So many people have been writing about how they are grieving the damage humans have done to the earth, and their fear that we will damage the earth irreparably. As a scientist, and one who knows that the best we can do is check hypothesis (AKA guess) against data, I have a good idea of how science works and its limitations. Nothing is ever solid. Paradigm change happens all the time. I have a degree in Astronomy, and I know that the universe is unbelievably beautiful, unimaginably complex and interconnected, far beyond our powers or understanding, and that nothing that happens is random.
I know that the regenerative powers of Mother Gaia, our planetary life support system, are enormous. The worst case scenario — atomic holocaust — would not kill all the people, it will just kill off those who are living unsustainably. Those who know how to live with respect for the earth, will not only live, but will know what to do to stay alive and healthy. I expect it will take nature a couple of thousand years to clean up the mess, and that’s just the blink of an eye, geologically speaking.
I wrote this in 2004. It’s at the end of “A Circle of Hope.”
I was reminded yesterday of something that gave me great hope at the time, but there was a further lesson to be drawn from it: there’s a business called Ocean Arks, that designs systems to deal with various kinds of water waste — like the Living Machines in Burlington and at Findhorn that deal with sewage. John Todd designed a system for a candy company, to handle 10% of their waste…
“One Friday a computer malfunctioned and sent 100 percent of the waste in to the eco-machine, overloading the system. “A godawful mess — foam, fats, oil, dead fish — everywhere,” says Todd. Disgusted employees turned off the pumps and went home for the weekend. But when they returned on Monday, the eco-machine had rebalanced itself. “They were so startled by this self-healing; that’s what turned the tide and allowed us to continue with other projects,” says Todd, who confesses surprise himself.” (from story in Hope Magazine, Jan/Feb 2004, written by Sarah Tuff)
This is Gaia, in small, an eco-system that’s capable of handling an overload of toxic stuff. Humans created the mess, but humans also designed the solution and when they did something magical happened: nature joined the fight. One-celled creatures and plants and fish somehow cooperated to deal with the mess. Guess what, everybody – WE ARE NOT ALONE. Even the algae are fighting to save planet earth. Nature is on our side and ready to help the moment we open the door — remember the 40 pound cabbages at Findhorn, and the rainforest that’s regenerating under the pines of Gaviotas. There’s this huge process working toward health, awareness, consciousness, compassion – and it’s bigger than we are, big as the planet, maybe even big as the universe (Today I believe for sure as big as the universe) and our circle dancing community is part of it. We are part of how the human community re-balances itself — we don’t have to know how, all we have to do is keep on doing what we do.
More evidence for my hypothesis: I heard about this story a while back. People removed a hundred year old dam, and the salmon started swimming back up it. When I googled it, looking for facts, this is what I found: What happens when you demolish a dam. It took two weeks for salmon to return. In the story, they don’t say how extraordinary this is. The dams have been there for 100 years. It has been a hundred years since a salmon has returned to its spawning ground. Generations of salmon have lived and died without returning to their special spot. How did they know how to return, where to go?
I also read a story about how removing pigs and rabbits from a small Pacific island allowed the native flora and fauna to rebound, and it happened faster than anyone expected. When I googled it I found a lot of scholarly papers and more complete stories. The process has been done on many many islands, and it’s more complex than my simple description makes it sound. Alas it involves killing the invasive animals. But nature does rebound.
In 2010, the Nature Conservancy and other organizations bought a huge “station” in Australia. Europeans had tried to grow cattle and sheep on huge tracts of land in a region where the dry climate made it very difficult. So this was an experiment in returning to the indigenous ways of managing land. Many positive results have happened since.