All things are connected…

In 1990, the CD One World One Voice was released into a very complacent world. It was the brainchild of Kevin Godley, who instigated an unprecedented worldwide piece of musical collaboration, which resulted in the production of the CD and a “making of” TV documentary, featuring music and artists from every corner of our planet… It is one of the things that really got me interested in the Environment and, memorably, it begins with the words of an Native American Chief upon being required to surrender his land to European settlers in 1854:

“This we know – the Earth does not belong to man – man belongs to the Earth… All things are connected like the blood which unites one family… Whatever befalls the Earth – befalls the sons of the Earth. Man did not weave the web of life – he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” …Watch and listen to it here!

So, along with the reality of the Greenhouse Effect, this is something else we have known for at least 150 years. Why do we find it so hard to learn these lessons and act accordingly?

Did you know that the main reason the tsunami that struck Indonesia and Thailand on Boxing Day 2004 caused such a high death toll is that so many mangrove swamps have been cleared to build shrimp farms or hotels? In the last 30 years, half the planet’s mangrove swamps have been destroyed. The mangroves, which are almost uniquely adapted to live in tidal water where freshwater mixes with seawater, have complex root systems that cause the build-up of thick nutrient-rich deposits of mud by dissipating the energy of water passing through them. Ponder that next time you are eating a prawn curry (and try not to choke).

Similarly, did you know that one of the reasons that the Great Barrier Reef is in such a perilous state (leaving aside ocean acidification), is that since European settlement 80% of Queensland’s rain forest (the oldest on the planet) has been cleared to make room for cattle farming and sugar cane plantations; with the resultant soil erosion causing eutrophication of – and algal blooms in – the lagoon between the coast and the main reef?

There are many other examples but I will not bore you by listing any more. Suffice it to say that the 18th Century scientific revolution of the Enlightenment gave us many good things but the belief that human beings are superior to nature and can be masters of our environment was not one of them. The sooner we accept this, the better it will be for all of the planet’s inhabitants.

For the record, this post was inspired by watching Episode 2 of the BBC’s Great Barrier Reef series; and by reading Derek Wall’s No Nonsense Guide to Green Politics (2010).