Celebrating Environmental Day With Lessons From Animals About Greed, Envy And Power

By Dr. Nelson France Bukamba

In an age where the state of the planet preoccupies us from climate change to deforestation, and from the extinction of species to the degradation of human habitat, it’s hard not to wonder whether we are capable of working through lasting challenges. Do we have cultural staying power, or will short attention spans, coupled with our love of instant gratification, doom our attempts to rehabilitate the environment, just as naysayers have been predicting?

Envy is defined as coveting specific resources that others have.

Greed is the relentless pursuit of resources, above and beyond basic necessities for survival and comfort.

Power is control over resources, including and especially people.

Greed is a double- edged sword in nature. Healthy competition for resources is good for the long- term survival of a species, just like economic competition is good for the economy and distribution of wealth. Similarly, greedy and power- obsessed animals can threaten the survival of a species just like unbridled greed can do great harm to an economy and its political structures. Male chimpanzees will fight and compete for food resources and breeding females at all costs. On the other side, chimpanzees are constantly eating throughout the day. After all who knows how long it will be before they get another chance? Only by gorging on food when it does become available do animals get the best chance of surviving tomorrow.

Humans also have the drive to eat at every opportunity and this has led to our frequent urge to encroach on forests and also over exploitation of nature. We are all guilty of envy, greed, and the pursuit of power at certain times and in certain circumstances. We all want to do well for ourselves, and we all want the in dependence to make choices without economic or social restrictions. We all want a big home, a nice car, toys and gadgets to entertain us, a generous salary, plenty of vacation time, a beautiful husband or wife, darling and obedient children, supportive friends, and so forth. We all want those things, and that is not a bad thing, per se.

Envy and greed start out as normal ambitions; there is nothing wrong with seeking and getting the basics in life.

Envy and greed become evil or sinful when the pursuit of resources becomes unhealthy, excessive, and insatiable. We begin to harm others, either intentionally or unintentionally, as we put our own desire for more stuff ahead of the needs and desires of others, including those who already have less than we do. Particularly with greed, we are talking about a callous and cruel disregard for the needs of others. Let’s check our day to day habits and activities to always choose sustainable utilization of the environment and also healthy coexistence with the rest of nature.

Dr. Nelson France Bukamba is a wildlife Veterinarian working with chimpanzees in Kibaale National Park and a writer/ author of very many key issues.

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