Recently, I got an invitation to deliver a lecture at a proposed workshop on preserving our earth. The idea of the workshop came from the fact that human beings have selfishly and greedily exploited the earth’s resources in such a way that human existence is in jeopardy. Already, hundreds of thousands of plants and animals are said to be extinct, while the ozone layer has been severely affected, and the earth has become warmer than is normal.
The issue of global warming or climate change and how to prevent and reduce it now tops the agenda of most international agencies, including the United Nations (UN). These agencies are spending billions of dollars in sponsoring awareness programmes on global warming, and what we can do to reduce it. Not long ago I had written to an international development agency applying for sponsorship for a skill acquisition programme for the poor men and women of Ewu village, in Edo State where I reside. The response was clear and simple: we are not interested in such a programme. However, I was advised that if I change the theme of the programme to “GOING GREEN’, or “HOW TO REDUCE GLOBAL WARMING, my application may be accepted. Point well understood: “He who pays the piper dictates the tune. If you want our money, say what we want you to say, think as we want you to think, act as we want you to act.”
This manipulation is even more intense on the intercontinental level. The UN has mandated the African Union [AU] to have as top on their agenda issues of global warming or climate change, or lose sponsorship for many of their programmes. In December 2008 at the UN sponsored African Union (AU) summit on climate change, African leaders were bluntly told that if they wanted continuous foreign aid, they must be actively involved in promoting among Africans an awareness of the dangers of global warming. In order words, African leaders should discourage mechanised mass agriculture [which will provide food for the hungry poor], stop African hunters from killing animals [their means of livelihood], reduce their use of electricity [in Nigeria this is hardly available], and ‘go green’ [plant more trees, flowers].
Some African leaders are now asking why they should be compelled to sacrifice rapid economic growth for ‘going green’. James Lovelock, a British scientist, stated categorically that the earth cannot sustain an industrialised Africa. Message: Africa must remain underdeveloped and technologically weak so that the rich north can continue to enjoy their opulence.
Meanwhile, in the United States (US) and Canada, individuals release over 10,000 pounds of carbon dioxide [CO2] per person per year. Heating and cooling systems in the U.S. emit over 500 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. While people in the rich countries decide which gas-consuming cars to buy, Africans are seeking firewood and charcoal to cook their meals [which the UN now discourages].
New York alone uses more gasoline in a week than the whole of Africa does in a year. There are more cars in Westphalia, Germany, than in the whole of Africa. The U.S. State of Texas alone, with a population of 30 million, emits more CO2 than 93 developing countries added together, with a combined population of nearly one billion people.
Now, back to the proposed workshop earlier mentioned. The topic I am asked to speak on is: HEALING THE EARTH. I am asked to emphasise the fact that human beings have damaged the earth almost irredeemably, and we should do what we can to ‘safe’ mother earth, to heal and make her whole again. As I reflected on my topic, it dawned on me that human beings have yet to learn the lessons of history due to our sheer arrogance.
In the first place, what gave us the audacity to think that we can heal the earth? If the earth needs healing, who is the doctor? Looking at the natural order of things, who is really in need of healing, the earth or humanity? The earth is not in need of healing. It is humanity who is sick and needs healing. And we have no other healer than mother earth. Was our estrangement from the earth not the cause of our sickness? Rather than seeking to ‘heal the earth’, we should learn to live in harmony with THE HEALING EARTH.
The mess in which inhumanity finds itself today was caused by a wrong understanding of knowledge and its role in human development. Firstly, we were led astray by the myth that with enough knowledge and technology [computers, digital machines, satellites, buttons, etc], we can rule the earth and control it.
Secondly, we were misled by the myth that knowledge is synonymous with human goodness. We often speak of knowledge as if it is a guarantor of human goodness. Possessing an MA or PHD does not bestow moral uprightness or integrity nor is it a sign of wisdom. Education is no guarantee of decency, prudence or wisdom. Learning in itself will not make us better people. The worth of education must be measured against the standards of decency and human survival. It is therefore wrong to think that education in itself will save humanity. Our survival in the next century depends on education, but not education as we have conceived it for over 50 years. We need a new kind of education.
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