How long does the elephant have left on planet Earth? When will our greatest land mammal cease to wander?
Our notion of progress is tied to continuous industrial development. A notion that has been exported throughout the world. We’ve led ourselves to believe that the point of humanity is to build factories and convert nature into economically viable investments. But is this our true calling? Is this the path towards true enlightenment and natural harmony? What is the point of all the hard work and sacrifices of our ancestors over the millennia? Will we ever sate our need to consume? Or has a history of detachment from nature shaped us into a new type of animal, one who’s needs can never be met.
As more and more animals face extinction, it is up to us to ask ourselves what the point of our species is. Are we here solely to consume? Moving from one land to another until all resources are converted into dollars. And if some progress but others falter, is progress truly a progression?
Cohabiting on the plains of the Serengeti, zebra and wildebeest graze side by side. By enlarging the herd, there are more lookouts for toothsome predators. They may have different stripes, but when united for self preservation and faced with death, the differences fade away.
Just another lesson from the animal kingdom, one that we must embrace if we are to save our home from the perils of climate change. Happy Earth Day!
After hours of putting one foot in front of the other, stomping up stairs, I was nearing my goal. I was in southern Sri Lanka and a holy pilgrimage had pulled me out of bed in the middle of the night. I was surrounded by the faithful, making their climb to the top of Adam’s Peak in duty to their deities. But the only absolution I sought, was with the rising sun. Soon, the darkness began to break and shapes came into focus across the hazy horizon. The eternal battle between night and day waned, as fiery light shattered the blackened battlefield.
The dense and heavy fog that filled Ngorongoro was just starting to abate as we reached the crater floor. Having spent the night sleeping on the rim of the dormant volcano, we woke invigorated by the splendour of our natural surroundings. We begged our guides to make sure we were the first truck inside the crater, and we got what we asked for.
Just as I was clawing the remnants of sleep from the corners of my eyes, we spotted a pride of lions sprawled in tall grass. As we approached, they barely flinched. The stains of blood smeared across their faces left them nearly comatose, burdened with the meat of a fresh kill. Behind them, we spotted a destroyed zebra carcass, picked clean. Hard to argue with the efficiency of nature.
As much as I had eaten, it wasn’t my full stomach that kept me planted in my seat. The sun was dipping out of the sky at the end of a beautiful day. The humidity in the air was dense and thick. Dark, sprawling clouds spread across the glowing sky. A breeze kicked up and rain felt inevitable. Cockatoos and kookaburras squabbled in the trees, like arguing monkeys. No, there wasn’t much reason to hurry inside. Not much reason at all.
It seems pretty obvious that we don’t choose the life we are born into. A toddler doesn’t choose their country, their government, their family, their religion, their history, or their social class. When two people come together to bring a new human into the world, they bring them into a life already riddled with rules and limitations, but it isn’t their world either. It is the world they inherited from their parents and grandparents and so on back until the dawn of time. Our societies grow out of necessity and convenience, creating a world around us. But as our societies grew and developed, we began to explore the world and export our customs and cultures. We exploited those that we could and established a hierarchy of human value, based largely on geography. We forgot that each and every person is part of something bigger. We forgot it about ourselves. We forgot that we belong to a larger collective. A collective of human beings, struggling one against the other for a bigger part of the proverbial pie. But the forgotten truth is that we are the pie, and we each deserve to be valued for who we are rather than where we are. So when we take more than we need, we take from one another, weakening the whole of humanity.
The sun was already shining when I threw my things in the car to head to work. For 7 years, I’ve toiled as a kayaking guide out of Prince Edward Island’s Brudenell Provincial Park. It has continuously been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Not only do I get to spend the day in the sun, on the water, wrapped in pristine nature, but I get to bring along my camera.
On this particular day, I drove across the small bridge connecting my family home to our town and immediately threw it in reverse. I backed on to the bridge, grabbed my camera and hopped out to stare out at the seamlessly still water reflecting the world above, while dark shadows revealed slivers of the secrets beneath the surface.
Our bus rumbled across the Aswan High Dam, filled with Egyptian teenagers taking in their country’s history. I was accompanying my Cairene kids as their history teacher and chaperone but in truth, I was the most excited. I had dreamt of exploring the ancient cities and temples of the confusingly coined Upper Egypt ever since my older sister had won first place at the science fair, for her project on hieroglyphics. So, when the bus doors swung open, I was the first to rush out and explore.
I was immediately lured toward a giant towering structure off to the side by the sounds of laughter and music. A large commemorative plaque stood in front of the monument, lauding the cooperation of the Soviet Union and Egypt in their construction of the High Dam.
In the heart of the monument a large dance circle was developing, driven by drums and the sounds of song. Local field trippers and their dedicated teachers performed number after number as each kid had their moment at the centre of the circle. It struck me as an odd juxtaposition, the colourfully clad Egyptian revellers in the heart of a Soviet monument.
My legs were aching as I lunged down to take two steps at a time. I’d been climbing stairs since 2 am with only a few samosas to keep me going. Thankfully, the descent was easier than the climb, because leaving Adam’s Peak behind wasn’t.
My memory is of a rising sun splashing colours across the sky like a drunk Jackson Pollock while the sounds of Buddhists banging on drums and clanging bells rang in my ears, I stopped to look around me. Beside me, in front of me, and behind me were hundreds of people all with sunlight and smiles beaming off their faces.
We live our lives through moments that fleet instantly into memories. When we stop to soak in our surroundings, take time to absorb it all, the moment we’re in becomes a memory, marked in time and in thought.
Together, we shared that moment that is now my memory. They were on the final steps of their spiritual pilgrimage, while I was just beginning my Sri Lankan adventure.
When the sun finally set on our first day on safari, I knew I had made the right decision. To me, going on safari seemed like one of those things only rich old white people did, not young stinky adventurers. But in this case, I think I was duped by the khaki fashion designers and I was happy to be wrong.
After sourcing a budget version, which switched lodge accommodations for camping (exactly what I wanted), it became feasible. After researching the sights on our itinerary, it became impossible to stop dreaming about.
The glowing orange sun was disappearing when our guide announced it was time to head back to camp. We arrived at tent city, stuffed our faces with delicious fresh food and curled up into our sleeping bags. As I drifted off into an exhausted sleep, I was lost to the wailings of hyenas, the snorts of water buffalo, and the trumpeting of elephants. Perfect.