Saturday, August 17, 2013

"Welcome to Earth"

I often wonder what it would be like if we each were born in a base station on a completely desolate planet and came to earth as a young adult. One of the most tragic aspects of our lives is that we lose early-life memories, including the sense of wonder we experience during our first years on Earth when everything is completely new and the simplest things are mind-blowing. If we arrived to Earth later in life, that memory would remain with us for much longer, and maybe we'd live much differently because of that. Imagine growing up on a planet not unlike our own moon, and this is all you've ever known:

...and then one day leaving in a space shuttle with a group of others who have come of age for a distant planet that is only the stuff of dreams and fairy tales. The journey to Earth would take several months. One day, the shuttle captain gives word to look off into the distance, as our planet is now in view:

Earth is the tiny speck in the topmost sunbeam, as viewed from 3.7 billion miles away by Voyager 1.

Excitement begins to build, and in a few more weeks, the shuttle reaches the last stage of its long journey. At last, on the final day of the trip, the destination planet fills the windows. Tears roll down the cheeks of all the passengers who never imagined something of such beauty existed in the entire universe:

Wow.  This, in the "vast nothingness" of space.

After landing, everyone is warmly welcomed and given a month-long tour of their new home planet. There is complete silence among the travelers, not because they cannot talk, but because they are so overwhelmed with wonder and have no words to convey what is going on inside of them. Everything is new and the simplest things are mind-blowing. Their senses are coming alive to the point of being overwhelmed: the smell of air made by plants and their flowers, rather than machines at the base station; the taste of fresh fruits and vegetables as opposed to vacuum packed, processed meals; the soft texture of grass on their feet contrasting with the concrete of the base station floor; the magnificence of redwood forests in comparison with a barren landscape; the rainbow of colors in the sky throughout the day, as opposed to no color at all; the freedom to be able to run through fields of wildflowers and travel the whole rest of Earth without a space suit; the exhilaration of jumping into an azure ocean and being surrounded by corals and fish of unimaginable colors; the colorful miracle of the season of Fall; the vibrance and warmth of summer and the stillness and beauty of a winter snow; creatures of seemingly endless diversity running to and fro; and many other such experiences. Here are a few snapshots of only one of the beautiful places (our gardens) they would have no doubt visited:

Look at this for a while, then look at the first photo again - Earth truly is an overwhelming miracle of life!

After this incredible tour of Earth, the travelers cannot believe their fortune of having the opportunity to live on such a planet. They all express their great desire to know how they may live on Earth in the best possible way in gratitude for such an incredible gift. In response to this, they are presented with a thin handbook entitled "Welcome to Earth." It is a surprisingly short and simple guidebook containing what have been determined to be the vital basics newcomers should understand and remember as they prepare to live on this new planet. I have included a copy here:

Welcome to Earth!
Earth is an incredibly complex planet. All the different plants and animals you will find here each have an important function that contributes to creating and maintaining the beautiful life-filled planet you see. You can even look at Earth itself as one large living, breathing organism. The extinction of one of its creatures has great impact throughout the wider world, as each creature depends on others for survival. We humans, in particular, are completely dependent upon the other life, especially plants, on this planet for our survival and well-being (oxygen, food, clothing, shelter, medicine, materials, fragrance, etc.) Incredibly, plants need only energy they receive from the sun, carbon they obtain from the air, nutrients from the soil, and water to produce these things that are freely available and so very useful to us. In whatever ways possible, take care of these precious providers.
The creatures here act not only as providers, but teachers as well. We have learned how to properly live on Earth from the creatures who have inhabited this planet for thousands and millions of years before us. We have learned from plants how to capture and use the free energy given to us by the sun to provide the energy we need for our activities (warmth, electricity, transportation, etc.). Our "solar panels" are our version of plant leaves. We have also learned that many plants and animals can share Earth because they use only what they need and do not accumulate unnecessary things for themselves; whatever they do not need is made available for other creatures to use, and so Earth can be filled with many creatures. In order to be able to share Earth with as many other creatures as possible, we follow this example. There are many further lessons the creatures here can teach us, so look forward to learning much more!
To summarize, if you want to live "gently" on Earth, make use of the resources the creatures of Earth provide, but be frugal and use only what you need, as the creatures here teach us to do. Also, make use of the energy freely available (sun, wind, water) or through other renewable means to provide for your needs, as Earth's plant's do.
This welcome guide could be much larger if it were filled with specifics, but most every decision regarding how to properly live on Earth can be made easily if we stay aware of and in touch with the planet's vital signs and maintain the attitude of respect, reverence, and gratitude for our gift of life on Earth that you feel so keenly today.
Enjoy your stay!

And with that, they go forth excitedly to begin their lives in this wonder-filled world.

Rick Hederstrom
Associate Director

No comments:

Post a Comment