HAVE WE LOST OUR WISDOM?
About thirty years ago I tried to explain the concept of commercial recycling to a Kenyan wildlife activist. Although he understood what I was saying he was shocked at the idea of throwing precious resources away in the first place. Simple wisdom – something I fear many of us in developed countries have already lost. I have travelled most of my adult life, working for EIA in parts of the world most people never think of visiting. Within many countries I have often found myself well out of my urban comfort zone, such as tromping through a forest at night for hours in West Papua or bumping along a dirt road in upriver Gambia in a Renault 12 rented from a nervous “can’t use it off-road” employee in Senegal. I say “out of my comfort zone” but in reality I’ve rarely felt uncomfortable.
Roof weaving for the community deep in the forest in West Papua Photo: Dave Currey/EIA
With few exceptions I have found the people in so-called under developed countries, thoughtful, caring and kind to strangers. I would even go a little further than this and say they are sometimes better informed about international issues than many people in Europe or the United States. Pretty much every mud-hut village has a radio and the locals are hungry for information. As in all parts of the world, their interest peaks when the subject concerns their own lives. So it comes as little surprise to me that a recent Pew Research survey showed that in Africa and Latin America the majority in most countries declared they were very concerned by climate change. And so they should be, with crops already failing, extreme weather already a reality and the science so peer reviewed it’s a miracle anyone can really deny that climate change is man-made and keep a straight face. So according to this survey what was our greatest fear in the United States and Europe? Not really hard to figure that one out either, given the wall-to-wall publicity ISIS has been given in the private interest media and the virtual black-out of news on climate change. ISIS-fear feeds valuable weapons contracts and provides opportunities for governments to pass restrictive legislation. It’s also a useful diversion from the new UK government cutting subsidies for renewable energy while spending vast sums of public money of fossil fuel subsidies. With development have come social, medical and education benefits offering real security to hundreds of millions. Yet many of these people feel more insecure and less aware, sheep like in their addiction to consumption fed by relentless corporate advertising. They vote for personal benefit, seeming to have lost their thoughtfulness, caring and kindness. If you’re caught in this artificial bubble it becomes understandable that you lose empathy for people losing their crops and land to climate change or give a shit for the future. “It’s all too complicated” claims a fussed shopper, bothered by useless apps, appointments, and diets as he/she steps into Primark for their next fix. If recycling was already a step too far for my Kenyan friend thirty years ago, I’m pretty sure his kind wise heart would already be looking for premises to support and help us poor lost addicted souls.