Fall in love again with the Earth

Posted January 31st, 2008 in Blog Comments Off on Fall in love again with the Earth

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

I want to share something from a book I’m reading right now. It’s Thomas Homer-Dixon’s The Ingenuity Gap (Facing the Economic, Environmental, and Other Challenges of an Increasingly Complex and Unpredictable World).

Homer-Dixon is on the faculty at of the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Toronto. I recommend his books, this one and The Upside of Down, groundbreaking work that helps us rethink our world.

Anyway, these are the short excerpts that struck me the other day. He is talking here about the haze that Haze over eastern United States - NASAhas spread over our world because of human-caused pollution, blocking our view of the once-brilliant night sky:

Why am I so concerned about haze? To me, it signifies something more general than just pollution or atmospheric processes. As haze cuts us off from vivid skies and landscapes, it attenuates our ties to the wider, external reality in which we are embedded. It is just one of the many ways we are constructing — inside that wider reality — an artificial self-referential world.

Increasingly, only the collective human ego — what I call “the Big I” — bounds and defines this constructed world. We subordinate, alter, reinvent almost everything around us according to our own interests…

And then, some pages later:

The everyday experience of a person living in industrialized countries or, more generally, in the planet’s megacities, barely touches on the natural world. On a day-to-day basis, most of us in rich countries are increasingly sealed within the hermetic and sometimes illusory world of the human-made, the human-scaled, and the human-imagined.

We are losing our sense of place in the scheme of things; a sense of how strange the world is, and of the limits, ultimately, of our knowledge and control. We are losing the awe, the respect, and the recognition of mystery that remind us to be prudent.

It’s hard to have a relationship with someone or something you never really see, never touch, never embrace, never get acquainted with (sorry, old teachers, for ending a sentence with a preposition).

How can we know our place in the universe if we cannot lay eyes on the universe, cast our gaze out into endless space and get a sense, a feel, for its immensity and magnificence? You can’t know someone if that someone is only an idea in the head; and you sure can’t have love and intimacy with that idea.

What one relates to is what one feels with the senses and emotions — so its easier to be in relationship with cars and plasma screens, with consumer items and drugs that make our pain and loneliness go away — than with the idea that we are in a planetary crisis, that we are a species involved in the sixth great extinction, that we are, as far as we know, the only conscious beings in the observable universe — and that we are destroying the planet that gave birth to us and made these conscious beings possible.

That idea just does not feel as real as the laptop or the Blackberry.

Ecological hope, which means hope for biodiverse life, however that unfolds in the future as we get through the crisis time of the next century or so, rests in our restoring our primary relationships, which means our experience, our bodily, sensual experience of the natural world (which is also us). We must fall in love again with this Earth, with all its natural beauty and wonder. Because when we love it again, deeply, passionately, intimately, like any lover we cherish and hold in reverence, we will not want to harm it anymore, we will not want to do violence to it anymore, we will not want to abuse, manipulate and exploit it anymore for our selfish ends.

So, whether it’s snowing, bitter cold, raining, sunny, warm, dry, or humid — go out and take a walk. See what is around you. You will also see what we have done —

as I do when I go out from my little flat in Milwaukee to walk along Lake Michigan, the lake I love and cherish, and see, experience in my body and soul, the abuse we have unleashed upon it, the invasive species, the algae blooms — and now its rapid receding, result of global warming and the Army Corps of Engineers’ dredging of the St. Clair River.

Night sky over the Grand Tetons - NASA
And I see still its beauty. And I watch the moon rise over it. And I wish I could turn off the city lights so that I could see the stars at night, the Milky Way arcing over the water.

I sit at my computer by the front room window and two fox come prancing down the sidewalk, joyful, one chasing the other — mating season. At night near my friends’ house, we hear the soft call of a screech owl high up in the evergreen trees next door.

Even in this polluted city, this damaged spot on our planet, there is so much to see to make us fall in love again — and to want deep within ourselves to end the abuse, to cherish what we love, to not let this terrible thing unfold that we humans have unleashed.

Ecological hope. Yes, go take a walk today.

[tags] Thomas Homer-Dixon, The Ingenuity Gap, The Upside of Down, haze, human-caused pollution, natural world, destroying the planet, love the Earth, take a walk[/tags]

Photo credits:
Haze over the eastern United States – NASA
Night sky over the Grand Tetons – NASA

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