There was a pix in the newspaper today of a very large millipede which apparently caused a ruckus in a town market. The millipede was 8″‘ long – nothing unusual. I see them all the time in the forest. Along with some of the other things I’ve posted here. What worries is that it should cause a stir.
We have become so divorced from the natural world – of which we are an integral part – that we think ourselves somehow special and able to exist apart. We surround ourselves by things that are both tamed and exotic – plants, animals – because we prefer them to what we already had. We destroy everything that bothers us – snakes, wasps, spiders, tigers, elephants, rainforest…what does it matter? We can survive without them.
Can we? I’ll make a prediction. If you are under 30 years old now, and live to be 80 plus, you’ll find out in your lifetime that we can’t. At least not with the kind of life you have now. And I don’t mean it will be better. It won’t.
Not so very many years ago, farmers and villagers over Malaysia counted the seasons by the arrival and departure of migratory birds. (Well, what better way when we don’t have winter and spring and autumn and it’s kind of summery all year long?) Now, when I mention bird migration, people look at me and say, surprised, “We got migratory birds, what?”
I have to explain migration to people suddenly worried about bird flu. I have to tell them the most elementary of things – yes, migration happens. Yes, birds do come from Indonesia to here. If you ever bothered to look, you’d see them. No, you probably won’t catch flu that way – you’ll get it via some idiot who imports illegal fighting cocks, or who smuggles in exotic pet birds for his shop.
We ignore our connection to the natural world at our peril. Bird flu could be the next wake-up call. And if it is, it will be because of the way we farm and the way we market our food. It will be because we have made too many inroads into the wild, not because the wild has come looking for us.
Want to learn about our wild heritage and do something to save yourself? Join the Malaysian Nature Society. And stay a member for the rest of your life. They at least are trying – on your behalf. And yet they have a measly 3,000 or so members in a population of 23 million. And that – to me – is a national disgrace.
Photos [courtesy my husband]
Beetle, spider and vine from Maliau Basin
tualang tree [Koompassia excelsa] with wild bee nests hanging under the branches, oil palm plantation, Kalabakan. The world’s tallest tropical rainforest tree.