My great-grandfather died at over 100 years of age. He was very alert and remembered many things and events that he went through and with whom. My grandfather lived into his late nineties, was very healthy and was active in his fields very late in his age, and if it was not for an accident, he would have kept working.

I put myself in trouble one day when my curiosity at that young age made me decide to be by the side of my grandfather Abu Essa from the time he woke up at dawn until all family members retired to bed. I told him what I wanted and he happily agreed and told me “you must be tough and patient, city boy” to endure the work you are going to experience, and the excited boy in me just smiled.

The next morning we were up at dawn and he told me to get ready. Then I mounted one tough strong mule while he was atop a horse. Oh, sorry – I forgot to mention that the very first thing he did when he woke up was drink a small cup of virgin olive oil on an empty stomach. Naturally, I asked what was that – he said that this scrubs your veins, keeps you alert and maintains your strength.

We then headed to the field while it was still dark to pick ripe figs. Then when sunlight broke on the horizon we headed to the wheat fields to harvest. There I learned the hardest lesson of my life and understood what tough meant! The sun was up and the heat unbearable, yet everybody worked with the same vigor without slowing down, except for this city boy who could barely move a yard or two while the person who was next to me was already 50 yards ahead!

The moral of my story is to tell you how healthy our forefathers were because of the pure and clean environment they lived in. Everything they had was fresh and from the home garden, and they raised their own animals and birds without worrying whether things were organic or chemically treated. That is why they lived healthy and passed away healthy!

The talk is really about the environment which is full of allergens, pollution and all types of dirt. All these elements make us exposed to various illnesses that affect most of our systems. A clean and healthy environment ensures that our food is safe, our water clean and our air free of insects, and no cockroaches crawling around.

I am sure that everybody knows that a clean environment helps in protecting us against diseases, which in turn gives our children the opportunity to develop and grow normally. Please keep our environment clean.

Final word: “If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it.” — David Sobel