Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Creating memories in nature

A friend of mine spent a couple of years in the state of Bahia, northeastern Brazil, to map the distribution of monkeys of the genus Callicebus in that state. He had to talk to a lot of people to get information about the localization of the monkeys, and then check if they were still living in that area. Some people indicated an old man as a source of great knowledge about the fauna and flora of the region, and my friend went to a small community to interview him. By the end of the talk, my friend played the sound of a monkey vocalization and asked the man if he could recognize what sound was that. When the old man heard it, he stood up and started crying: “this was the sound of the forest! The sound of the forest! This does not exist anymore, people destroyed it! But it was not me!” His daughter, who was hearing the talk, asked my friend to stop the interview because his father needed to go home and rest. He was very excited and his body was shaking.

The old man didn’t know that sound was the vocalization of a monkey. For him, it was the forest. And the forest must have played an important role in his life. I wonder what he remembered when he heard “the forest”. Perhaps his youth, his family, friends, the social life in his community, good and bad things, all of them happened in that place, surrounded by the forest. The forest had been the background for life in that place. And the forest was not there anymore.

This kind of situation is an example that indicates we have to defend nature not only for the material things it supplies us. We need to conserve nature for the sake of our peace of mind. Forests, animals, and every other aspect of nature are inside us, are part of what we are. In a world where financial values are the central part of many discussions, even those related to environmental questions, cultural, ethical and spiritual values must not be forgotten, and we can incorporate some of these values living close to natural things.

Discussion topics: Does nature evoke good memories in you? Is there a special landscape that reminds you of good things that happened in you life?

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