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We don’t know what our own habitat is…

Sir David Attenborough

BBC 16 Dec 2013

 

This off-the-cuff observation, in the midst of a simple radio conversation on BBC today, startled me.

Is it possible that we, in walking through the moments of our lives, do not recognize or ‘know’ our own habitat? This ecosphere of life-giving oxygen, those mountains, that river of water, this bit of nourishment from some plot of dirt?  

Is it possible we suffer from habitat illiteracy – can you read the sky and the wind for on-coming weather, recognize a source of usable water, or observe the movement of wildlife to note puzzling changes?

Being a 3rd generation native of this area of the Rockies, where the prairie meets mountains, and raised by a woman born in the late 1800s whose survival and well-being depended on reading the land and weather, I too taught my children to read the beautiful, huge blue sky here. We pay attention to see, to smell, to feel when snow is in the air and whether it’s a northern ice (and thus cold) scent or a heavy damp one (and thus a deep, heavy snow requiring extra food in the pantry) on the way. I soothed my children with knowledge of when a cloud portended hail rather than tornado weather and which way it was blowing in order that they feel safe at Home in our world and empowered to be a part of it. We see how the prairie Blue Jays have come to inhabit our backyard rather than the foothills variety and that summer’s doves now stay too long (and thus get caught by heavier snows than they are meant for) — puzzling changes in territory and timing we can only presume come from changes in climate and habitat needs.

Reading the weather, the sky, our habitat are essential tools. For we need them to feel at home here on Earth and with earth’s vital resources that support our very life.

We are not unique; so many I know bring their own weather/habitat knowledge with them when they make a new home in a new territory as well. And thus learning and natural evolution take place; yes, it really can be 10-below for a week here and yes, power can go out.

But Sir David speaks of a more profound change:

We don’t know what our own habitat is  . . .

Have a majority of us, like the comic Jetsons of the 1960s, become used to punching a button and food is shoved into our mouths? (Let’s not forget that poor family had to wear helmets for life-giving oxygen; let us hope that is not our future here on Earth.)

Sir David went on to mention the moors and forests of the U.K., every inch of which, of course, are transformed by man’s hand over centuries save, he noted whimsically, a few tops of peaks in Scotland.

Here in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world many of us are lucky enough to see wilderness, where we can see an ‘original’ habitat of man, whether temperate rainforest in British Columbia or parts of the Amazon and here in the Rockies —except that in many cases, the wilderness managed to be preserved is the edge of our habitat, a remnant of land from which man could not carve out a 4-season living, like at the tops of our Eagle’s Nest Wilderness of 13,000 and 14,000 feet, and thus left it to remain wilderness.

We do not know what our own habitat is…

Sir David did mention that we might look upon glass and steel, buildings and tarmack, as our habitat — and if so, he said, that is very distressing. Indeed we are told that a majority of the world’s population now lives in cities. And of course, that is a mixed blessing: with more urban living, more land is able to return to wild, as noted in a previous post (Re*Wilding);  yet with more people, especially our children, living in a city-bound alienation from our Earth, we become dangerous and sad. We suffer both a habitat illiteracy, and a sense of alienation from our natural cradle that gives us water, air, food, life.

The remedy? Take a moment outside. Reconnect to your habitat: notice the sky and read the wind; gaze at your water source and feel grateful it’s even there; consider what the wildlife (surely there is some near you even if a humble pigeon or squirrel) had for their breakfast. And then look to the horizon . . . and think about home. The Earth. Your habitat.

What is your habitat, really? It’s still there, beyond the glass and steel.

And your life-force, maybe even your soul within you, knows you, me, we all need it more than we might want to admit.

 

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