All is One

On Earth, life is all one interdependent web. Humans cannot survive without the non-human.

“Be aware that if the oceans die, we die too.”

- Neda Simic, Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

We live in a time of increasing demand for resources, whilst most of us are ignorant of the non-financial costs to life. It is important to question our choices, as individuals and societies. Is it right? Can it be better?

“Whenever I go back to Japan, I feel that people are very busy and on edge. As if symbolizing this, there are artificial lights and sounds flashing everywhere, and the noise of cars and the stuffy air feel suffocating. On the other hand, I think Japan is really convenient and comfortable. But it’s also true that by pursuing convenience too much, we are causing the destruction of nature all over the world.”

- Hinami Totake, Japan (Living in Canada)

 

We can learn from the past, and follow established best practice.

“I think that what we should value most is the culture we have inherited up to this day.”

“The forestry system that my father introduced to this area has enabled low-cost mass production of lumber, and it also protects the forests of Amagi. … When I asked my father, my grandfather, and other people from this area about the state of things today, I learned that because the forest is planted, for the sake of future generations, management of the forest is absolutely essential. However, because of the declining price of lumber and the lack of people to succeed them in this industry, much of the forest is going unmanaged, and the distance between the habitats of wild animals and the human settlements in the hills is shrinking.”

“Not only do the forests allow us to process lumber and other forest products such as mushrooms, but they have other diverse functions, such as protecting the soil and the watershed, which help support our livelihood for the long term.”

- Keisuke Horie, Japan

 

We must think of the future.

“The problem is that we see the benefits for present. We never think about the negative impacts that may occur to our future generations. … Greenery everywhere makes us healthy. In addition, we do not have to worry about natural disasters like, floods and landslides. … It would be much ridiculous if we continue deforestation and do not think about planting trees”

Abiral makes a very good suggestion:

“We celebrate our birthday. We spend lots of money in enjoying. How beautiful it would be if everyone on their birthday planted a tree?”

- Abiral Gautam, Nepal

Planting a tree and watching it grow, as you age, gives perspective on the life of other living beings, appreciation and humility.

 

Waste is a current and major concern for our essayists, from by-products of lumber to food waste to plastics, all caused by our patterns of consumption.

“You probably think there is plenty of fish in the oceans but not that much as some people think. Illegal fishing leads to overfishing. The millions of people depend on the ocean for food. … Their ways of taking fish out of the ocean is not a big problem. Fishing industries are. They use technology and equipment that catch too much fish. They also catch little fish and they don't give them opportunity to reproduce. Your generations caught more fish than it can be replaced through natural production. The result didn't only affect the balance of life in the oceans, but also coastal communities who depend on fish for their way of life.”

- Neda Simic, Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

“My family and I try our best not to waste food, because we know that there is so much effort and hard-work involved in bringing it to our plates. At the same time, wasting food causes a huge environmental burden.”

“There are [ways to reduce] food waste ... First, it is essential to appreciate where food is from and reconnect with nature. For example, we should shop more at local farmers markets.”

“Secondly, becom[e] a “conscious consumer”. Make a meal plan with all the family and then buy only what is needed for the meals, and don't be too picky. This will help because everyone wants perfectly shaped fruit and vegetables, while the edible, but weirdly shaped varieties often remain unsold and are wasted. … Instead of throwing food waste into the “Landfill” bin, you can also put them in the “Organic Waste” bin, to make compost.”

- Ella-Mei Graham, Australia

 

“Plastic is amazing, because it’s cheap and durable.

Plastic is terrible, because it’s cheap and durable.”

“Plastic … presents an entire host of … issues – it clogs drainage systems, resulting in floods and increased rates of vector-borne diseases; it chokes and poisons hapless marine life who mistake it for food; it stealthily leaches into our food and drinks, damaging our health. All these consequences, for mere minutes of convenience. Yet only 9% of plastic we’ve ever produced has been recycled. At current rates, by 2050, there will be over 12 billion tonnes of plastic waste in landfills, and more plastic than fish in our oceans. … The problem doesn’t lie in plastic itself. It’s how we use it that makes a difference.”

“… I decided to try to start a “BYO (Bring Your Own) Bottle Singapore” movement, encouraging consumers to bring their own reusable cups or bottles whenever they purchase drinks for take-away. The @byobottlesg Instagram page started off receiving a daily average of 5 new followers – it may not seem like much for now, but that could mean twenty fewer plastic bottles in the ocean each week, and it’s just starting.”

“… I emailed over 50 F&B businesses with a range of ambitious, but important requests: to support the BYO movement, or change their automatic straw polices, or even ditch plastic straws entirely. As a 16 year-old student, it was daunting trying to reach out to these organisations, but thankfully the sheer determination paid off. Some agreed to consider and implement my suggestions.”

- Kate Yeo, Singapore

In Bhutan, dropping litter is common practice: “People throw both degradable and non degradable waste, not knowing the consequence of throwing it.” Yeatsho Doekar Gyeltshen is encouraging recycling behaviours in her school with an innovative and potentially lucrative scheme:

“I would get help of my club members to put container or dust bins in every corner of the school campus and advocate the students to use the dustbins wisely. The club will also plan and organize monthly PET bottles collection competition. We will announce to the children to collect PET bottles and bring it in the school. Monthly, with the help of our teacher we will sell the PET bottles and give ten percent of the profit to the highest PET bottles contributor. Rest of the money we will use it to carry out our campaign of waste management.”

- Yeatsho Doekar Gyeltshen, Bhutan

 

What is the overall message of these essayists?

“Solution is in your hands. You are the consumer”

“Start from yourself, change your mindset and inspire other people to do the same. That's the only way to make better future for yourself.”

- Neda Simic, Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

“… I think it’s important to have a mindset of not pursuing and accumulating more than we need. I believe that as each person changes their mind and makes efforts to do this, something will change.”

“I believe that we are part of nature, and therefore, when we go out into nature it is healing for us. I love to play with my iPad, but even for me, going camping on an island where there’s no Wi-Fi is strangely healing, and makes my senses more alert. … When we go out in nature, mysteriously, we feel good despite the inconveniences.”

- Hinami Totake, Japan (Living in Canada)


May Peace Prevail on Earth


 Interested in issues raised in these essays? Find more information at the following:

  • The Marine Stewardship Council provides a list of the safest fish stocks to eat and certifies products with a blue fish symbol. See more at their website    

  • You can see Kate Yeo’s instagram page encouraging the people of Singapore to reduce their disposable plastic bottle use on The @byobottlesg Instagram page         

  • The UN Environment Page covers current environmental concerns, see their website


We wish to thank all the contributors for the positive power of their thoughts and actions.

This is one of five journal entries summarising and highlighting the ideas in the International Essay Contest for Young People 2018. To see these essays in full and all sixty-six finalists, go to the Goi Peace Foundation website.

We wish to apologise to those essayists, whose work was not translated into English, for not being able to include their words.


 

The thumbnail picture is by Vidhi Ahuja, United Arab Emirates, for the Peace Pals International Art Exhibition and Awards 2018. See more on their website.

Liz Mackley