We owe our existence to it, yet we give it little heed, since it’s always there for us. In my science classes we called it natural law, the material rules of nature that lie behind the structure and behavior of our universe. Our earth, for example, rotates on its axis, allowing for alternations of light and dark. It circles the sun with a mathematical precision on which we base our calendar. There is the partnership of sun and moon exerting a gravitational force on a rotating earth that lifts and lowers its ocean waters with cyclic surety. Like a camera lens set on infinity, the examples have no limit in their envisioning.
In sum, there exists a rhythm to the universe, which some have argued evidences a Mind at work, bestowing design and flowing with purpose. Others, however, contend these laws are merely interplay of cause-effect mechanisms, devoid of intent and ethical regard, as reflected in Japan’s devastating tsunami in 2011, taking 20,000 lives. What we define as tragic is more likely our not heeding their operations. It’s not wise to build on seismic faults or close to ocean shore.
As you may surmise, I draw comfort from these cosmic rhythms despite their indifference to our human schemes. I know that tomorrow brings the dawn and, with it, the promise of new beginning. In our human world, such fidelity is rare.
I find a discordant note, however, in our thoughtless disregard of those laws that sustain us, providing clean air, dependable rainfall, and abundant harvest. In doing so, we’ve acerbated climate change, a crisis largely of our own making rather than merely cyclical change. We’ve poisoned our air and water, slashed and burned our way through virgin forest, plundered our fellow animal species and squandered our water resources. Tomorrow’s wars are more likely to be waged over water, not oil.
In ten years, the African elephant, once a million, will vanish into memory along with the rhinoceros, all for the sake of trinkets and aphrodisiacs. Today I saw the BBC news that sharks may soon become extinct, 100 million already killed, in a fishing industry that preys upon their fins to flavor Asian soup.
In our misdeeds, we’ve set other laws into motion that now imperil rather than sustain, generating melting glaciers that are raising sea levels and a warming tundra with potential for massive release of methane, a toxin deadlier than CO2.
Meanwhile, there was the media’s startling failure in last fall’s presidential debates to question the candidates on our generation’s most perilous challenge. Locally in places like Kentucky where I reside, cars sport “friends of coal” license plates and “environmentalist” suggests extremism. Nationally, and globally, corporate interests prevail to uphold waste in the guise of growth.
As for the public’s response, I see its numbing indifference perhaps most vividly at grocery store checkout. Though I provide my own cloth bags, I’m virtually self-conscious in my singularity amidst a sea of plastic supported by custom.
We are makers of a new rhythm, but this one brings no comfort.
- Have the Middle East Water Wars Already Begun? (worldnewscurator.com)
- World Water Day March 22 (adultsforlilsprouts.wordpress.com)
- Wildlife conservation summit begins (bigpondnews.com)
- Map: China’s Provincial Water Resources and Use (2002-2010) (circleofblue.org)