A Single Dandelion Is More Precious than Gold

The three greatest problems of modern society are pollution, environmental protection, and food. If any one of these is neglected, humanity will become extinct. The Earth* has already been damaged extensively. Endless greed for material possessions has brought about serious air and water pollution that destroys nature, including destroying the ozone layer that protects us. If present trends continue, humanity will find itself caught in the trap of material civilization and be destroyed.

For the past 20 years, I have been working to sustain and preserve the Brazils Pantanal region. Pantanal, a region that lies in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, is the world's largest wetlands area. It is listed with UNESCO as a world heritage site. I am carrying on a global environmental movement to preserve the living creatures of Patanal in the original forms in which God created them.

Patanal, where the sea and land, animals and plants live in together as one, is an interesting place. Simple words such as "beautiful*" and "fantastic" cannot begin to describe its value. Photos of the area taken

from the sky are so beautiful that an colledtion of these photos is one of the best selling photo collections in the world. It is humanity's treasure trove, where rare species such as white-throated capuchin, the red howler monkey, macaw, jaguar, anaconda and caiman live.

The flora and fauna of Pantanal and the Amazon basin exist as they did at the time of Creation. Pantanal is the point of origin of the creation of all beings. Human beings have destroyed a great many beings that God created. Too many species of plants and animals have become extinct because of human greed. In Pantanal, though, the original forms that God created still remain. I am working to establish a bird museum and insect museum in Pantanal to restore extinct species and to recreate the original forms of creation.

In addition to being a habitat for many plants and animals. Pantanal is also an important source of oxygen for the Earth. It is the "lung of the world" and "nature's spounge," producing more oxygen than any other area. It is also a storehouse of greenhouse gases. Pantanal, however, is changing rapidly, due to industrial development. If the Amazon region, which provides such a large amoung to oxygen to the Earth, is destroyed, the future of humanity will be a terrible one.

Some 3,600 species of fish live in Pantanal. One is a gold colored fish weighing more than 20 kilograms called "dorado." When a dorado takes the hook on the end of my fishing hook, it feels as if my body is being sucked into the river. I start reeling in the line with all my strength, and it jumps up into the air with its gold colored scales shining in the sun. Even after jumping out of the water several times, it still has plenty of strength left to fight. It is so strong it seems more like a bear or tiger than a fish. The lakes in Pantanal are always clean. No matter what is put into the water, it quickly becomes clean again. The reason the water is able to cleanse itself so quickly is that there are so many different species of fish living there. Each specie of fish feeds on something different. Living together in a complex system, they devour anything that dirties the water. Their act of feeding has the function of keeping the water clean.

This is what is different with human beings. The fish don't live for their own sake. They live to clean their environment and make it better. The back of the leaf of the water hyacinth in the Pantanal wetlands is black with bugs. If the bugs were to remain there, the hyacinth would not be able to live, but there are fish that eat those bugs off the leaves. So the bugs live, the hyacinth lives, and the fish live. This is what nature is like. No creature lives for itself. Instead, they live for each other. Nature teaches us this tremendous lesson.

No matter how many fish there are in Pantanal, the population will decrease as people continue to fish them. To protect the fish, we need to develop fish farms. Because the fish in Pantanal are so precious, we need to develop many fish farms. Similar facilities to protect insects, birds and mammals are also needed. Raising insects will help increase the bird population. Pantanal is even more precious, because it provides an environment in which these animals can be farmed.

It is not just fish that are plentiful in Pantanal. The riverbanks have pineapples, banana trees, mango trees. Rice grows so well there that it is possible to have three harvests a year, even in unirrigated fields. That is how rich the soil is. Crops such as beans and corn could be grown just by spreading the seeds over the ground. Very little no human labor would be needed. Ostrich can be seen walking slowly on the wide grasslands. These birds are so strong that a human being could ride on their back.

Once, we traveled down the Paraguay River on a boat and stopped by a house on the bank. The farmer who lived there realized that we were hungry, so he went into his field and dug up a sweet potato. It was the size of a watermelon. He told us that, as long as he leaves the root in the ground, it will continue to produce potatoes for several years. To think that potatoes can be harvested without the need of planting each year, I felt a strong desire to take these to countries where food is lacking.

People who advocate developing wetlands stress the economic benefits of such development. Pantanal, however, provides plenty of economic benefit as a wetland. The area has virgin forests of black pine, and the wood is hard with high density. They say that a person could drive a spike into a tree, and it would still live more than a hundred years. These trees are used to produce ebony, which does not rot and is said to last longer than iron. Imagine a forest of such precious trees so large that a man cannot put his arms around them. I had trees planted on 400 hectares of land in Pantanal. The trees our members planted have made Pantanal even more beautiful. The oxygen that is produced there will gives us lives of abundance.

It is human selfishness that is destroying nature. Human greed to succeed a little more, or a little more quickly, than others is the reason that the Earth's environment has been damaged to such an extent that it is becoming difficult to breathe. We cannot allow the Earth to be damaged any further. Religious people must lead the way in the effort to save nature. Nature is God's creation, and His gift to humankind. We must work quickly to awaken people to the preciousness of nature and restore it to its rich and free state at the time of Creation.

Because it has become widely known that Pantanal is a treasure trove, a struggle over its future has begun. The place that we should be protecting may be about to become a battlefield for greedy humans. For the past ten years, I have been taking leaders from countries around the world to Pantanal, and holding discussions on how to protect nature and protect the Earth. I gather the world's environmental experts and scholars and ask them to take interest in and give their love to Pantanal. I am working to stop Pantanal from being destroyed because of the merciless desires of human beings.

As the environmental issues grow more serious, many environmental groups have sprung up. The best environmental movement, however, is the one that spreads love. People like things that belong to people they love. They do not, however, take care of or love the natural environment that God created. God gave this environment to humanity. It was His will that we use the environment to obtain food to eat and make our lives prosperous. Nature is something to be used once an thrown away. Our descendents for many generations to come must be able to rely on it for food and as a support for their lives.

The short cut to protecting nature is to develop a heart that loves nature. We must be able to shed a tear even at the sight of a blade of grass that we see as we walk along the road. We must be able to grab hold of a tree and weep. We must understand that God s breath is hidden inside a single boulder, or a single breath of wind. To care for and love the environment is to love God. We must be able to see each creature created by God as an object of our love. A single dandelion by the roadside that is stepped on by people is more valuable than the gold crowns of kings.