Let Me Explain…

“Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.” So, says Inigo in The Princess Bride. Time is running short (pick your issue). But, we knew there were problems a long time ago. Here’s an exchange between Bill Watterson’s Calvin and his mom from 1987.

Calvin: “Hey Mom, what’s this I hear about the greenhouse effect? They say the pollutants we dump in the air are trapping in the sun’s heat and it’s going to melt the polar ice caps. Sure. You’ll be gone when it happens, but I won’t! Nice planet you’re leaving me!”

Mom: “This from the kid who wants to be chauffeured any place more than a block away.”

Calvin: Hey, “nobody told me about the ice caps, all right?”

That was written in a comic strip thirty-three years ago. Are we listening yet?

No matter if you are living in a pleasant little Minnesota town, on the edge of the desert, in the North woods, in an urban brownstone, in a refugee camp, or at the top of a glass encased luxury Manhattan tower, one fact is inescapable. You are in intimately connected to all living and non-living components of your ecosystem—no matter how “man-made” or “natural” you think your ecosystem is. Like concentric circles moving out from a small splash you have an impact on even the most distant of other life.

Try this imagery. One raindrop hitting a smooth lake surface sending ripples out. Then another splash, and soon a down poor of raindrops striking the surface, each sending out their own ripples across the surface. The ripples connect, cancel, or amplify one another. That’s the world, a bubbling chaos of incredible order and unpredictable, yet completely structured mayhem. It all connects, beginning with the interaction of the electrons in your body, resulting in matter that is mostly empty space, yet solid in structure. Huh? It’s complete order and unpredictable interactions at the same time. Your body is constantly recycling matter through your breathing, consuming, and excreting, all of which is fueled by the energy you extract from the molecules you consume.  Other organisms live off what you excrete. How do you think septic systems work?

It all connects, and it all matters. What happens in the natural world, however isolated and disconnected you may feel from that world matters. It begins with biology, chemistry, and physics, but is also then societal, political, and behavioral.

A respiratory illness emerging in Wuhan China affects you even if you don’t get sick.

California smoke and ash from raging fires affect you even if you aren’t personally seeing and smelling it.

Hatred towards a dark-skinned teen, wearing a hoody, affects you even if you look like me.

Corrupt politicians affect you even if you don’t vote or care about politics.

A refugee born in, and living her life in a refugee camp on another continent, affects you.

An immigrant detainee, forced to have a hysterectomy affects you.

Each act of violence towards the earth, the ecosystem, each other, society, is an act of violence against all of us because we are all connected in some way. And in the off chance I’m wrong about that, I’m still not wrong. Their lives matter. Their lives matter as much as mine or yours, even if you or I do not feel directly violated. They are us.

Take a listen to this John Denver song from his Wildlife Concert in 1995.

There is a river that runs from the mountains
That one river is all rivers
All rivers are that one

There is a tree that stands in the forest
That one tree is all forests
All trees are that one

There is a flower that blooms in the desert
That one blossom is all flowers
All flowers are that one

There is a bird that sings in the jungle
That one song is all music
All songs are that one

It is the song of life
It is the flower of faith
It is the tree of temptation
It is the river of no regret

There is a child that cries in the ghetto
That one child is all children
All children are that one

There is a vision that shines in the darkness
That one vision is all of our dreams

It is a vision of heaven
It is a child of promise
It is the song of life
It is the river of no regret

Let this be a voice for the mountains
Let this be a voice for the river
Let this be a voice for the forest
Let this be a voice for the flowers
Let this be a voice for the ocean
Let this be a voice for the desert
Let this be a voice for the children
Let this be a voice for the dreamers
Let this be a voice of no regret

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