Earth asks of us one very simple thing, to observe. This verb is one we have grown increasingly distant from. Every natural system observes what is going on around it. Trees, ferns, insects, lions, frogs, and chimpanzees, all practice the art of observation by paying attention to what is going on around them. This skill creates a sense of awareness and interconnectedness that blazes a trail to a utopic reality.
Throughout history, we have grown more and more disconnected with our inherent ability to observe. As time progresses, we keep on getting lost in the mirrors of technology which “only reflect us back to ourselves”(David Abrams, 1996). This defeats the purpose of the observation that pulses through and weaves together our natural world. As hunter-gatherers, we were constantly aware of our surroundings. Any change in the natural pattern, whether it be the migration of elk or an abnormally long winter, would influence us directly. As we grew more “advanced” (in the conventional sense of the word) we began to rely less on nature. By losing touch with nature we no longer needed to be as observant of our surroundings. Today we have almost become completely blind to what is going on around us and the impact we have on our earth. We are able to develop systems to counteract most of the consequences of our actions so that we do not have to realize the harm we are causing. Such as dams to prevent flooding or cities that are outfitted to withstand hurricanes. I am not saying we need to revert back to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, we can continue living in the relative comfort we live in today, we simply need to acknowledge the impacts of our actions and respond to them.
In order to meet this humble request we, as a society, need to disenchant the concept of monetary wealth. We need to realize that time spent simply observing the world around us, is not just a waste of time that could be used to make more money, but is instead a use of time that will ensure a much brighter future than money will ever be able to bring. We also need to redefine success. In popular culture, success is generally measured by how much money a person has. This results in a global population that works endless hours with their heads down. It no longer pays to stop and look around.
We need to be able to observe the results of our actions. In a way, we have forgotten the truth that every action has a consequence, both good and bad. Actions create a ripple effect, there is no denying it. And yet, we have found a way to deny that very truth. When an offshore drilling rig makes a little mistake and ends up spewing millions of gallons of crude oil into the gulf, the company fakes a clean up and then continues with business as usual. The actual effects of the spill aren’t an issue in the eyes of this giant corporation. Luckily we are not completely blind. There are small groups dedicated to righting the wrongs in this world who have been able to see the truths and holes in our system. But overall there is a fundamental piece missing. Earth is telling us what we need to do to fix it.
The road to this kind of change is not a difficult one. There are no rocks in our way to hinder our travel or potholes to jostle us around. The only thing this trip demands is a nice glance back, to check our blind spot. We haven’t glanced back in a while, and are slowly steering ourselves toward destruction. We have become so accustomed to not checking to see what is around us that it has become engraved in the stone of our society. Governments and corporations believe that if they are not moving forward then they are failing. This holds a lot of truth, however, it is crucial that we take the time to understand what we are moving forward into and that we stop and comprehend the complete ripple affect whenever we throw a new rock into the lake.
The word progress is derived from the Latin roots pro meaning “forward” and gradi meaning “to walk.” Notice that this does not mean forward running or sprinting, it is forward walking. The act of walking is a relatively slow form of travel. When a person is walking they are not blind to the world around them. They do not have the tunnel vision of a sprinter who can see only the destination ahead. Walking encourages observation. Progress is a word that is thrown around a lot in the modern day. If we could realize the real implications of this word, that it is almost synonymous with the encouragement of observation, we might come closer to changing our darkening future.
We need to observe our place in this world. We need to take a deep look at where we stand. Just by observing ourselves in our environment we may challenge some of our own ideas. If the idea that humans are on this earth to dominate and are not even in fact part of the food chain is questioned or challenged, the course of our future could drastically change. Changing these egotistical ideals allows us to respect our loving planet and see the things around us in a different light. We may no longer see the earth as something that needs to be conquered but instead as a being who needs to be saved.
What does the earth ask of us? The answer lies in the question. By observing the earth and listening to what is being asked of us, we are giving this planet what ki (ki as the pronoun for earth) needs. So go out, just observe and take it all in.