Some time ago I had the chance to visit the Moon Valley Provincial Park in San Juan. In that extraordinary spot, the guide who was explaining about the place to all the tourists said something that caused a deep impression in those who were listening to him. Standing in front of a huge block of stratified stone I learned that that piece of rock contained in its layers a big amount of plant and animal fossils. They could be seen among those strata, some of them as black as coal. He explained that they belonged to past millennia when that place had been a sylvan area. Throughout immeasurable periods, the coal from millions of plants had been reduced to a twenty centimeters high stratum.
He also said that that huge block is an attraction due to the fact that it is a portion that comes directly from the remote guts of the Earth. It should be located two kilometers underground but the movement of the tectonic plates that made the Andes emerge, pushed it and helped it come to the surface.
I cannot stop thinking, over and over again, about the agitated murmur generated among the tourists when the guide explained, with an astounding yet illustrative calm, that some day all we know as civilization will inevitably be reduced to another stratum. I thought that all of our buildings, cars, houses, cities, art work, bodies will be swallowed by the huge, colossal strength that moves this planet. Nothing, evidently, can escape the natural course of things.
I keep thinking that the big problem we have as a species is that we believe everything begins and ends with us. Regardless of the science we have built to explain to us very briefly that the universe has existed for the last 12 or 15 thousand million years, it seems that we stubbornly think that our two or three million year presence is very important. I keep thinking that, in a universal scale, there are no bigger differences between oneself, a microbe and the planet. Everything is so small and big at the same time inside this huge structure in expansion that a sun, like ours, is basically tiny,
Some time ago, I also had the chance to contemplate the Altas Cumbres mountain range in Cordoba. I thought, at that moment, about the human structures, so fragile in comparison to this huge mass that some day will also disappear. We are so focused on our own navels that we find it hard to look at the sky. I also thought that we build a reality for ourselves so as not to think too much about these issues: they are distressing because they are too difficult to understand. This vision is not at all related to a pessimistic point of view. It seems to me it has more to do with a deep realism. Nobody, no matter how aware they may be of the fact that death will surprise them one day, is defeatist about it. However, people go to work everyday, have children, try to learn, laugh, enjoy, go for a walk. People also cry and suffer, most of the times for completely ordinary matters. I actually think the mechanism is based on not thinking about this, on not thinking at all about anything that might be out of man’s control.
Why does man tend to think he is foreign to nature? I do not know, I am also a man. We are an amazing animal, an animal capable of taking pieces from nature and creating, for instance, a computer. What is more, it does not cease to amaze me that so many data can fit in such small circuits. I find it impossible to think how there can be a whole virtual reality on the Internet or how we have been capable of creating a ship that landed us, for a moment, on the moon. There might not be a complete answer to this question. Perhaps we do not have to look for it. Or do we ask ourselves how can a tree give fruit, for instance? And I am not thinking about a scientific answer to this question. That answer has probably been found already.
I feel over and over again that nothing is truly artificial. Man is a being from Nature, not different in his essence to an ant or a plant. They (we) are all part of everything, indivisible, dependant on everything. It is a weak, perishable balance. Nothing is here just because, everything is related to everything. Therefore, I believe that it is a doubtful statement to say that, for instance, a computer is an artificial thing which cannot be found in Nature. I find them in cities, in houses. And in the end, those human structures are full part of Nature; made by Man who is (we are) an animal, a mammal, a primate. I find no differences between a beehive or a formicary and a city. It comes to my mind that if Man is a being from Nature, everything he does will undoubtedly be a part of it. O do we dare to think a formicary is an artificial thing?
I see the planet Earth through the Internet. Through pictures taken from satellites I can watch almost all the Earth’s surface. It is something I find intriguing because I feel that the conscience on our vital surface is, today more than ever, extreme. Nowadays, we have a vision of the world which, at least from my point of view, constantly makes me reconsider its tiny proportions.
I get closer from the “space” and, with a few mouse clicks, I draw near to bigger details.
I have a look at my city, Cordoba. From above, it is a grey spot of amorphous edges. It is difficult to think that more than one million people live there. I am also there.
I roll the mouse and move forward in a bird’s eye view towards the surface of my province. I feel certain despair when I see that everything is a huge grid of fields and roads. I move forward, I believe I am already somewhere else, it is no longer Cordoba. However, everything stays the same, devastated. I stop to remember a recent piece of news: 95% of Cordoba’s native forest has been destroyed in the last few years. This memory, this statistical figure, explains many of the catastrophes that lie ahead of us.
Once more, I move the mouse and suddenly I am in New York, after that, I can go in a few seconds time to Africa. I see the planet Earth through the Internet.
Is it perhaps that all these possibilities are actually a part of a natural development of things? If I consider a city as a part of Nature I should consider devastation as a part of it too. This endless grid, these remote areas completely modified by Man are doubtlessly part of Nature. So… is there anything we can do to stop this catastrophe that affects us?
Today I think there is nothing.
Longing for that is utopian; it is just like not wanting to ever die. Perhaps it is just a part of a natural, uncontrollable process. We are probably not entitled (nor capable) to modify things, and if we were… I sense that would also be a part of Nature.
There is something that does not cease to amaze me, a typical detail from our human condition: although everything takes place in a slow heave, we never notice it. We clearly do not care about it, or perhaps it is a mechanism from our mind to forget what almost all of us find unbearable.
I suddenly feel I am concerned about thinking this way. I do not believe it is reasonable to think that everything is inevitable, that we cannot modify the natural course of things, even if that course leads us to extinction. I can only figure out that this concern that I have is also a part of human nature.
The marvels that surround us are absolutely incredible. I myself feel fascinated with the way in which everything is connected and following its course. I cannot understand those who are not amazed by anything. Perhaps we have lost the sense of contemplation, probably due to the great acceleration we experience. I believe arrogance, which is a trait from our species, makes us too numb to believe that everything begins and ends with us.
There is, apparently, a project to turn Mars into an inhabitable planet for Man. Doubtlessly, this cyclopean task is, at some point, natural. What terrifies me is that not all of us will be able to go. What will happen with our habitat in 200 or 500 years? Who will have to stay? Will other species evolve to adapt to the new climatic situation and take our place? What will happen to those who live in Mars? Will they still be humans? Will they still be dazzled with all that surrounds them? Or will there be such acceleration that life will be equal to a second?
Is not that what life is for many of us nowadays?
– Perhaps that is what life is.
I feel we are facing the origins of the catastrophe, our catastrophe. We travel thousands of kilometers and nothing is how it used to be before us. Everything is sown, transformed, manipulated. We believe we have a natural reservation when we protect some area from our devastating action. But, where does a natural reservation begin and where does it end if we are also a part of Nature? We are in a hurry and we do not see it, we do not care. Perhaps that is what is right, I do not know. Once again, I come up with the chilling idea that all of this, the catastrophe in particular, is a part of the natural course of things, a biological process which is impossible to stop or modify. It may be years, decades or maybe millennia, but everything will doubtlessly fall apart. Are we helping with our actions for that end to come earlier? – I do not think so – we are not that powerful.