Teresa Treacy, a 65 year old woman, sits a prison in an Irish jail as Wangari Maathai is laid to rest in her native country in Africa. Maathai is considered a national and international hero.
Wangari was the courageous woman who made international fame over 20 years ago through her peaceful but “illegal” attempts to halt the destruction of trees, forests and natural heritage for the sake of development in Kenya.
Why did her subsequent imprisonments and abuse move so many people across the world and win her the Nobel Peace Prize? Because she stood up for what every one of us knows in our hearts is right. She was willing to sacrifice her life to protect one of Earth’s major living systems from the growing assault launched by a misguided perception of “development” and “economic growth”. She began the Green Belt Movement that spread worldwide to protect the environment and promote good governance and cultures of peace. The hope was that, among other things, women & men would no longer be threatened with imprisonment for protecting the Earth’s natural heritage.
Now decades after her initial imprisonment, we have a courageous Irish woman languishing in Mountjoy Prison for protecting her own trees on her property, from assault. Teresa, who shares a farm with her sister in Tullamore, County Offaly, has spent many years planting and managing native Irish trees in order to maintain and improve the natural habitats that her land provides. But the ESB (Electricity Supply Board) intend to erect high voltage power lines over and across her land and she refuses to allow it. She did not agree to the large monetary compensation offered.
Despite Wangari’s worldwide recognition, business remains as usual. This ever-increasing systematic attack on our planet’s natural resources and biodiversity is fundamentally disrupting the Earth’s capacity to maintain the dynamic and finely tuned balance that sustains life, as we know it.
Around the world there are increasing numbers of international meetings trying to deal with the current global crises and the pending disasters they will cause. Taxpayers are paying for them to try to protect us from the fallout. Yet, the source of most of these crises is precisely to be found in the business as usual – unsustainable development that compromises future life, as we know it, on the planet. Our current global economic model is incapacitating Nature’s life supporting systems. This is not a question of evolution this is a question of a misguided perception which breeds greed, fear and conflict.
Natural resources are dwindling. Drinking water is being abused at such a rate that it is becoming the next commodity for privatisation. The loss of species has become so extreme now that keystone species (species that play a critical role in sustaining an ecosystem, eg. bees) are under threat.
Toxic chemicals and technology that pollute water, air and soil are affecting human health on an unprecedented scale, (including cancers, chronic diseases/conditions and allergies). And recently, in Lough Allen and Clare Basin regions, there have been exploration licences granted for hydraulic fracturing or Fracking, one of the most destructive and polluting technologies developed to extract natural resources.
Many people, including world leaders, now publicly say that the survival of the human race is at stake.
The alarm bells are already ringing. What will it take for us to wake up and realize what we are doing?
Text by Juliet Duff, chairperson of IDEA (Irish Doctors Environmental Association)