How we crave that clear, blue sky after what sometimes seems like an eternity of clouds here in the dead of the Wisconsin winter. Moods brighten as, finally, the awaited sun brushes our winter pines a radiant green, sumac tops flame up and the alfalfa stubble in the field down the road turns from dull tan to flashing gold above the snow. Most of us are creatures of the day, content and absorbed in life under our heavenly canopy. But lately I’ve begun to sense a seductive, day-sky deception afoot here that obscures our fragile reality and in so doing may lead to our undoing. Does not the outright joy of a bluebird sky festooned with billowing clouds that tickle our imagination also provide us the illusion of a world securely roofed in; a world too comforting and too familiar? Is this, perhaps, an open door to careless, environmental disregard?
Consider instead the obsidian black, night sky festooned with tiny pinheads of light, the stuff of which we make constellations. Staring bravely up into that dark, mysterious void we get an unsettling glimpse of the cold (455 degrees below zero), deadly infinity within which we actually live our precarious lives. This remarkable planet is all that stands between us and instant extinction. This is our reality.
Each clear night is a reminder of just how fortunate we are to spend our lives on this orbiting oasis in space. Earth, correctly understood, becomes the life boat we ride on through the deep, dark waters of the universe. Our total dependency on our healthy planet Earth comes quickly and inescapably into focus – so too, does our responsibility for it’s care
On that account we are clearly failing. The latest evidence is the recent revelation that the fish in our rivers and lakes are loaded with PFAS. By now we all know how dangerous this family of chemicals is. The EPA says our waters should basically be PFAS free to be safe. The “miracle of modern chemistry” strikes again! From mercury to dangerous pesticides to the plastics gumming up our bodies, the list of deadly chemicals endangering life on this world is long. We are the first generation in all of time to have all this stuff present in our bodies. I cannot imagine this turning out well for us and our children, or for much else of life.
Indeed, those who keep count of such things tell us that since 1990 we have cut the amount of living beings on our planet in half. Whether it be from habitat destruction to make way for us and our farms, or the toxic mix just mentioned, or the effects of climate change or just that everything has now become food or resource for the hungry eight billion of us that must be fed and housed. The sixth Great Extinction they call it, not by super volcano, nor by asteroid calamity, but by us.
I hope we care enough to demand and create planet saving ways of life right now. I fear we are too busy looking elsewhere to notice the holes we are drilling daily in our planetary ship’s hull.
Listen intently to what that night sky is telling us. Recognize in it’s testimony how vital the health of our planet is. Stand up proudly for life and the the rights of the natural world. Whether it be decisions about clean, free, renewable energy to power our cars and homes with, or learning to say no to the next miracle chemical that ends up only another poison in the water we drink, the soil we plant our garden in and the air we take into our lungs, we can make good choices that protect our environment and, therefore, the life that makes this planet so special..
If we are to pass a livable planet on to our children’s children we must give protective legal standing to the environment we live within. In safeguarding the rights of our rivers, lakes and streams to good health we do the same for all living things. The same is true for the right’s of our soil, forests and the many intricately interwoven lives we share our interstellar life boat with. Call it a folly, but only when we legally safeguard the the vitality of Earth will we successfully pass the gift of life on to the next generation. If a corporation can have it’s day in court, why not the river we draw our water and food from?
I miss the insistent call of the whippoorwill, I miss the red headed woodpecker’s catchy suit, and the eastern meadowlark who sang so sweetly to the sky. I remember the yellow and black of the evening grosbeak who came in large numbers to my feeders until sometime in the 80s. All are now in rapid decline, the meadowlark by seventy five percent. I am saddened to hear that due to global warming the sleek and slippery brook trout in my creel will find very little water cold enough for survival anywhere in Wisconsin sometime this century. I worry about a summer when the Monarch butterfly finally fails to return.
Surely legal rights for nature in order to secure the life of this great, green planet is not too big a windmill at which to tilt. We must speak loudly and often of this to power.