The mariner returned recently from the Southwest. It was important to see his children again; that was a fulfilling experience. Mariner also went to the Southwest to visit the Sonora desert. He has never been to a desert biome and that experience, too, was fulfilling.
Now, about a week back in Iowa, he had time to absorb the impact of the visit. The desert experience reminded him that it has been a long time since he visited the planet he lives on.
Perhaps a visit to our home – our planet – is something each of us should do on a regular basis. Homo sapiens pushed aside Earth to make room for human-specific priorities. This is our prerogative; evolution has provided humans with propensities that encourage redesigning our environment to fit our needs and that enable us with technologies that can create new potential for our species. Wrapped up in our concrete cities, our electronic gadgetry, our quest for comfort and privilege, we forget that we are offspring of our planet.
Many people, of course, feel they return to nature to camp, jog, walk, and other human purposes. This is not the same thing. This is like visiting one’s invalid great grandfather not to restore the bond between the two of you, or to look genuinely after his needs but to impose on him your own personal accomplishments and interests. Truth be told, wise old grandpa couldn’t care less; he has his own reality to deal with. And so it is with the wise old parent of all of us: Earth.
Had we, over the millennia, considered our planet and its biosphere to be part of the formula for success, perhaps we may not be causing the sixth extinction, we may not have allowed Carbon imbalance, we may not have been so destructive that we have our own epoch – the Anthropocene, created because our trashiness has literally changed the surface of the Earth.
Every one of our species should visit Earth every few months. The visit entails setting aside human interpretations of what we see. This is a good time to practice empathy and imagination; empathy is something humans should exercise frequently anyway because empathy is not used when it should be.
Hello, field mouse. You seem busy. Why do you scurry so much? Is the space you live in adequate and satisfactory to your needs? You caught a cricket. Will you carry the cricket back to a nest? How can I help you defend your environment?
Hello, hawk. How far do you fly to find your meals? What do you eat? Are there places for you to nest safely? How can I help you defend your environment?
Hello, turtle. Hello, opossum. Hello, bluebird. Hello, frog. Hello, monarch butterfly. Hello, bee. Hello, rain forest. Hello, bat. Our fellow inhabitants suffer for our lack of empathy and respect for their environmental needs. We humans have the ability to push aside any life form and any ecological presence so we can build Interstates, convert hundreds of acres from open land to super malls with room for us to park our cars. Our capability to overrule nature is a power. Power corrupts. Homo sapiens is so corrupt, in fact, that we don’t provide proper habitat even for our own. Millions starve to death. War, an antiquated tool, is used too easily.
Recently, Stephen Hawking proposed that Homo sapiens will be extinct within 10,000 years. The first signs of human ritual occurred about 10,000 years ago. We are halfway through our time on this planet. No doubt, many other residents are cheering that day.
Mariner urges you to spend a half day in the wilderness – meaning more than ten blocks from a sidewalk and paved street. As you walk, take your time to find tiny little environments, small creature environments, and wide-ranging environments. Stop and empathize. The other inhabitants will appreciate the rare, good vibes.