CHAYA SARATHCHANDRA

SRI LANKA / CHINA

'I was born and grew up in a rural village surrounded by paddy fields near a coastal city of Sri Lanka. Life there was blessed, we always had fresh fish, vegetables, fruits and a bunch of innocent people to share the day. Life there was self-sustained and self-satisfied, with everywhere full of greenery, soothing the soul. The land around our little home has big trees on which birds were singing happily in every morning and evening. At home we were three stubborn lasses who gave no rest to parents. We always had roundtable discussions not only to talk about everything that attracted our curiosity, but also to find out causes, effects and solutions for our endless fights and arguments.  We waited our turn to talk, and all other times we listened, and learned how to tolerate diversity of character, starting from home. It was a strong foundation for many future endurances. We shared generation’s wisdom through memories and stories of parents. And this initial training motivated me to engage in more and more meaningful discussions with different people from different countries, age groups, cultures, societies, and faiths -- in both academic and social meetings -- before jumping to conclusions. 


But when I first moved out of the comfort zone of home to another part of Sri Lanka for first and second degrees, and then to far East Asia and Africa for a third one, I realised nature has not blessed everybody the same way.  And not everybody has been grateful in the same way for what they already have for free. Many seemed to be too busy to take a break and feel the comfort of the blowing wind that cools the body in the middle of a hot sunny day.  Or to notice the magnificence of a giant river that flows across countries nurturing the mountains, valleys and human civilizations.  Or even the value of the fresh air we breathe.  All these things are undervalued, neglected and slowly diminishing.  We are blind to the blessings of nature that surrounds and sustains us. We are reluctant to find ways to protect pristine nature. 


For some years I lived in one of the most polluted and populated cities on Earth.  I even couldn’t see the next feet ahead of me due to smog. I realised that something, somewhere, somehow had gone terribly wrong.  I hate staying in that kind of packed, polluted place. Humans are like machines: the same routine, trying to satisfy daily needs, repeating the same cycle generation after generation. Humans keep producing babies, manufacturing products and wasting resources with no measures, no ethics, no limits. A short walk either by night or day in some countries will show enough evidence for this, simply with the number of abandoned street children, beggars, waste bags along the roads, water bodies full of algal bloom, and so on. 


The Earth has enough resources for all beings to survive, but obviously not enough to quench the greed of all. Unlimited consumption and unfair distribution of resources, not only by nature but by humans, is a core concern. There was a time I thought the top environment problems are biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation, and climate change.  But I was wrong. The top environmental problems are greed, selfishness and ignorance. As long as we don’t learn how to satisfy our needs with the possible minimum, and how to make our souls see the beauty of simplicity, we all will not know how to overcome the tragedy of today - whether exponential human population growth, a war, a landslide, a flood, a pandemic, or hunger. 


A small change in our consumption patterns and daily behaviour, and a revaluation of our obligations as individuals and as a society, will lay the foundation for the necessary change. We all have the freedom of choice and strength to change for good deep inside us.  It is all about our priorities, norms and values. Try to be little more concerned and kinder always. May it be humanity or nature, whatever path you select to serve, be true to yourself.  Walk forward boldly and righteously from wherever you are, and in whatever role you are, for a sustainable Earth.'

CHAYA SARATHCHANDRA