I consider my relationship with nature as a long and unfolding conversation, like learning a language that I can never master. And this conversation is never dull. Like most discourses, it only improves with time and age, to reach a point where a constant connection evolves and grows, with almost daily realisations.
There was a time when the fight to save the whales was at the forefront of environmental concerns. Sadly, this is no longer true and, as we approach the next meeting of the International Whaling Commission a little later this month, it is worth reflecting on the dilemmas now facing those who continue to oppose whaling for profit.
It took me a week to get used to the environment, as even though I liked the food, I struggled to eat much, though I soon got my appetite back to its usual size once I had adjusted to the climate and my malaria pills. Anyway despite my lack of energy I still enjoyed the quick intro into PADI (I found that I was at a slight advantage as I had already started working through the book).
Borneo. Just the name conjures up images of remote river expeditions through steamy rainforest in search of the most famous of its inhabitants, the orangutan. And despite opening up to tourism significantly in recent years, vast tracts of this island (particularly the Indonesian state of Kalimantan) are still a lost world in tourism terms
The amount of money now washing around Asia and the seemingly unquenchable demand there for ivory, particularly in countries such as Vietnam and China, has caused the price charged on the black market to soar. Indeed in many places ivory is now worth more per ounce than gold. The result has been an almost unprecedented slaughter on the savannahs. Some 100 elephants are being killed per day in Africa, and at present rates of poaching the surviving population in the wild risks being decimated within a decade. Chad had 15,000 elephants. Now it is 400.
Experiencing a completely different way of life and culture made me draw comparisons to my own life. Obviously, it highlights issues of materialism and made me really appreciate the significance of family and community. There was only 5,000 people on the island I was working on. They all knew and loved each other and were so welcoming to the volunteers.
Madagascar has many different faces. There's the wealth of biodiversity and endemic species such as the famous lemurs, but then there is also the extreme poverty and political instability. Before I arrived on my volunteering placement, I didn't really know what to expect; I'd never been out of Europe before so everything was a new experience.
Africa's wildlife is what sets the continent apart from the rest of the world. It is their best resource. With many areas tormented by political dispute, poverty and an on-going battle with the demon that is HIV, it seems that the people of Africa need to realise the significance of what remains. So why is it then that they can so easily be seen as passive in its destruction?