(Not just metaphorically)
We’re animals. That’s not an indictment. That’s just a fact. Humans, while blessed with the evolutionary perks of intellect and self-reflection, are wholly and without defined separation a part of the animal kingdom, and exist under the same physiological rules as plankton. We are an integral part of the community of life, and it would be to our benefit to act like it, while using our aforementioned intellect to sustain Mother Nature instead of seeking to control Her. After all, opposable thumbs and the ability to reason could be put to better use than developing plug-in air fresheners. Or leaf blowers (see my assessment of gas-powered leaf blowers at www.planitgreen.com).
Physiological similarities aside, we do possess characteristics that are thus far largely undetected in other inhabitants of the Big Blue Marble, beyond the obvious benefits of a well-tuned brain exhibited by some. We have, by varying degrees, an awareness that is expressed through art, the written word, and music, an appreciation of beauty, a sense of wonder. We all have access to these attributes, personified in artists, sages, and prophets throughout history. And while others in the animal kingdom exist within the realm of their senses and instinct, we have the added ability to consider our place in the context of an expanding universe. We don’t just experience the challenges of a changing environment; we can see the causes and seek remedies.
Our role as stewards of the planet has been checkered, at best. Humans have extraordinary capabilities, and a commensurate obligation, to maintain and sustain the rich bounty of this infinitesimally small garden called Earth for our children and all those who will follow. In the vastness of the known universe, we inhabit a unique space; calling this a “miracle” is an understatement. That we have used our alleged intelligence not only to seek and create a better world, but also to exploit the planet’s gifts to our own benefit (and plausible peril) is curious. It’s ironic that a First World interpretation of “survival” — accumulating stuff over substance — can render our environment unlivable. The reality of the interdependence of all living things, from the most complex to the least, is sidelined by the quest for “more,” with little regard to how much is enough.
Still, we have the capacity to change our trajectory. To that point, there are countless individuals — many gathered in a diverse tapestry of organizations — whose mission is to do just that. A new generation of stewards is emerging to join that mission. Others in the animal kingdom have relied on instincts in the natural order to maintain a relatively stable environment from the time that Life actually began. It would be to our great benefit to take a breath and learn from that community, while using the advantages of our station to appreciate and sustain the gifts that support our existence.