thought for Earth Day

Every living thing on Earth plays a part in the biosphere.

The biosphere is not merely the stage on which we all perform; it is the whole performance.

A fascinating kind of anteater called the pangolin is the only mammal on Earth that has scales. Its scales are its only defense against predators. Unfortunately this defense is useless against the dominant predator on Earth, humankind. (Or as e.e. cummings called it, ‘this busy monster, manunkind.’)

In a human-dominated world, the pangolin’s scales are even worse than useless for its survival, because they have a high “market value,” meaning that too many humans “make a living” supplying that market.

Humans have scales too, but only artificial ones, often used for weighing things that have “market value” – such as pangolin scales. In the gigantically top-heavy artificial monster called “the economy” by its human constructors, pangolin scales far outweigh the lives of pangolins, just as “market value” outweighs the value of life itself, including human life.

Pam Jackson has caught the whole strange scenario in a small painting:


This has a special meaning on Earth Day 2020, as it’s been suggested that the pangolin might have been a carrier of the virus that jumped to humans to cause the COVID-19 pandemic. The pangolin – poached, trafficked and endangered – is as innocent as the virus itself. If anyone is to blame for the pandemic, it is the humans who “make a living” from an extractive “economy” which is destructive, on an overwhelming scale, to other players in the biosphere. The pandemic is just one symptom of the busy monster in self-destruct mode.

Earth Day should redirect our attention to the natural economy, the economy of the biosphere. As if our lives depended on it – for in truth they do, just like the lives of pangolins, ants and viruses.

3 thoughts on “thought for Earth Day”

  1. Good post, Gary, and a fine painting by Pam.

    Gigi also made a fine point in her Earth Day post, that the Earth has never needed US. It echoed Basil Johnson’s statement in The Manitou’s that the First Nations’ tradition of offering thanks to the plants and animals that a person killed for sustenance rose out of the awareness that humans are completely reliant on the bounty of nature, thought nature is in no way reliant on US. And we colonizers have shown no respect for the peoples’ whose humble lifestyle of respect for Mother Nature offered a sustainable path through that ‘natural economy.’

  2. Thought-provoking comments and painting, beautiful colours.
    “The biosphere is not merely the stage on which we all perform; it is the whole performance.” I love it Gary! David Suzuki in The Sacred Balance writes, “There is no environment out there that is separate from us. We are the air, we are the water, we are the earth. We are the sun.” And we are learning (the hard way) that we ignore this scientific and spiritual imperative at our peril. Whether we are aware of it or not, this pandemic is changing our perceptions and values… the fact that many of us are staying home, still connecting with others, buying less, looking at people and time and things differently … Many of us are taking the time to reflect more … Yes, in the words of Robert White, “we are nature becoming conscious of itself.”

  3. Every man of discernment, while walking upon the earth, feeleth indeed abashed, inasmuch as he is fully aware that the thing which is the source of his prosperity, his wealth, his might, his exaltation, his advancement and power is, as ordained by God, the very earth which is trodden beneath the feet of all men. – Baha’u’llah

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