Nature knows best, do we respect her?
By Penelope A. Domogo, MD
The massive slides that happened with Typhoons Ompong and Rosita are scary. We have seen how modern technologies which we equate with progress– well-paved roads, huge buildings, electricity, machines- are powerless in the face of nature’s wrath. Robert G. Ingersoll said, “ In nature, there are neither rewards or punishment- there are consequences.” The tragedy is that innocent lives are sacrificed in the consequences. My condolences to the families of the victims. In these critical times, it is heartwarming to see our Igorot sense of “binnadang” (helping each other in times of need) very much alive.
What’s happening to our world today is a consequence of what we, humans, do to the environment. Not what we just did last year or last April but an accumulation of the effects of human activities over a long period of time. Using bare hands and feet and own muscle strength, people in the past made gentle impact on the environment. How many kilos does an average male weigh? 60 to 70 kilos. In our small mountain villages, with our feet, we can only trample upon grasses and create footpaths. One cannot easily see a footpath from afar, especially in the forest. The industrial revolution which started in the 18th century changed the pace of life on earth. With the invention of machines and electricity, came a frenzy of human activities in pursuit of more –more profit, more resources, more power. Fast forward to the 21st century, we now have bigger and faster machines. What nature has created for centuries, excavators have erased in a few days. What nature has grown for decades, chainsaws have cut down in a few hours. Now we have inflicted big gashes along our mountainsides that can be seen miles away. These gashes that we call highways could accommodate 18-wheeler trucks weighing not just 70 kilos but tons. We have drastically and quickly changed the landscape of our mountains.
At the same time that we are changing our landscape, our increased consumption of everything from clothes to shoes to detergents has caused so much waste that we conveniently burn. This massive burning, especially of plastics, is a major factor for global warming which in turn is giving rise to these super typhoons. We have drastically damaged our atmosphere. Somewhere, somehow, we have forgotten that there is nature.
What’s happening to our external environment is also happening to our bodies. Our bodies are our internal environment and the same laws of nature apply to both. As Mahatma Gandhi said “What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”
The Industrial Revolution encouraged the growth of enterprise, commerce and materialism. These technological developments have fostered greed. Machines and electricity have altered how our food is produced and processed. Instead of slow natural growth of animals and plant foods, people have devised ways to hasten their growth and maturity so we can have more profit. Instead of pounding rice by hand, machines now efficiently mill rice and other grains making it easier to trade but at the same time removing much of its nutrients. Instead of eating sugar cane raw, machines mill it to make white and brown sugar giving it longer shelf life and making it easier to trade. Processing also strips the sugar cane of its nutrients. What nature has provided, machines take away. So what is left for us to eat? Devitalized food – refined sugar, refined flour, white rice. Food that may make us full but not healthy. All because of profit. You think we can do away with nature? Think again.
Let’s focus on sweets. In the tropics where the Philippines is located, our Creator provided sweets in the form of sugar cane and honey and some fruits. Let us see how he provided these. He controlled their availability. Sugar cane can be harvested only after a year. After you chop it off from the root, you have to wait another year for the next one to grow. Also, it is not easy to chew- first you need a knife to remove its hard covering and then chew hard to squeeze out the sweet juice. The pulp is not like camote eh?. I bet you can’ finish the whole plant in one sitting. Kids can’t eat sugar cane on their own- they need an older one to peel it for them. Message of nature – 1) keep sweets out of reach of children and 2) eat sweets occasionally and in small amounts. What about honey? Well, in nature, you can’t have honey so easy either. In fact, you have to risk gashes on your leg as you find your way in the forest and bee stings as you steal the honey from the bees. You see, honey is food for baby bees. Let’s come to fruits. God controlled fruits by letting them out only in season and in limited quantity. Sorry, guys, but you can’t have mangoes this December. It is not the season.
God made sure that we will not overload on sweets. But we want sweets!!! People want sweets and the factory is only too willing to provide. Because there is money in it. Money, money, more money. Let’s see why God controlled our sweet intake. Those machines developed as a result of the Industrial Revolution include gadgets that could investigate the multiple adverse effects of sugar on our bodies. One research finding is that refined sugar paralyzes our internal defense army- the white blood cells- thus our immune system is compromised making us prone to diseases, especially infections. Sugar also makes our blood acidic. Now, research shows that bacteria, viruses and all those microbes proliferate like acidic environment. Acidic blood also damages our arteries. That’s the nature of sugar, whether you mix it with your coffee or mask it in your cake and ice cream. This characteristic of sugar makes it rob our health and vitality. Refined sugar is implicated in almost all the diseases we can imagine – diabetes, high blood pressure, infections, cancer, arthritis, kidney failure, dental caries. Yes, dental caries is a disease- it is one of the first warnings in our body that something is wrong. But we disregard it and just let the dentist fix the tooth. We don’t know that what happened in the tooth reflects what is happening inside our bodies. We continue our unhealthy lifestyle and next the body shouts with a heart attack or stroke. Sobra na talaga ang pang-aabuso mo sa akin!
This is just like what is happening in our environment. We disregard the warnings that we feel and notice in our environment. What are these? The change in our climate and rain patterns, the heating up of the land, fungus attacks on our camote plants, cracks in the land, minor landslides, drying up of water sources, etc, etc. We observe all these things but we continue our unsustainable food production practices and lifestyles. So what does Mother Earth do? It has to shout… so loud that it trembles and crashes. We cannot afford to disregard nature- nature is there to nurture and protect us if we know how to respect her.***
“We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as its other creatures do.” Barbara Ward