The first time I discovered google maps I was mesmerized. I spent hours zooming in and out, dragging the map around, gazing at all the different textures, the contrasts, the stories. I followed rivers from their ocean mouths to their mountain birthing places, amazed how long they could be, almost cutting continents in half. I found intriguingly strange landscapes both of natural and human origin, challenging my idea of what makes earth earth. I also, sadly though not surprisingly, found a lot of destructive stories about human impact on the environment.
Being who I am, I tend to find destruction and disintegration beautiful. So when I look at the dried out rivers and lakes, the cut down forests and the mould like spread of human settlements I'm equally fascinated as repulsed by it and I'm drawn to imagine what comes next, because all death sparks rebirth and life is incredibly resilient.
Hate, fear and grief can't save us, but there is something said for acceptance and reconciliation. And there is certainly something said for taking a closer look at ourselves and the planet we inhabit.
Make no mistake, we can't destroy the planet, it's a rocky ball with a molten core, with a shrivel of biomass on top and a sliver of atmosphere surrounding it. We'll kill ourselves long before we do enough damage to snuff out life forever and the short time it will take the biomass to recover after we are gone is a humorously sad short heartbeat in the history of earth.
So yeah, human impact on earth isn't really all that significant in the grander scale of things, but human impact on humanity is another matter. Sooner or later we have to have a serious discussion about what it really means to us, to be human.
What does it really means to be a Territorial species with too little space for each family group to have their own territory?
What does it means to be a communicating and empathising species struggling to come to terms with recognising outside groups as significant and valuable?
What does it mean that we are an individual species which are inseparably codependent of millions of organisms around us, yet with no real intellectual understanding of our equal place in this codependency?
And what does it mean to be insignificant?
From space, from above, we are just another component of the gooey biomass that smears the surface. We might be a volatile component, but we are no less part of it than the bacteria, the oil or the soil. Many of us would like to be the masters of paradise, the gatekeepers of it or at least an especially important part, but we're not, not to anybody but ourselves.
Zooming in and out of the maps have made me look on real life textures in another way. It's easier to perceive meaningful relations between organisms deep down in the cracks of the sidewalk after I have seen similar rifts down the African continent where they say humanity began. Even the seemingly glossy surface of the paint on the wall by my bed turns into a world of it's own when I look at it now. I run my hand over it, knowing I leave rich amounts of dead skin cells and other organic material behind that will feed populations of organisms in the small valleys and plains.
I am a universe, a Portuguese Mano'War, I am a spec on a spec on a little rock hurtling through space, in a galaxy that is a spec on a spec of something much bigger. I feel connected. I feel in the now. I feel the impermanence of my being without grief. It pulls on me like gravity and it holds me securely fixed in my time/space position.
I like tigers, I like happy children, I like deep dark forests, and rain I can lick of my face without worry. I want to walk though fields barefooted and eat meat from my own killing. I want to pick berries in the late summer and nettle sprouts in the spring, I want to teach the children of my family the names of the birds in the fields and the grasses and the insects.
I also like health care and trains and talking on the phone with my mother. I want to walk barefooted on cobblestone and asphalt and eat what others can sell me. I want to take advantage of specialist human culture to create art and focus on my talents. I want to teach the children of my family to navigate through this complex human society without harming or hurting others.
And we can all do both, as long as we compromise and sacrifice.
So take a good long look at the earth which is ourselves and realise the potential. Zoom out and look at the whole and zoom in to look at the myriads of different parts that make up that union. It's a serious mistake to keep talking about ourselves as separate from it. What drives us is the same thing as drives all other organic organisms, the will to keep living and keep the bloodline going. There isn't something specially destructive or evil about us, no more than it is evil in rabbits when they overpopulate an area and bring disease, starvation and ruin to their own population. The foxes love them for it, just like the rats, cockroaches and viruses loves us for doing the same thing.
But I believe we have a choice in the matter that rabbits do not. I believe that we can change the way we deal with our urge to multiply. But I don't think it will happen until we fully accept what we are and what drives us. I think the sooner we start to think about all the children on our earth as our collective offspring and responsibility the better for all of us in the future.
I lieu of an alien invasion I invite you to try to be the aliens once in a while and look at the planet like a stranger would, because I think it really helps in perceiving us as a union not just of humans but of all earthly life forms. Co-dependent, fragile and beautiful.