Updated: Jan 19, 2021
I guess I need to be careful writing about stuff like this, but it is probably pretty obvious to anyone after reading a few of my poems that I’m an environmentalist. Thanks to the hipster movement the word environmentalist doesn’t come with all the negative connotations it did in the ’80s and '90s when I was still learning how to be a tree-hugger from my extremely green and extremely political father. I’m sure not all of you have clicked onto another web site yet, but I understand that politics and the environment are hot button debate sparking issues and that bringing them up at the work water cooler is not always wise. In spite of this understanding, I believe that it is important to have the ability to agree to disagree without being an a-hole and that debating is healthy, and that it is also important to discuss issues—especially the ones that no one wants to talk about because that is generally how we begin to make them into non-issues. Finally, this is ultimately my page, my blog, and my rant. If the opinions expressed in it make you decide not to be a fan of my work, I will just have to be ok with that.
So, back to the whole environmentalist thing: I am not an environmentalist because it’s ‘cool’. I come from a family that had five different bins for recycling and garbage etc. way before recycling was really a thing. In fact, as a child, I was often ostracized and teased for the environmental views and actions of my family and myself. So why am I still so pro-green? A friend of mine posted an anonymous quote to my FB page once that said: “I am a tree-hugging, animal kissing, plant-loving dirt worshipper.” I kept it on my social media for a long time because I felt like it described me to a tee. I looooove nature, and that is the main reason that I am an environmentalist.
Sometimes I think I like plants and animals more than I like other humans. I talk to the plants I grow myself, and I even verbally thank trees from time to time in passing for the oxygen they are nice enough to make for us without anyone having to ask them. I was there to comfort both of my dogs in their moments of passing and was surprised to hear of how many people I knew who had chosen not to stay with their own pets in their final moments. I have also been late for a variety of things, including work because I was helping an animal in distress. When I look at another living creature—be it an ant, a tree, or an antelope—I see a miracle. I see a creature that is doing everything it can to grow, and thrive, and fulfill a purpose.
I am not a vegetarian—I love steak almost as much as I love nature—but I absolutely believe that the cow I eat should have a good life and a quick death, and if I become a hungry bear’s meal one day when I’m out in the bush I’m ok with that too. I know a lot of people think that being a vegetarian is part of being an environmentalist, but I don’t and that’s a whole other blog post. As Maynard sings in the Tool song ….? “life feeds on life” it’s a reality, but the idea that humans should be the top-notch of some chain is ridiculous in my opinion. Life is a cycle, and every living being deserves respect for its place in that cycle. I feel like when many humans look at a tree they only see a house, or a chair, or some paper, just as many people see only a steak when they look at a cow. While we have already established that I love steak, and I recognize the value of a cow as a resource, I also recognize that a cow and a tree each have value as a living miracle in and of itself, and that miracle should be honoured and celebrated.
Humans used to use the fact that we utilized tools to separate ourselves from the other animals, and when we discovered that apes used tools as well that was ok because humans had potentially descended from apes. Yet crows have been found to use tools at least as much as apes. Scientists have also discovered that when a tool is introduced to a crow they acquire the skills to utilize it more quickly than an ape does in similar conditions. Crows seem to possess the ability to plan and work in a group as well. In my day job, I sometimes supervise school playgrounds at lunch, and I have observes that crows will begin to gather on the roof of a school near the end of the lunch period. When the bell rings the crows can scavenge all of the garbage and food scraps that the children have dropped while playing. It is obvious that the crows have planned this out in advance, as they showed up consistently long before the signal of the bell to end lunch. To me, it shows a higher level of intelligence that most humans would give a crow credit for. Humans have also made recent scientific discoveries that have lead researchers to declare that creatures like dolphins and elephants are sentient beings, which would suggest that we humans don't really know anything about other animals and that maybe we aren't that smart after all.
In light of all of this information and misinformation what really gives humans the right to consider ourselves separate from anything else in nature? In my opinion, opposable thumbs and a highly developed frontal lobe do not give us undeniable rights, they give us an undeniable responsibility, one that we have neglected to the detriment of even our own species. The video I saw may have been edited or coaxed, but I still think Koko the gorilla summed it up best in one of her final speeches (https://www.buzzworthy.com/koko-the-gorilla-powerful-message/) : “I am gorilla…I am a flower, animal…I am nature. Man Koko love. Earth Koko love, but man stupid…stupid! Koko sorry…Koko cry. Time hurry! Fix Earth! Help Earth! Hurry! Protect Earth…Nature see you…” While that video was heartbreaking to watch, it was also uplifting to see that someone understood the interconnectedness of us all; that someone was willing to speak the truth. It also made me think again that if humans are the ‘superior species’ why is a gorilla the one who seems to get it? Our politicians are still arguing over economics, while our environment becomes more and more chaotic. I wish I could have hugged Koko and told her that I understand her message and that I will continue to try to help the earth and all of its creatures, because like Koko I too am flower, animal and nature.