I exist in a generation that is development centred, a generation that has made the world a global village by the use of technology, the generation that has turned around business models and invented Facebook and Amazon, whereas our truest Amazon-the forest- is fast degenerating, a generation that has more malls and highways than ever, a generation where cities matter, a generation that encourages giving if the number of ‘charitable’ institutions are anything to go by, yet unacceptable as it is, the generation that still suffers problems of old such as malnutrition, and ironically has poverty exist as a daily reality for most of the populations in most countries of the world.We are a generation that talks more strongly about climate change than any other just because. Isn’t it important to sound all smart and scientific to convey our in-depth understanding of the challenges that face our communities?
We are a fashionable and diverse generation. Yet confused is our new fashion. Take the example of my best friend, a hardworking wonderful human who cuts no corners and earns a decent living. He believes strongly that the environment can take care of itself- it can and will survive; whereas I believe that he can make more money, and spend it more comfortably in a world where natural resources are given better priority. From a religious perspective, I think that when man was given dominion over the plants and animals, it became almost automatically his God-given mandate to take care of the environment.
Our views do not necessarily represent the views of all of the youth in my nation or generation; however, they show the notion of a youth who are stuck between doing as generations before have done, to be territorial and to enrich themselves at all cost, or those who believe in being different, and tapping into their capabilities to heal the world and make it a better place, at least for the children. As things stand, all we have to offer is an already depleted mother earth. Factually, we are a people who believe in too many ideals whereas our simplest truth at this moment is that our villages turned cities, that we cherish so much deserve more effort in terms of protection, conservation and sustainability.
My land is Kenya, a country that I love for her good weather and beautiful people, a country that boasts of what only few African nations would boast of; green spaces within the reach of her capital city; dear Karura and Ngong forests, famous Uhuru Park, Central Park, The arboretum, Jeevanjee gardens, and home of the animals; the Nairobi National Park. The country that birthed the environmental warrior and Nobel Peace Prize Laurette, the Late Wangari Maathai, a country that is more often than not a great destination, but has in the recent past experienced some of the worst downpours ever witnessed in quite a few years. In spite of all the wonderful things I would love to say about Kenya, her reality is that in another two months we shall need to be awake to the fact that whilst buildings collapsed and lives were lost in the heavy rains, more lives may yet be lost in hunger and drought. You see, the thing is, trees are the solution. They bring the rain that enables us to plant food for our sustenance, and when there is too much precipitation, they ensure it seeps to the underground where all the water can freely flow until we require it.
Is change coming, or is it here with us? There is a rise in tree planting fairs, and I reckon that this is because we are human and guilty of what the generations before us have done to the forests. We do not know how many forests there are in the world; all we know is that there is a sharply decreasing forest cover yet do not in totality comprehend why this would ultimately be bad for us. We are a generation that does not know how to be better or do better, so we settle for little things to help us sleep better at night. We plant the trees, and fail to nurture them because we are incredibly busy with “more important” things. We end up bringing up children who do not appreciate the need for sustainable surroundings. Ours is the face of a people with no legacy. We feed off a system that we are not happy to adhere to yet our options surround us.
Every year on the 21st of March (which was just last week), the world gets to celebrate and be aware of the fact that trees are a magical wonder. But it is just a day, you would say! If only we knew. If only we truly realized that if they were human and had hearts, trees would be the warmest beings that ever existed, and how beautiful they are without even trying; each tree uniquely able to give something to us whilst expecting nothing in return. Always they are providing us with clean air to breath and holding fertile soil in place, sometimes penicillin is being extracted from them to treat sick children. Often, their fruits are used for our nourishment, we write on paper which is exclusively a tree product, use them to put up our magnificent buildings, and sometimes use them for our own dear jokes.
Remember the assurance that mothers give when your co-workers take you for granted or pin you down? That it is only because you are the best of the lot? That the tree with the juiciest peaches is also the tree that is stoned the most? (Haha, maniacal laugh, haha)
True to human fashion, whereas trees have tirelessly given for our survival, we have given them in return a percentage birth increase in loggers. They protect our water sources. In fact, they are the heart and soul of two most significant needs for living; oxygen and water. What if we planted more trees? For a generation that is looking for compassion and kindness and love, we sure are at loss of where to begin. What if we created a better environment for these humane values to exist in us? What if we started by allowing a tree to give shade in our homes? What if we taught our children to love and appreciate nature just a little more? What if we do not have to wait for a public outcry, or a state of emergency to do this? If not for ourselves, let us do it for the grandchildren of the world!
By Edith Kemunto, an Environmental Enthusiast and YALI fellow 2018.