Village house nestled in the rain forest
Dateline: Placa Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain
By Chiogor Constance Ikokwu
There’s a vociferous pushback in some quarters against our modern way of life. Some would argue that our so-called civilization has turned against us. Ask climate change activists and they’ll reel out facts to buttress this argument. Not everyone believes this. Whatever side of the coin you fall on, there’s no denying that there’s an existential crisis or put mildly, consequences of development.
From the catastrophic burning of the Amazon forest to the plastic predicament in the ocean and unbridled consumption, we do have severe problems. Some point to the fact that there has been more forest fire outbreak in Mozambique and Angola. It’s the same story everywhere. Certainly, our actions in one part of the world affect others.
What to do? I read of a couple in Northern Europe that decided to move from the city to the forest with their children. Why? They’re repulsed at the pace of the destruction of the planet. They abhor the culture of consumption and waste.
In their new abode, they live a basic life with minimal consumption. They’re surrounded by nature. They’re far away from the temptation of glitzy shopping malls and plastic saturated supermarkets. They say they’re happier.
My first reaction on reading and watching the video of this story was amusement. I was shaking my head. Is the world coming full circle? Isn’t it the same world that looks down at indigenous people living in their ancestral homelands and that often seeks to “civilize” them? I understand the couple’s frustrations, though.
The story reminded me of my high school days when I spent a substantial amount of time with my grandmother in the village in South-east Nigeria. The difference between the city of Lagos where I was born and the village was like black and white. Life in the village was peaceful, quiet, natural and serene. Being a child, I did not appreciate it. Today, I know better.
The village environment was heavenly. Trees serenaded every home and compound. Food was fresh and organic mainly because it was grown in the backyard and other farms not far away from home. People owned lands. Subsistence farming was thus the major source of livelihood. The air was devoid of pollution.
We had our fill of fresh fruits. All you needed to do was stretch out your hands and pluck the fruit from the tree, depending on the season. There were mangoes, oranges, avocado, pineapple, papaya, tangerine, etc. People had time for the things that matter in life – values, true family and wider societal connections, etc.
Compare that to our lives in over-crowded, highly polluted and filthy Lagos. The challenge of urbanization, development and so-called civilization is real.
Humans have made great advancements in science, technology, industry, etc. However, I submit that this has come at great cost. Ask villagers who live in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa, whose lands have been invaded by multinational mining companies battling for rights over scarce minerals and resources. They’ll probably tell you their lives are hellish right now.
Or villagers in the Nigerian Niger Delta whose ecosystem has been destroyed by gas flaring and oil spills due to the activities of multinational oil companies. From these communities, trillions of dollars are generated. Yet, their lives have become miserable due to these same activities.
We tend to erroneously measure the quality of life largely by material accomplishments and/or possessions. The first question is usually about having electricity and running water. Then shopping malls, coffee shops, bars, restaurants, cinemas and money. These inventions are fine. Nevertheless, they’re not a guarantee to a wholesome life.
I live in Barcelona now. I go the Ramblas quite often. This is the hotspot for tourists. As I walk past the shops, ice-cream bars, restaurants, and other amenities that service the tourism industry, I imagine how much waste this generates daily. It may be difficult to give up our good lives. But isn’t it time to think about how our activities affect the environment?
With essential amenities including healthcare, grandma’s village is looking more appealing to me right now.
Let me know what you think. Do have a lovely week!