Illustration by Trịnh Lập
By Nguyễn Mỹ Hà
Early this week, discussions were focused on how greed can be destructive to the environment and the planet is being destroyed at a rate no one thought possible.
This was spurred by the sight of a sixteen-year-old scolding world leaders at the United Nations and accusing them of having stolen her dreams.
Growing up in a country where protecting the environment is a top priority, how has this teen arrived at the point she’s at now? She can be seen passionately berating the leaders of global superpowers on the video broadcast worldwide.
Vocally and publically standing up for environmental protection is popular and trendy nowadays. It shows that not only you care and are aware of the consequences, on a personal level, you act.
Since we were at school, we were taught about how Việt Nam is fortunate to have such abundant natural beauty, and our job is to protect it for our children’s children. We did most of what we believed was right and good for the environment, but why after 30 years, things have not got better, but worse, and on a massive scale?
We talk about saying no to plastic bags, straws, cups and plates. But what about plastic chairs, tables and other items?
Once flying was a privilege only few could afford, now low-cost airlines take people to countries and continents far and wide!
Fake castles and amusement parks are placed in some of the most peaceful spots. Top-notch, privately-owned hotels are springing up on protected mountains, and are marketed as a privilege only some of the best can afford. Where once few people had access to, now hoards of travellers can come and go in a day, spending just long enough to take a few selfies.
Pagodas are being turned into destinations for eye-opening visual impact instead of the search and study to find inner peace.
Greed drives us far beyond our limits and even imagination. Greed helps us achieve what we never thought we could – taming wild animals, turning deserts and uninhabitable places into apartments and villas, shopping malls and cinemas.
Greed drives us to work longer hours for better pay for better lifestyles, better holidays and better access to healthcare.
Another aspect of greed pushes us above our accepted physical limits, lifts our spirits for a while but can leave irreparable health consequences.
Someone losing weight can train for 4 hours a day, count calories for breakfast, lunch and dinner, run long distances and up and down tall buildings for a year to drop 30 kilos, then put them all back on a year later.
A marathon runner sets his target at 42km, then later lifts the bar to 70km then 100km.
Everyone bows to his accomplishments, but it’s time to take care of his knees and tendons, feet and joints. Our physical self can stretch to obey our mental greed.
"Liệu cơm gắp mắm" goes a popular Vietnamese saying. It means one needs to evaluate one's capabilities to set appropriate goals.
In a book written nearly half a century ago, writer Vũ Hùng, who spent a few years living in the Trường Sơn mountain range has written: "Nature has been destroyed at an alarming rate. In nature, if a carnivore needs to hunt another animal for food, he only does so to feed himself. Nowadays, humans chop down forests and hunt wild animals to benefit their capital need. If it doesn’t stop, it's going to be destructive for all of us." VNS