Thursday, January 30, 2014

1/31/14—Contemplating Extinction

Looks like someone needs a new fishin' spot.
There's a special place along the river where I like to sit and just be. Years back I had a habit of going to this particular spot a couple of times a week. It's within a heavily wooded shoreline and the trees on either side of the sittin' spot frame the river and view perfectly. It was cool to see the seasons change from that same vantage point. Spring to summer. Summer to fall. Fall to winter.

I must have started there in spring, because I enjoyed quite some time there before the littering started. Then every time I would go to this spot back in the woods, there would be soda bottles and bait cups and all manner of chip bags strewn about. The fishermen didn't even try to bag their trash. They just left it—and the bags it came in—where they used it.

So each time I visited, I brought a trash bag. And I picked their trash up. And I deposited it in the trashcans back in the parking lot. The same trashcans the litterers passed every time they came there to fish. And after a while I started thinking, "they probably think a fairy comes by and cleans up after them. So I'm really just enabling their behavior."

Gaia killed the dinosaurs for less.
I thought of making a sign and posting it on one of the trees. Instead, I just visited less often. And after a while, I grew so weary and disheartened that I just abandoned the spot altogether and found another.

After a month or two, it was spring again and I missed my spot. So I thought I'd give it a try. I loaded up with trash bags and hiked back into the woods to my special place, braced for all the trash I would find there. But there was none! Nothing!

I plunked down in my spot and took in everything. The sun sparkling on the river. The beauty of the opposite shoreline. The ducks and ducklings paddling by. And I looked up to see the fresh green leaves on the trees overhead and....there were at least three fishing lines and hooks caught up in the branches. It seems that, when the leaves started to come, the canopy prevented the fishermen from casting their lines!

At first I chuckled at Mother Nature's brilliance. Then it hit me. There I was worrying about saving the planet when we should all be worried about saving ourselves! Mother Nature was here billions of years before us. She survived methane air, the dinosaurs, geomagnetic reversal and all sorts of scary crap. And she came out of it looking pretty darned awesome and bountiful.

It's time to start calling a spade a spade. The earth isn't in any danger from our emissions and littering. We are. Instead of talking about climate change, we should be talking about species change. Because soon it will behoove her to choke us out, rather than suffer the case of the sniffles we're inflicting on her with our holes in the ozone and non-biodegradable toxin-infused trash. In 100 years, she'll have covered all evidence of us being here. In 1000 years, she will have recovered from our actions. And in 10,000 years, they'll have to use sonar and soil samples and carefully calibrated instruments to even know we ever existed. And Mother Nature? She'll have aged the equivalent of maybe two human weeks. 

This is an unfortunate reality of most urban shorelines.
Of course, we don't choose to see it this way, but what's going on here is a war. It's humans vs. Gaia. And we somehow have the arrogance to think we could possibly win when 99.9% of everything that's ever lived on this planet has lost. Who's the only one that's won? The gentle, unassuming ferns, that's who! To the earth, we're just another self-important species going extinct. Like the Cave Lion, T Rex and Quagga. What's a Quagga? Critters will be asking the same thing about humans a couple hundred years from now. 

So this week, consider what's really at stake with the choices you make each day—and beyond your relationship to the earth. Consider other things you may have a skewed perspective on. A pet owner may think nothing of letting their dog run off leash—until it gets hit by a car. A person may think nothing of smoking cigarettes—until they get lung cancer. A husband may think nothing of having a passing affair—until he loses his wife and children.

There is something ingrained in the human psyche that a) makes us think we're the most important and powerful thing on earth b) makes us seem beyond extinction as a species and c) allows us to justify and/or blind ourselves to things we KNOW are wrong or against our best interests.

As far as the things we justify are concerned, we know what those things are because they're the things we don't openly discuss with others. So start there. What wouldn't you tell your cubicle mate about your life? And how can you turn your thoughts around on that so that you clearly see what's at stake?

There are spiritual folk who believe earth is just one of many places a soul goes to learn lessons. And they say earth is the most beautiful and difficult of all those places. It would suck to cut your time short here only to end up in some brown, chalky, dimly lit desert in the next lifetime. We could all do well by sparing a moment to take inventory of what it means to be worthy of this place, this body, this opportunity and this gift we call life.

(Reposted from 2/12/12)

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