By Anjali V Raj
Environmentalism has become a material for sensationalism. There has been a lot of discussion on environmental protection for the past few decades. Recently this made me think about the word ‘protection’; protection from whom exactly? Ironically, we are trying to protect nature from ourselves or to put it another way, ‘protecting ourselves from us’. We are just a minuscule component in this ecosystem but capable of corrupting the entire program. Nature is an entity mightier than us, has ingenious ways to protect itself from any danger we bring. When the earth exceeds its carrying capacity, it unleashes calamities, the nature’s way of bringing balance to a chaotic system. So in short, nature needs no protection by anyone, especially by us humans.
The outbreaks of natural disaster and pandemic have become a routine now. We have faced numerous consequences every time we crossed the line with insolence. Yet it has taught us nothing. Trespassing the boundary and disrupting the natural cycle take us to the firewall created by nature. Previous experiences will suffice as a reprimand for the outbreak of epidemics as a mechanism to keep us in control. Many animal species are vectors to germs that are deadly to humans (zoonotic diseases) while being impotent in animals. These zoonotic microbes are the antibodies created by nature to destroy the human invaders attacking the natural balance. This is the rationale for the outbreak of Ebola, Zika, Nipah and now SARS COVID-19. The cases of natural disasters are invariable from the aforementioned and it is high time that we learn from these experiences. In a nutshell, we are pushing ourselves to the edge of annihilation with our ignorance and recalcitrance.
During a discussion with my friend Elizabeth on environmental protection, she pointed out that environmental conservation practices are ultimately for the benefit of humans. This struck me hard and enlightened me to the fact that we are not protecting the environment but ourselves. Somewhere along this line of ignorance, we still realize that we will be facing an existential crisis in our near future with our current lifestyle. Hence we are in a quest to find every way to extend our stay and dominion on the earth with our little endeavours. With the ideal of promoting environmental conservation to protect and prevent ourselves from the wrath of nature, we socialize with the notion. Since the ecosystem has interwoven our species with others, it is essential to prevent the extinction of species to maintain the web intact. Hence to those who fill their conscience with the fake act of selflessness by saving nature and to those who are hesitant to care for the betterment of others, it is important to realize that neither we are selfless nor considerate of other life forms. Everything we do is for our benefit and the benefit of our future generation, not far from egocentrism.
Until now all the innovations and endeavours were to ease our lifestyle but now the so-called environmentally sound innovations are to safeguard us so that we can continue living at ease. Majority of the research works on ecology and environment remain in research journals with no ground-level actions. In the end, only people gaining from these researches are none but themselves. The world we have woven for ourselves is anthropocentric. We were always taught that human beings are a superior and most important entity in the universe. Also, we have taught ourselves to care for nothing else but us. Nature has been patient and prudent providing to all our insatiable demands. We have an obligation to nature which we can never endure; yet we continue exploiting nature to satisfy our unquenchable gluttony. Ours is an ironical society that preaches protection and exploits nature simultaneously. Having no right to preach being one among this society, I still say that we need to dethrone ourselves from the designation of saviours and saints to clear the cloud veiling our senses. Eco-centrism, where every component in this earth is given equal intrinsic value and importance, should have been encouraged. Demolishing the pillar of superiority will make us realize that respect is what is needed, not protection. Respect for nature makes us responsible for our actions.
Anjali V Raj is a research assistant at ATREE, Bangalore.
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City and India. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Poetics and politics of the ‘everyday’: Engaging with India’s northeast”, edited by Bhumika R, IIT Jammu and Suranjana Choudhury, NEHU, India.