Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
We’re told that fewer butterflies is something to be alarmed about – and to blame humanity for. But change is normal and natural.
The world is inhabited by oodles of people with vast ranges of experience. This means we all see matters somewhat differently.
Dentists and dental hygienists, for example, routinely use mirrors during their work day. Unlike most of us, these people process images in reverse fluidly. A person who has spent decades in the shoe industry notices the footwear of everyone. Everywhere. All the time.
While visiting a botanical garden, a master gardener sees with different eyes than the average person. A residential construction worker looks at a wall and “sees” the supporting framework, the electrical wiring, and the water pipes beneath the drywall. I see an attractive paint colour.
The world is comprised of multiple perspectives times a billion. A waterfall of insights are available to us if we merely pause to inquire, to listen.
So why have we become stuck in a rut where the environment is concerned? Why is our analysis so limited, so superficial?
For decades now – at least since the first Earth Day was celebrated back in 1970 – we have been trained by environmental activists, drama queen journalists, and elementary school educators to believe two things:
- Change is bad/dangerous.
- It’s all humanity’s fault.
But this planet is a dynamic organism. Mother Earth was marching to her own drum billions of years before humans appeared. Water levels have always risen and fallen. Populations of deer, butterflies, and bees have always fluctuated. Earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, tornadoes, droughts, and hurricanes have routinely destroyed birds, beasts, and reptiles – as well as their forest, field, and wetland habitats.
The vast majority of what goes on in the natural world has absolutely nothing to do with humans. Moreover, everything alive is here today because it has learned to adapt to ever-changing circumstances, to upheaval, to ebbs and to flows.
Yet smart, thoughtful people nevertheless proclaim at dinner parties that bees are in decline and that it’s our fault. We’ve all been brainwashed. We’ve all been taught that change in the natural world isn’t normal – it’s something to get alarmed about. Change isn’t to be expected – it’s something to blame on polluters.
Instead of a lush, tropical rainforest of diverse perspectives, instead of sophisticated thinking, the environmental conversation has long been an arid, dogmatic desert.
What the world needs now is far more imagination. And a great deal more humility.
Let me speak plainly: It isn’t all about us. The rhythms of Mother Earth are long term rhythms. They were in motion before we were born – and will continue to surge and ripple after we depart. Humans think in generations (30 years) and lifespans (100 years). Neither of those time frames matter to a 4.5-billion-year-old planet.
Are there occasions and circumstances in which our behaviour affects the natural world? Of course. Is it in our own self-interest to be respectful rather than wantonly destructive? Duh. But let’s stop thinking that everything going on out there is connected to us.
We aren’t that important.