Six Hours

Six Hours. In less than 6 hours yesterday, I was lucky enough to be working alongside very diverse people dedicated to changing stories of escalating conflict into new stories of compassionate coexistence. Some of the stories were obvious. Some were very subtle and you had to pay close attention to how they were Change Makers too.

Along with my tiny-but-mighty team of Supun Priyankara Herath and Sarath Kumara, the morning was for the elephants and the villagers, working for peace with DWC’s (Department of Wildlife Conservation) Mahinda Wijayasinghe and Sanjeewa Wikrama, the Wasagamuwa Park Warden, and my favorite monk of the Weheragala village (those larger stories coming soon, still sorting photos and facts).

The afternoon was for the street dogs, the children who were curious about how to change a life, the woman who saw a chance to change her dog’s life and came running up the road, and one little boy who cannot walk or talk or sit up or chew his food or hold a toy and yet can chortle and laugh alongside his un-complaining widowed mother. I’ve been working on writing proper stories about so many animals and people here, to tell the true stories of love. Oh for that window of time to do them justice!

Every one of these people believes in the power of being willing to walk the path of Compassionate Action, even when the steps are not always clear. We might not speak the same verbal language, but we speak the same language of the Heart…

Grazing in Rubbish

With wild elephants foraging for food in smoldering trash heaps filled with endless plastic, broken bottles, batteries, etc, we witness a system so broken that even working to keep elephants in the wild is conserving an unacceptably small piece of an unsustainable future. If there is no wild left, then “saving elephants” forces them into a different sort of captivity—not one of physical chains perhaps, but captive to a world where their rightful home has been stolen and their identity forever lost.

Fragmentation (of wilderness and of public policy) is adding to the crisis of trying to keep wild elephants wild in Sri Lanka.

Documentation of the individual and family elephants that feed at this open dump has begun, with the research going to those who can best support policy change. It’s not too late, but there’s no time to lose.

Sri Lankan Civilians Receive shotguns to “control” the elephant issue

2019 was the deadliest year for elephants since Sri Lanka’s Independence in 1948, with over 350 elephants losing their lives, most at the hands of humans…350+, forever gone, lineages disrupted, and more yet to come…

And now, somehow one of the “solutions” appears to be 2000 civilians receiving shotguns to “control” the issue. Not only are they an endangered species and deserve a more thoughtful response simply by being what they are, but if the discussion must turn to money (and it always, always does), then looking at the amount of money wild elephants generate through safaris and tourism in this small island nation surely must give those overseeing the situation some pause…

The complexity of the issue is easy to ignore in our anger. First reactions can fly about on wings of hatred and overwhelm as the seemingly never-ending story of conflict, greed, ill-advised farm placements, overpopulation, etc, subsumes the greater issue—that this, that ALL of this, is about relationships and what we value as a species…

Everything is about relationship– to the land, to the animals, to one another, to money, to the complex/interwoven systems that have somehow trickled down to create such desperation.

There are no answers at this time. For those of us that live in rural areas, every night we hear elephant “crackers” (like fireworks) or gunshots, as small-family farms attempt to bring their rice to harvest. I cannot speak for the huge farms and banana plantations down south, where corporate export $$$ is making the decisions, I’m only able to share that in this area the impoverished do not want to kill the elephants, they only want to feed their family. They are not land-grabbers, as most of them have farmed here for generations, so attacking them is popular, but not helpful.

With that said, we are 100% against this proposal of arming civilians with shotguns. Violence begets violence, and once these extraordinary animals are gone, they are gone forever. End of story.