Our birthplace, Earth, is an incredibly rare planet. So far, it is the only planet we have found that can boast of such an unfathomable abundance and diversity of life. It is a great cosmic miracle that we have been so richly blessed to call it our home. We are, or at least we should be, its primary stewards. And yet …
Returning from her walk with our dog Jazz, Colleen joined me on the deck. While we stood there quietly looking out over the straits towards Mount Baker, a few blocks away, the sound of chainsaws obliterated the beautiful bird-song that we so love to hear.
I asked her, “What are they cutting down?”
Her voice cracking from a deep well of anger and sadness, she replied, “You know the house that is being re-built; they are cutting down all the big trees around it.”
She then broke into tears. As I tried to comfort her, she said, “I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s wrong with me!”
“Nothing is wrong with you,” I replied. ” You are entitled to your feelings and you are right, it is very sad and it is a waste.”
As the words left my mouth, in my heart I knew that the real question is: What’s wrong with us? The problem lies in the lack of tears, not in the shedding of them.
These trees were not diseased. They were not damaged or dangerous. They were healthy large beautiful sentinels and home to many species of birds. There was nothing wrong with them except that they were in the way. A half an acre … a few trees … just in the way. Never mind that they were many decades old and majestically graced the landscape.
A tree does not struggle when we cut it down. It just simply falls. If we were in the way, and something wanted to cut us down, it would immediately be clear that there was a steep price to pay. With trees, and our environment, we don’t realize the cost of our folly until it’s much too late.
Oh I know, many would say, “Come on now Gil, what’s wrong with cutting a few trees down here and there?”
The same thing that’s wrong with placing just a few oil rigs here and there, or dumping effluent into the ocean here and there. ‘Here and there’ ultimately ends up being ‘everywhere’.
A few thousand miles south of where we live, the Gulf of Mexico is in crisis. Those who live along its shores — humans and all other creatures — will initially suffer the most. Why? For oil to fuel our economic engine, for greed and for an unforgivable lack of imagination.
It didn’t have to be this way. We are endowed with more than sufficient intelligence to have developed clean energy sources long ago. But we bent to the will of the economic monster and closed our eyes to it. Now, we will pay the price for our indifference and the price will be exceedingly high. The price of our calloused hearts will be even higher. Apparently, wisdom is not a virtue to which we are easily predisposed.
It is so easy to take what we have for granted. All of us do it to some extent. At some point, we all experience the pain of loss. Part of our grieving process is wishing that we had spent more time noticing what we once had. More time loving and connecting. More time being thankful and less time thinking about our own needs. More time giving back for what we were so freely given.
And so, I ask again, What’s wrong with us? What will it take to wake us up?
What happens when we … are in the way?
Oil Rig Fire – Photo courtesy of the US Coast Guard via SkyTruth’s flickr photostream
Earth – Photo courtesy of the NASA Goddard Photo and Video’s flickr photostream
Mount Baker Feature Photo and Tree Thumbnail © Gil Namur
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