On a cold January night in 1997, a middle-aged former-logger by the name of Grant Hadwin, swam across the frigid Yakoun River in British Columbia’s Charlotte Islands with a chainsaw in tow. His mission was to fell a 300+-year-old “golden” (albino) Sitka spruce. For more than 30 years prior to that infamous night, the technological advances in the logging industry had led to hundreds of thousands of forested acres to be stripped bare. Though Hadwin had once been a legendary logger, the realization that the forests that he cared for so much were disappearing at an alarming rate resulted in a dramatic change of heart and shift to environmental activism. Unable to draw necessary attention to what he saw as indiscriminate killing, Hadwin wondered why this one tree, as magnificent and distinctive as it was, should be spared when so many others were being demolished. In a passionate act to send a message, he felled the beloved tree in the dead of night.
Though his actions may have been crass, Hadwin’s underlying sentiment resonates. How do we assign value to nature? How do we decide what is beautiful or special? Why do we think that we have a right to make these decisions? Why are we more challenged to recognize the beauty in something when it is in abundance? Preserving something that is rare may be important for the sake of preservation, but it is difficult to understand why we place more value on something simply because it is rare.
Every thing has significance, and we must be mindful of the small and the negligible. It is vitally necessary that we respect and consider the singular and unique qualities of things that appear to be the same or prolific. To recognize the astounding splendor of each and every tree and not just the ones that are outstanding.
The Earth asks us not to be greedy we take far more than what is necessary for our survival, or even what it takes for us to be comfortable. Humans take for no other reason than that they are able. The only other living organism that takes more than it needs for a comfortable life is cancer. Cancer consumes and does not stop consuming until the host is destroyed. This is why it so destructive and that is the way humans behave on the earth. Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest was not intended to be about competition, which is how its been misconstrued, but about collaboration. That the one that can have symbiotic relationships with it’s surrounding is the fittest and will survive because nothing, not even the very strongest can survive without everything around it surviving and thriving.
The Earth asks so little of us and yet gives us so much. We sit idly by and accept the amazing life-giving gifts of food, water, oxygen, beauty and love granted by our mother earth. But in order for any relationship to be healthy, it is vital for both parties be active participants in sustaining and improving the wellbeing of the other.
I strongly believe that it boils down to respect, plain and simple. The most important thing the Earth asks from us is to live respectfully of all the gifts and love that she grants us every day. All other living entities, except for humans, seemed to have mastered this very basic concept of respect for their surrounding environment. Never taking with extreme excess, or without any form of reciprocation. Living with instead of against all the ecological systems surrounding them. It is time to accept the ideas that Hadwin was pushing us to understand that we must live with love, humility, and respect for nature in its entirety and recognize that rather than dominators of the earth, we are invested partners in the survival of all organisms.