“A beautifully written parable, in which an elephant-preacher explains to the humans how the animals took over the Earth from them and restored harmony to it. Witty, poignant and sharp.” – Professor Michael Jacobs
“First of all, it was extremely well written. Secondly it deals with the pressing problems of our times. And thirdly she frequently uses humour to discuss important issues.” – Doctor Jane Goodall, DBE
The elephant furrowed his imposing brow, plodding toward the front of the church. As he walked, his colossal rump collided with the organ. A colourful frenzy of notes erupted, ricocheting madly off ancient stone, filling the entire cavernous structure with a breathless boom.
The congregation quieted at once, mundanities forgotten, and looked reverentially upon the beast. He ambled onward, settling behind the pulpit with a resounding whomp. His mighty trunk unfurled, revealing a carefully rolled-up stack of notes. Pushing his reading glasses up against his marbled eyes, he began.
My dear humankind.
Most sat rapt, fifty people all attuned to the Reverend’s voice; the children squirmed a bit, as children do, but were swiftly reproached.
I would like to begin by wishing you all the happiest Greenmas.
There was a general murmur of goodwill, as befitted the occasion.
Eons ago on this very day, before your time (though I remember it well), animalkind rose, commencing divine Judgement. Your species stood before us. You had ripped the very life from this world, and you stood watching your oil burn. Your ancestors, my dears, cared as little for each other as they did for the Earth. A fortunate few plundered and pillaged, drowning out the cries of their drowning brethren with the clinking of their champagne glasses. The richest countries released venoms into the air that turned your haven into an inferno. The poor majority contended with fires and floods because of it. They lost all, and yet had no choice but to be complicit in this destruction.
But you were forgiven, and issued a set of Commandments, which you obey to this very day. A chorus of appreciative Amens swept through the pews.
The children will now lead us in a recitation of our sacred Creed.
The elephant gestured kindly toward the choir, which consisted of the small, slightly bewildered looking local primary school. Twenty pudgy voices started up erratically.
‘The Amended Commandments.’
‘Thou shalt not extract hydrocarbons from the bowels of the Earth, and thou most certainly shalt not set them on fire or else.’
Rapturous parents beamed.
‘Thou shalt not discard, for all plastic is sacred in the eyes of the Lord, and must be given new use.’
‘For every sin thou must inter a seed in the earth and tend to the plant that springs of it. God looks most kindly upon those with the largest forests.’
‘Thou must not believe all thou readest on Facebook, and thou must respect scientists, thine Oracles.’ ‘Transgressions shall be met with divine fury, which may appear as:
- some variety of Plague;
- acid raining from the Heavens;
iii. a rather unpleasant sequel to the Great Flood.
God reserves the right to alter these Retributions at any time without prior notice.’ With this final sentence, the children flumped down into their seats.
Thank you very much for that lovely rendition, children. The Reverend smiled approvingly.
As you all plant your forests today, remember these blessed words. They have been told unto you by God. Do not incur his wrath.
The sermon continued for an hour. There was much ardent praising.
The Reverend’s office was half the size of his church, and the ceilings were twice as high. It had been specially altered for him during the Great Renovation. He was not alone in it on this particular Sunday; a polar bear sat at attention before the desk, and a glum-looking manatee blew bubbles in a large tank. Birds and moths darted about the heads of camels and tigers, stretched languidly by the window. They had all come from their temples, churches and synagogues, much like the Reverend himself.
My friends, the Reverend chuckled, carbon dioxide levels have fallen to historic lows. The birds in the group nodded approvingly.
Furthermore, our Southern allies report that the Barrier Reef is recovering well.
Cheers abounded. This was hearty news indeed.
When I first began to study human behaviour seventy years ago, the Reverend continued, I never conceived that we could achieve this.
The room quieted, and all ears turned toward the elephant in respect.
I knew that the humans were irrational beings. They were caught in a trap of their own device, and instead of flailing about trying to get free, they were paralysed. They had the tools to ensure the longevity of their species. They knew the stakes of their behaviour. But their leaders brazenly buried the facts, focusing on the immediate quibbles of the everyday. They thirsted for votes, and they got them by sowing virulent prejudice.
Oh, and religion. They are blindly ritualistic beings. This is a curious thing about them, I find. Many of them believe precisely what they are told, attacking those who dare to question their creed.
Others, religious or not, prize rationality. They believed the scientists who foretold their doom.
But millions scorned the facts, then continued to feed their dogmas with eyes glazed over before an altar. Others stuffed their wallets.
This is where I had my Epiphany.
The menagerie responded to this with a raucous clapping of arms, beaks, and claws.
Human memories are not like ours. They are mutable. So when we surreptitiously altered the contents of all their religious texts, forcing upon them a divine obligation – when we staged Armageddon – we won the war they had waged against all life.
At this point, a young hummingbird interjected before she could be shushed. ‘How on Earth could you manage that?’
The details are irrelevant – and, in fact, incomprehensible to bipeds. Suffice to say that it involved memory implantation by subliminal messaging. We also let the pigs fly.
I digress. The humans now fervently protect this planet, having abandoned some vile tendencies besides. But we, my wild friends, do not rule over them or seek retribution. We were simply tired of waiting for them to save us.
My friends, a million forests will rise today.
In a year, we will have removed the last of the oceanic plastic.
Comrades, we have won.
We are extremely grateful to Dr Jane Goodall, DBE, for the following response to Aarushi’s work, which we are delighted to share:
First of all, it was extremely well written. Secondly it deals with the pressing problems of our times. And thirdly she frequently uses humour to discuss important issues. The image of the huge elephant standing in the pulpit to deliver a sermon to the humans before him, is at first hilarious but then becomes sobering as he reminds the congregation of the sins of their ancestors and the behaviour that almost led to the death of life on Earth. Aarushi does not, as so many young people do, forget that we are not only cruel, deliberately or not, to the animals, but to each other too. “A fortunate few plundered and pillaged, drowning out the cries of their drowning brethren with the clinking of their champagne glasses.”
From the pulpit the Reverend asks the children of the local primary school to read out the Amended Commandments – a cleverly compressed list of how we should treat each other and the natural world. In this list I was impressed by the following commandment: ‘Thou must not believe all thou readest on Facebook, and thou must respect scientists” The sermon lasts an hour and then we move to the Reverend’s large office where a large selection of the animal kingdom has gathered, arriving from their churches, mosques and synagogues.
The Revered tells his audience how the humans “now fervently protect this planet”, something that when he “ first began to study human behaviour seventy years ago” he did not believe could be achieved. And then, right at the end, the Reverend addresses the animals thus: “But we, my wild friends, do not rule over them or seek retribution. We were simply tired of waiting for them to save us.”