Caption: Mr. Shalend Prem Singh, Senior Health Inspector – Lautoka City Council, the FNU students and Mrs Ajantha Perera at the LCC landfill site.
How wonderful the world would be if each one of us learns to say thank you to one another for the smallest kindness, as much as for the great favors. For most of us life is a time spent comparing, between those who have and those who do not have. It takes however only a few seconds to realize that we all are richly blessed no matter where we are, and where we come from. “Take a deep breath-let it out” and think as to how often you have been breathing. Every human being enters this world with a big cry, “that is how the world knows that another one is born”. The cry signifies the first breath of a human being. Since that first breathe every human being continues to breathe until the day they die. So Life really is the time between the first breath and the last breath.
I have often asked people, even children as to why they never say thank you for the air they breathe. The usual answer is because we cannot see the air, so how can we say thank you. When a vehicle passes by emitting tons of black fumes, then we realize how valuable clean air is. Learning to be grateful for what we have is such a wonderful lesson in life. We breathe air free of charge every day, every hour, every second and every fraction of a second- none of us have ever paid money for the air we breathe, yet we fail to recognize that it is air that keeps us alive. We truly need to learn to say thank you for the air, which the environment around us provides for us. Air, the power of life is within the environment, and it does not even belong to human beings. The human beings only have access to it.
I remember the nursery rhyme I learnt as a child” Rain, rain go away come again another day, don’t come when we want to play, Rain, Rain go away”. The very clouds that bring us water to drink, crops to grow we have been asking them to go away. Ever since childhood we have learnt to consider rain as a hindrance to life, so this nursery rhyme needs to be removed from the nursery books, and the children should be taught to appreciate rain as a blessing. There are many people in the world who cannot find a clean glass of water to drink every day. We need to be thankful for every drop of water that we drink which comes from the environment that surrounds us. If we collect the rain water it is free, we need to receive it with gratitude.
Growing vegetables and fruits in your own garden is an asset. If we do, we do not need to unnecessarily over spend money for buying vegetables and fruits from the market; secondly we do not need to eat vegetables which contain pesticides. In Fiji, every household has at least a small garden, where one can grow the crops which are required by the family. Research has shown that if pesticides are sprayed on crops, the pesticide residues will remain in the yield. No matter how often or by which method one washes the pesticide residues within side the crops will not leave. So buying vegetables and fruits from the market is always a risk. My own research has shown that when pesticide residues enter the body, they do have a harmful effect on the human health. So every Fijian home must use their land wisely to grow the crops they require. Soil of every nation is given to plant the crops which the citizens require; so it is with thankfulness that one should gather the harvest.
As citizens of a nation we have responsibilities. After all, you receive so much for free: the air that you breathe, the water that you drink, i.e. if you harvest rain water, the fruits and vegetables that you eat, if you grow them in your own garden. One of the most important responsibilities of a citizen is to give back to the nation what you have received from it. Today the education is also free of charge for the children and youth of Fiji. How can one show their gratitude: Here are two simple ways:
Home composting: Instead of giving to the City Council your waste, convert your biodegradable waste to compost. Make a simple compost bin in your garden. Instead of leaving it on the roadside for the Council to take it, put the biodegradable waste daily into the compost bin. Use the compost to grow your fruits and vegetables. This will also ensure that you do not need to spray pesticides. This way you nourish the soil of your own nation.
Say NO to polythene Bags: Each time a polythene bag falls on the soil, it destroys the fertility of the soil, because polythene cannot be broken down by the worms, the insects or the microorganisms. It will remain in the soil for years, thereby depriving the soil of its normal use. As citizens, it is of utmost importance that one does not contribute to destruction of one’s own soil. Therefore time has come to say NO to polythene bags and start to use reusable bags. Make reusable cloth bags for you, your children and give as gifts for your family. This way you will be able to say NO to the polythene bag offered at the super market.
Receiving good things is a blessing: free air, free water, free fruits and vegetables from the Environment. But to show gratitude to the environment does bring even greater blessings. Remember, environment does not require the presence of human beings, but human beings cannot live without the environment. Everyday say thank you for the air you breathe, say thank you for the water that you drink, say thank you for the food that you eat. This is the beginning of environmental protection.
By Dr. (Mrs) Ajantha Perera, Assistant Professor, Environmental Science, Fiji National University