Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Psalm 127:1
Mathew Paul was a worried man. He had been running a successful business in garment export but that had run into rough weather with the rejection of a sizeable consignment. He had to find a quick solution to cover his losses. He had discussed his predicament with other business colleagues and they suggested one way out. The market for metal and sand used in road building was good, and the margins were huge. It required an initial investment but the returns were significant. There was, of course, a minor question of environmental clearance, but he was sure he could find some amenable government officials who would help him out for a price.
Sure enough, Mathew Paul made good his losses and was once again in the front rows of ‘success’ in business parlance. He identified his opportunity in a village in South Kerala richly endowed with a natural green cover, interspersed with coffee plantations and rubber estates. Within a span of six months the face of this beautiful village underwent a seachange. Jagged and sheer walls of grey rock had replaced the undulating forest cover. Huge, heavy-duty digging, crushing and gathering machines were at work. Every now and then, a screeching siren sounded, which was followed by explosions in the stone quarry. The landscape had been altered irrevocably and the villagers experienced an unusually hot and dusty summer that took its toll on human, animal and plant health.
Environmental exploitation has been rampant over the past few decades. Land, water and air have been systematically poisoned by the industrial sector. Till a decade ago, the effects of this seemed to be confined to a distant future, but we are not in that comfort zone anymore. New Delhi, the capital city is presently reeling under the throes of dangerously high pollution levels caused by carbon combustion. And Kochi and Lakshadweep have lost precious lives and homes to Ockhi’s savage assault. The devastation that was predicted, is now at our doorstep. Our generation will not escape the uncontrollable fury of natural disasters, given the space at which we are still actively building up our empires at the cost of the environment.
The Bible records an early event Genesis 1:1-9 which speaks of the descendants of Noah who had then become a sizeable population and were slowly learning how to use the earth’s resources. However, their first thought was to harness these new found skills to establish their united superiority by building a tower that would reach the sky! Their dreams were short lived. They were scattered across the face of the earth to begin life’s journey from scratch.
On reflection, one cannot help discerning a common thread that runs between this original Tower of Babel and the modern towers that we are zealously building, at the global, national and personal level. There is no consensus on concrete steps to reduce atmospheric pollution. In spite of legally constituted environmental clearance requirements, real estate development continues to strain natural resources, sand mining continues unabated and forest land is still serving the interests of the mining industry.
On the social front, Indian families are moving up the status ladder with a car for each family member. The use of plastics, as well as unchecked rubbish disposal has choked good water resources. Wastage of water and electricity in households continue to strain these scarce commodities to its limits.
The year 2017 closes unhappily for Kerala and Lakshadweep. The lament of families who have lost their loved ones and their homes still rings in the air. Social media is alive with predictions of further sea borne disasters and this is beginning to weigh heavily on the Kerala mind-set. The time has come to face the situation and take some personal resolutions for the New Year. Can we think of car pools rather than an additional car? Can we adopt composting techniques at home in a ‘wealth-from-waste’ plan? Can we teach our children not to waste water, to put off unnecessary lights and fans, to reduce the use of air conditioning and heating devices?
Like the tower of Babel, our world has already started to crumble around us. Let us take a firm resolve for 2018 and start the process of reinforcing the foundations and rebuilding a better and safer world for the children of tomorrow.