Today, on the tiny island of Bali, Indonesia people celebrated Nyepi, the Balinese New Year also known as the silent day. And boy, was it silent! All shops, factories and offices were closed. No one went outside their compounds and the roads were empty. People used as little electricity and as possible and all construction stopped. The ports to and from Bali were closed and even the high-traffic Bali airport was closed, the only major international airport in the world to close down for a local holiday. This year even the internet, both cell phone and Wifi, as well as all TV channels were shut down.
And what happened to our non-human neighbors that we share this earth with? Let’s see.
The dogs, chickens and cats walked around and crossed the roads without getting run over and maimed or killed. They experienced a day free of stressful engine and machine noises. The snakes, lizards and the insects also roamed freely without getting squished to a pulp by vehicles. We seem to forget that the piece of land that we call “roads” is really the same as any other piece of land for them, to be shared by all.
The birds sang their songs of pure joy, uninterrupted by the sound of machines. Those songs were heard, not only by their mates but by all humans and non-humans, who felt a sense of calm that only their songs can bring. But more importantly for the birds, none of their nests, eggs or young ones were destroyed or killed while they went away in search of food because no trees were cut down. And none of them were captured to be caged for life for their only fault – being beautiful in the eyes of one species, that’s us.
Oh and the fish swam free, large and small, in the oceans and rivers, their only homes without giant fishing nets or hooks sweeping through their homes and killing them. Neither were toxic chemicals and plastics dumped in their environment.* By the speed with which we are replacing the plankton populations with plastic, we seem to forget that two-thirds of the oxygen – that’s two out of every three breaths of every animal including us – are made possible by planktons. And what a relief it was for them that no humans came into their homes, the corals, to look at them, uninvited in large numbers in funny costumes and loud chemical spewing motorboats and ships.
Oh and the trees, from hundreds of year old Banyan trees to the fast growing bamboo grass (4 cm an hour) swayed in the wind with their friends in the forest ** without any of them being cut down for making resorts or villas. The trees were able to absorb the CO2 uninterrupted since very little of it was produced that day in the first place. We seem to forget that if we continue to add CO2 to the atmosphere at the current rate (81 million tons per day) while simultaneously cutting down the forests, the air will become unbreathable for all living beings in the very near future ***
The rivers and oceans had a day of relief from plastic, toxic chemicals, boats and giant ships. The mountains were not mined for minerals, the earth was not dug out, prodded, fertilized by chemicals or constructed on. Even the stars, as if nodding in happiness twinkled more brightly (not metaphorically but literally), since no pollution was spewed into the atmosphere and electric lights were mostly off in the evening.
All nature – the earth, the sky, the air, the mountains, the ocean, the rivers, the trees and the animals (except for some of the Homo Sapiens variety), the fish, the insects down to the tiny snail slowly crossing the road – breathed a weary and tired sigh of relief! For what do we really mean by love when we say things like – I love nature or I love mountains or I love bears, or sloths or forests? They are all under assault and as with any relationship, love requires listening to them, understanding them, their likes and dislikes, protecting them by whatever means necessary and caring for their well-being, not just taking from them, relentlessly and with no end in sight except the final one. And make no mistake, their life-producing work is literally the air, food and water that we depend on for our own survival.
* Currently, there is 10 times more plastic in the ocean than planktons.
** Friendship of trees is not a metaphor. Studies have shown that trees in forests communicate through their roots, nourish the sick ones back to health and form hundreds of years-long mutually supporting friendships, sometimes even dying together.
*** Already unbreathable in many parts of China, India (Delhi) and other major cities around the world.