We’re stuck in traffic in Mabira Forest again, on the trip between Jinja and Kampala. I was stuck going out and now I am stuck again going home. Why? Because it has been decided that the trees and shrubs closest to the road must be trimmed. And it must be done in the middle of the working day.
People say it is because the road is finally about to be built in a real highway. From the number of trucks being neatly lined with wood, I think the only beneficiary is whoever gets to sell the smaller pieces for firewood, the medium ones to charcoal makers and the largest bits for timber.
I’m stuck here and I’m thinking about butterflies. It used to be, only a few decades ago, that your drive from Kampala to Jinja could be interrupted by a swarm of butterflies. They flew so thick and beautiful that people stopped, or drove really slowly to get through them. I haven’t seen it happen since I was a child.
The term Butterfly Effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the metaphorical example of a tornado being influenced by something as small as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier. The butterfly effect is the idea that small things can have non-linear impacts on a complex system, and it has been applied to physics, economics and the weather.
Small things in a complex system may have no effect or may have a massive one, and it is virtually impossible to know which will turn out to be the case. However, human beings are predictable in this regard. We always have HUGE impact and we very often KNOW EXACTLY what DAMAGE we’ll be causing.
Like in Mabira Forest, for example. Approximately 300 square kilometres of natural rainforest has been protected as Mabira Forest Reserve since 1932. Despite this protected status, the forest continues to disappear at an alarming rate. The forest has been home to many endangered species, some of which probably go extinct each day. And I am not just talking animals. Plants and medicinal herbs and all knowledge of them is disappearing.
Gone, like the butterflies. While we hack and chop and shape our so called ‘Vision 2020’ like crazy blind fools.
I’m stuck in Mabira, but instead of a cool, breathtaking view of nature, I can feel the sun heating up the roof of my car. Instead of the sound of birds or crickets, there is a cacophony of cholera-merchants trying to sell me roast chicken, gonja and soda. Instead of butterflies, there is the occasional buzzing of a bluebottle fly, feeding lazy from the hands of the cholera merchants.
I’d give anything right now to be able to sit in this car and show my son a swarm of butterflies. I’m beginning to think he may never see one.
Here we are, the most clever species ever to have lived. So how is it we can destroy the only planet we have? – Jane Goodall