I was sitting alone by the pool last summer when Carol, the building superintendent, came crashing through the gate. With her hands on her hips, she stood near the shallow end for a good minute, shaking her head and quietly cussing at the water. I braced myself before saying "hello".
“I have to do this three times a day,” she groaned. “Clean all these damn tree droppings out of the pool.” Carol yanked the massive net off the fence and began combing the surface of the water, a bobbing bed of beetles, twigs, and seeds. “It would suit me just fine to cut down all the trees around here. Pave over all of them.” I wondered if she had forgotten the name of our residence: Geneva on the Park.
“Trees are very important,” I said. “We need them in order to breathe.”
“Well they're makin' a mess of the pool and the parking lot. Have you seen the roots ripping through the concrete?”
“I don't think nature is trying to inconvenience you. It's just doing what it's been doing for billions of years,” I said.
Just before Carol could respond, a long screech from the sky caught our attention.
Soaring gracefully through the air with dinner in her mouth, the mother hawk landed at the peak of a nearby evergreen. She and her mate have raised their young in the small park behind the pool for the past four years; they are the most majestic creatures I have ever seen.
“And where would the hawk family live if we hacked down all the trees?” I asked.
“Don't even get me started on those stupid birds … screeching all day and scaring people who own little dogs. They don't belong on our property.”
“Animals don't know what 'property' is,” I said. “They just live wherever they can thrive. When we pave over fields and chop down forests to build shopping malls, we destroy their natural habitat. And where are the animals to go then? They either die or they are forced into our concrete world to find a patch of green we've allowed to exist.”
“Oh well … ” Carol continued scooping up seeds. “Most animals are a nuisance anyways.”
The Big Picture
Carol's apathy toward the natural world is disturbing to say the least; what's even more disturbing is that her worldview is widespread. Humanity has become increasingly disconnected from nature, from the oneness of life on this planet. We don't see Mother Earth for what she truly is—a living being comprised of countless interdependent organisms, each with a role in maintaining her health; instead, we see Earth as a possession and life-forms as expendable assets.
David Attenborough, famous naturalist and narrator of several nature documentaries, has stated that human beings are a plague on Earth. I want to refute his rather grim analogy, but the more I look at human behavior, the more truth I can see in it. We destroy or deplete every natural resource available to further only our growth, and relentlessly poison the very environment that sustains us. Is this not how cancer operates within its host?
If planet Earth is to survive, we must awaken from our collective ego to realize that we are not something separate from nature, we are nature, consciously experiencing itself in human form.