No matter what your religion of choice, most people have heard the story of Adam and Eve being banished from the Garden of Eden. What if all of earth is really a Garden of Eden? I was thinking about how the earth provides food, nourishment and shelter to every living thing on the planet. And, as plants and animals die they release their nutrients back into the earth to be reused. Only humans embalm their dead with chemicals, or cremate them – both of which are toxic to the earth. (Seattle started an Urban Death Project that buries people in the soil to decompose without chemicals, which is more instep with the natural world.)
And, if you’re thinking, the earth didn’t provide any shelter for humans, it did provide trees, mud, straw, stones and other naturally occurring materials, materials, which would eventually decompose and return to the earth. But, now we create cities with almost no permeable surfaces, almost no organic matter. Roads abut sidewalks which abut buildings. When rain falls instead of benefiting plants and trees, or being absorbed and filtered by earth as it moves to aquifers, streams or larger bodies of water, it runs off cement or pavement carrying oil, gas, and other toxins into waterways poisoning or killing nearshore marine life. Some cities are starting to include rain gardens to give runoff a place to enter the earth, it’s a good first step.
This whole train of thought was kicked off by this image of a bird building it’s nest in a man-made structure (left) — a tree equivalent. Nature is adaptive, to a point. Plants and animals take in the world as they always have – expecting tree-like structures to be safe to make nests in, and expecting their surroundings to provide food not plastic and trash that looks like food.
That made me think of Chris Jordan’s Midway project, which should be out this year. Watch the trailer. It clearly shows what humanity is unwittingly, and probably unintentionally doing to the natural world. Midway is a North Pacific island that is a nesting place for more than ten species of birds, most notably albatross.
Leo DiCaprio tries to make sense of what we’re doing to the earth in his movie Before the Flood. He didn’t spend much time on it, but I was fascinated with the painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights (at the top of the post), which hung over his bed as a child. It was painted more than 500 years ago and depicts humans ruining the natural world.
Would we treat the earth differently if we saw it as the paradise it is instead of something to be monetized?