I drive along miles of tarred roads, flowing like black rivers through the land; criss-crossing one another and stretching all over the African continent and all over the world. Most of my thoughts about roads have been about the potholes or have been directed at my fellow travelers and their seemingly insatiable desire to rush everywhere.
But recently my thoughts have gone to a darker place, to a more unsettling observation as I become more aware of a disturbing pattern – one I see playing out over our land and our world – a dangerous pattern I have also seen mirrored in my own body.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I knew very little of the disease and the weeks that followed were filled with an intense crash-course in all things cancer. One of the most interesting and disturbing things I learnt was that cancer is such a ravenous beast that it creates its own vein networks to ship in blood and nutrients from all over the body. The more successful the cancer, the more intricate and extensive the cancerous vein networks become – endlessly feeding the growing glut of cancer until the tumor begins interfering with the rest of the organs and the body is starved of vital nutrients that are being diverted to the cancerous growth rather than to feeding, healing and growing the body.
Cancer takes over, tricking the body into believing that the new vein networks are vital and allowing them to grow and multiply and as they do, more and more of the body is robbed of vital life-giving essences. As the cancer thrives, the body begins to falter, growing weaker and becoming more susceptible to other maladies.
This information about how cancer works was integral in my plan to defeating it, as I had decided to use Cannabis oil as my main form of treatment. The beauty of this plan was that the Cannabis oil, rich in cancer killing THC and CBD’s, was thick in my blood stream and so as the cancer syphoned my blood to it, the THC and CBD’s were able to destroy the cancer – ultimately turning the cancer’s sophisticated network of veins against itself- as the blood it needed to survive was now filled with substances that would destroy it.
Needless to say, I won that fight and came away from it happier and healthier than I’ve ever been before.
However, the image of the cancerous network of veins has come back to haunt me as time moves on.
Before I continue, let me make one thing very clear – I am deeply in love with our planet. I love nature and all her wondrous, breath-taking power and beauty. I love her animals, I love her plants and I love how she helps me to make sense of myself.
But, as I’ve watched my county “grow” and “develop”, I’ve also watched cities sprawl out and destroy the beautiful, rich, fertile landscape I used to know. I’ve watch marshes get concreted over, beaches once full of life turned into watery desserts, dune forests ripped out and animals systematically displaced and killed. It breaks my heart.
So, as I drive along roads that lead in and out of giant cities I’m often pondering why humans seem to be so out of sync with nature and why we seem hell-bent on destroying our own home.
As time passed, I began to see the roads and cities differently; I began to see a pattern, a pattern I’d seen before, the same pattern I had seen within my body. At first I resisted the similarities, not wanting to admit that I was a part of this suicidal system but increasingly I have had trouble denying the truth – Perhaps we are the world’s cancer?
Imagine a city, let’s say, Durban, as the tumor. From it leads rivers of black tar, stretching all over the country and even all over the continent. These roads, like veins, allow food and other supplies to be directed in massive amounts into the city-– feeding those with the money to buy the goods and shipping the rest off to other cities across the seas and draining our land of those “nutrients”.
The city itself begins to die from the inside, it’s center becoming a dilapidated, abandoned dessert as the city moves ever outwards, leaving behind it concreted, polluted, poisoned, dying land.
If we go in the other direction and follow the roads to their end destination, what do we find? Some roads lead to the mines that bore deep into our soil, digging up metal nutrients and depositing poisons into the water. The people who mine these ores are poor, badly paid and mistreated. The mines themselves are desserts of death as the soil is ruined and the surrounding landscapes are marred with heaps of unused, ruined earth. It is obvious that the land here is dying.
Other roads lead to massive farms, where the soil and animals are used and abused at a rapid rate while poisons are poured over the plants and into the ground, killing the indigenous insects, plants and animals. This land here is also dying.
Even other roads lead to the forests where we are clearing large areas of diverse, life giving, air-creating trees and replacing them with more industrial agriculture. The land here is dying.
The people who live in the areas we are killing are also being discarded along with the land. To understand the depths of poverty I encounter on a daily basis living in the rural hills of KwaZulu-Natal is difficult for the average, middle-class city/suburb dweller to grasp. To understand what it is to have no access to clean water at the touch of a tap, what it means to never have electricity – ever – is hard for anyone in the modern, ‘civilised’ world to truly get.
And to have no money – none at all- is impossible for most people reading this to comprehend. But believe me, to have no money, even in the most rural parts of our modern world, still means starvation, disease and death. The people whose land and labour is being used and abused by the rest of us are getting nothing in return for their sacrifice – nothing good, anyway.
And it’s the same everywhere in the world –every industrial road leads to the death of the land and its people in some form or the other.
I was deeply disturbed by this realisation, that humans were the Earth’s cancer. But as I’ve thought it over it, I‘ve realised that it is not us humans, but rather, the system we are currently labouring under that is cancerous. A system that allows humans and animals to suffer alike for the convenience of a few, a system that rewards those who take more than their share and abuses those that want to live quietly, honestly and with the land.
In order to effect change on the larger system, we have to initiate that change within our own lives. Give back where you can, make it for yourself if you can and most importantly stop supporting a system that is literally killing us all.
As human beings we are very proud of our Free-Will but we seldom truly put it to the test. We are killing our beautiful planet each day with each action: turning on the lights, buying that chocolate, drinking that Coke and driving your car – it all leads to death for someone down the road.
But it doesn’t have to.
There are other ways of doing this; if we actually used our free-will and chose to do things differently we would begin to affect positive change from within our own lives. And there are better ways of doing things. People are working at it all the time but they need our support. They need us to exert our free-will in their direction and begin making good, healthy choices. We need to change our perspective from a consumer-driven economy to something more sustainable and we need to educate and engage each other about alternatives.
In the same way I was able to stop my body from destroying itself by making healthy, informed decisions about my health, so too can we stop ourselves from destroying our home planet by making informed, healthy choices for ourselves. But make no mistake, it starts on an individual level and that means you – you have the power to save us all, one choice at a time.