On hikes I’ve seen wild cats and wild pigs, golden eagles and turkey vultures,
stinking skunks and hissing serpents. Wild animals are interesting enough, but
what really amazes me is the more basic survival drama evident in a flower or
tree growing out of a chunk of solid rock.
Animals have bones, muscles and complex brains. They have eyes, ears, noses
— the ability to identify threats and run away. But the tree growing from the
crack in the cliff face has just the bare minimum of water, soil and nutrients
required for survival, plus its genetically programmed will to live. For some
reason that seems more remarkable.
Life exists with such a fierce determination on this planet that it seems strange
to imagine our puny little species, which has been here for a mere hundred thousand
of the earth’s five billion years, posing much of a threat. My hunch is that
as long the earth maintains its current orbit, the climatic conditions for life
will continue until the sun blows up.
We have an "environmental movement" which presumes to act on behalf
of all living things that are not human. It’s noble and perhaps inevitable that
humans imagine we are so all-powerful that we can protect the
earth, but this seems to blind us to the more important issue: we need the earth
to protect us.
Earth will survive the introduction of all-terrain vehicles in our national
forests. It will outlast the drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge. It’ll go on despite the extinction of thousands of jungle frogs.
The real issue is whether we will survive. This is just a wild guess,
but I can’t help thinking the elements of our planet’s biosphere that were here
100,000 years ago when our species evolved into its current form need to remain
here if we are to survive.
Humans were born into an earth with oceans and forests teeming with life. Modern
humans are busy cutting down forests and turning oceans into deep-water
deserts. Can humanity survive without healthy oceans and vibrant forests? Yeah,
until it can’t anymore.
I tend to write about these things as they occur to me. The observations may not be new to you but they are new to me. Lately I’ve been thinking we need nature a lot more than it needs us. I’ve often said the best thing people can do for the wilderness is stay the hell out of it. It may well also be the best thing we can do for ourselves.