My second day at Friends of the Earth national conference has been no less exciting or interesting than the first, with talks from Craig Bennett on the FOE ‘road map’ to the future, Tony Juniper and Paul De Zylva on biodiversity, as well as discussion on the new Bees campaign and Marinet’s AGM. That’s just a list of the talks I chose to attend, painstakingly selected from a rich list of options; there has been a lot going on! But before I process everything, and gather a little more research to do a post relating to today’s topics, I thought I would finishing writing some thoughts I had yesterday while Nnimmo Bassey was talking.
Nnimmo Bassey was discussing activists standing up for environmental rights, in particular against oil drilling in an area of Equator, when I began to wonder whether our previous perception of the Earth has anthropomorphised it from too mature an angle. It was as Bassey referred to Equator’s out-standing beauty, and the unnatural travesty it was to site an oil project there, that I considered whether the phase of alluding to Earth as ‘mother’ might have been misrepresenting ‘her’ somewhat. As Bassey spoke of the natural breathtaking-ness of the area, I wondered whether we should sometimes try thinking of Earth as a child rather than as a mature adult. After all, although she may be capable of defending herself and hosting life, this view of the planet does not describe a being that is unspoilt, pure, unrefined and completely natural; yet that is how we see children at the beginning of their lives, as something untainted and of nature. That is when we are most like our natural counterparts, and that is when we find the idea of any forms of corruption or damage in our race most abhorrent*.
Whether it is worth pursuing this point much further I am unsure, but felt it was interesting enough to merit brief consideration. Really, I think seeing the planet from the Gaian perspective is probably the most helpful way we can think of Earth, but maybe a shift from the traditional ‘mother’ term could also be useful. After all, a human being (be it mother or child) still maintains a host of life – like Gaia- as we all contain interacting networks of bacteria, without which we would be unable to survive. But the term ‘mother’ seems to dissolve us of responsibility towards ‘her’, and instead we have (perhaps, somewhat fondly) thought of ourselves as her unruly children, whereas in reality, our growth away from nature has given us catastrophic damaging power. As discussed in a previous post, the fact that this growth has been away from nature plays a crucial role in our environmental problems. It is an adult growth, and, although we may have been alive for a mere fragment of time in relation to Earth, by growing past her, we seem to have accelerated ourselves into a position of responsibility we remain unwilling to acknowledge.
*Need any help with this idea – imagine a baby smoking. It’s something we accept in a grown adult, but is entirely unacceptable for small children.