The Burden of Thought

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Save the planet. This slogan is everywhere these days, most prominently on the Internet, blasting its message across cyberspace. Save the planet. It is emblematic of the hubris many people see fit to endow upon themselves. The phrase should actually state: save ourselves. The planet does not need to be saved. People say we are killing this world every time we burn gas or consume a natural resource. No, we are not.

Earth has survived far greater damage before we even existed than we could ever inflict now that we are here: Ice ages, massive floods, the bombardment of meteors and asteroids for millions of years, the magnetic reversal of the poles, weather more severe than anything we could possibly survive, so on and so forth. So let us not be so arrogant as to believe that the planet needs our help to survive. It is our survival in question. It is the animals’ survival in question. And unless we begin to make changes very soon, it will not be very long, geologically speaking, before we find ourselves falling headlong into the dark pit of extinction.

If that happens, and mankind begins to diminish, will anyone really be surprised? I think not. Future generations will likely curse our lack of action and adopt a tone of apathy towards us, their ancestors. They will say human beings have been racing toward obsolescence since the first word was spoken, the first fire was lit, the first blood was drawn. They will say it didn’t have to happen that way at all, it could have been stopped, the damage reversed. Instead, the eleventh hour passed without notice, and midnight struck.

Truthfully, our absence would be better for the planet. If Mother Earth were sentient, she would probably regard humans as a nuisance, like fleas invading a dog’s fur.”

Truthfully, our absence would be better for the planet. If Mother Earth were sentient, she would probably regard humans as a nuisance, like fleas invading a dog’s fur. Our cities, plastered on her back like scabs that never heal, are constantly growing. She tries to heal, to force her grass and roots through our streets and sidewalks, to reassert her presence. But her methods are too slow, and we keep coming back to re-apply layers of hot asphalt and heavy concrete over the cracks she has created. But she keeps trying, because it is a natural process, a behavior that operates almost like instinct. Humans do not operate on instinct; our actions are motivated by personal desire. The burden of thought will bury us.

The animal kingdom has always been free of this burden. No animal ever declared a war, built a city or drilled for oil. They behave as nature intends, each fulfilling their roles. Their existence creates a balance—human existence disrupts this balance, unhinges it. It rises up like smoke to choke out the sun. Permanent midnight.

But if we disappeared today, the repairs would begin immediately. It is a simple concept. One that nature adopts with ease. It requires no thought or planning. It does not need to consider the implications of fixing the damages, changing it methods or the profits that may be lost in the process. It just does what is needed. No greed. No avarice. No sentience required.

We must adopt a similar attitude and force ourselves into action. If we do not, all that will remain are the remnants of a bygone era where the precious few who fought against the waves were eventually washed away, engulfed by the waters of a hungry tide. The land where temperance died.

Is that really the legacy we want to leave behind? The choice is ours.

Geoffrey Foster can be contacted at [email protected]

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