Mother Earth Day? What a joke! There is nothing motherly about the earth. The earth is a planet, the only one, as far as we know, with life on it. We don’t have an answer to why there is life here, but we do know that life evolves according to Charles Darwin’s theory of the Origin of Species. Species evolve over a long period of time by adapting to the environment through mutations in their genes. Those fittest to their environment are the ones who reproduce and so prolong their species. So we arrive at the incredible variety of life on earth today, where species have adapted to so many different environments.
Mother Earth Day gives us an opportunity to reflect on this.
An interesting way of looking at the earth is expressed in the Gaia theory. It ‘proposes that all organisms and their inorganic surroundings on Earth are closely integrated to form a single and self-regulating complex system, maintaining the conditions for life on the planet’. The human species is part of this complex system and we forget this at our peril. By living in an unsustainable way we are destroying the delicate balance of the planet and the result might be that our dear ‘Mother Earth’ can no longer provide the conditions in which we can thrive.
We are one of the most successful species on earth today and through our intelligence we have adapted to many different environments and in many cases have adapted the environment to our needs. As humans nothing differentiates us completely from other animals, but we have intelligence and an advanced use of language that have enabled us to develop a culture and be conscious of our own mortality. However we are still living according to very basic instincts, the hoarding instinct expressed through our rampant consumerism, the instinct that we must dominate others in order to thrive. These instincts are encouraged by the capitalist society in which many of us live. We need to use our advanced forms of reflection to see that this is not in our long term interest and does not bring happiness. We seem to often forget that we are dependent upon the earth. Because it does not affect us in the short term, we are not living in a sustainable way. The result of this is that sooner or later we will run out of the resources we need to survive.
Climate change, pollution, water shortage, over fishing, intensive farming, destruction of the rain forests, etc. etc. In order to satisfy our wants we are destroying the branch on which we are sitting. And when we become extinct, so probably will all other mammals. Look back at the history of the earth, mammals, including humans, have only been on it for a short time, other species came and went before us, extinct because the earth was no longer able to provide the conditions needed for them to thrive. Mother Earth will continue, but we won’t.
What makes us humans different is that with our ability to reflect, we know this now, so what will we do?
On the one front we see the rise of extremism and restrictions on our freedom, often in the name of religion; the destruction of species continues unabated and the race for profit is everywhere destroying the beauty of the world. The price of petrol has gone down while the temperature of the planet has never been so high.
However another front there are lots of tiny lights of hope, the millions of humans who see we are not only threatening future generations, but also destroying our own quality of life. Many of us are living differently, making many small initiatives on an individual or community level that can lead to a live able lasting and better world, a world where we are open to others and other cultures, a civilisation of respect for life in all its forms.
Which side with the balance go? What hope is left to us? What can we do? There is no time left to doubt, to be discouraged. Stop believing that buying things makes you happy, learn to be, rather than to have, act in a responsible manner, and don’t count on Mother Earth: it is up to us!