Challenging the Anthropocene Extinction | Daily News

Challenging the Anthropocene Extinction

World Wildlife Day is celebrated on March 3rd, and International Women’s Day on March 8th. It is ironic that Wildlife Day and Women’s Day fall within seven days of each other. If we accept the comment by Courtney Love, “I'm not a woman. I'm a force of nature”, and expand it to say “Woman is to Nature what Man is to Culture”, we can consider ‘Woman is Nature.’ She is a life-giver. As a girl-child, daughter, mother and grandmother, she belongs to nature, as a daughter of Mother Earth.

It is also ironic that these two significant days fall in March. March is the month named after the Roman God of War. A God who blessed destruction, not only of human beings, but even plants and the environment. A God who blessed violence, development and use of weapons of mass destruction, (chemical, biological and nuclear), including nerve gas like Sarin and defoliant like Agent Orange.

The British used Agent Orange in 1948 in Malaya, the Americans, during the Vietnam War, to destroy over eight million acres of vegetation and murder over three million innocent men and women.

Fresh opportunities

For us here in Sri Lanka, March is significant not because it is linked to a God of War, but because Medin Full Moon day falls in March as do Maha Shivaratri and Lailat al Miraj. Often Good Friday and Easter Sunday too fall during the month of March.

When we consider March as the end of the cold dark season of the old year, bringing us light and warmth of a new year, always giving us fresh hope, fresh opportunities for a better life for all, it is appropriate that the two days devoted to women and wildlife fall in this month.

‘Wildlife’ in Sinhala is vanajivi. The term includes all life on earth, both the flora and fauna that live in a natural environment. The term ‘wild’ on the other hand, reminds us of the untamed, the uncontrolled and sometimes less intelligent and thus dispensable beings. Forests as ‘Vana,’ reminds us that we had three types of forests mentioned in ancient writings. Shrivan, Tapovan and Mahavan. Today we think that it is manmade plantations that give us wealth and prosperity, and we do not find Shrivan around our villages to give us sustenance. We destroyed our ancient Tapovan and built concrete ashrams for meditation or eco-tourism. Mahavana has been replaced by Mahanagara (Big Cities), in the name of development.

The threat of extinction, of all life on Earth, and perhaps Earth herself, is looming before us. We have started talking about the Anthropocene Extinction, yet no significant efforts have been made to delay the inevitable. It is the arrogance of the male human which is reflected in the term Anthropocene. According to new research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) the ongoing sixth mass extinction may be one of the most serious environmental threats to the persistence of civilisation.

The research claims that this extinction is human-caused and is more immediate than climate destruction. Led by this revelation the Post Graduate Department of English, Berhampur University, Odisha in collaboration with the Guild of Indian English Writers, Editors and Critics (GIEWEC) organised an International Conference on Environment and Culture in the Anthropocene. The proceedings of the conference have been published as ‘Environment and Culture in the Anthropocene’ edited by Dr. Shruti Das. Let us consider this conference as an example, and continue to find ways and means to save Mother Earth from extinction.

It is not only wildlife that is destroyed by Man. In many ways Man destroys the opposite gender of his own species. Yet, in pre-historic cultures and in our own culture, women always had an equal or a dominant position. The myth about a hunter-gatherer and provider of the family has now been exposed and there is evidence to believe that the woman was the provider of all food as well as the one who took care of the family. The men were only there for protection and to provide an occasional supply of meat from a hunted animal.

Women’s role

In later years, however, the conventional androcentric expectation that the woman be subservient and subordinated to men left the woman helpless. She dared not fight back to claim her rightful place in the household or in society. She drew the Lakshman Rekha around herself.

The woman got used to acting her role as a being who is delicate, helpless, and even less intelligent than her counterpart. We have a saying that the intelligence of a woman is about the length of a traditional spoon made of a coconut shell. Under this gender identification she began to make herself more attractive to the male, while it is the male animal that has to attract the female among other creatures. It is for the woman to accept the challenge now to regain her past stature, without moving to the other extreme of a gynocentric society.

Simone de Beauvoir called women ‘The Second Sex’ in 1949, Elizabeth Gold Davis called them ‘The First Sex’ in 1971. She quotes Lester Frank Ward, the first President of the American Sociological Association, “...life begins as female, the female is not only the primary and original sex but continues throughout as the main trunk…” Anthropologist Helen Fisher claims Women are better than men at contextual, ‘'holistic'’ thinking and long-term planning; they are better at working cooperatively; they see and hear better, have a keener sense of smell and are more ‘'in touch'’ with their emotions.”

If Gyna sapiens had not surrendered herself to Homo, this world would have been a really wonderful place for all life forms, not just human beings. Gyna is more sensitive, more concerned about nature, about Mother Earth and all her children.

There would have been fewer wars, and less demand for weapons of destruction. She would have a greater respect for commonly shared resources and wealth and would be frugal in her use, knowing she has to leave it for her children and their children.

If Gyna sapiens takes over the world once again, some day, or if cloning becomes the means of procreation, the issue of gender and sexuality will disappear in our culture and our literature.

I have always believed that there is a lot we can learn from king Ashoka. Asoka’s concern about Nature, the environment and natural resources is seen in the Delhi-Topra Pillar Edict. “dave anathayq va vihisaye va no jhapetaviye” forests must not be burnt either uselessly or in order to destroy (living beings).

Our ancestors worshiped Nature. They worshiped Mother Earth, and treated Nature and natural elements and forces as sacred. It has now been accepted by many scientists, that Mother Earth is a living goddess, Gaia. When we look at Gaia as a living organism, and as a tiny planet in a multiverse, man is probably like a single celled creature in the mighty ocean. Then we can learn to be humble.

To save ourselves, to save all life on Mother Earth, and to save Mother Earth herself, women should take the lead, to respect and worship nature, and that is one simple way to bring back peace and happiness to all of us.

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