Dear Tingasiga; My heart goes out to those whose lives and possessions have been disrupted by the swollen rivers and lakes of East Africa.
Special condolences to those whose relatives have perished in the floods. Coming in the midst of the new coronavirus pandemic, the pain of disruption is magnified and the depth of despair unfathomable. However, the current flooding is neither new nor surprising. As usual, anguished cries are raised to the Lord God to intervene and save His people from the torrential rains and the angry floods.
The people appeal to their governments to help them, with some demanding compensation as though the taxpayers are responsible for the catastrophe. In my article, “Floods and landslides are not God’s will,” published in Daily Monitor of March 28, 2017 and on my website www.mulerasfireplace.com, I reminded us that these things are not God’s will but nature’s response to human folly.
If you build on the shores of a lake without considering basic laws of physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, geography and geology, do not be surprised when your investment suddenly becomes a soggy mess as water reclaims its real state. We act as though we do not consider what we learnt in school to have any bearing on our lives. Surely, the purpose of our education was to empower us to manage, to tame and to conserve our environment and resources in order to enjoy them and truly achieve God’s will for us on Earth.
That marvellously written account of the Creation in Genesis 1, is worth re-reading. Whether one believes, as I do, in God’s intelligent design of our universe or in an accidental big bang and unmoderated Darwinian evolution, Genesis One is a beautiful precis of the ordered world in which humanity appeared as one among numerous creatures that were purposed to sustainably co-exist.
After creating man in His image, God told us to be “fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Do you notice that God did not empower us to destroy His Earth? His directive to us to “have dominion” was not a licence for destruction of nature but a command to nurture and love that which would provide our sustenance. God’s directive demanded good stewardship, not suicidal foolishness and greed.
It was dominion in the sense of good governance, not destructive domination of one of His most fragile planets. God would not have been so meticulous in creating something so beautiful if His intention had been to hand it to humans for destruction. Whereas modern humans are not the first to do harm to the environment, the occupants of Earth in the last 100 years have outdone our predecessors in greed-driven despoliation of God’s creation.
In Uganda, for example, our destructive practices have accelerated in the last 50 years, with suicidal disregard for the ecosystem of which we are only part.
We have taken what our supposedly uneducated ancestors had tended with great care and degraded it in what we should charitably call a criminal orgy of uninformed exploitation.
Take the areas around Lake Victoria, for example, where the verdant green of swamps, bush and forests that offered my teenage eye the illusion of an endless carpet as I stood at a spur outside King’s College, Budo. Today, one beholds an ugliness of red-tiled roofs that we celebrate as progress.
The great swamp between Kyengera and Busega, which provided a pleasant green that hugged our school bus as we headed to and from Kampala, continues to be converted into an ugly concrete jungle. The much-maligned colonialists and their early post-independence successor regimes did not touch those sensitive parts of our capital city. It was not an oversight on their part.
The shores of the great lake were left in their virgin state, not because the people were afraid to disturb the dwellings of sacred pythons and other serpents, but because they understood the critical role of our swamps and other parts of the greenbelt in the life of Nalubaale, the surrounding countryside and the lives of the citizens. The arrival of our “enlightened leadership” changed that. As though driven by an evil force, we put up massive buildings, including shopping malls, hotels and flats, on what was
once a protected greenbelt.
We built and built and drained and blocked and destroyed as though we had the power to re-order the rules that governed an Earth that had been around for more than 4 billion years. Drive along Kampala’s northern bypass and behold humanity’s foolishness.
Visit any part of Uganda and see the suicidal work of people who live as though their grandchildren do not matter. As for Ssese Islands? Enough said.
The destruction of Namanve, a beautiful forest east of Kampala, in the name of industrialisation may well be the defining deed of the men and women who rode into town with the largest collection of academic certificates since independence.
However, it is only the most dramatic example of the destructive behaviour that has left our country’s tree cover markedly diminished, our swamps turned into farms, our rivers turned into small streams that cannot contain heavy rains, and a destabilised drainage and absorption system that has paved the way for flooding and destruction.
Nature is governed by laws that man remains hopelessly unable to alter. Those who obey them enjoy Earth’s bounty in relative peace. Those who disregard them invite floods of tears as they watch their investments swallowed by water and mud.
The answer is not in praying to a God whose creation we have destroyed, but in humbling ourselves before Him to seek His guidance towards a renewed morality, a spiritual revival and abandoning our selfishness and greed. When we do that with penitent and sincere hearts, those who turned our community swamps into private farms will return them to public ownership and restoration to their ordained purpose.
We shall then use God’s science to provide good stewardship of His Earth. We shall learn how to deal with the inevitable fits of our planet’s anger and stop the annual ritual of appealing to God to fix the consequences of our foolish disobedience.