In these surreal times of unprecedented world-wide measures lock down of the populations of entire countries, to fight an epidemic as mysterious and as lethal as it is invisible, my thoughts have gone back to the time, in 2002, at the eve of the declaration of the Iraq war, when a group of women from around the world, at the invitation of Kofi Annan, met at the UN in Geneva, to talk about Peace and how to restore sanity.
I was one of them- and was asked to speak for the Environment.
I take the liberty to share with you what I said.
SPEAK TO THE EARTH
FOR THE GLOBAL PEACE INITIATIVE OF WOMEN RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL LEADERS (GPIW)
THE UNITED NATIONS
Palais the Nations
GENEVA, 5th/10th OCTOBER 2002
SPEAK TO THE EARTH
I come from Africa to talk for the ones who have no voice and who are always the unsung victims of any war.
I talk for the living creatures with whom we share this planet, the ones which we have abused, polluted, raped and wounded to the core.
I talk for the remaining forests and for the small lives that they protect; for the seas and oceans, for the birds and the butterflies. And for the wise elephants, patient witnesses of our endless encroachment in their space.
I talk for the savannah and the ancient, unchangeable hills.
I talk for the springs of fresh water that give life, and for the great herds that once roamed the plains.
I talk for the rare, ever more endangered people who still live close to the source of all things and who still know how to speak to the trees and the animals that make up their world. Whose knowledge, and respect of their living environment, guaranteed up to now against many odds their own survival.
I talk for children of Kenya – the ones who live on the edge of the valley of the Great Rift, from where we human beings all come from- who have, like all world children, a right to a Future of which unsustainable development, its pollution, and creeping deforestation, is robbing them for ever.
This is our mother Africa; our mother Nature; our mother Earth.
This peace meeting was conceived a while ago, but its timing is dramatically crucial.
A few people are at this time unilaterally deciding to take measures that will unleash a monster that we shall be unable to control; that will affect us all –the entire world- and the still unborn children of our children.
A war in which there will be no winners.
Whose main victim will be our planet, and the children who will inherit an unmanageable world. The children who cannot yet vote, but whose voice must be heard. But WE CAN do something about this because it is our planet, we uphold democracy, we vote for life and for peace and such decisions have not been taken in our name.
Margaret Mead once said:
“A group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’
It was never more true.
Over forty years ago , in 1964, Carl Jung wrote:
“As scientific understanding has grown, so our world has become dehumanised…No voices now speak to man from stones, plants, and animals, nor does he speak to them, believing they can hear. His contact with nature has gone, and with it has gone the profound emotional energy that this symbolic connection supplied.”
To find again this connection with the Earth is what people need and what they must look for: These days we realise that the true monuments, cathedrals, temples, mosques, synagogues are not man-made. They are the ones made by the timeless hand of nature; of the divine which is infinite, and beyond, and above us. With the giant and far too rapid steps in the world of technology, Humankind at large has lost the link to the crucial fact that we come from the Earth, we go back to the Earth and we owe the Earth respect.
We must understand that we are behaving like hooligans, destroying common property, a common heritage that does not belong to any of us as individual countries, even if physically situated in one or the other part of this planet:
Because, as Maurice Strong, the founder of UNEP once told me,’ planet Earth is like a spaceship, travelling through the Universe with a limited, finite amount of natural resources, that we all share’ .
If development does not go hand in hand with conservation, if we continuously find short cuts to bypass the very laws that we have once made, we are all lost.
Indeed we shall be tomorrow’s fossils, and this tomorrow is not millions years from now. Extinctions are real: they do not happen overnight, but what we are witnessing worldwide are signals that a global catastrophe is closer than we want to accept – if, wrapped up in frantic day- to- day activities, we think about it at all.
We cannot continue this trend any longer, but shall we stop?
We must take responsibility.
Only a generation ago no one could imagine that what we had taken for granted, fresh air, clean water, predictable seasons, sufficient rains and sunshine in the Summer, a pristine natural world- could be tangibly changed in our lifetime, to show a suicidal pattern of that incredible world -spread decline that our carelessness, and short sighted greed have brought about.
The slow death that we are inflicting the Earth in a thousand ways generates spasms that affect us all:
floods and droughts, famine and disease, ravage not just the valleys and the plains, the rivers and the oceans, but the cities and the villages. Global Warming and melting of glaciers, Earthquakes and hurricanes, tropical storms, unmanageable fires, destroying the living forests we have forgotten the powers of, are great equalizers.
Just look at the news. The planet is showing its power.
We must be wise enough to remember that the Earth, the spiritual and natural world, is unconquerable and will always have the last word.
It is our responsibility to do everything we can to protect and nourish what has never been easier to destroy.
To join forces, and show the world some sense.
We need to return to simpler and more spiritual ways of life, to true values, to the conscious respect towards what surrounds us and of which we are only temporary tenants.
This is the true crusade without which there can be no peace and no future.
We must all find our journeys and our quests.
I, myself, have travelled a long way through the paths of the mind, trying to come to term with losses that seemed too hard to bear. I have been trying to fill the silence of my familiar voices, and have learnt to listen to the voice of my soul.
In the course of my journey I have learnt many lessons.
There was a time, as a child in Italy, when “I dreamed” of Africa.
My dreams became a reality when `I moved to Ol ari Nyiro, a vast estate on the Laikipia Highlands of Kenya, over thirty years ago, and a nightmare when first my husband, and then my son, died tragically there.
Then, it became a vision.
In most people’s life there is, sooner or later, a moment in which one feels at a dramatic turning point. A moment of truth, when the sense of our existence and the meaning that we should give it, is suddenly startlingly clear.
This was for me the time in which I looked down at the open, dead eyes of my son, and there I saw reflected the sky, and the sun, and the hills and the leaves of the tree above us.
The world had come to an end for me only.
The world -Nature- went on as ever.
The sky in Emanuele’ eyes, was the sky of Africa.
This was the key.
In the weeks that followed I walked alone along the valleys and Savannah of my home in Laikipia, and one evening I stood looking down at the cliffs of the Great Rift, at endless vistas of volcanoes and hills and lakes.
There was something awesome and sacred in its majestic beauty, the ineffable feeling of being in a cathedral of the spirit, which could absorb my grief , and everyone’s grief, into a healing and transforming embrace.
Something that went beyond life and beyond death, because it was eternal.
In that moment I saw myself in the years to come becoming involved in the great movement to do something about our planet: the great quest, the final crusade to actively preserve and restore the natural world.
I had the intuition that to ensure its survival was more important than anything else, and making a positive difference to the environment and to the living creatures within it, with the means at my disposal, became my quest, and my mission. I understood that what we call death is only the end of a stage, it does not need to be the end of a relationship with someone we have loved.
As a mother I had felt as if nothing would ever again heal my wounds: but I had been wrong: what remained was the magic of Africa, the purity of the landscape, its natural peace and tolerance, the aristocratic elegance of the African animals, the compassion and gentleness of the people.
All this was healing, inspiring, worth the sacrifice.
It went beyond life, and beyond death, because it was eternal.
I understood that what really mattered in the end was to have learnt that lesson, and accepted what I could not change, while concentrating in changing what I could.
Like many of the militants in the environmental crusade throughout the world, I deeply felt “the immense longing not just to protect, but to rejuvenate the Earth.”
I understood that the ‘real voyage of discovery does not consist in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.’ So I started The Gallmann Memorial Foundation, which deals with preservation of natural resources, sustainable and creative use of the environment, education and community service.
I saw that one can make a difference in the outside world if one can make a difference for oneself.
And recalled the words of Chief Seattle:
“The earth is our mother.
What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.
This we know: the earth does not belong to man,
man belongs to the earth.
All things are connected like the blood that unites us all.
Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it.
Preserve the land for all children, and love it, as God loves us.’
And the words of the Prophet:
“Speak to the Earth, and it shall teach thee.”
Let’s hope we can learn.
The Gallmann Memorial Foundation
The Gallmann Memorial Foundation
Ol Ari Nyiro Laikipia Nature Conservancy
Dedicated to the Coexistence of People and Nature in Africa
P.O. Box 63704 00619 Nairobi Kenya
Please help us with the ongoing rebuilding and the maintaining of vital conservation infrastructure on Laikipia Nature Conservancy, while supporting our philanthropic work of education and scholarships, community support, assistance to neighbours, public health, food drought relief, water, road building and maintenance.
And of course continuing to equip the outstanding team of rangers with uniforms, transport, binoculars, infrared cameras and everything they need to continue to protect and monitor the unique Biodiversity of Ol Ari Nyiro, and also support our ongoing re-forestation project to combat global warming by planting more and more indigenous trees.
With your help we can secure Kuki’s vision and legacy in perpetuity.
Please help us by making a donation below, however small or big it may be!!!