Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Earth's Future Is Our Future

While I have deeply-held spiritual beliefs, I do not for a moment think that transcendent agency was involved in humanity's appearance on the earth. In my view, we just happened to arise owing to the potential inherent in the universe for development toward greater and greater complexity. To assume otherwise is to embrace a hubris that is largely responsible for the degradation, despoliation and perhaps ultimate destruction of our habitat.

In today's paper, a Star reader Kevin Farmer effectively expresses the situation that we find ourselves in today:

Re: Cooler planet, better health, Editorial June 29
In his recent column, (“Was Rachel Dolezal on to something?”), Rick Salutin poetically captured a basic truth: “Each individual is hewn organically from material reality and returns there eventually.”

Without wanting to co-opt Salutin’s discussion of race and group identity, I wonder why we do not identify more with that “material reality” from which we are so clearly hewn; namely living Earth. In fact, I would argue we are not “hewn” from living Earth at all; rather we are expressions of it. Only our fleeting sense of self makes us feel separate.

To paraphrase Alan Watts: Life did not appear on Earth like a flock of birds alighting on a barren tree; rather life came out of that tree as its flowers. In the same way that some trees are simply flowering trees, Earth is simply a life-ing and, at least for now, a people-ing “rock.”

This claim might seem like new age fluff, but it is supported by hard science. Life simply might have been inevitable on a planet such as Earth. And while it might be fluffy to think of human life as an act of self-expression by living Earth – to think that living Earth currently “identifies” as mostly human – it is entirely reasonable to wonder why human self-expression is increasingly devoid of identification with living Earth.

So, I am perplexed by the prevailing norm to timidly frame calls for environmental action in terms of furthering our self-interest; as though there were ever any such distinction. It is true that “healing the planet will make us healthier.” But the real issue is that destroying living Earth is making us sick – more than just physically.

We do not have a clear definition of “life,” but, whatever it is, Earth is bursting with it. We are all temporary patterns in the incomprehensible flow of matter and energy that is the ecosphere of living Earth. As we disrupt and destroy this flow on a planetary scale, it should come as no surprise that what we are doing to living Earth, we are doing to ourselves.

Life on Earth might have been inevitable. But that does not mean that human life was, or is, inevitable. And, unlike birds on a tree, we cannot fly away after fouling our nest.
Ironically, as we struggle with the concepts of identity and self, it is our selfishness as “individuals” that is destroying the very wellspring of our selves: living Earth.
Who are we, really, if we knowingly continue to do this?

Kevin Farmer, Toronto


  1. Lorne, when it comes to creator and creation then I am at a loss as I have very little understanding.

    However, as humans we are on the path of self-destruction. We must pause think and stop our journey of self-destruction and seek the path of self-preservation. It is incumbent upon us that we do that for the sake of coming generations.

    1. We seem so fixated on the here and now, LD, that future generations seem to merit little consideration. It is a very unfortunate self-absorption that will likely result in dire consequences for everyone, now and in the future.