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A Moral Dilemma

Posted on 12 March 2008

While we did tell the local people about the consequences of tavy, I couldn’t help but feel like a hypocrite as I sat there and told these people who had been practicing their way of life for generations, to stop what they were doing only so they could put food in their bellies, while I went about my daily life.
While we did tell the local people about the consequences of tavy, I couldn’t help but feel like a hypocrite as I sat there and told these people who had been practicing their way of life for generations, to stop what they were doing only so they could put food in their bellies, while I went about my daily life. I lead a comfortable lifestyle with a car, central heating, all the food I can eat, and having material goods easily and readily available. And consequently my carbon footprint is far ‘heavier’ than that of a local Malagasy man. In fact, one of the Malagasy guides’ mentioned he saw changes in the weather in his lifetime, with drier and hotter seasons becoming more prevalent. And while for me, a hotter summer simply means turning up the air conditioner; for a local Malagasy person, a hotter summer could be a matter of life and death, hindering their means of a meal or a livelihood. Being in the field and seeing that a global problem like climate change does indeed have an effect on ‘real’ people was a true wake up call for me. I learnt that so many things are unnecessary in our current consumerist and commercialist way of life.

According to the author/environmentalist Paul Hawkens, so unaware are we of the impacts we are having on the environment, that by the time you finish reading a page of his book titled The Ecology of Commerce, “one hundred people will have died to pesticide poisoning: 48 per minute, 25 million every year”.

The experience has also opened my eyes as to how we are all linked and ecologically dependent upon one another; and an effect from one side of the globe has a grave consequence in another. I also learnt that we can make a difference if we do our part. Being in Madagascar has inspired me to spread my message of my experience to other young people who are in the same position as I was, unaware of their effect on the world and try and change to make lives for people like the local Malagasy people better. It is unfair for people like those of Madagascar to suffer from my actions when they are the ones least responsible. FACT: The developed world accounts for 15% of the world population, and rich countries account for almost half the emissions of CO2. The carbon footprint of the United States is five times that of China and over 15 times that of India (United Nations Development Program).

Most of us today are aware of the threats to our planet (pollution, climate change, habitat destruction, species extinction, etc.) but do little to help protect the environment as we go about our daily lives. My experience in Madagascar inspired me that every person can make a difference. The feeling of hopelessness and being overwhelmed should not come in the way of each individual doing their own part to help protect the environment!
Working in the fields
© WWF / Sonam Rabgye