By Samir Shukla
I sprinted across the street the other day. An SUV screeched past behind me as I jumped onto the sidewalk, feeling a breezy swoosh on my backside. I was on a stroll, lost in the sprinkling of buds and flowers on trees as the days warm in our part of the globe. High on pollen. I was dreaming, daydreaming, strolling past a raggedy fence in the sadder part of the neighborhood. A non-descript apartment complex was getting pieced together like children's toy blocks on a cleared strip of land a little further down the road. The woods in that land erased down to a grove of a few sad trees, clinging to the ground, bemoaning their lost comrades, slowly coming back to life in the warm sun.
More apartments, more rooms, for more folks moving to our sunny part of the world. The cleared land bled muddy brown in the heavy rains of the past couple of days.
We've been trying to make a fool of nature for millennia, thinking we can keep altering entire ecosystems and kill and eat anything that moves. But Ma Earth ain't no fool. Witness the world over the past year. Ma Earth always has tricks up her sleeves to humble species running out of control. She tossed a little bug at us early last year, no expiration date, humbling humanity into a disorienting pause. Try and mess with my normal and I mess with your normal, she likely let out a thunderous laugh.
This time nature made fools of the entire planet, giving a simple and precise message; keep disturbing the balance of nature and there will be consequences.
Earth Day is marked in April. It's a good annual reminder of the fragility of our blue marble, the continuous work and vigilance needed in its preservation, its sustainability for future generations. Our actions sometimes change the world overnight, but changing the world back to a natural mode, repairing our audacity doesn't happen overnight. We can only continue to work and act in a manner to make sustainability a norm, live our lives, and then hand over the next generation their tasks.
A sprinkling of common sense can make a world of difference, scale it up and it benefits all.
Leave the place better than you found it may sound hokey, but it's become an existential matter in contemporary times while the human population continues to expand, affecting every available space on the globe.
We are an adaptive and cunning species, experienced in self-survival. Adaptation has been a key element for humans over their existence. As a species we have evolved and thrived via adaptation, which is beneficial to us, but not so much to our planet and other species. This craftiness is why humans will pretty much always roam the earth.
Further down the road in my stroll, I spot another mob of yellow bulldozers and trucks clearing more land, the sign happily announcing more apartments.
On the return walk I pass a cluster of older homes. There's a dog sleeping in the backyard of the house facing the road.
I do a very convincing dog bark. I've sent dogs up on their paws, ears perked up, thinking a fellow canine is approaching. I've startled people into thinking a dog is in the vicinity with my uncanny canine vocalization talent. I don't know where I got it, but it was one of the things I did and perfected to entertain my kids when they were younger. Feeling pranky on this lovely spring day, I cleared my throat and let out a couple of quick barks and the sleeping dog jumped up, looking for the invisible intruder. I couldn't resist it. The confused pooch let out a couple of sleepy barks, ran around the yard a bit, looked around and curled up back into slumber.
This is the junction of winter mellowing into spring. It lightens my wintry heaviness. People seem friendlier while nature slowly unfurls her high-definition canvas. A young man's fancy, ok, so a not so young man's fancy turns to thoughts of, um, renewal. I am thinking on this jaunt about renewal, of life, the fragility of our existence, one day happy and carefree, the next day deathly humbled.
The seasons quickly change some years, while other years they flip flop a few times between the two before settling down into incoming season. Springtime is winning this day.
I walk along the side of the road rounding out the jaunt on the way back. This April beckons a path back to carefree times of mingling. Maybe we've learned some lessons about our self-perceived mastery over nature. Then again, humans are notorious for quickly forgetting their own foibles when the going gets better, plowing back into more wanting.
As we pass another Earth Day this April, the bug that Ma Earth handed us last year is seemingly on the way to be managed, not ended, but managed. It's all we can do. Notch it up for experience because nature will return with a more sinister disciplinary reminder next time.
We try to fool nature all the time. Who are the fools now?