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.
Spot on Tom. You’re right.
I’ve wanted to take the time to write a more thoughtful reponse to this, but this, unfortuately, is not that time. Before this message scrolls-off into your archives, I had to say something.
I agree that “saving the Earth” is shorthand for “keeping the Earth in a condition that’s inhabitable by us.” I guess a lot of people don’t understand that distinction.
I went through a phase of thinking that the only way to save intact ecosystems was to forbid human entry completely. But humans lived in relative harmony with the remainder of the other species we depend on in ways we don’t yet understand. (Or perhaps, don’t understand in a way that some of our ancestors used to.)
But I’ve come to believe that people who don’t have some connection and experience with nature absent of most human-caused damage won’t see the value in preservation. So my efforts are about encouraging people to experience wild places, in hopes that they’ll see why they’re so crucially valuable.
Every week on The WildeBeat, I’m trying to show people this without preaching, encourage without pushing. I’ll leave it to others to judge the result.
Yesterday I went hiking among some ancient redwoods and today I woke up convinced that to kill one is a wanton, deliberate act of murder.
I guess that proves your point.