According to Dr. Thomas Berry our future requires achieving,” the realization that the universe is a communion of subjects not a collection of objects”. He goes on to explain we must realize and accept that “the Earth is primary and humans are only a derivative”. Life systems were derived from the primary evolutionary process designed in the creation of the Universe and Earth systems. We are but one species out of several million that belong to the Earth system. This scenario suggests, humans major concern must be to preserve the integrity of the Earth community. The Earth community is the natural world which sustains life systems including the human community. It is the world as it was prior to the introduction of the human species. The arrival of humans initiated the demand for resources, resulting in the gradual increase of detrimental impact on planet Earth. As the human population spread throughout the world and increased in numbers, the adverse impacts continued to expand. With the introduction of the agricultural age 12,000 years ago, the impacts of humans on the natural world accelerated. It wasn’t however, until the transition to the industrial age, over 200 years ago, that serious destruction of the natural world became a significant issue. This era ushered in a new human attitude which was unwilling to accept the biological limitations of life. The dependence of human life on the integral function of our natural world should be obvious, yet our denial of the life sustaining elements available only from Earth’s natural systems remains beyond comprehension. The human community is only a small part of this magnificent story of creation! Humanity’s believe that we are at the top of the pyramid and our intelligence allows us to forcibly alter the natural processes of nature, however this rationale has alienated humans from the natural world. With technological invention, humans believe they can surpass the limits of nature!
Planet Earth, as we know it today, has evolved over the past 4.5 billion years. Single cell life forms were introduced to the creation story 3.5 billion years ago, and have been evolving and changing ever since. The realization that we are but one of the millions of living organisms on Earth, is essential to understanding the dependent relationships we share with other living species.
Our advanced intelligence has allowed humanity to design weapons capable of total destruction of our planet. We have reshaped the surface geography of Earth, over-utilize Earth’s natural resources, drastically increased carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere, polluted much of our water supply, caused unacceptable climate changes and deforested over half of Earths forest covered lands. This has all occurred in the name of progress!
Forests are definitely a significant part of the remaining natural world, and provided the experience which led me to concerns for the future of humanity. It has become evident; the destiny of humanity demands a greater understanding and appreciation of the evolutionary process Earth has experienced. I have come to believe that the education of all the specialized professions must be built upon an ecological base. I am not concerned about the factual data science has discovered related to the timing and transitions Earth has gone through. My concern is with the natural processes, relationships and connections which are designed into the creation story. Remember Dr. Berry’s conclusion that it is vital we realize the universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects. Ecology is the study of relationships; however, ecologists have focused on ecological relationships of non-human species. The foundation required for future academic studies, is the connections and relationships humans require from the natural world. These connections and relationships are the essential elements that sustain life on Earth. They are very complex and required by every individual living today, yet little emphasis is directed toward these vital natural processes.
Peter Wohlleben in his book, “The Hidden Life of Trees”, describes trees as far more complex organisms then we can imagine, and vital to life systems on Earth. They are gigantic beings thriving for hundreds of years and providing essential elements designed into the ecological evolution story of planet Earth. There are only a few species that can survive without trees.
Dr. Ruth Wilson in her recent book, “Trees and the Human Spirit “, presents several examples of the positive impact’s trees provide to medical, educational and emotional human conditions. As an example, studies have shown that women living close to green vegetation experience fewer pre-mature births and young person’s suffering from attention deficit disorders improve when experiencing outdoor forest settings. Students participating in forest setting classrooms appear to learn and retain information better and improve their social skills. The story of creation is far more complex than we can imagine!
It is difficult, if not impossible, to think of a profession that would not benefit from this ecological foundation. Certainly, forestry and natural resource science should require this foundation prior to the specialized scientific studies. Managing our remaining forested lands is far beyond a simple agricultural process, and cannot be measured by the amount of board-feet of timber harvested annually.
Science has uncovered an incredible amount of information about the evolutionary development of our planet, the transitions Earth has gone through and the time frames involved. We know what our planet is made of, how long it has taken to develop and how life has evolved from a single-cell organism to modern humans. Unfortunately, we are just beginning to understand and appreciate humanity’s dependence on the natural world and the complex natural processes that exist within nature. Understanding and protecting these essential processes and relationships, provides the foundation for humanity’s future on Earth!