What are you doing for the environment? A
familiar question. It's not just a matter of planting trees and
recycling waste. There are many environments - global, physical,
cultural, internal, political and social. Together they make
up our holistic environment. Often we lose sight of the 'bigger
picture'. We fail to make connections - between matter and energy,
mind and body, reason and feeling. This produces conflict. In
this issue, World Eye looks at people embracing a holistic
Global Environment - identification with humanity...
Chop down a rainforest in the Philippines
and the summertime temperatures in the US climb a little higher,
the polar ice-caps melt a bit faster and Bangladesh inches still
closer to complete submersion. The link: we share one world and
depend on each other for its upkeep. This is the concept the environmental
movement hinges on. This is what helped bring over 30,000 Australians
onto the streets of Sydney on Bastille Day to protest against
the French nuclear tests on Mururoa Atoll. Most of us who attended
that rally went because we had been captivated by pictures in
the Australian media of crystal clear lagoons and palm trees swaying
in the breeze. We were outraged at the prospect of it being enveloped
by a toxic mushroom cloud. We felt 'linked' to these people and
the beautiful corner of the world they lived in, linked enough
to join in protest.
Yet there is so much of their lives - what
they eat for breakfast or the games their children play - that
we do not know and perhaps, when the media spotlight shifts elsewhere,
we never will. In fact, if the nuclear-testing issue had not
been adjudged sufficiently newsworthy, most of us would never
have known Mururoa existed. There are other places - Rwanda,
Burundi and Chechnya - the media have added to our common geographical
knowledge. Our linkage to people and their concerns in far-flung
corners of the world depends on mainstream media. This dependence
becomes a worry when you realise the global media are dominated
by TV networks and tycoons based in the Western world. The recent
media mergers in the US, between Capital Cities/ABC and Walt Disney
followed by CBS and Westinghouse, indicate a growing trend towards
more and more media power in fewer and fewer hands.
The lop-sidedness of news coverage is already
evident. Compare the coverage of the Okalahoma bombing to that
of the refugee crisis in Rwanda. In the former, the TV cameras
focused on individuals and the victims had names like Bobby and
Kate. In the latter, we were shown sweeping shots of crowds of
anonymous people and, if the journalist was slightly more persevering,
an interview with a foreign aid-worker. It becomes easier to
feel for Bobby and Kate's parents than the suffering thousands
we never really got to know.
If we are to think and act as members of a
global community, we have to link up with people in other countries
whose stories are either partially told or not at all. We cannot
depend on our daily news to create these links. We must find
alternative sources: magazines whose covers might not be glossy,
NGOs which function from one-roomed offices and people with different
accents who have important messages for us. It is not only the
environmental movement that depends on these links for its strength.
But it stands to lose the most if we fail to develop them.
The next time we march on the streets, let
us march not because we feel a fleeting concern for picture-postcard
beaches; let us march because we know the names of those who walk
Shampa Sinha, India/Australia
Physical Environment - land, oceans, ozone...
Indigenous peoples see themselves as part
of the environment, not removed from it. Treating things in isolation
may be appropriate for technology and science- based issues but
this approach does not solve (and can even cause) environmental
'When we were farming traditionally, our farm
became like a drug addict,' says Bill Twigg. 'The more inputs,
the more the land demanded to achieve a satisfactory yield.'
Twigg's farm in Victoria, Australia, is called 'Nil Desperandum'
(Never despair). His family have farmed in the area for 90 years.
They have sheep, grain and cattle. The problem, he and his wife
Gwen decided, was the chemical fertilisers,
which were killing organisms releasing important elements into
the soil. Once the organisms were dead, more chemical fertilisers
were needed. In 1970, he and his wife, Gwen, decided to try and
develop a system of farming in sympathy with nature and the environment.
They turned most of their pastures over to lucerne. This is
a deep-rooted perennial plant, similar to much of the original
pre-European vegetation of the area, which recycles nutrients
and brings moisture to the soil surface. They found that once
lucerne was established, there was no need to use chemical fertilisers.
They have been able to maintain their yield with far smaller
expenses than they used to have. The best fertilisers are plants,
Bill says. 'We need all the native species - plant, animal and
insect - to create a balanced system. Lose one and it starts
an ecological chain reaction. Farming in harmony with the environment
is not only more economic in the long run, but full of personal
rewards.' As the farm has changed, so has Bill. He used to be
self-righteous about his approach to farming. Now, rather than
'convert' people, he is more interested in showing the practicality
of his methods. His satisfaction comes from adapting nature's
way to the farming operation.
Libby Boxer, Australia
Most of us live in cities. Western cities
are largely designed for the car. This has a huge effect on our
society. The car has given us immense freedom to travel. As
a result, our cities have sprawled out and vast acreages have
been turned into roads. We have traffic congestion and smog.
And our suburbs can be lonely and difficult for the elderly and
others who cannot drive.
Some European and American cities have established
urban villages to answer these problems - areas of attractive
townhouses and flats, intermingled with shops and offices, from
which cars are excluded. They have built light rail systems -
multiple-carriage trams which transport people in comfort, and
with little of the pollution and noise of cars and buses. They
have applied traffic calming (measures to slow cars in residential
areas) which has made the streets more accessible to pedestrians
and encouraged community life. A well-known advocate of these
methods is Professor Peter Newman of Murdoch University in Western
Australia. He started putting new ideas into practice in his
home city of Fremantle. Its city centre was full of derelict
19th century buildings, which some city leaders proposed demolishing.
Newman and others saw the potential to create a really attractive
city centre. Today the buildings have been restored and turned
into markets, offices and museums. Pedestrian precincts and street
cafes have been established. And people flock to Fremantle on
Cultural Environment - shared traditions and values...
Break down people's cultural environment
and you destroy community, identity and purpose for living.
Nagaland is a border state in the North-East
of India. As it encounters different cultures, so its socio-political
problems rise, eg., drug addiction and the influences of Western
satellite TV. Many prospective students are frustrated by the
lack of local opportunities. There is a continual search for
identity, values and acceptance. Nagas have a strong sense of
freedom and adventure. As with any overseas student, I saw Australia
as a place of opportunity. I thought it would give me what my
own country could not. I was right. It has added meaning to
my life. Now I understand people a lot better. I am re-discovering
my own culture and realising how beautiful it is. This is the
result of being immersed in a totally different cultural environment.
Achüno Peseyie, Angami Tribe, Nagaland, India
Internal Environment - what we feel and think...
When the world suffers, we suffer. We avoid
identifying with environments beyond our own to evade this suffering.
Likewise, when we suffer, the world suffers.
Our inner state influences our surroundings and how we view them.
We will only be satisfied when we achieve harmony with the external
world - our ultimate classroom. As author Mary Lean says, 'What
happens inside people is a key to what happens around them'.
Individuals leading balanced lives are more likely to create a
stable world environment.
Political Environment - ideology, freedom, equality...
Disharmony between the various environments
can lead to catastrophes such as war. Only when threatened does
the importance of our holistic environment become evident. Lenka
Gudac is a Croatian student working for peace in former Yugoslavia.
In August her father and uncle went to fight in the war. She
writes of her heritage and hopes.
Since the 7th century we have had many Kings
- some nice, some not. One, King Zvonimir, sold part of Croatia's
coast to the Republic of Venetia and was killed for it. His final
words were, 'May Croatia not be free or independent for another
Croatia has been ruled by other powers ever
since. In World War II we supported Hitler. The Resistance struck
back and Croatia joined the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
led by Tito. In the years which followed, Croatia became a popular
tourist destination. Its people, however, lost their official
identity and human rights. Many were forced to leave the country
and change their names.
When Tito died in 1980, Yugoslavia started
to fall apart. In 1989, 900 years after Zvonimir's curse, Croatia
reclaimed her independence. In 1991 war broke out. Many monuments,
churches and houses have been destroyed; a generation of young
men have been killed or wounded. This war has weakened the trust
between people but there is still hope - the hope that love and
understanding will replace hatred and fighting.
Lenka Gudac, Croatia
Social Environment - people and how they relate to one another...
'The battle for the survival of the planet
will be won or lost in the cities', says Maurice Strong, Secretary-General
of the UN Conference on Environment and Development. There are
no easy solutions to the problems of our cities - homelessness,
drug-abuse, crime. All communities are needed in the search for
solutions. But often the hurts of history stop this happening.
In America, the racial divide between black
and white is still deep. Two years ago citizens of Richmond,
Virginia, decided to try and overcome this for the sake of their
city and the many other American cities with deep racial divisions.
Richmond is significant in the racial history of America; it
was a port where slaves from Africa were unloaded and sold, and
was the capital of the Confederacy during the American Civil War
- a war which focussed the issue of slavery. In 1993 Richmonders,
black and white, organised a conference, Healing the Heart
of America. Its high point was a five-mile walk through the
city, stopping at the unmarked sites of the uglier aspects of
the city's history - the slave markets, the site of a massacre
of native Americans - and the well-known places. Five hundred
people took part. For many white Richmonders it was a rare chance
to understand what black Richmonders had gone through in their
city. Black and white began to find common ground and have set
to work to answer the city's problems. They have had considerable
impact. Other cities have become interested. In Chicago this
month, church leaders, city councillors and leaders of many ethnic
communities will come together to get to grips with their city's
problems in a similar way.
Four Laws of Ecology:
- Everything is connected to everything else.
- Everything must go somewhere.
- Nature knows best.
- There is no such thing as a free lunch.
(B Commoner, Ecologist)
Compiled by the Editors
with thanks to Deane Belfield