Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Earth does not belong to us...

... we belong to the Earth. Yeah, I know it's a bumper sticker slogan, but is there a better way to describe how our actions are connected to and affect all the other life on the planet? Or put another way, can one better describe how our survival is dependent upon the survival of all the other life with which we share this precious Earth? I believe the acknowledgment of the interconnectedness of all life on earth, especially how it affects human beings, is the most important factor in our long term survival. Are you not concerned about the survival of the human race in the future? How about your own survival or that of your children?

Think about it. Where did the food you ate for breakfast come from? What will happen to that food source if we continue to waste, degrade and plunder the natural environment in which it was harvested? What would happen if all (or even most) of the bees in the US disappeared next year? No bees, no fruit, vegetables, nuts or grains. Think this sounds like a sci-fi apocalyptic doomsday scenario? Since 2006 in the US, commercial honey bee operators started reporting the loss of 30-90% of their hives. The bees simply disappeared and did not return to the hives, leaving the queen to starve to death. If you think this only affects honey production, you are in for a surprise. According to the Agricultural Research Service of the USDA, "About one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination."

Now known as colony collapse disorder, to date there is no definitive explanation for this continued honey bee die off. Some leading contenders:
  • Overuse of new pesticides developed in the 1990's
  • Several invasive parasites introduced to the US in the 1990's
  • Higher virus and bacterial infection due to lowered bee immune systems (from unknown causes)
  • Lack of pollen diversity (large monoculture plantings)
  • Environmental stressors due to climate change, water pollution and habitat destruction
  • Some combination of all of the above
The alarming fact is that all of those causes are from human activity (either intentional or otherwise). This is simply one example of how we are sowing the seeds of our own destruction because we are not acknowledging our dependence and interconnectedness with all other life.

If we continue to consume, degrade and destroy the resources of the earth with such reckless abandon, we will be the ones to suffer. As a dear friend of mine likes to say, "Nature bats last." If there is a massive die off of humanity, the rest of life on the planet will recover, take over and eventually restore the wastelands we will leave behind. The only suffering will be our own, of our own making. Fortunately, we can make conscious changes now to avert the worst disasters. Unfortunately, it is too late to avert them all (like global climate change which is already occurring).

Beyond the apocalyptic, fear mongering message (which I dislike, but is sometimes necessary to raise awareness), I think the hopeful message is that the alternative is not painful. Yes, we have to change our attitudes and behaviors, but for what? How about a more beautiful world filled with more plants and animals and less concrete and asphalt? More responsible use of the earth's precious resources and less waste and garbage? More healthy living environments and less pollution? More healthy people and less famine? Living in harmony with each other and the environment instead of conquering, consuming and destroying it? That doesn't sound like a sacrifice, but a world in which we would all be more happy and content. How can we turn our backs on that future?