Troubled Waters and Waters in Trouble
My newest book, featured on this website (link), began with a simple observation leading to an obvious question. We have all the science we need to provide in exquisite detail, not only the damage we have inflicted upon the ecosystem(s) of the planet, but also the consequences. My question, then, with all this information, why are we not changing our behavior?
I could have chosen most anything for a URL; I chose the theme of water for its universality, its accessibility, and the fact that all life forms are interconnected through water. In the words and music of Tom Wisner, we are made of water. I chose it as well because our waters are deeply troubled, and I am speaking first, metaphorically. The collective human psyche and soul are showing clear signs of damage; we are a lost and broken people; we ourselves are the deeply troubled waters. As consequence – now I am speaking literally – through the evidence of scientific and personal observation, we know that the waters of the earth are themselves in deep trouble. This is more than a question of semantics or word play; the waters are one and the same. domain list . We are the waters. What we do to our oceans, lakes, and rivers, we do to ourselves.
In a 2010 interview with NPR’s Tom Ashbrook, the Vermont ecologist Bill McKibben reflected on the global outpouring of anger which followed the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. With his next breath, and without diminishing the egregiousness of this particular disaster, he wondered where was the outrage in the face of the increasingly acidic content of our oceans – consequence of our carbon footprint – which has done what could be irreversible harm to the oceans’ coral reefs and countless species of marine organisms, ecosystems which provide much of the earth’s breathable air.
This is my first blog entry on this website, and the first three paragraphs have taken me already in a dozen different directions. I think I’d like to begin with the most basic. We are all connected. All life forms – human and non-human – all galaxies, planets, and stars are not only interconnected, we are made of the same organic and inorganic material. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson can describe the process whereby the chemical elements that we recognize today were forged in the centers of high mass stars which, having become unstable, exploded, scattering such as carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen throughout the universe, elements which formed gas clouds, then stars with planets, and ultimately, life.
Tyson reminds us that all life forms are of star dust. “We are in the universe,” he says, “but even more important, the universe is in us. I don’t know any deeper spiritual feeling.
For you who are able to stargaze where city lights don’t obstruct the magnificence of a starlit night, go out one night, under the stars. Go with friends, family, or a dog or two. Walk along a beach, or through a field. If you can, lie down and look nowhere but up. Stay there until you are able to understand that you are made of the same material as those stars. Others who are urban-bound might make a trip to a planetarium, even a library.
Would it make a difference, do you think, if you understood yourselves to be of the universe, of one tapestry, inextricably woven together with each life form? Would it make a difference, do you think, if you could come to understand yourselves as an integral part of a narrative which is fourteen billion years in the making? Would you behave differently, as you begin to see things from a different perspective? Teach differently? Preach differently? How might such a shift in perspective impact your poetry, your music, your dance?