Borrowing from our children

Somehow, I have a special fascination towards the people who were living in the American continent before the white colonisation there — these days, they are called “Native Americans.”
They used to follow some admirable philosophies or principles of life before their very survival came under attack and their way of life overturned.
They had seven separate philosophies regarding women, children, their families, the community, the Earth, the creator, and themselves.
These philosophies were like commandments to them and they, collectively, never faltered in following these principles.
Although I’ve been in love with all seven of them, I love the fifth one most — to the Earth. They used to say that this land didn’t belong to them, they borrowed it from their children seven generations down the line.
They believed that it was their responsibility to keep the Earth ready for their children who’d arrive on this land two centuries later.
What a nice thought! I’ve heard many environmentalists disseminating various kinds of knowledge in various fora, but I never heard anyone saying that we had to keep our Earth ready for our children who are still unborn.
After all these centuries, we still care for our children; we try our best to make the best house, best car, best burger, best sandwich, best clothing, best carbonated drink, etc, available for our children, but we never think what the children of our children would have.
The way we are abusing (please read “utilising”) the resources of our Earth, and at the current pace, nothing much would be left for them to consume.
If we just look at Bangladesh, it seems leaving something for our children to utilise is the last thing on our minds. Everywhere and anywhere, we’re out to grab something; we’re felling trees from the forest like nobody’s business; we’re building structures anywhere and everywhere, wherever we can find a piece of land, legally or illegally — even in the riverbed.
It looks like time is running out on us, and we spare no time to eat the lemon.
We aren’t leaving any resources unturned.
As I’m mesmerised by this philosophy, I tell my children as well as the people around me at my professional space that we should also follow this centuries-old wisdom in order to preserve this Earth for future generations.
Everywhere you look in the world today, you see thousands of festivals of destruction, as if we’re competing against each other to see who finishes up the resources first.
The Native Americans used to “live in harmony with Mother Earth,” as “she will recycle the things they consumed and make them available to their children.”
As the thought of their mothers was always there in their minds, they literally respected the Earth as they respected their mothers. They used to say: “Just as I would protect my own mother, so I will protect the Earth. I will ensure that the land, water, and air will be intact for my children and for my children’s children — the unborn.”
There’s always someone trying to pollute the water of the rivers with chemicals, and there’s always someone erecting structures by grabbing the rivers
One of the foremost things that they practised was that they followed a complete sustainable process of life.
At that time, they didn’t have factories, but they had the wisdom to utilise the natural resources in such a way that those were never eaten up completely.
They compared human life to a river. Just as a river helps generate all kinds of food for humans, it also keeps itself flowing to a destination that is even more resourceful.
Those people understood the value of water in human life, and they nurtured the water resources with great passion and spirit.
In today’s world, in our country, we notice more than one news report related to the destruction of our rivers.
There’s always someone trying to pollute the water of the rivers with chemicals, and there’s always someone erecting structures by grabbing the rivers.
We seem to have become thoughtless about what we would do with all those structures if there’s no water in the rivers.
We’d have to turn towards underground reservoirs for water, which is already facing a serious threat of drying up.
What would our children and their children do with all that we’re building in our lands? How are they going to survive in a natureless world?
What are we leaving them with? Our current way of life reminds me of the poem by poet TS Eliot, who wrote The Wasteland many years ago:
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water.
Oh, life would be so beautiful if we just had someone guiding us to the principles that the indigenous people of America had followed centuries ago.
We could at least leave something for our children.
Ekram Kabir is a fiction writer and a columnist.

-Dhaka Tribune

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