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CMJ's picture

            People of the world! We have problems, and these problems are as big as the earth itself. People of the world, we must solve these problems or perish. This is the discourse of every environmental theorist, writer, or scientist. We have come to a cross roads in our existence here on earth, one where we choose to live and save other species in the process, or one where we exterminate those around us, then die ourselves. Certainly bleak prospects. Either way, we shall be required to give something up, to change fundamentally, to stage a revolution, and accept that we are part of a larger ecological system.

            One way to change our behavior to reflect more ecological values is to  stop thinking of ourselves as “other” or as a more developed species, separate from the rest of so-called nature. We are a part of nature, not apart from it. Even the things we make, the houses we build, the cars we drive and the clothes we wear are now part of the larger global ecosystem; they were created out of the world, and in their new form have an effect on it. The atoms that compose these manmade things were once part of rocks, plants, animals, soil and oil, and have existed here on earth since it began. We can’t forget that. The one true innovation of the human species has been to take these atoms and transform them into something alien that other species, the water we drink and the ground we live on, have not seen before.By the term “alien” I mean something other than “other.” These things we make are alien because of their distinct and novel properties that have emerged, in a biological and geological timeframe, essentially overnight to appear on our planet. It is their artificiality that makes them alien, not because they originate from a different place. The term “other,” on the other hand, implies some impossible transcendence of natural processes and is used in the context of separating us—the people, from them—the rest of life. These small changes to our vocabulary could change our thinking fundementally to hasten the realization that all we do and all we make is in fact, part of the global ecosystem and affects the “natural” world. Then, perhaps, we can change our habits of turning benign evolved products into flash-produced, poisonous, alien ones.

            However, more is needed than simple vocabulary change, or even dialogue. In addition to unthinking ourselves and our artificial world as “other,”  it would be pertinent to engage ourselves in a process that encourages a rejection of the compulsion to classify some individuals, and some species, as better or more exalted than the rest. Hierarchies, which encourage a culture of ignorance and destructive habits, do not exist in nature.. Often, we think of the the natural ecosystem in pyramidal, hierarchical  forms, but this is deliberately misleading: it implies that plants are on the bottom, omnivores in the middle layer, carnivores above them, and humans on the top. In nature, no species can be placed above the rest because each is reliant on the others, a dependence which supports a cycle of checks and balances. Death is the essential great equalizer of all living species, and ensures that each species will survive and have room to thrive. After death, all supposed layers of the pyramid structure are subject to a universal occurrence: decomposition by tiny microorganisms, which in turn feed new plant life. Once we wiggle our minds into viewing the world ecologically, it is apparent that nature, which includes our role as humans, is cyclical.

            Our human impulse to place ourselves and the natural world in a hierarchical relation, distinctly apart, is an unfortunate habit, the result of our focusing only on small sections of the world at a time, dividing “this” from “that,” and thereby creating “others.” This is ecologically unfriendly, and I believe meaningful progress cannot be made without first approaching the way we think and changing that process. Let’s challenge ourselves, the current and future generations to think ecologically in all aspects of our lives. Then perhaps we can collectively make meaningful changes to support the health of our ecosystem.

            We know how dire our ecological situation is now. Why do we not take drastic steps to correct it? On the whole, we lack the passion and the drive to better our world. This is not to discount both the already world changing and small scale efforts a few, but to make their progress more visible, it would behoove the greater human population to participate in these acts of good will.  We can continue, with more effort and more passion, the actions we as a species are already participating in. Get down into the dirt! Be passionate, focused and driven, deeply and emotionally invested in the success of all living species. Aim to restore balance. Without passion, this will never be accomplished.

            But this is an emotion to use carefully. Passion always induces forceful and wholehearted action, which can be used for disingenuous as well as altruistic purposes. I encourage the use of passion, but not without significant emphasis on the processes of creative, considerate and wide-view thinking. Passion is essential, and it exists within all of us. Not only that, but everyone has passion for nature. Remember, there is no “other,” no nature and non-nature; we are all part of the global ecosystem. It is impossible to distance oneself from nature in an attempt to be objective, because everyone and everything has a role to play in the theater of the world.

            So please. Take the time to think about the world, and to think about it ecologically. Then take the time to act. There will be nothing more important you will do in your entire life than contribute to the salvation of millions of species. Be revolutionary! Start small, but keep in mind that there is big world out there and you are a part of it. Remember that the way you think and the words you use have an ecological impact on people who don’t speak your language, and on life forms that can’t speak at all. So, be thoughtful, critical, and inquisitive. Then, save the world. If everyone thought this way, it would be as easy as 1, 2, 3. We can do it.