Relay: The Earth Doesn’t Care

Oh the racket! Oh the horror we will now have to endure!

   Now, I like Brian Williams. I usually watch his nightly news report at 6:30 p.m. But I have to take strong exception to the way he reported the emergence of millions of 17-year locusts expected in the next few weeks along the East Coast.
    Preaching to the choir, he was, full of anxious anticipation, brow furrowed with the threat of the looming plague. What’s next, he asked. First we are forced to endure mega storms, and droughts, and on and on. Oh the racket! Oh the horror we will now have to endure!
    The real threat, of course, is the spread of the urban mind-set. Mr. Williams chose not to report the real, wonderful story about the cicada nymphs appearing after completing their prolonged development underground, during which they sip fluids from the roots of deciduous trees. Trees, Brian. Remember trees? 
    With Earth Day nigh it’s time again for a wake-­up call, although it’s getting harder to hear one amid the suck and clatter of every wasteful form of resource removal imaginable. The bottom line is this: The world was not created for the comfort of Homo sapiens. The longer it takes for us to understand this, the more uncomfortable we will become, until the Earth takes back its garden.
    When pollen fills the air, flowering plants are not out to kill us with hay fever, as drug companies (sponsors of the nightly news) would have us believe. Hard as it might be to accept, plants don’t care about you or your hay fever. There’s a good chance our oversensitive sinuses are the result of the antiseptic lifestyle we’ve forced upon ourselves. 
    Superstorm Sandy was a big storm but she was deadly and inconvenient only because we were in her way. We have built too close to shore.
    Forest fires destroy homes in California and elsewhere because they were constructed where fire has always routinely blazed away to rid the woods of understory and to encourage new growth. 
    If the world seems like it’s out to get us it’s because there’s too many of us. It’s easier for us to be in the way of natural processes. If we alter Nature’s balances by burning fossil fuels, melting the polar ice caps, and causing the seas to rise, it’s our doing. The Earth is only righting the planetary ship. 
    The attitude expressed by Brian Williams the other night, and by so many others of late, that Nature is somehow in the way — an alien force to be sprayed away, drugged away, dammed away, and kept at bay so that we remain comfortably ignorant of the planet — is fast becoming a Weltanschauung, a fundamental orientation, a way of seeing our place in the total scheme of things. How sad.
    It may seem like the Earth is fighting back. Greenhouse gases, sea-level rise, and pestilences of one sort or another appear to be examples of the Earth getting even. For some fatally flawed reason, we are doomed to think in terms of conquering or being conquered, insult and happy retribution.
    I think it’s worse than that. We may be numerous, but we are small. It’s much more likely the Earth isn’t in this tug-of-war. It just doesn’t care. If we screw things up bad enough, we’ll be gone, and the world will just keep spinning.


   Russell Drumm covers the waterfront. He is a senior writer for The Star.