All of a Piece

“Every particular in nature, a leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole, and partakes of the perfection of the whole.”

          ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The tides are in our veins, we still mirror the stars, life is your child, but there is in me, older and harder than life and more impartial, the eye that watched before there was an ocean.”   

          ~ Robinson Jeffers

We know that the Earth encompasses a multitude of interactive systems at both a giant and minute scale, and everything in between. Humanity is a part of that great web of interaction — human nature is just a subset of “Nature.” We integrate with nature well, naturally on a personal scale. We garden, we admire and nurture plants and animals, we relish the feel of new grass beneath bare feet and the shock of plunging into an ice-cold pond.

We are nourished, mentally and physically, by the plants and animals that we share the Earth with. Some revel in a spiritual connection to nature and the Earth.

However, try as we might, we still mistakenly act as though nature was something separate, apart from us. The footsteps we leave on the planet are detrimental to it, and ultimately to us. Writer/scientist Olivia Rosane observes, “In fact, the well-being of cities and the well-being of the natural world are inextricably linked … Nearly half of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the world’s cities is threatened by nature and biodiversity loss. However, if cities choose to invest in nature, they can also give themselves an economic boost. “

Rosane continues, “Up until now, the growth of cities has largely come at the expense of the natural world. Cities have historically been built near valuable ecosystems that provide the cities with essential resources like soil and water at the expense of their own health, and this is projected to continue … Further, cities and their residents are threatened by their current relationship with the natural world … More than 70% of the world’s 576 largest cities, or 414 total, are at high or extreme risk from pollution, water supply problems, extreme heat, or other natural disasters.”

Regarding biodiversity, Rosane quotes researcher Marina Ruta, “It supports key economic activities through air quality, water cycles, and flood regulation, and underpins the production of energy, food, and medicine … As a consequence of biodiversity loss, critical economic activities depending on nature are at risk of disruption.” 

This is about more than just saving a cute mammal species from extinction. The human impact on the Earth is being exacerbated by the impending chaos of climate change. Humans are attracted to communities, both large and small. As the human population increases, we create larger and more damaging communities.

But other approaches may be in the works. Rosane quotes Akanksha Khatri of the World Economic Forum, “Nature can be the backbone of urban development. By recognizing cities as living systems, we can support conditions for the health of people, planet and economy in urban areas … Nature-based solutions include protecting urban watersheds, conserving or restoring coastal wetlands, or incorporating nature into the built environment.”

Ruta notes, “… spending $583 billion on interventions that enhance nature and reduce urban impacts on biodiversity can secure significant economic benefits as cities become more resilient, liveable and competitive.” Furthermore, “… cities could make a difference by improving urban planning, promoting sustainable production and consumption of consumer goods, electrifying the grid and encouraging carbon storage through nature-based solutions like green roofs, tree planting, and urban lakes.”

We are not a separate thing from nature, but a component of it. It’s time we started acting like it.

“For as long as I can remember I have always had a strongly-felt intuitive sense that the world is a wide and wondrous place, way beyond our grasp of it or influence on it, and that everything is connected to everything else.”

          ~ Robinson Jeffers

Additional information:

Olivia Rosane, Building Cities in Harmony with Nature Is Essential for a Thriving Planet, June 1, 2022 TreeHugger

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