When God made the world, He made no mistakes. The natural environment was His finest creation. He made a perfect ecosystem with forests green and beautiful, magnificent views and a natural habitat where different kinds of animals were happy to live. The Bible describes it as ‘the Garden of Eden': its beauty and natural glory demonstrate how God cherishes the natural environment and makes its preservation His top priority.

I remember from my childhood the wonder of the natural scenes around Sierra Leone. The forests were fulfilling what God intended in their creation. The valleys, the hills and the mountains were superb. The variety of animals made the scene especially interesting: baboons, monkeys and different types of reptiles all added their contribution and beauty to the wonder of the complete environment. That was when Sierra Leone was a Sierra Leone to be proud of.

As I grew up into youth, these memories disappeared like passing fancies.

Such issues were no longer important to me. Most of my time growing up was dominated by a devastating war. It extended to the destruction of countless things. The green forests were no more. They became brown, burnt by the bombs that landed in them, or were wiped out by townspeople for wood for their stoves.

In search of safety
The destruction was complete enough to drive away all animals. Scared by the heavy sounds of bullets and bombs, they moved to other places or countries in search of safety. At the time, we children could not even notice that such beauty had been taken from our environment, even though the losses caused by the war were threatening our very homes. These were times when life and property were indiscriminately destroyed. Children were left with no hope for the future since most lost their parents and many others were forcefully conscripted. What an ugly, indelible past!

Today this has become history. The issue now is how to recover from this incredible human blunder. I see natural environments being restored, such as around my home in Regent village. With the help of non-governmental agencies and government departments, I now see forests being restored back to their original beauty. World Environment Day 2004 was especially remarkable, as everyone – even children – embarked on tree planting. Through the planting of trees, the Regent village environment is gradually returning to its original form. The animals are coming back – there are stories of people seeing elephants and other species in some areas.

Symbol of rebirth
So regeneration is replacing a degenerated past. Restoration has brought hope and confidence to the community. The people themselves are organizing community mobilization efforts. Chopping down trees for fuel and building timber has been discouraged by government policies. For me and my friends, the psychological effect of seeing the environment restored is a symbol of the rebirth of a Sierra Leone we can be proud of.

As the environment recovers its lost identity, it rescues people from the trauma of war. It calls for a turn to a new page. It gives hope and challenges to people who think that all is lost. If trees can resume their original form after a devastating war, human beings can also recover. Sustainable development is transforming the negative legacies of war into a brighter future

Max B. Katta, 23, Sierra Leone.


This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Waking up | Planting security | Natural peace | People | No procrastinating on climate | Attracting private investment | Reshaping the energy and security debate | At a glance: Environmental security | Star profile: Salman Ahmad | How many Earths? | Green helmets | Books and products | Initiative for change | Security in turbulence | Water and war | Beating the ‘resource curse’ | Green peace | It’s poverty, stupid