My first encounter with nature was over 70 years ago, I was a young teenager and I had just become an apprentice farmer in one of my Uncle’s farms. Francis Jibunoh passed away not too long ago at a good old age of 100. Uncle Francis was in touch with nature and taught me all about replenishment. Back then, we would sometimes fish in the river and while we fish, we would tell me not to catch baby fish so they can grow up and become adults as well. He would say to me ‘Newton, if you also catch the baby fish, there will be nothing left for you to catch tomorrow. Leave them be.’ Hunting was another activity I learnt from Uncle Francis. Along with some other elders, we would regularly go on hunting expeditions and I would be prevented from hunting down certain creatures in the forest because according to him, the rivers and the forest were part of creation just like we humans were and as such we must show some respect. He would tell me ‘Newton, only hunt what you need and leave the rest alone.’
Before long, even as a young boy, I began to feel the wonders of the land and nature. I saw how the seeds we planted sometimes gave us back 10 times over what was sown in a matter of a few months. My time with Uncle Francis made me revere nature and see a peaceful way of life of relating to every creature on earth. I have not for once stopped wondering about nature; particularly about the soil and the land. I wonder about the way they regenerate despite our abuse. I wonder about the bio-diversity and how badly depleted it is due to the indiscriminate killing of animals for food we don’t need like bush meat and the way we keep going back to the forest for more of the trees that we cut down for timbers and firewood. Sometimes, the trees suffer stress and die of stroke because of human activities; the same goes for the shrubs and grass that harbour thousands of inhabitants. I wonder about the fish in the rivers that we catch for food and how they never fight back. I wonder about the many things that contribute immense value to our lives without reciprocity on our part.
My second and most memorable encounter with nature was over 50 years ago and that was in the Sahara. I had wanted for so long to explore earths wonders so while some went out of space, I decided to drive my car from London to Nigeria across the world’s biggest Desert alone. Nothing on earth would have prepared me for what I experienced again about the wonders of nature. For thousands of miles; north to south, east to west of the Sahara, I saw no shrub, no tree, no rain and no life. The temperature sometimes rose to over a hundred and fifty (150) degrees Fahrenheit turning sand into dust and sand dunes, warming the global temperature and bringing about climate change. I knew then that there was going to be drought along the countries bordering the Sahara. I knew then that the water bodies were going to disappear and was going to deplete the grazing field. I knew that there was going to be desertification travelling thousands of miles in all directions. And, I knew there was going to be climate migration leading to conflicts and wars as people search for greener pastures, literally. I also knew then that there was going to be food insecurity.
As if the warnings and the catastrophic consequences that were happening all over the world were not enough, nature decided to double down and gave us Corona Virus, gave us the Delta Variants and now, Omicron. All of which have taken the world like a storm travelling with a speed never seen before across the different continents. Some of us have taken the 1st and 2nd vaccine and are preparing for the booster shot which may not be all we would be required to take as the virus keeps mutating. The best scientists all over the world have been very quick with different types of vaccine but have not had time to look for the cure because the viruses have been changing directions taking with it millions of lives, destroying businesses and changing the way we live. Looking at the whole scenario and from my stand point as a student of history, one of exploration and a student of environmental studies, there is a need to re-evaluate and re-examine our relationship with nature. The same nature that has given us so much considering the fact that the planet earth is the only planet that has life and also considering that nature provides the most important components needed for human lives to thrive. Humans are a very small percentage of all the other creatures that inhabit the earth yet the most destructive. There is that need therefore for we the humans to rethink our relationship with nature. There have been many wakeup calls to that effect and if we continue the way things are at the moment, nature will win the battle and there will be no planet earth anymore. We might just become like all the other planets that have no life, and the destruction can come from a plethora of things from the rising sea level, to the bush fires, to the hurricanes and tornados, to the tsunami and mudslides and of course, as a result of desertification and drought.
I have come to learn one thing about life and that is that nothing comes free and as such have wondered how much we have taken free of charge from nature and how much we have taken form the lands without giving back except going back to the land when we die. What we don’t understand is the fact that nature will not and does not ask for anything in return for all that we have been given. All it requires is a bit of respect. Respect nature and save the earth by returning to nature all that we have taken by replenishing and deterring from further exploitation. This will go a long way in bringing back global temperature to where it was pre-industrialization, it will also restore our forest covers to what it used to be before the end of last century and finally, we would need to tame Earth’s remaining active desert. By doing all these, we probably stand a chance at appeasing nature and winning the war for our very own survival.