One morning we all woke up to find ourselves living amid the ruins of a wrecked civilization.
Waves lapped at a crumbling landfill where shreds of plastic poked out. Toxic, corroded materials lay ugly and broken. Scraps of fabric fluttered in the breeze. All taken eventually by the sea.
We saw oil-scarred wetlands and tasted metallic minerals on the air. We gasped at acres and ribbons of endlessly patched tarmac connecting dense zones of disintegrating brick and wood. And everywhere their concrete, stained and crumbling.
Everywhere, their refuse. Seas of plastic, rivers of mercury, atmosphere heavy with hydrocarbons. Vast pits of radioactive waste. And always the hideous, lethal, rusting machinery.
Who were these people, we asked. Who on earth? Couldn’t they see what they were doing? Did they really not know where this was heading?
Forests mown to stumpland, stumpland to trampled pasture. Pasture ploughed to monoculture on chemical life-support. To barren scrub. To desert.
The desert, too, tarmacked over and festooned with mile-high monuments in glass and steel to Ozymandias. Were they insane? They must have been insane.
It seems that every day they raced in monster chariots to work and shop. Every day they extracted, consumed and discarded. Seize, sleep, repeat. And always burning. Not the good fire, the fire that skims the ground, exfoliating and invigorating as it goes, but instead the senseless violent fire that only contaminates and destroys.
They poisoned their air, water, soil and – we had to surmise – their souls. Otherwise, how else?
…and leave no trace.
One morning, we woke and all this was as clear to us as sunrise. As clear as forest scent or cascading birdsong. As pristine as water from a mountain spring. Keen as fresh plucked herbs and firm as a freshly unearthed tuber in your hand.
Because that morning the age-old ethic rang out in our hearts as loud as a bell. Strangely dormant for generations, but now we remembered how every child must be steeped in it from birth, and how every adult is duty-bound to honour and uphold it through their given days.
An ethic which doesn’t have to be spoken but suffuses authentic culture and being. Universal law, embedded in the soul of life itself.
Work with the land, not against it. Nurture nature, inner and outer. Love, play and be grateful together for the privilege of being able to love, play and be grateful together.
In every Tweet and on every 24-hour news channel, from every billboard and touchscreen, from every investor and influencer the same message hummed. It was the morning we remembered words that we knew all along.
Tread lightly, friends, and leave no trace.
4 Replies to “Suppose if”
I very much enjoyed reading this article, very well written! I have these conversations with myself often. I fear these chickens may have gotten away from us for to long. Now that they are coming home to roost we are disbelieving initially but in fact know they bring reality with them. We buck against their arrival, we don’t want to believe it but in our gut we know! We have always known, we have chosen through our monkey brain to pretend we did not know so we could play just a little longer. There is no stopping the return to roost; we like the chickens must live or not with our actions. Tread lightly, my friends, leave no trace>
Thanks for your kind comment, John. It seems the prosperous and privileged have always just about managed to insulate themselves (ourselves) against the sight and smell of the wreckage piling up outside the gates, but as you say in our gut we’ve always known. Yesterday I heard the Amazon.com guy say how much he’s looking forward to his 15-minute space shot in July with his bruv and their A N Other, seeing the Earth from on high and experiencing – cue choir of angels – how “we are all one”. Quite an image: three pointless squillionaires in a sealed capsule, detached from human reality, gazing rapt at the surface of the world their rocket has just helped to trash a little bit more.
Although it is easy to imagine such a landscape I offer another scenario. I’ve witnessed first hand many abandoned landscapes in my work at Purdue. And the thing that surprised me the most was how quickly nature takes over. A landfill is soon covered with the colonizer plants that begin to rebuild the soil. Within a few years the shrubs and trees began to grow (at least in areas where rainfall permits it). Even in areas where toxins prevail it is generally a matter of pH that prevents plant growth. Wild plants are much more adaptable than we imagine.
Once we stop ‘controlling’ our environment by spraying herbicides and pesticides life will quickly emerge and soon take over the landscape. Life is more resilient than we give it credit. Of course human life may not be a resilient as we think and that is what most humans are really concerned with.
That’s a good perspective Jody, and it’s consoling on some level to think that in a blink of geological time all our detritus will have been digested and eroded out of significance. There’s a duty of care that we owe to land, sea and sky nevertheless, a relationship of symbiotic nurturing, and it seems a crime to defile the place the way we do.
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