Posted by: Thomas C. Esakin | July 22, 2013

Human life is not Life Itself

This past week I read an opinion piece in The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper, which spoke to the recent floods in Alberta and Toronto, and on the connexion of those floods to Climate Change (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/canadas-new-normal-weather-adds-heat-to-climate-politics/article13296077/ ).  That opinion piece is the motivation for this blog-spot.  And as is evident to any of this blog’s readers, I am an infrequent blogger as I attempt to offer fewer words that might, if touched by fortune, be of some minor intellectual value to a reader over adhering to today’s more common habit of gurgling a near endless well-spring of words devoid of mental nourishment. So here’s hoping that fortune has touched the following words.

The noted opinion piece made linkages to Climate Change’s impacts on “human” life.  And exactly at that intersection was where the piece immediately struck me as missing the mark.

When we use a scientific lens, Earth can be understood as a single planetary home that has given birth to a variety of “life”.  When examined from afar, Earth is seen as one small globe of light – even a mere speck of brightness, when an eye is moved far enough away from the planet – that, when looked at a little more closely, can be understood to contain “life”.  When Earth’s life is looked at even more closely, we only then see that this “life” is actually comprised of a variety of life “forms”.  Each of these seemingly countless individual life forms on Earth themselves all join together to form Earth’s life.  All of Earth’s life has been created together in Earth, on Earth, from Earth, and with Earth.  To single out any one species of life on Earth as being more valuable than another is in many ways a foolhardy effort as it suggests that any one species of life on Earth can independently exist from other of Earth’s life; which is already implicitly understood by us to be an impossibility as try living on your own without your having been given birth by parents, or your having been fed, clothed, and sheltered by Earth’s generous bounty.

Earth as seen from afar in the cosmos is One, and her variety of life survive and thrive together as an interconnected whole.  Yet Earth when looked at from below – that is, when seen at ground-level here on Earth – is commonly seen by us humans as inhabiting diverse, seemingly countless, and even competing life forms.

Even though our eyes have already been opened by science to the interconnexions of life (e.g. through the sciences of biodiversity, anthropology, geography, cosmology, even history and increasingly quantum physics, plus many other disciplines), we humans often continue to choose to look at Earth’s life from below and pretend that our species is separate from all other life on Earth. However, haven’t we already advanced our thinking to at least the level of the wisdom of the ancients, including many of Canada’s original First Nations, whereby we can now look at Earth’s life from above to realise it is one and interconnected whole, where all species of life on Earth support one another and in turn are supported by One Earth? Truly, there is no longer any tangible benefit to us humans in perpetuating the falsity that one species of life on Earth is more important than any other: except, that is, if by our doing so it feeds our hubris and arrogance; two human traits that have historically been root causes of the fall of human societies (remember Homer’s writings…?!).

So simply stated:

Climate Change affects life: all life forms on Earth.

And all life forms on Earth have evolved and developed together as Life on Earth.

When looking at Climate Change issues, for humans to only focus on the wellness of human life forms is to not see the proverbial forest through the trees as human life on Earth itself depends on all other life on Earth.

When we consider Climate Change issues, we humans are helped if we strive to examine these issues through the lens of the whole health of the planet instead of through the eyes of only one life form on Earth (that is, instead of only looking at Climate Change issues through “human” eyes).

When an individual human acquires an illness, a doctor commonly aims to treat the health of the whole patient and not just the health of their constituent parts.  For there is little point in a doctor making sure that our index fingers on our hands are healthy when it is our failing heart that is impacting our whole body and calling for immediate medical treatment.  Similarly, with Climate Change, the patient is Earth and not simply one of her very many diverse life forms.

Human life is not Life Itself.  All life on Earth is supported by and supports one another.  Climate Change affects all life on Earth.  We humans miss the mark entirely if we think that we only need to reduce or mitigate Climate Change for human beings while ignoring its impacts on all of Earth’s other life forms whose very health and well-being provide the basis for the health and well-being of the human species itself.

Anthropocentric.  That is the name commonly given to those human beings who look only at their own species to the exclusion of all life on Earth.  When it comes to addressing matters connected to Climate Change, human well-being will depend less on anthropocentricism and more on the inclusivity of Earth’s life.

Your thoughts and comments on these blog-spots are always welcomed.

Tom

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Responses

  1. Thomas, thank you for another great article.

    I provided a link to “Human life is not Life Itself” on “Let’s Talk about the Weather” on the World Peace Writers website.
    http://worldpeacewriters.org/tara-gardner/

    I look forward to reading more of ‘Esakin’s Insights’!


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