“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life, it goes on.”
-Robert Frost, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Earth’s complexity is intertwined with our own cultural human complexity, in a way that is unexplainable by modern science. At least that is what I have taken our readings this week. Edward Wilson’s description of fear of serpents, from In Search of Nature, links closely the nature’s mechanisms to our own development. Similarly, James Lovelock explains his theory that the world is run by a mechanism he calls Gaia. This concept connects us all together through life systems, feedback mechanism, and earth functions, which keep all organisms alive.
Aldo Leopold backs up these concepts by introducing his own theories, two of which I consider paramount to understand how humans are unified with nature. These concepts are both the “Land Ethic” and the “Community Concept.” The first is the land ethic, which is at its core basically explains that we need to respect land as not our own. Leopold describes it as being its own living thing. There needs to be respect for the earth. The community concept demonstrates, in his paper A Sand County Almanac that we need as a collective community to protect nature and in turn are a part of this “earth community.”
When combining this with the other two readings it became clear to me that we need to accept the idea that we are insignificant. Lovelock explains that our earth took centuries to develop into a habitable place for humans. He uses oxygen as an explanation for how the situation is perfect for life, “Our present oxygen level of 21% is a nice balance between risk and benefit; fires do take place but not so often as to offset the advantages that a high potential energy gives.” (Lovelock, p. 91) So maybe this means the world is not necessarily fragile, but is actually finally in balance. He backs this up again with the amount to methane in the atmosphere as compared to carbon dioxide. We are in complete balance.
These ideas take a dark turn from there for me. How long can we hold this balance? Are we contributing to a possible “falling out of balance?” Is this a concept that is inevitable? Lovelock would suggest we are simply coming to the end of a cycle, “the running down of the universe that made the Earth possible, and the sun, and it is the running down of the sun that has made life and us possible. It has to end sometime.” (Lovelock, p. 97) This timeline that our universe is in must settle down at some point and change our world to not be able to support life.
This dark vision is a concept that actually may get in the way the concept sustainability. Why would we try to prolong an inevitable end? If the world for our children could end in any moment, while do we necessarily want to spend the energy to preserve it? This reading brought up more questions than answers. Perhaps humans are coming to an inevitable end, but who does not want to keep this pristine paradise we call earth as much like the world we entered? I personally want to keep this world the way we found it. Maybe that should be the basis of our argument to protect our earth.