Re­view­ing the en­vi­ron­men­tal state of the world

Look­ing back, ac­knowl­edg­ing the present, and plan­ning for the fu­ture


When I was lit­tle, my grand­par­ents would of­ten take a de­tour to the Baguio City Mar­ket af­ter pick­ing me up from school. We would go sec­tion by sec­tion, fill­ing a small bay­ong with pieces of meat wrapped in pa­per and veg­eta­bles en­cased in plas­tic. I al­ready knew then that those green, leafy things I was made to eat were called plants. I also knew that we con­sumed them be­cause they were healthy. But if I were shown the same veg­eta­bles out­side the mar­ket set­ting—like maybe grow­ing in some­one’s gar­den—I wouldn’t know my beans from my pota­toes.

Out of the dark­ness of soil, seeds sprout, hun­gry for some sun­light. This made sense in my tiny third grader’s mind, but I soon learned the frus­tra­tion of plant­ing 10 mongo seeds in a wa­ter dip­per. Thank­fully, my lola had a green thumb and was able to come to my res­cue. “Put some soil into the pot, bury the beans in a line, wa­ter them a bit, and place it in an area that re­ceives enough sun­light. Then, let it be. Go play. Come back to it to­mor­row morn­ing.” I tried my best to fol­low her in­struc­tions de­spite feel­ing mildly be­trayed by both my science book and the ven­dors at the city mar­ket. How could they have for­got­ten to in­form me that plants need time to grow? As far as I knew up to that point, one sim­ply went to the store, and voila! In­stant beans! That was pretty much my un­der­stand­ing of na­ture then. Pot­ted plants in neatly ar­ranged rows for land­scaped gar­dens were also aplenty in our gated sub­di­vi­sion, but how many of my neigh­bors re­ally grew their own food? Or al­lowed their plants to ex­press their nat­u­ral wild­ness?

It seems our ap­pre­ci­a­tion of na­ture goes only as far as we could cap­ture it, ei­ther for so­cial me­dia, our own con­sump­tion, or our in­come gen­er­a­tion. With the on­go­ing tourist boom, we of­fer lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional trav­el­ers alike the chance to com­mune with na­ture, but first, we clear out forests to pave roads and build malls; what is a na­ture trip if you don’t have a sou­venir to prove you went on one, right? Af­ter we’ve taken a selfie with a beau­ti­ful nat­u­ral back­drop, af­ter all the likes, loves, and “Wows” have come in, we re­turn to our usual lives, grate­ful to have seen some­thing beau­ti­ful but feel­ing re­moved from it. Back in our “real” world, suc­cess is mea­sured by how much we are able to ac­quire, so it’s no sur­prise that nat­u­ral re­sources are treated as some­thing that can be bought and owned. An an­cient tree and the birds liv­ing off of it have cor­re­spond­ing mon­e­tary value, with a piece of pa­per to prove so—but isn’t pa­per a prod­uct of trees, too?

I have long come to ap­pre­ci­ate my grand­par­ents’ wis­dom. They al­ways bought only what they could con­sume, and in the early morn­ings and late af­ter­noons of my child­hood, I would catch them put­ter­ing about in the gar­den, re­mov­ing weeds to en­sure there was space, light, and space for things to grow. They made me dig my fin­gers into the soil and touch the roots found within it, if only to il­lus­trate that I too be­longed to the world and that all of na­ture—from birth to death, from bud­ding to with­er­ing—is the stuff of life. This year, how about we tap into that con­nec­tion again and treat the en­vi­ron­ment with right­ful rev­er­ence? Who knows: We might find that a sim­pler, more de­lib­er­ate life lived in har­mony with na­ture could make us richer than we ever imag­ined than when we’re oc­cu­pied keep­ing up with the cor­po­rate rat race. •

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