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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Value chain

In her lovely book The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, Elisabeth Tova Bailey mentions one of the ironies of nature: those species lowest on the food chain, the microbes and worms and molluscs and insects, not to mention plants, contribute most to the construction and maintenance of the planet and would be missed the most; those species highest on the food chain, the mammals and of course humans, contribute least and would hardly be missed if every one of us died. In fact, humans contribute most to the destruction of the planet. The acme of evolution seems to be leading to the nadir of the world.

Even more embarrassing, most species have been on earth far longer, are far more diverse and profligate than Homo sapiens. We're a bit of a blip, yet a blip with the power of a million atomic bombs. Our little Holocene epoch of geological time, our little 12,000 years or so, is killing off species at a faster rate than ever before. What makes us think we're invulnerable?

It seems to me it wouldn't take much to return humans to a position of real power. How about being impressed not by a Lexus but by a snail? How about de-gassing vanity? Just a little rebellion, perhaps, against all the traditional philosophical systems that encourage feelings of power and glory and this nonsense of the Great Chain of Being. Maybe a dash of consciousness about self-consciousness: the thing that allows me to reflect on these issues is the same thing that puffs me up and blinds me. Maybe put your watch in your pocket. Help an old species across the street. Stop and smell the prose. Love thy nuthatch as thyself.

Merely a few minor suggestions....

Or just take a walk through the woods and along the shore, imagining the incredible lives all around and below and above and behind and beyond in time and space.

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