Just days apart, we saw another dolphin washed up on Guyana’s shores. Although environmentalists have yet to ascertain the cause of death, or to justify these rare events, it breaks my heart to see the carcasses of these magnificent and innocent animals in the manner in which they were found.
Further to these cases, we saw dead fish in their numbers floating in a trench between Mandela Avenue and Cemetery Road in November, 2020. It is suspected that this was caused by the seepage of chemicals from a nearby dumpsite.
These incidents are a cause of great concern. They prove how human activities have a serious impact on the natural environment, so much so that the world in which life depends is constantly being destroyed.
The culprit? Human beings! There are no other species that destroy the earth more than human beings themselves! Humans have the capacity to think, which enables them to create and/or to destroy. They abuse these faculties out of greed and egoism for the accumulation of wealth and control. As a result of this, they have lost their connection with nature. As Mahatma Gandhi eloquently said, “The earth can provide for everybody’s need, but not enough for one man’s greed.”
As a human being, I am of the conviction that we need to restore our moral precepts by returning to the teachings of our Divine Religions. I say this because I believe that our environmental problem is not only a product of materialism, but also a moral one. Consequently, we need to adjust certain policies and practices so that the current environmental and ecological crisis does not intensify into an uncontrollable phenomenon.
Simple practices such as composting instead of throwing our waste and trash into oceans and waterways would constitute a more rational and environmentally friendly approach. Human beings, though, with their knack to destroy, would rather pump their filth into the air, polluting our air, or spill their waste and garbage into our oceans and waterways, because by these means it is “easier and faster” to dispose of their waste. What humans fail to understand, though, is that after a while, these practices affect life, while destroying our environment. As a result, we cannot swim, or even breathe properly, as toxins and waste emit a foul stench; or, as I say, an odour of death.
We see the owners of these massive oil firms proclaiming that there are no environmental consequences whatsoever in the scope of their work. However, we have seen from these same oil rigs how cyanide wastewater enters the ocean and impacts aquatic organisms, plants and microscopic forms of life. Subsequently, as water flows through our waterways, it destroys more and more lifeforms. Water is a sacred element through which God has created all life. As the Quran says, “He made from water every living thing.” (Quran 21:30)
What humans ignore is the fact that creation has been made to work as a whole. Each part of life, including humankind, plays its own self-preserving role, and in so doing, supports the rest. The whole of creation was made to work within a defined pattern. We are all mutually dependent on each other for survival.
Furthermore, human beings need to recognise that everything God has created is made up of its own ‘nation’ or ‘community.’ As the Qur’an says, “There is not an animal (that lives) on Earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms a part) a community like you.” (Qur’an 6:38) As a result, we must honour and respect each organism and life form, as each is part of a bigger picture.
As human beings, we have been created to be the “trustees” of the Creator, and to preserve nature as a sacred sign and trust of the Almighty God. The Human being is the vicegerent of God on earth, and just the resource manager, not the owner. He/she is just the beneficiary, and not the disposer. We should therefore strive not to abuse, exploit, or distort the environment and/or its inhabitants. As human beings, we are enjoined with a certain responsibility towards every living creature.
Islam teaches that, on the Day of Judgement, we would be answerable for how we treated and cared for these creatures. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) states: “If without good reason anyone kills a sparrow, or a creature lesser than that even, the living creature will put his complaints to God on the day of Judgement, saying: “So-and-So killed me for no purpose.” In this regard, we must understand and recognise that any act of destruction is strongly condemned, whether it be in respect to human beings or to other living beings.
Man has the capacity to destroy, and he also has the capacity to create – to function in unison with the universe and God. Mankind needs to mature, and have some power of thought to protect his environment, so that our children and generations to come will live and prosper.
Roshan Khan, Snr