Back with the sound of the bulbul

Back with the sound of the bulbul

The bulbul — the nightingale of the East. (Reuters)

After a summer of absence, I returned home to Saudi Arabia a few days ago. I knew I was home when I woke to the sound of the bulbul — the nightingale of the East — which has the most gorgeous and musical birdsong I have ever heard. Hearing the onomatopoeic bulbul’s song never fails to take me back to my childhood in Taif and Makkah, enveloping me in the joy of my youth and the love of my family. To me, it is a song of memory, one small element that pierces through the otherwise barren nature of Saudi Arabia. Above all, though, it is a song of great musicality that, to my mind at least, may have given birth to music itself.

The bulbul bird welcomed me home to Saudi Arabia this time as I returned from a magical trip on the Mediterranean Sea with family and friends. While the Mediterranean is most impressive and beautiful in its scenery and history, it was the exquisite company on this trip that has stayed with me the most. From that lovely dream I awoke again at home, through the magical song of the bulbul. Here I am back in my comfort zone, in the land of my childhood, but also back with some thoughts I want to express about a new year anxiously beginning as the summer heat of Arabia begins to pull back.

As much as we are able to recognize the problems we face today, as much as we try to remain optimistic and hopeful in our human ability to tackle them, I have to admit that I currently see our global concerns worsening rather than improving. Over my lifetime, we have made many advances, but it seems we are now in a rut — and it is a dangerous rut to be trapped in. More than anything, this current period will be remembered as one in which we understood but failed to do anything substantial about our environmental destruction. The weak treatments and measures we are taking lag far behind the rapidly worsening health of our patient, Mother Earth. We have no choice now but to entirely change our approach and our way of life.

The environment cannot wait any longer for us to resolve our disagreements and to get our act together.

Hassan bin Youssef Yassin

All the efforts we have made up until now have made next to no difference. A total rethink and reboot are therefore needed, beginning with the education of young and old alike in a new environmental consciousness, where cutting waste, saving water and energy, and living sustainably in all aspects of life are simply the common-sense norm. The environment cannot wait any longer for us to resolve our disagreements and to get our act together. Let those who still argue about whether climate change is man-made or not just step aside and allow those who are ready to act find some real solutions. I will not live in the past, and now it is time for the next generation to step up and show us what can be done.

As I rest after a long journey and take the time to reflect, I hear the bulbul’s song tell me: “Nature offered me the gift of life to sing my beautiful song, but if you allow our Mother Nature to get sick, I will no longer be here to sing.”

  • Hassan bin Youssef Yassin worked closely with Saudi petroleum ministers Abdullah Tariki and Ahmed Zaki Yamani from 1959 to 1967. He headed the Saudi Information Office in Washington from 1972 to 1981, and served with the Arab League observer delegation to the UN from 1981 to 1983.
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