By Larry Feinstein

The Water Planet

Planet Earth. Image by NASA

You know, usually a title is supposed to describe the story that follows, but in this instance, I have chosen to travel in the opposite direction. Actually, I am hoping that by the time we get to the end of this mini-diatribe, I will have made sense of the terribly obtuse header.

Like any story, it’s probably a good idea to start at the beginning. I confess to being terribly upset at the overall state of things. Since I started doing my podcast, which consists of extracting certain news stories during the week and commenting on them, I have had these terrible delusions of being an important voice that needs to be heard. Before you reach for the net, I am simply referring to my private state of mind. I think to myself, what would it be like if what I said made a difference?

I feel a little like Albert Einstein, not in terms of my intellectual prowess, believe me, rather like some simpleton searching for a formula that can explain our behavior. Now, as a closeted newsman, I look at two seemingly unrelated issues that are actually inseparable, especially if you peel away that facade of fiction. One is how we have been treating each other for thousands and thousands of years. Second, or more precisely tied for first, what are we doing to this planet and all its other inhabitants?

We are, each and every one of us, members of the same species, the Homo sapiens. In a sense, it means that our parts are interchangeable with each other. All the differences you and I perceive with each other, don’t mean a thing. Your heart would work just fine in my body and it wouldn’t matter what color you were, what god you believed in or how much money you had in the bank, or sheep in the field.

I have no idea how we began to discriminate between each other. Were we threatened by what we perceived as differences? Did we begin by sharing and then become frightened we would have to do without? How did strangers become unwelcome in our world of familiarity? It was some moment, thousands of years ago when human division became the math of our survival and superiority. Winners and losers forced their way into the parlance of our species. Dominance and servitude became the norm so many, many years ago, creating an imbalance that has finally become unsustainable.

Over the millennia, we became quite inept in separating our treatment of each other from our treatment of the natural world we inhabit. We lost sight of our being guests, like every other living creature on this planet. The major difference between us and every other living thing here is that we have been gifted the ability to understand what we are doing. We have knowingly shirked this responsibility, and there are no excuses, none. It is impossible for us to come to terms with the harm we have caused our home until we can look at how we are treating each other. I can’t find a defensible posture that justifies the unspeakable cruelty we have rained down on our family of man.  We have used our incredible imagination to construct scenarios that seemingly leave us with no choice but to punish our neighbors.

Now, I want you to think about an incredibly small percentage: .002 percent. It is the minuscule amount of time our species has been around, versus the life of this planet. We strut around like Emperors of the Eternal, and we just got here. There are green turtles on the beaches of Costa Rica that for countless generations have been laying their eggs at the exact same time at the exact same location. There are infinite stories just like theirs, and we seemingly don’t care. Why is that? The world’s wildlife populations have declined by two-thirds in the last 50 years. Today, scientists report that more than a million species are now at risk of extinction. Walled-in by skyscrapers or struggling for shelter, we are unable to see nature’s house of cards wavering in the winds of our distractions.

The vast majority of us are so incredibly disconnected from nature that when we read about the looming climate catastrophes, they don’t seem real. How many of us have seen an iceberg? How many of us have witnessed the slash and burn in the Amazon? In the so-called First World, we are consumed by progress; preservation is its nemesis. We get as far away from nature as possible, and the thought of embracing it is something we simply don’t have time for. We think we are creating the world in our image, having no idea what it actually looks like, what it has always looked like.

Today, more than 100 million people across the United States don’t even have a park within a 10-minute walk of home, particularly true in low-income communities. Imagine you are a child in Gaza and you are cautiously stepping over the rubble that was your home, your parents entombed under the shattered concrete? The more deprived we are, the more depraved our treatment of each other. Where is the wonder in viewing a golden sunset or the sound of water as it rushes over a rocky precipice to a waiting pond below?

Unless we are able to see each other as siblings from the mother of time, related to all other living beings, who have come before and will come after, all of us guests on this splendid home we have been gifted by God, we are doomed by the madness of our modernity, disconnected from all that has come before.

There will be no happy ending for us, unless we can embrace each other as the one we are, striking a living balance with this miracle called Earth, perfect just as she is and always has been.