The Shadow of Human Existence

By Brent Fewell

Linking to an article over at MercatorNet by Tracy Mehan, a friend and contemplative thinker on the human condition and the environment.  Mehan’s article, In a Natural State, reflecting upon David Botkins new book, The Moon in the Nautilus Shell: Discordant Harmonies Reconsidered, offers for consideration a new perspective on understanding the role of humanity in intervening and conserving the natural environment that is constantly changing.

“Nature in the twenty-first century will be a nature that we make; the question is the degree to which this molding will be intentional or unintentional, desirable or undesirable.” Botkin recognizes that abandoning the belief in the constancy of nature is very discomforting leaving us in “an extreme existential position.”

Citing to historical and ecological evidence of a planet in constant flux and weaving into his piece the reflections of other notable ecologists and environmental historians, such as Emma Marris, William Cronon, and Donald Worster, Mehan presents the varied sentiments of an evolving narrative regarding the post-modern role of humans in the natural environment within a broader understanding of the ecological and existential meaning of that construct.  Worth reading.

Just like the shadow of a mighty oak that changes and grows in size and degree according to a daily, seasonal, and yearly calendar, the long and enduring human shadow cast over the planet will continue to grow and change with time.

As the days, seasons and years pass by

The mighty oak reaches, stretches toward the sky

Imperceptible by the creatures below, its long shadow is cast

Reaching across the fields, ridges and oceans afar

Meaning no harm, its presence is ever felt

And though it leaves its silent mark on all it touches

It leaves no mark that cannot be undone