IT’S Ponggal time again, the celebration of an age-old cultural festival to thank nature for a bountiful harvest. While this festival has its roots in India, it has been celebrated in Malaysia for a long time.
The celebration of Ponggal reminds us that we need to live in harmony with nature. The Covid-19 pandemic is a strong wake-up call on the consequences of being reckless with nature.
Our well-being depends on the health of our planet. Covid-19 has been described as a zoonotic disease, which means it has jumped from animals to humans. The cause has been attributed to people’s careless and selfish behaviour of abusing nature.
While this pandemic is posing a lot of challenges, it provides an opportunity for us to think about the kind of development we want. We need to measure development beyond economic terms (GDP). We need to value the ecosystem services that nature provides in terms of climate regulation, pollination, fresh water and many other invaluable natural resources.
We hardly think of the values of this natural capital in our daily lives. For example, when we eat durians, we never think of the fact that for the fruit to be enjoyed, flying foxes or bats would have pollinated the tree it came from, and these mammals depend on the ecosystem for their survival. This illustrates that everything is connected in this fragile web of life, but the pollinating services done by nature is taken for granted.
Nature’s ecosystem services also provide us with fresh water, which is not only a basic necessity for human survival but also fuels our economic development. Hence, we need to conserve our catchment areas to ensure we have clean water, and this augments the notion that conservation is also development.
The Covid-19 pandemic provides an opportunity for us to redefine development by including the environment and social dimensions along with the economy, which is currently the dominant parameter.
As we celebrate Ponggal, we can also do our part to live in harmony with nature. One of the measures we can take is to reduce or avoid the usage of single-use plastic materials. If we have to use plastic materials especially during this pandemic period, we need to dispose of them properly.
We can also embrace a more plant-based diet by having meat-free days, as meat production has a huge ecological footprint.
There is the Veganuary movement that started in 2014 which encourages people to opt for a vegetarian diet and not use any animal products throughout the month of January. A point to remember when going on a plant-based diet is to use local vegetables and fruits as much as possible because imported produce has a huge carbon footprint.
If each and every one of us take conscious steps to live in harmony with nature by adopting lifestyle changes, we can jointly make a difference and deflect the current trajectory of alarming biodiversity loss and global warming. A good way to start our individual action is to adopt it as our new year resolution or as we celebrate pongal. Make thanksgiving to Mother Nature an everyday affair.
Happy Ponggal and stay safe.
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