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Insufficient Awe

Kate McClellan
On Mixture (November 2018)

Dear Friends: I’ve come to think of the phrase “save the planet” as the ultimate in hubris. Do we know what the planet actually is, this roughly spherical celestial object that is 24,000 miles in circumference, spinning at 1,000 miles per hour, orbiting the Sun? The planet we call Earth has a molten layer just below the surface that occasionally comes to the surface in the form of lava that destroys everything in its path as it creates new land masses or erupts suddenly with boulders flung hundreds of feet upward. Huge chunks of land mass are moving around on the surface, creating mountains, sometimes slowly, sometimes suddenly with violent movements that shake everything to the point of collapse. The surface is largely covered by huge bodies of water that are moved by the tremendous force of the Moon’s gravity eight or more feet up and back twice a day. The planet is surrounded by a layer of gases that are the right mix to support our particular life form, but the movements can be so powerful as to blow over trees and hurl water against the land. And then there is the planet’s timescale. At one time dinosaurs lived on the surface of the planet, and then they and most other creatures were entirely wiped out. Sixty-six million years later, here we are, with our “ancient” history three thousand years ago.

This is just a brief description of the majesty of the planet we call Earth. Whatever changes in the atmosphere that we might influence, the planet will continue. It is not the planet we need to save, it is ourselves, and the sooner we get honest about this fact, the sooner our species will come to some agreement about doing something to slow the changes and mitigate the changes already set in motion that threaten the fragile life forms, including us, that perch precariously on the surface of our powerful, majestic home.

Continuing to focus on saving coral reefs, wolves, or cute little mammals only distracts from the fact that we need to trigger our own survival instinct – and quickly.

– Kate McClellan, Palo Alto Friends Meeting (PYM)

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