When I visit a scenic place like the Philippines' Boracay Island, I often wonder how the people who live here can take it. Do they ever get tired of looking around them? Do they drink in their surroundings the way visitors do?
I wonder if they realize you can probably count on one hand the number of places in the world where the sea is this kind of crystal blue. Or that you won't find sand this white or this powdery-fine anywhere.
Do they know that what is just an average sunset for them is an experience that inspires other people to write sonnets and paint pictures? Do they know that people pay a lot of money just to see it?
Do they know how lucky they are to live in a place filled with so much beauty? Perhaps living with it every day dulls their appreciation. Or more likely, in a country where over half the population lives on an average of $2 per day, the harsh realities of everyday life, filled with poverty and hardship, saps their strength and fills their attention until there's no time left to appreciate what's around them.
So I get why women wake up at dawn to pick Boracay's white sand beach bare of seashells, or send their men to hack off a piece of coral off Boracay's coast. And I get why a villager in Kenya would agree to work for a poacher and help him trap elephants, or why a farmer in Brazil decides to slash and burn sections of the Amazon rainforest. Because whether he appreciates the beauty of the things he is destroying or not, he appreciates the survival of his family even more. I don't condone it, but I get it.
If we in the developed world stopped collecting ivory jewelry or rare seashells, or if we were less dependent on livestock that required large areas of open (and around the Amazon, deforested) cattle, maybe the poachers and exporters and importers would have to find some other way to make money. And they'd stop recruiting poor people to do their dirty work. And if the developed world could help these people develop some other, sustainable kind of livelihood, they wouldn't have to choose between feeding their family and destroying the environment. Until then, they'll just have to go about the business of staying alive, without any regard to their surroundings, without stopping to smell the roses or see the sunsets.
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