I was told that my father’s favourite expression was “What goes up must come down”. My father was no science scholar and had no way of knowing that his favourite saying soothingly captured the law of gravity or that Sir Isaac Newton was the first scientist to measure gravitational force and to propound the universal theory of gravitation and the laws of motion in classic physics. And as I have always maintained in this column and in all of my writings, which are published, the land we stand on, the land we eat from, the land that harbours the water we drink and the air that we breathe, has not been respected and cared enough for by we humans. Some decades ago, when one of my sons requested that I give a name to his son in accordance with our cultures and traditions, I gave the name Anibundu, meaning, “Land is life.” My young grandson is now in college and is always quick to explain to his schoolmates the meaning of his name. In doing so, he is able to free himself to become part of the advocacy for a better environment that comes from the land and the need for the global community to appreciate the need to offer respect to the land because the lack of respect for the land has resulted in the waves of catastrophes happening around the world today.
The recent earthquake in Syria and Turkey earlier this year, which recorded over 36,000 deaths, with a number of houses collapsing and a number of persons injured, can be traced back to how destructive humans have left the land. Just like the bushfire in California and Algeria, the dormant volcanoes that have started to erupt, the mudslides and the floods, the tornadoes and hurricanes, the tsunamis and the heat waves in East and West Europe. So, when looking too far up, we must remember to stop for a while to look down on the land we are standing on because the land holds the key to our life and it is the land we go back to at the end of life. Mother Nature is deteriorating due to human activities against it. I am compelled to keep repeating some of the published articles in the past because we cannot keep making the same mistakes and expecting different results. Even the goal set by the United Nations on addressing the climate crisis is not being met by Nigeria and many nations, which is why catastrophes are now being experienced, especially by the industrial nations.
In one of my articles, which was published in this column some months back, titled “No Land, No Life”, I noted that, as we all may know, there are many planets in the universe, including Jupiter – the brother of planet earth, Mars and more, but science tells us that our Earth is the only planet with life. Various explorations of the rest of the planets show they do not have water, oxygen, rivers and oceans, trees and plants, and, therefore, no inhabitants or food. However, the debate is still ongoing in the scientific community on the possibility of life on other planets. As that has yet to be proven, it is clear that the destruction of the earth will be the end of mankind. It comes to reason, therefore, that when the planet earth was created billions of years ago, the trees and shrubs, the rivers, the seas, and the oceans were there before human beings and other inhabitants because we needed the air for oxygen, the land and animals for food, shelter and water.
In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “To forget how to tend the soil and nurture the land is to forget ourselves.”
Alas, it is clear as day that we have forgotten ourselves. We don’t have to look very far to witness the damaging effects of our actions on land as we witness it every day with the erosions, plastic dumping along the road and gutters, and cutting down of trees without replacement in different locations, communities and countries.
My advocacy for more than 40 years brought upon me the idea of giving back to the land and the idea of inviting 75 friends of the environment and notable personalities and families to plant 75 trees in Lagos when I celebrated my 75th birthday in Lagos. I did the same not too long ago when I celebrated my 85th birthday in Asaba, Delta State.
The gimmick of inviting friends and stakeholders to plant trees to commemorate my birthday repeatedly was a way of continuing the campaign to give back to the land and replenish it and by getting as many people involved towards saving the land.
Not too long ago, one of those that planted with me on my 85th birthday called to inform me that he drove past the garden of 85 trees and found out that the tree he planted was not doing very well and if there was anything I needed him to do save the tree from dying. For me, that was the novelty and that made me feel very good about the crusade that was of a different type. What I said to him then was not to allow the light to go off because we have been too long in darkness.
It was, therefore, a call to duty and if we can have many more like my friend, the long journey to replenishing and repairing the damage that we have inflicted on climate earth will be starting today and not tomorrow, and must be seen as a collective responsibility.