A Case for Nature (6 words)
Here's a new series: A Case for Nature (in six words). It will be a little less science, a little more humanities. Word #1: Love. As even this little aspen leafminer larva knows, Nature is love, or it can be if you really think about it. Talking about the kind of love you feel for yourself and all your parts and pieces. And the love you feel for your mother--at least underneath all the more complex feelings layered on top. It's that primal attachment to your body and mind, and to your origins. Consider the supply chain that made you: sourced from Earth's elements, crafted from living cells, designed by DNA, powered by other plants and animals, and warehoused in our planet's benign environment. Every step along the way is a product of Nature, so we can't deny being part and parcel of it. It's our substance and sustenance. Mother Earth, Mother Nature, and we, her children? Trite but true, and there's no better, nor more accurate metaphor. And no better word than "love" to convey all the emotion, loyalty, and belonging that comes with being a part of the family.
Part 2, A Case for Nature (in 6 words). Word #2: Knowledge. Nature is knowledge, and all Earth's living creatures are proof. Defined as knowing something with familiarity gained through experience, and the sum of what is known, Nature nails it on both counts. Think of a young sharp-shinned hawk, its angular, pointed wings that are light yet strong, flexible and responsive. Nature has learned just what it takes to fly through a forest canopy at high speed in pursuit of smaller birds, and written that recipe down in the sharp-shinned's DNA. There's a separate recipe for its hooked, lightweight bill that can rip apart flesh, and another for top-notch visual acuity. Then, the pièce de résistance, encoding how to make a brain: something that momentarily holds experiences and knowledge as electrical currents and neurotransmitters. Now think about all the living creatures, each of their forms a collection of facts and lessons learned about what it takes to survive, written in their DNA, their individual experiences recorded in gray matter and neural networks. Knowledge on top of knowledge, so deep it dwarfs even Wikipedia!
Part 3 in "A Case for Nature (in 6 words). Word #3 Beauty. Nature is beauty. And because beauty is supposedly in the eye of the beholder, I have some explaining to do. It comes down to order and organization as opposed to chaos. What if all these white, and lavender, and blue-green pixils were randomly mixed across this photo? Would you see any beauty there? Or if the cells in this sacred datura were floating around like single-celled algae...where would the beauty be in that? It only appears when cells or pixils come together, the like colors and cells forming groups that have meaning and purpose. Like a flower petal, a vein in a leaf. Nature has invented structures that build on themselves, creating form and function. Almost pulling them from thin air. And as children of Nature, it's only natural we'd see the beauty in that.
Part 4 in A Case for Nature (in 6 words). Word #4: Balance. Nature is balance. This rainbow looks like it's teetering on the tip of a dead spruce, balanced there in space. Just an illusion, but representing a larger truth. Nature has that uncanny ability to bring things rocketing out of control back into line. To rein in life that's wildly increasing, and build up life where it's been wiped out. Here's one example from the subalpine forests of southern Colorado: bark beetle population explosions have killed the mature spruce and fir. Now there's little food for beetles and they're mostly gone, but some trees survived: young, thin-barked ones and a few others that didn't taste good or fought too hard for the beetles to infest. They will live on to make seed and regenerate the forest, this time a little tougher for the bark beetles to attack even though some will manage. Balance...the feeling of it comes so naturally to us, but think about its execution: lots of moving parts that all need to be choreographed. And what with adaptation and evolution, Nature is nothing short of a system designed to do just that!
Word #5: Power. Nature is power. Not necessarily the raw power of elemental forces like water pouring over a precipice, but the subtle, enduring power of life 's inexorable force. The kind of power that's used in martial arts. It absorbs the strength of its adversary, and turns it back outward. Think of the plants taking a beating from this waterfall, but they hang in there, feeding off its moisture, quivering and bending to the constant pounding that reverberates through the canyon. Their power lies within: cell by cell they use the water to help strengthen their grip on the rock, widen its cracks, broaden their canopies, capture more sunlight. Never meeting the challenge head on, always from the side, around the edges, their power lies in ducking, bobbing, and weaving, 'til they overcome. And plants in some shape or form will be here long after the waterfall has worn down these rock walls.
Word #6: Solace. Nature is solace. Defined as a source of comfort, relief, or consolation, it's that place you go when you feel sad. Odd that I'm applying an intensely personal, human-centric word to something we think of as humanity's opposite. But we have painted Nature into that corner: our society clearly prioritizing man-made over natural, civilization over wilderness, value-added over raw material. Whether consciously or not, we have arrived at this point by leaving Nature behind, or so we thought. With a zoonotic-based pandemic raging, Nature's power is on full display as the tiny virus spreads, cell by cell, person by person. This virus is Nature's knowledge, there for us to see. Its single strand of RNA the product of many lessons learned about what it takes to survive, first in a bat, then in a human. We are caught in a moment where Nature's balance has tipped far to the side of the virus, letting it multiply exponentially before we've built up our defenses. And right now, we feel like a child when their mother pivots to another sibling, Nature's love only realized when it's momentarily missing. Nature's beauty also missing in the runaway blood clots, the cytokine storms that create utter chaos in the otherwise orderly and beautiful functioning human body.
Nature is solace in our time of need, a hug from another creature when we are too scared to touch our own kind. What better place to seek comfort, relief, and consolation during our grief than in Nature? Where else will we find the space and peace to relax and reflect, like we need to? Nature: the embodiment of 6 of the most important words in our lives. It's time to recognize we never left it behind; we can't. And there's no more argument needed.
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