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Shameless rape of the earth

By Rajiv Gopie

Only after the last tree has been cut down. Only after the last river has been poisoned. Only after the last fish has been caught. Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.

(Cree Indian Prophecy)

The words of the old prophecy still hold true and as we march on as a species our ability to wreak destruction unto the earth only increases.

The people of Trinidad and Tobago should be ashamed and admonished for their complacency in the treatment of the country. The Government and mining sector are downright disgusting in what they are doing near the Asa Wright Nature Centre. That area is our heritage, it belongs to all of us, it is our birthright and we are allowing that beautiful Eden to be raped and ravaged by greedy companies. No company should be allowed to mine within sight of the centre. The entire area and the hundreds of acres around it should be strictly off limits to all human and invasive activity.

Activity on the hillsides will have a direct impact on the centre. Obviously when it rains the slush will wash downhill without the forest cover. Obviously the quality of water will decrease but it seems that sheer stupidity and greed are the only things that shape the thinking of those involved.

It would be wrong to rage only against the Government since they seem to be completely helpless and a lost cause. My question is about the management of the centre. Where were they when the mining began and have they never heard of a court?

I am told we have a robust and enlightened judiciary and the benefit of sitting Law Lords in the UK, so I was surprised they allowed this to happen.

Furthermore where are the outraged activists and the friends of the earth? Where are the UWI students who are studying environmental sciences? One would think that university students would be at the forefront of activism and protests but I would bet my last dollar they are out having a great time and couldn't care less about what is going on near Asa Wright.

Universities are supposed to be bastions of liberal and progressive ideas, green movements and all sorts of activism. The young people in them are supposed to be dynamic thinkers, full of passion and willing to take on the powers that be to secure their own futures. What, then, is happening to our universities and what is the state of our students? The same for the teaching staff. Where are the activist academics, where are the Julian Kennys of today... and tomorrow? Why are these learned women and men not all over the media-sphere and outside the centre protesting?

The other painfully silent group is the hunters' association. They always claim to be the stewards of the environment, so how come they are not now in Asa Wright area doing some stewarding? One would expect that a group that purports to care about nature and the environment would have been at the forefront, being very vocal in their opposition but as of now they seem to have lost their voices.

It's not only at Asa Wright. All over our country the environment is being abused by callous companies and individuals. Our watercourses are choking and dying with millions of gallons of poison from factories, the rivers are being polluted with discarded, appliances and all manner of industrial waste. Forests are being cut down for housing without consideration for the long term effects. Mangrove forests that serve a vital purpose in protecting our shores and providing nurseries for fishes are being filled up to build mega-complexes and houses.

Hunters are going into the forests during breeding season and shooting pregnant and nursing animals, thereby eradicating the future generations of animals. Leatherback turtles are being slaughtered, trawlers are being allowed to operate in our waters, using destructive fishing practices and killing dolphins, rays, sharks and turtles in the process.

All these slights against the earth will lead to our own pain and destruction. We are only hurting ourselves when we continue to allow greedy firms to rape the earth and we ourselves engage in it. Nature has a way of managing itself and has borne witness to three great mass extinctions where more than 90 per cent of life was wiped out.

From great dinosaurs to mega aquatic beasts to giants of the air, all of them great and small, were exterminated by nature's fury. We as a species should take note and realise the earth will be here long after we are gone. We are just one species and we exist only in the blink of an eye in geological time.

We cannot continue to pollute and oppress like we do. The biblical notion of man having dominion over the beasts and the earth is wrong and has led to much destruction and hurt. Instead, the principles and practices of the old Eastern faiths and tribes and people across the world, from the Native Americans to African kingdoms, should be our guiding light. We are not the lords of nature but part of it. We exist within it and we would do well to protect it as we depend on it fully. Without it we would be nothing.

• Rajiv Gopie won the President's Medal in 2006 for Business/Modern Studies. He is an MSc

candidate in International Relations at the London School of Economics

• rajivgopie@hotmail.com

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