After finishing our evening meal, Iris and I were relaxing on the sofa and observing the small woodlot just behind our back yard. Fresh snow had fallen which enabled us to detect the detailed conditions of the interior of the woodlot, beyond any of our previous observations. Iris pointed out the decadent conditions of this small forest community that were enlighten by the lack of leaves and new snowfall. We know the property owners and are aware their desire is to have this wooded area provide solitude for their home site. The woodlot is very old with one very large hickory tree that I am sure is well over 200 years of age. Many large hardwood trees have fallen and are decaying as they lay on the ground. The remaining eastern central hardwood trees are dense enough that the crowns, when leafed out, provide a closed canopy preventing enough sunlight to reach the ground for young seedlings to grow. Essentially, the community is a portrait of a natural stand approaching physical maturity without any management assistance from human sources. It is not a healthy condition, but it will gradually regenerate following the principles of preservation which will meet the desires of the property owners. There is nothing wrong with allowing this community to follow nature’s process of regeneration, but it is an example of how inefficient very old forest communities become without proper management to keep them healthy and yet maintain natural diversity. Our discussion led me to begin thinking more about the numerous relationships that exist within our natural world and Earth systems, and how interdependent and connected we are to every element within the universe. Dr. Thomas Berry wrote, “Our own future is inseparable from the future of the larger community that brought us into being.” Long ago it was suggested that, nothing is itself without everything else. Yes, everything is connected and humans are just one part of the life systems on Earth. To understand and appreciate the Earth community, requires the acceptance that all life has rights and to produce the wonderous world around us requires humans to understand the amazing sequence of transformations the universe has endured through creation.
Our connectedness to all life is evident through the abundance of relationships that exist within our natural world. “The relationships between plants and animals are overwhelming to the point one might think it had to be dreamed into existence,” Dr. Berry stated and went on to say, “relationship is a constant throughout the universe. “
Our connections and relationships with the natural world, provides evidence of the necessity for change in the management of our valuable remaining forest covered lands. Our expanding population and shrinking forest acreage will place continuously increasing pressure on the remaining forest communities. Simply, slowing the rate of deforestation and planting trees on abandon lands is not sufficient for the future. Understanding connections and relationships with the natural surrounding must provide the new focus for forest management. Berry states, “Our distorted dream of an industrial technological paradise must be replaced by a viable dream of enhancing human presence within the natural world and Earth.” This statement suggests, we have a responsibility to manage the remaining forest communities so they are capable of providing the elements required to support life on our planet. We must shift from our commodity-oriented goals to a focus on forest health and diversity. Berry wrote, “Our challenge is to move from a purely human oriented or personal salvation focus to one that embraces the universe in all its forms and recognizes our immersion out of the long evolution of the universe and the Earth.”
Our remaining forests must function at optimal levels which demands good health and we must remember that the extent of diversity is the measurement of perfection. The transition into the emerging Ecozoic Era will challenge the science of forestry, and demand a new set of principles that recognizes the connections between the knowledge of the scientific community and the human community requirements. The industrial revolution has been devastating on the natural world and science and technology cannot provide the desired future. Dr. Berry states, “Not even the overwhelming evidence of the threats to life on our planet itself, have enabled our industrial culture to break free from the mythic commitment to progress. The tragedy is that our economy is being run by persons with good intensions under the illusion they are only bringing great benefit to the world and fulfilling a sacred task on the part of the human community. “
The opposing worldviews of science and religion are hindering our ability to implement our earthborn obligations we are both morally bound to share. It is time we join in a new approach that recognizes our common dependence upon the natural world and adjusts our actions and attitudes for the future. Someone once said, “We will not save what we do not love and we will not love or save what we do not experience as sacred.” Are we capable of returning to the sacred relationship our ancestors and our native brothers and sisters shared with Earth? What we do to Earth we do to ourselves! Earth does not belong to us, we belong to earth!