from the perspective of a Southeast Asian Chinese man. And in the process, I will also continue to challenge myself to be aware and conscious of how I can choose not to participate in the system that continues to oppress and subjugate the less privileged.
“There’s a great anecdote about the very first photograph taken of earth from the vantage point of space.
The idea was that this photograph occasioned a profound shift in the understanding of ourselves.
You see, for the first time in human history we could look back at our planet in its entirety and see the big picture.
This provided an ontological awakening, it changed our story, our narrative, it upgraded our self-image and expand our consciousness, new maps for new realities as they say.
Astronauts in orbit call this experience the overview effect.
A boundary-shattering sense of revelation and global interconnectedness where we shake off our petty differences and emerge with a sense of global responsibility, global consciousness, and global citizenship.
Carl sagan’s famous “Pale Blue Dot” film echoed this same idea.
From the vantage point of space, there are no lines dividing nations, no geographic subdivisions, no flags or racial divides or disputed territory.
There is only earth, a single celestial body teaming with life, the womb in which we dwell.
Yet the fact is our historically myopic view, most certainly our limited perspective has resulted in much animosity.
We have all too often organized ourselves into competing hostile tribes subjugating each other for land and resources and misrepresenting the big picture into a story of borders, subdivisions, and dividing lines.
Too much hostility and not enough empathy and compassion.
Cultural differences, religion, tribes, nation, race, these are created expressions and variations that should and could be celebrated.
Instead, they have become symbols that are all too often used to create suffocating boundaries.
They are increasingly ill-conceived to address the challenges of a hyper-connected global world.
As advancements in technology and information enable greater mobility of ideas goods and people, the role of the physical boundary has shifted and due for an upgrade.
Conflicts remain and too many people are restricted access to the increasingly fluid means of migration, transportation, and movement.
Migration has always been a defining factor of the human experience.
Migration has and continues to touch all nations, cultures, and regions, all peoples on the planet.
Migration has been the seed at the heart of thriving societies accelerating the dissemination of knowledge and ideas.
Restricting migration is ultimately like restricting the flow of ideas and much the same way that we don’t tolerate censorship or book-burning we might consider the ways in which restricting the free movement of people can be equally punishing to the idea of human flourishing.
The desire to become a global citizen is human, we all have it and we all share the same goals for safety comfort and prosperity for our families.
Some are fortunate enough to be able to invest in a second residence and citizenship while others are forced to seek asylum for their survival.
Being a global citizen is also about the strong and the wealthy helping the weak and the poor.
As we saw with the global citizen tax initiative, border disputes, conflict zones, armed borders, these are things that persist and need to be addressed.
We need a new story, a new lens with which to address these inconsistencies we need to scale up to unleash a truly global citizenry.
Exchanging ideas, beliefs, goods, and services.
It has been said that empathy rarely extends beyond our line of sight and so perhaps it is by extending our gaze using marvelous new storytelling tools like virtual reality that we can bridge divisions and bring worlds together ushering a form of radical empathy, to see the other as ourselves, where boundaries are dissolved and compassion reigns supreme.
A massive transformation of consciousness a software upgrade for mankind birthing a new kind. ”
Cycling through Defu industrial estate near Paya Lebar airport wasn’t quite a pleasant experience. The air was polluted, and heavy vehicles passing by stirred up dust. It makes no sense to differentiate human and natural environment because it is all a mess of buildings and industries and vehicles anyway, and the reality can be anywhere in between the two polarities. How can we put up with living in such a pollutive environment in the name of “development”?
I see nothing wrong with being emotive about the loss or disturbance of natural primary rainforest. It is a primal cry from our heart that remains deeply connected to Mother Nature. Materialism, capitalism and consumerism have unfortunately caused many of us to repress our soul and feel disconnected from Nature…
I learn from kids rather than sophisticated and educated adults
Yes, kids who are free from societal programming can teach us much more than sophisticated and educated adults as they are still fresh from (I believe) a higher realm, having arrived on the earthly plane barely a few years ago, and they are naturally intuitive and curious about everything as they explore the new world with wide-opened wonder and awe, and express their innate nature of love uninhibitedly. It is also interesting to learn about how he listened to the crystals to form a crystal grid in which the crystals work together and charge one another to send healing energy to the world. I googled to find out more about listening to crystals speaking, and came across this informative post in a forum that says:
“Native Americans call rocks The Stone People, and also make reference to The Plant People, and The Animal People, etc. The differing vibrational qualities of each thing is the way it “talks.” And the effect of each vibrational quality is what heals us, and what we call, its “medicinal value.” Many people are also familiar with how the Animal People communicate with us (animal spirit guides, totems, power animals, etc.). They teach us by their examples, and show us how to nurture certain qualities they possess, that we also possess within ourselves. This is their communication, how they “talk” to us, and humans have had this dialogue with The Animal People for a very long time. …”
How is it possible for us to be in an education system and still remain ignorant and detached from the reality of life outside of the societal system? For example, in schools, we learn about the indigenous people in the natural habitats, but how well do we really know and understand the extent of the impact of development on their lives?
Case in point: villagers choking, suffering and dying from the ill effects of haze of forest peat fires in Indonesia in 2015. Do they not have the same rights to live unharmed? In fact, do they need to be registered by the government to be considered citizens or residents having the rights to dwell in the lands where their own ancestors lived?
One reason why I don’t buy wholesale into the education system I was schooled in is because it was mainly designed and formulated through the western colonialist lens. As much as it can be helpful to study ecology through a western perspective, such as learning how to classify regions based on types of climate and vegetation and so on, it is limited when it comes to understanding the nature of the rainforest from the viewpoint of indigenous people who have been living in the rainforest for generations.
When we apply the capitalist, consumerist and materialistic approach to study rainforests, we seem to be fighting a losing battle with the capitalistic economic system over forest conservation.
Ecotourism can easily treat rainforest as just another commodity, as much as ecotourism is needed to raise critical awareness of social and environmental issues.
How do we resolve this dilemma?
For now, there are only questions; no easy answers. One thing I remember Navin, an Eco-Cameron tour guide, said: Nature will recover by herself. Humankind may end up destroying ourselves, but Nature will always recover.
*This is the 18 min video backup for the live March 21st, TEDx [Portugal] Talk by Peter Joseph called: “An Introduction to a Resource-Based Economy “.
I have checked out Peter Joseph’s video introduction of the resource-based economy. Like what he shared, the current socioeconomic system is flawed in many ways as it results in inequality, starvation, ecological harm and so on because of the self-serving property-based system. I agree that an access-based system that serves to meet the needs of the current world population and future generations while conserving the environment at the same time would be an ideal system worth considering and implementing.
I see this proposed idea of the resource-based system as a natural progression that is in step with the rise in collective evolution of humanity. As people continue to evolve and acknowledge our oneness and interconnectedness, more and more of us are finding that the outdated monetary system is flawed and a new and more equitable system is needed to ensure sustainable use of resources to meet the needs of ourselves and our future generations without further harming our environment.