Climate change may be global, but its effects are local – and ultimately very personal. We are all deeply affected by the mere possibility of a dying world, a world that many of us hardly take time to notice as we go about our busy lives. As Bill Prescott noted in the preceding article, facing global climate change is not simply a question of finding solutions. It’s a question of understanding who we think we are, and what we think the world is. Here, Kari Berger reminds us that to be human is to be an animal – and that the world is richer than we know. Kari is a staff member at IN CONTEXT.
The offices of IN CONTEXT are surrounded by a wonderful variety of leaf shapes filtering sunlight, bedecked with dew, carrying, sheltering and feeding creatures, moving in wind, and blossoms and seeds that come and go in their seasons. Days lengthen and shorten around the work day. Stars, clouds, sun, rain pour their energies onto my shoulders as I come and go.
What touches me usually has to do with human cultures, plants, the lives of animals – things that tend to be put in the realm of anthropology or natural history but are in the realm of the heart and soul for me. Those things have more lasting power in my life than the daily news. I could be more aggressively informed about the world of politics, policy and economics; but I eagerly notice the pupation of ladybugs, and I marvel, awe-struck to tears at times, at a cat’s wild beauty, the percussion of hummingbird wings, the quiet songs of honeysuckle – priceless "commodities" in our world defined, pervasively, by dollar values.
As a standard for comparing large dollar amounts, the price of Alaska, purchased from Russia in 1867 for $7,200,000, has served me well since fourth grade. But these days, when billionaires are no longer very rare, this measure is antiquated. The concept of buying a piece of Earth did not strike me as ludicrous then. Now I struggle to comprehend values which express our Earth’s richness or losses in dollars.
After all, we are really talking about ways of life: languages and cultures, stories, beliefs, ways of thinking and perceiving; about how light strikes particular land forms and bodies of water; insects whose small, private lives are complex and beautiful; eggs full of promise; and the abundance of life forming a home on this Earth. Behind dollar signs are concealed the steamy breath of foxes, a clean breeze lifting the feathers of a swallow, the marvels of frogs in foggy swamps, sunbleached stones and bones on beaches washed with sea water much like our own blood.
We need to be activists, each of us, passionately involved in ways that touch and challenge us to restore health in the world. Amidst the rhetoric and desperation we need to remember why doing this is important. It’s important simply because we’re here, and Earth and life are beautiful. It’s important for our souls’ health and because as humans we are still learning to care about beings beyond ourselves.
It’s important because we want to live, as all life does. We want to live well, and we need to examine what living well means. Animals, plants, beaches, forests, soil, water, air – these things are here not for us but with us, part of the shimmering, resilient net of life.
I believe that life will last long after we are gone, no matter what we do short of blasting the planet to bits or changing its orbit somehow, for life is strong. Living things were here long before humans were differentiated as a species, and very much longer before human consciousness differentiated itself from the rest of life.
Feel the animal that you are: hair, muscles, teeth, feeding, mating, giving birth, rearing young, playing, exploring, grooming, dying. Feel a part of this living Earth, and rejoice!