Gaian Connection: Our Relationship With The Living Biological Planet we Call Home
The timing for this post feels just right due to the latest tragedy in The Phillipines brought upon by Typhoon Haiyan, which by the way, was the largest typhoon to touch down on earth since recorded history. All unsolved issues will re-appear at some point if they are not confronted and resolved. Today, we are confronting the realities of a lack of care for the natural environment and a century of ever increasing exploitation of our finite natural resources. We live inside worlds of our own making, huge cities all over the world that make us marvel at the incredible might and power of humanity and our ability to shape and alter the environment. We created bubbles of human made environments which isolate us from nature with virtual worlds and concrete but this isolation comes at a cost. Our disconnection from the land is taking its toll on humanity and over time we have slowly become estranged from the source of it all. We ignore the fact that we are biological beings made form this earth, and as such, are dependent on clean air and water, on rich and uncontaminated soils, and on the complex and mixed biodiversity that makes up the matrix of life.
To give a little perspective I’m going to quote James Gustave Speth who in his book The Bridge at the Edge of the World describes in detail the crisis we now face:
“Half the worlds’s tropical and temperate forests are now gone. The rate of deforestation in the tropics continues at about an acre a second. About half the wetlands and a third of the mangroves are gone. An estimated 90 percent of the large predator fish are gone, and 75 percent of marine fisheries are now overfished or fished to capacity. Twenty percent of the corals are gone, and another 20 percent severely threatened. Species are disappearing at rates about a thousand times faster than normal. The planet has not seen such a spasm of extinction in sixty-five million years, since the dinosaurs disappeared. Over half the agricultural land in drier regions suffers from some degree of deterioration and desertification. Persistent toxic chemicals can now be found by the dozens in essentially each and every one of us….. Everywhere earth’s ice fields are melting.There are over two hundred dead zones in the ocean due to over fertilization. Freshwater withdrawals doubled globally between 1960 and 2000, and are now over half of accessible runoff. The following rivers no longer reach the oceans in the dry season: the Colorado, Yellow, Ganges, and Nile, among others.”
But despite these harsh realities we madly drive on ignoring all the warning signals and ignoring the voices of those throughout the world who have been telling us for ages that the planet is alive and we are slowly destroying it. We forget that our current civilization is only about a couple hundred years old and while it has provided great things for humanity maybe this isn’t the best way, and it is certainly not the only way to do things. Maybe industrial civilization can become sustainable, which I think is unlikely, but one thing is for certain; we can no longer afford to continue with “business as usual”, we need radical change. If we wish to avoid calamity and chaos, we need fundamental changes to our world. We stand at a critical point, or like the great Carl Sagan said “a branch point”, in history. What we do today will have huge impacts on the future of our species. How we decide to respond to our current crisis will mean everything. We have several options: We can fall into resignation and think all is lost, we can join the religious and say to ourselves that everything is in god’s hands, we can join the deniers and think there is no problem to deal with, we can join those who think that everything will be alright somehow if we just muddle through our issues, we can join those who want to pass the puck along and deflect the problems to future generations or to those who live in parts of the world most affected by climate change. Or, you can join the solutionists who think that our problems can be fixed and that answers can and must be found. We each have the power, individually and collectively, to change the world and our generation can transform this planet. Be courageous and have heart because we might be our species last opportunity to change and adapt before it becomes another failed evolutionary attempt and our passage through the wonderful miracle of life is discontinued. To make this change happen it’s essential that we re-connect with nature and re-learn to cherish life, all life, for the gift that it truly is. We have to come to the realization that the planet is not a dead rock floating through space, but rather a living biological entity, just like you and I, and our survival is dependent on it.
We Are The Earth
Human beings, along with all other living organisms who have evolved through time, are dependent on this planet for survival. We were born from the Earth and Its the planet that breeds people not the other way around. We are not born into the world, we are born out of the world and recognizing this subtle change in the use of language can makes a world’s difference. We have to stop treating the planet like we are not a part of it. We have forgotten where our food, air and water comes from. We don’t pay attention to the destination of our garbage and waste. There is no question that human beings hold a special purpose in planet earth. I think there is a reason we are the dominant species and have evolved further than all other life forms. We have thinking brains which grant us the capacity to imagine and create, to project our thoughts and to shape and influence the physical world, altering reality. Maybe our sole purpose and the reason we were granted dominion over the earth was so we could nurture and protect life, the single greatest miracle in the universe and the reason for it all. I don’t think we were put here just to consume, treating the planet like a buffet restaurant for us to feast off of eternally, continually feeding our pleasures and vices. Sometimes we forget that as a species we hold huge amounts of power and our might is such that our actions have an effect on the entire environment of our planet. All things on Earth are interconnected and our actions have consequences that ripple through the systems which we are a part off. This entails a great sense of responsibility and we must be much more careful given the amount of power we have. “With great power comes great responsibility” and if SpiderMan grew into this understanding so could we.
“The stars, Earth, stones, life of all kinds, form a whole in relation to each other and so close is this relationship that we cannot understand a stone without some understanding of the great sun. No matter what we touch, an atom or a cell, we cannot explain it without knowledge of the universe. The laws governing the universe can be made interesting and wonderful to children, more interesting than things in themselves, and they begin to ask: What am I? What is the task of humanity in this wonderful universe?
-Maria Montessori, To Educate the Human Potential
“Or, you can join the solutionists who think that our problems can be fixed and that answers can and must be found.”
This statement really resonates with me, There are current practices being carried out in both the developed and developing world that are known to be unsustainable and detrimental to the health of our planet. I believe the blame deserves to be widespread. Of course, the leaders that fight every day to resist changes that will cause their wallets to take a hit are the greatest evil. Monetary gain and competitive edge are their key motivations and they will do whatever is in their power to accomplish them.
I think its fair to assume that the elite and those in control of economy, industry and agriculture will not change their behavior unless the common folk, everyday people like us, force their hand by refusing to participate in their market. One of the most valuable players in this shift of behavior are those who expose how these unsustainable practices are threatening our health as individuals and that of our planet. An essential step in the right direction is for the common folk to become educated on how our collective well being is currently being degraded and how our future, as well as the future of our species is being threatened. In order to spark a change we must change our individual behaviours first, followed by our families, followed by our communities, followed by our geographical regions, ultimately then can we accomplish the goal of global sustainablitiy.