Column - Will we ever have enough for greed?

IS man by nature consumed in greed and has greed any limitations? How much is enough and what will we do when we have scraped the bottom? Where do we go next?

These are rhetorical questions that play in our minds every time we see a wrongdoing from man's desire to keep wanting more and more that results in colossal and irreversible damage to our environment and when the buzz dies, the issue fizzles away like a bad morning.

When the uprising goes away, sometimes too prematurely, the issue mostly comes back with a vengeance, more violently this time.

They say time heals and that sometimes works against our favour. When something adverse hits us viciously, we console ourselves with the same catch-phrase that time will heal. While it heals, time is also detrimental to urgent issues needing attention as with time people tend to move on with life forgetting that what was left behind had not seen any resolution.

The thought about how man has become perilous to his own environment came to me when I read a simple poem written by Raymond Wilson, an English poet. The poem, Poisoned Talk, is being read as a compulsory text for Literature in Form 3.

The poem is so plain in its approach and yet dynamic in the way the message gets to the readers. And aptly, I am happy that the poem has been made essential reading for teenagers as the teen years are the right time to sow the seeds of responsibility and accountability.

The first stanza opens with a punchy question, all at once demanding for someone to own up to the heinous crime of killing the bird. Immediately, the worm admits his wrongdoing. Apart from the cock robin, the tree seems to be also in danger of dying and it came from the soil which had apparently been poisoned too. So we have a spiteful cascading effect beginning with the soil, the worm, the tree and the cock robin:

Who killed cock robin?
I, said the worm,
I did him great harm.
He died on the branch of a withered tree
From the acid soil that poisoned me.

Pollutions of various kinds are discussed in similar style in the following stanzas, from water in the lake to all creatures feeding off the lake to the air pollution and finally the forest suffocating against the evil forces of man. The damage and destruction goes in a cycle, we have the worm in the first stanza and the earthworm closing in the final stanza.

The mood in the poem is grim and glum with solutions looking long and complex. The lethal and arsenic effect of environmental pollution is damning and will leave a frightening void in our sustainability if we do not heed the warning signs.

In recent years, there have been incidents of industrial pollution where our waterways were polluted leaving thousands of people without water for days and weeks. It came as a buzz and disappeared in a huff, only to recur, with more serious impact.

I think poems such as this which are relevant to our existence and wellbeing make excellent reading material and it is important for teachers to relate to literature as a live subject.

The theme of pollution in Poisoned Talk is very much a live topic that concerns each and every one of us in some way. Pollution is a life-threatening issue and there is no easy solution.

Incidentally, it may come as no surprise that exposure to toxic pollutant, chemical substances and heavy metals is hazardous to your health. But according to two recent studies that examined the relationship between exposure to toxins and aggressive behaviour, such exposure which is usually preventable has been linked to violence in society.

This perhaps explains why we have very angry people who kill each other for no other reason except in momentary madness.

Additionally, the numbers are sobering as more than 5.5 million people die prematurely each year as the result of household and outdoor air pollution, according to new research presented at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The study found more than half of these deaths occur in China and India, two of the world's fastest-growing economies.

Malaysia is not far with the prolonged haze spells paying us visits yearly, each time over-staying and then the menace gets blown away from attention, unceremoniously.

The bottom line is, saving the earth and the environment is our collective responsibility and hence, how we live matters and remember, depletion equals deletion.

The writer believes that the Malaysian education system will reach greater heights with a strong antidote to revolutionise just about everything. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com