There is much in this world that leads us to believe that as humans, we are superior to other life forms. We have opposable thumbs, and the kind of intellect and consciousness that allow us to build more than a hive or a dam and shape our future with intellect rather than instinct. We have religions that teach us that we are “stewards” of the earth, as if we had somehow been handed a title by an unseen force who we may actually have invented.
We do not, often, look at ants as they carry a fallen comrade across our bathroom floor and consider whether we would do the same. We worry about how they got into our house, and how best to kill them. No one is going to be bothered to carry every ant, spider and fly outside – they are, after all, encroaching in our homes with their dirty little feet. We particularly hate stinging creatures like bees, hornets, and wasps. We say things like “I see a purpose for bees, at least honey bees, but the other ones don’t do anything useful.”
We are irrational, sentimental and blind about the earth. We love our own pets, and Bambi, and national parks, the sight of an untrammeled field of Purple Vetch by the highway or a perfect ripe strawberry. We also develop land that is the habitat of creatures, mess up the food chain, pollute the air and water, cut down forests to make houses and paper, drive cars down the block, and encourage farmers to grow cattle feed and raise animals in tiny pens that make them better food sources for people. More meat, more eggs, more milk, because we are exercising stewardship and dominion over the land. Because the land belongs to us and it is our right. Right?
Still, we crave nature even as we continue to destroy it. We plant gardens, feed birds, travel to unspoiled places and marvel at the miracle of a naturally-occurring waterfall, a spider web glistening with dew, flowers that open only at night and seem to glow white in the moist darkness of a summer night. No matter how many Disney’s, Dollywood’s, Imax theaters, French restaurants and pristine golf courses we create, most of us still feel the pull of a giant Harvest moon, a meteor shower, or a story about the way that elephants mourn. We still feel small and insignificant as we look out on the ocean or up at a mountain range. We are not the boss of this earth, but participants in a cooperative venture, doing our part alongside the worms that turn the earth and the rivers that carry water. If anything, our ability to dream and plan makes us more responsible to protect and preserve our habitat rather than destroying it.
Which leads me to this video, made by a kind of remarkable person who I have never met, but who I believe to be a kindred spirit. I started the day reading about local farmers making a comeback growing not food, but corn and soy to feed Asian cattle, and I was sad. Then I read about legislation that would open the doors to wider use of genetically modified crops in my state and I was sadder. Then I saw this video, and I knew that there was still a balance in the world between those who would dominate and those who would coexist with respect, humility and compassion. Thank you, Algis Kemezys.