HOW TO SAVE THE EARTH IN 10 MINUTES
(From a talk at the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia, 18 October 1992)
I HAVE TEN MINUTES so let's dispense with formality. Now why am I standing here talking to you today? Who on earth am I anyway? Well, I'll tell you: I'm an essential part of you. I breathe the air you breathe. I'm connected to every living cell on this small planet. I've got billions of names (scientific as well as unscientific ones) but the one I'm using right now is Kit Leee - spelt with three E's in honour of the holy trinity. You know... Proton, Neutron and Electron. Or Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Or Peter, Paul and Mary. Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Larry, Moe and Curly Joe. That whole crowd.
I've been round the Sun forty-two times. But my genetic memories go all the way back to what scientists call the Big Bang. What do I do? That's a very good question. Well, I breathe and eat and shit and move about like everyone else. Sometimes I write. Sometimes I make music. Sometimes I make love. Sometimes I draw cartoons. Often I think about making a few films. But mostly I just think and dream and feel. And I'm amazed and amused by this phenomenon called Life.
Once in a while I get terribly depressed. Then I get angry and scold a few people and I feel all right again. In short, I'm not a specialist. I can see the woods as well as the trees.
Trees! You were probably wondering when I'd get round to talking about our rainforests. In a minute I'll mention them. But first let me finish telling you why I'm standing up here talking to you today.
I lived in Kuala Lumpur for 22 years, in the Ampang area. When I first moved there in 1970 the street in front of my house was so quiet I used to rollerskate on it. Now it's lined with 26-storey condos and jammed with cars. So I decided to move to the hills, to a place called Magick River. Everywhere you look all you see is beauty. Occasionally I go back to KL and when I happen to catch the 11 o'clock news on TV - I can't believe all that stuff is happening in the same Universe. War, famine, hurricanes, plane crashes, stockmarket crashes, oil spills, earthquakes, floods, massacres... there's been a lot of speculation about the Millenium, about the End of the World, the End of History.
Don't worry, it means a new cycle is starting. It's really up to us to shape it. How do we do that? With our thoughts, with our deeds, with our willingness to help in the healing process. But ultimately our Vision has to be centred in the heart - not just in the head. We have to think beyond national boundaries. Earth is one world. Our vision must become whole, holistic, holy - which means we must experience being part of the Whole. We can't depend on slogans, no matter how clever they sound.
But before anything constructive can be done, we need to overcome our own fears. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of change, fear of routine, fear of loss, fear of death, fear of trusting our own inner authority.
Okay, time to talk about trees. A few miles up and down the road from where I live you can see recent logging trails winding deep into the hills. Magnificent jungle giants are being cut down and taken out to be turned into chopsticks for the Japanese. Why don't they learn to eat with their fingers like civilized people?
Now these concessions are adjacent to areas designated as Permanent Forest Reserves. It's a water catchment area, for heaven's sake. No wonder all the once-crystalline rivers now turn into kopi susu tarik (Malaysian capuccino) everytime it rains heavily.
One afternoon I rode up a logging trail and noticed that the licence had been issued to two Puans - Rahinah and Rahman, if I recall correctly. I half expected to see two tudung-clad women charging at me with chainsaws. But as to be expected they had a Chinese contractor doing the dirty work. The camp was deserted but there was a huge pile of logs lying lifelessly about. Something snapped in my head. I saw it all so clearly: a few businessmen and politicians getting obscenely rich by plundering our rainforests - unheeding of the catastrophic consequences to everyone else. Toothpick factories where shady 200-year-old trees once stood. Assembly-line houses, condos and shopping malls sprouting everywhere. Sterile wastelands they call industrial parks. Sheer ugliness obliterating anything natural, anything truly beautiful. Dishonesty and greed and hardnosed cynicism in every boardroom of every corporation big enough to make a dent in reality. All of this came to a sudden focus in one astounding revelation.
These puan-puan and tuan-tuan with their logging concessions... why on earth are they so anxious to destroy a major watershed? To make big bucks of course and for what? To buy a big house and a couple of BMWs and a 4WD with a mobile phone or two and then on weekends they can roar through the jungle armed with shotguns so they can shoot down a few wild mangos. I swear this actually happened in front of my house.
And their kids with baseball caps on their heads and Reeboks on their feet... why, they just wanna be all-American Malaysians. That's what they grew up absorbing in front of their TV sets. And the most incredible thing is... these people form the ruling class! Good heavens! The world is in the wrong hands!
I'm not just talking about this country. I mean the whole goddam world is in the wrong hands. It's in the hands of individuals who stubbornly insist that MIGHT IS RIGHT. And why shouldn't they. They're VERY POWERFUL PEOPLE. Or so they've managed to make a lot of us believe. Now how did it happen? How did our planet fall into the wrong hands? I think I know how it happened but I have only ten minutes, so you'll have to fill in a lot of blanks. I can only give you the barest outline of the story, so please pay close attention.
ONCE UPON A TIME (or perhaps an Eternity) the only One who owned anything at all was that entity some of us call God or Wakan Tanka or Great Spirit. Only problem was, there was NOTHING to own since the Supreme Being existed solely in Its Own Imagination. Never underestimate the power of the Imagination! Anyway at some unimaginable point the Wholly One became aware of Itself. That's when the Big Bang is supposed to have occurred. I say "supposed" because there wasn't any BANG as such. It was more like the Entire Universe waking up and realising... Hey! I AM! And so it began to breathe: out, in, out, in, out... expansion and contraction... centrifugal and centripetal force... now where these two Forces overlapped MATTER condensed out of SPIRIT. Are you still with me? Good. Let's fast forward...
Now in one of these pockets of Matter our solar system exists. Counting from the Sun, the third planet is this "bluegreen pearl" we call Earth. Don't ask me for details. There's a Mystery yet to be solved. Let's say that at some point in Earth's early evolution the planet had to be quarantined from the rest of the Universe. Which meant NO DIRECT ACCESS TO THE HIERARCHY OF EXECUTIVE AUTHORITY EMANATING FROM THE SUPREME BEING.
Instead we were saddled with a few penghulus: local representatives known as Kings and Queens. Originally all Royalty was appointed by Divine Decree ("You over there with the spectacles; you'll be the Class Monitor.") The tribe would then anoint the chosen candidate for rulership (and from this comes the word charisma, from the Greek chrisma meaning "sacred oil.") So the word REAL as in REALITY or REALM means ROYAL - APPOINTED BY GOD.
Real Estate should read ROYAL ESTATE: property managed by the earthly representatives of the Supreme Being. No one is allowed to buy or sell or muck around with it without the authorization of a Rightful Monarch.
Sound idea but who's a Rightful Monarch? It's been a hell of a long time since the "Sons of God" came over and mixed their genes with the local primates. These days it gets harder and harder to tell just who was Born for Glory and who's still a Baboon (don't you be fooled by their bowties and silkshirts). I just wanted to let you have the Big Picture. So we can talk about Management Policies on this planet: who has the authority to define the sort of activity that goes on here? Kings and Queens and their Legal Representatives, right? But what do we do when, for example, we find ourselves stuck with a syphilitic braindead ruler whose legal reps are more inclined towards ILLEGAL DEALS? How can we check and balance things?
Well, we could leave it to the Law of Karma, to Divine Justice... in other words, we could leave it to Nature. After all, no matter what we do to this planet she can't die. Sure, she could turn really mean and ugly and unfit for human habitation - but that doesn't mean the planet's dead. That only means WE are dead. Unless we mutate into ninja cockroaches or intelligent poison bogs. Hey, don't worry, be happy - the Earth will go on spinning quite merrily round the Sun for another 15 million years or so... until the Sun decides to go on vacation or transforms into Something Altogether Different. (Is my ten minutes up?) See... the Earth is quite safe, she's absolutely fine, no worries. However, we do need to consider what's going to become of the human race.
I think the only way we can determine how we - collectively, as a species - would like this priceless piece of prime property called Earth to look is to make sure she's in the right hands. Any volunteers for the job? Come on, don't be bashful. Just hold up your hand, like this...
Congratulations, you've got the job! One of the first things you'll have to do when you take over the day-to-day management of Spaceship Earth is to make sure that people like Puan Rahinah, Puan Rahman, and their spouses aren't permitted anywhere near a forest with their chainsaws and bulldozers. No one must be allowed to tamper with the ecosystem who doesn't have an inborn sensitivity to its secret life. There's no such thing as a "thing". It's all energy transforming itself infinitely in a sacred dance we're intimately part of. So how can we describe a field of padi, fruit-bearing trees, chickens, bamboo groves, fish, mineral-rich mountains, ducks, sheep, wild berries, clear streams, sugarcane, all forms of life support spun out of sunlight, as "commodities and resources"? It's as crass as calling your beloved a meatball.
What's in a name? Well, call someone "enemy" and you can kill him. Call him "friend" and you can love. If we knew the trees in our area each by name, would we turn them into furniture without at least a prayer of thanks?
Times are changing fast. We are the caretakers of Earth. Let's not muck around simply because we don't expect a surprise visit from the Supreme Being, the one and only original owner of everything. Even if you don't believe in stuff like this, do it for yourself, do it for your grandchildren. And speaking of wrong hands and right hands, what's wrong today can become right tomorrow and vice versa. So we absolutely need to have Cosmic Accounting and Accountability on all levels, public and private. Glasnost. Secrecy is evil. Why hide the skeletons in your closet? Everybody's got one or two. Open the doors, let in some fresh air and some truth.
Cosmic Accounting requires an appreciation of the largest possible context in which we are conducting our daily affairs. We have to look up from our notebooks and feel the breeze from time to time. Cosmic Accountability demands something called Freedom of Information - or at least an independent press. I know our dear friend Dr M once boasted that Malaysia has the freest press in the world. Good sense of humour, Doc. I know how you detest folks like me. You call us "anti-development" and "anti-progress" - even "anti-government" and "anti-national."
Seriously though, folks like me - and all you green souls gathered here today to celebrate our greenery - are just Nature's way of jamming on the brakes. So we won't hurtle over the cliffs of relentless development like a herd of swine possessed by demons of ruthless ambition and greed. There's a need for Action and a need for Quiet Contemplation. But Contemplation must take precedence. Otherwise our actions will lead us all to a hell of our own making.
Finally, and this is the most vital thought I want to share with you, remember the Environment begins with your own physical being. Your body is the first definition of Environment. Then it extends to your home, your bioregion, your planet, your solar system, and so on. Take care of it and be aware.
Be aware of your own Infinite Potential. You may be only ONE individual. But then so is GOD. Don't forget we all came from the Big Bang. And I hope we're all heading for the BIG BANK where we shall claim our divine genetic inheritance which has been accruing interest since 20 Billion B.C. or so. Then we'll ALL be fabulously rich, rich beyond our wildest fantasies... and we won't need to go round chopping down lovely old trees to sell as toothpicks and chopsticks.
© ANTARES (Kit Leee)
44000 KUALA KUBU BARU
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