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Grateful for Mother's Green Infrastructure

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the bounty of the Earth in broader terms than food. I don’t want to take for granted how much that’s essential Nature provides for our life and well-being.

We’re starting to wake to the preciousness of water, as aquifers become depleted, rain comes down acid, streams kill fish — and drinking water must increasingly be filtered or bought.

Oxygen bars thrive in polluted cities, where the air outdoors poses a health hazard. We are fortunate in more rural areas to breathe cleaner air — but still here the public air supply is deteriorating. Ask the growing number of people like me who are chemically sensitive.

Plants make oxygen; in the stratosphere, ultraviolet radiation changes it to ozone. In turn ozone protects us from dangerous UV — and other, shorter wavelengths. Still we depend on appropriate radiation, to fuel photosynthesis.

Similarly we need some greenhouse effect: its warming the Earth’s surface permits life as we know it. But fossil-fuel combustion wrecks the balance, and still humans take climate and sea-level for granted while we destroy the world’s great forests, our main protection.

Soil: that miracle of life many think of as ordinary dirt, and the many organisms that make up a healthy soil that nourishes plants.

Plants give us so much more than food and oxygen. Flowers, evolved for plant reproduction, lift the spirits of human beings: what an interesting result. Imagine your neighborhood without trees. The thought makes me agoraphobic, oppressed by too much open space, unprotected without those sentinel shade-beings.

Animals give us more than food, too, and not just domesticated ones. Have you seen otters playing in the Squanacook River? As Thoreau said, "In Wildness is the preservation of the world."

We are just beginning to value biodiversity, to suspect that losing species forever has an impact on the quality of all our lives. We will never know what we are losing: foods, medicines, beauty.... Something more intangible too. Being human means having evolved as part of the whole ecosystem of the planet. Evolution doesn’t move as fast as “progress.” Parts of our minds we may dismiss as primitive still move us with a primal connection to the whole, inspire us and sustain us in ways “civilized” life deadens.

So little do we really understand yet about ecology, about the intricate web of interdependence in which Mother Nature holds all life on this planet. May we treat it with respect and humility.

© Copyright 2004 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 19 November 2004

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For more information
  • Walking, by Henry David Thoreau: "In Wildness is the preservation of the world. Every tree sends its fibres forth in search of the Wild. The cities import it at any price. Men plow and sail for it. From the forest and wilderness come the tonics and barks which brace mankind. Our ancestors were savages. The story of Romulus and Remus being suckled by a wolf is not a meaningless fable."
  •, sponsored by the Conservation Fund and the USDA Forest Service