Ever since the New Zealand earthquake, I’ve been hearing a lot about The Power Of Nature (my capitals are deliberate). According to many of these supposedly wise people, we are “at the mercy of nature” and we can only cower as she shows us her “awesome power”. Nowhere has this been more evident recently than in the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, where people and buildings were simply wiped out in a matter of minutes, as if they were made of paper. For millennia, ever since the first tales of The Flood, we have stood in awe of Nature and what she can do to us.
What bothers me about all this, though, is that we persist in thinking this has something to do with us, personally. I suppose that the only way we can come to terms with all of this is to give up our control and simply accept that, when it comes to natural disasters, there is nothing we can do. Recently, I have been glued to the excellent Professor Brian Cox in his series “Wonders of the Universe”, and if you ever want to be reminded of how insignificant we are in the wider story of our planet and our Universe, then watch this series! However, that is not all that the series has given me. It has also made me aware of how integral our lives are to the story of our planet, and how we are not just inhabiting our Universe, we are the Universe, in a very literal sense.
Because of this, I think we should take more responsibility for what happens to us when Nature uses her “power”. After all, we chose to build our towns and cities on flood plains, near to fault lines, and on the coasts of our countries. We really shouldn’t be shocked and/or feel no responsibility when we turn out to be in the way. Nature doesn’t hate us, she is just carrying on, regardless.
So, here’s an idea. Perhaps we should get out of the way. Perhaps we should try to help ourselves by doing everything we can to reduce the amount of carbon we produce, because even though carbon is essential to life, too much of it will kill us. Perhaps we should take more responsibility for our lives because, sure as eggs is eggs, Nature isn’t going to do it for us.
Natural History and indeed the history of the Universe is all about fighting to survive, and we need to stop believing that we are special and join in that fight. We need to accept that we are a parasite on the very planet we rely on for survival, and start acting to reduce our impact before we inadvertently kill ourselves. We need to stop pretending that climate change has nothing to do with us, and step up. It’s no coincidence that no wild animals died in the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2006. They listened to what the planet was telling them and acted to protect themselves. We seem to have lost that knack.
The Power of Nature actually exists within us, if we can only access it. Our astonishing symbiosis with Nature can be used to our advantage if we can only stop looking for help from without, and accept help from within.
We are not now, and nor have we ever been, powerless in the face of Nature. We can, and we should, fight for our survival.