Our Earth

Later this month, we will observe “Earth Day 2024”, themes ” Planet vs Plastic” This marks the 54rd year the event has been commemorated since massive 1970 protests erupted in the US against their Government’s complicity in environmental degradation. It was the birth of the “environmental movement” that took as its mandate, a commitment to prevent further damage to the planet that is the only home for sentient beings in the trillions of planets in the universe known at this time.
It was fitting the event was launched in the West which created, and continues to create, the most extensive environmental damage to the planet. For millennia before the West’s global conquest, other cultures had placed the need for coexisting with their environment at the centre of their cultural practices, but all of this was swept away with a worldview that insisted “man has dominion over all he surveyed”.
When Columbus encountered the continents of the “New World”, he found peoples who lived in harmony with nature. Because the forests had not been cleared, Europe declared the peoples “uncivilised”, giving them the “right” to assume sovereignty over these lands, and lay waste to them in their divine “mission civilisatrice”. The same assessment was later made and the same process was attempted in Africa and Asia with varying levels of “success”. However, most insidiously, the arrogant premises of the Europeans towards the earth in terms of “development” were inculcated in these populations with devastating effects that persist into the present.
In Guyana, as we commemorate “Earth Day”, the descendants of the Indigenous, African, Chinese, Portuguese and Indian Peoples must be reminded of their ancient but now “modern” view of Mother Earth. The Hindus from India, for instance, worship the Earth as “Dharti Mata” or “Prithvi Mata” (literally “Mother Earth”) as a necessary and prefatory rite before each ceremony to worship God in whatever manifestation. Africans and Indigenous peoples also have an organic unity with the Earth.
This remembrance of our own traditions will allow us to indigenise our commemoration and revalidate ourselves in the long process to emerge from the debilitating mental shackles placed over our minds during the colonial period and into the present. It is perhaps not coincidental that Guyana led the world in environmental concern through the sequestering of the Iwokrama Rainforest back in 1989 and the Low Carbon Development Strategy in 2009 that has now been rebooted. It would appear that the urge to save and revere Mother Earth survives in our collective cultural genes.
While the theme for Earth Day 2024 is “Planet vs Plastic”, unfortunately, there appears to be a growing and studied effort to reduce environmental spending in the “developed” countries, whose practices led to our global environmental and climate degradation. It has been over five years after 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement and agreed to cut their carbon emissions in an effort to keep the increase of average global temperatures to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. But while for instance, the US had agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across its economy by 26% over the next decade – leaving it at 28% in 2025 when compared to 2005 levels, Trump refused to even accept that climate change is grounded in reality. Not surprisingly that goal will not be met. We have seen the same backtracking on commitments by the EU nations.
But this does not mean we must give up on our efforts to save Mother Earth: it is the moral duty of all nations to do what we can to reduce carbon emissions. It is very positive that our government will now go ahead with the Amaila Falls Hydro Project. In the meantime, the new rising economies of China and India will have to accept that while they may not have caused the problem, they have to put their shoulders to the wheel and reduce their carbon footprints.
Either we all cut back emissions together or we all burn together.

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