People are smart. We come from a long line of smart organisms. In fact, if we look at the trillions of organisms living on and in us in our own microbiome, you could look at each of us as being a smart superorganism.
Life on Earth has proven itself over and over again to be resilient and, most importantly, adaptable. An organism’s ability to adapt is one of the defining characteristics of evolution. If an organism can adapt to changes in its environment or in its food supply, it has an excellent chance of survival.
Some really smart people learned to play with certain characteristics of various things to make them subjectively better. Breeders have learned how to make dogs smaller, eyes bluer, fruit sweeter … the list goes on and on. In our daily life, there is hardly a single aspect of what you eat, drink, wear, sit in/on or … well, anything at all … that hasn’t been tinkered with a great deal in the pursuit of making it BETTER.
We’ve come so far down the path of tinkering with things that we don’t often even think to leave them be. We’re smart, after all, and it’s assured that whatever we tinker will WILL be better. Won’t it?
Sometimes, we get it wrong. Sometimes we get it so wrong that I have difficulty knowing where to start discussing it. That accounts for some of the long pauses between posts on the site here. Rather than just have Living Intentionally be some stream-of-consciousness blog, which isn’t in and of itself a bad thing, I want it to be somewhat more directed. And my thoughts are often rather scattered, popping down various intellectual rabbit holes and not surfacing again until an avenue of discovery has been well explored.
One of the topics that has been pestering me to write about it for a while now is that of dominion versus stewardship. I think it’s possible that, as a species, we spend too much time focused on the dominion part and not nearly enough time on the stewardship. Moreover, I think there is some confusion about stewardship itself implying dominion over that which you’re stewarding.
In my opinion, the above-mentioned tinkering is a reflection of this imbalance of dominion and stewardship. I think it also reflects our species’ intrinsic feeling of separation from everything around us. This sense of separateness and separation leads us to becoming disoriented about our role in Life, The Universe and Everything.
Let’s take the fore-mentioned breeding. A lot of the breeding we do has what we determine to be advantages, and they may very well turn out to be precisely that. There’s a dark side, however. How many collie owners, for example, worry about the genetic disposition of their dogs to collie eye anomaly? CEA is a congenital, inherited disorder that was artificially created through generations upon generations of inbreeding genetic traits. Any time you play with inbreeding, you create problems in the gene pool.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are in the same ballpark. The Smart People like to think they have a handle on the function of genes such that they take genes from one organism and splice them into another. It often comes with surprising (and unwanted) consequences. Eating Roundup Ready corn, for example, can have you suddenly having pesticide-generating DNA in your gut flora. (Don’t think so? Research has already seen evidence of this happening.) Your own supposedly beneficial gut flora could begin poisoning you. Not a quick-death type poisoning, mind you, but the sort that causes chronic inflammation leading to various cancers and autoimmune disorders.
The GMO craze has gotten, well, even crazier than just playing with the food we eat, though. How about GMO goats? They’ve been around for a while. A few years ago, goats were engineered to express a human gene that was then used to create drugs. Sounds innocuous enough, right? Later, a Utah researcher figured out a way to make a kind of “spider silk” from proteins derived from the milk of GMO goats. And if that weren’t Frankenstein enough for you, the latest is that GMO goats are being researched to create a malaria vaccine within the milk. In other words, goats are now “pharm” animals rather than farm animals.
Where does it stop?
In other news, some folks continue their head-in-the-sand world view that humans couldn’t possibly be responsible for or play a role in global warming. The problem, again, is a stunning sense of disconnect from the environment and, dare I say it, a less than strong grasp of cause and effect relationships within systems. And in a can’t see the forest for the trees view of the problem, huge tracts of land are deforested daily. Our oceans are turning into toilets that don’t flush. Our skies are filled with aerosols and particulate that block the sunlight from reaching the planet and skew the UV spectrum from good to bad.
What to do?
I don’t have all the answers, to be sure. I have noticed one very significant thing since coming to Japan, though: Indigenous populations tend to much more strongly identify with our Mother Earth than more recent boarders. I’d never really clued into this while living in Canada. I mean, sure, everybody recognizes that the First Nations peoples were all about conservation, stewardship and living in harmony with nature, but I didn’t recognize that beyond my own borders.
Here in Japan, the Ainu people have a remarkably similar cultural legacy to Canada’s First Nations people and Native Americans. Interestingly, they share similar cultural stigmas and a lack of freedoms, too. And if we go down under, the aboriginal population there shares a similar cultural history and experience. It’s sad, but enough of these cultures remain that there’s still time to learn from them.
The one thing that I’ll leave you with is to look at stewardship of this planet as being mutually exclusive from any sense of dominion you may have over it. That stewardship should extend not only to the plants and animals, it should extend to its peoples. It should extend to its skies and oceans. Take part in learning about the food you eat. Discover the truth of the Circle of Life and how your presence here has a tremendous impact on all aspects of the environment here. Not just locally, but globally.
We are smart people, but we sometimes act as though we have all the answers. A lot of times, our search for technology to solve our problems goes against the simpler approach of just living in peace and harmony with All That Is. We would do well to walk barefoot with our Brothers and Sisters and learn how to break camp in the morning without leaving a trace that we were there. We should learn to take only what we need so that the systems that sustain us can remain in healthful equilibrium. And we need to work to encourage business to think Green for the long term benefit rather than shareholders’ short term gain.
No growth is infinitely sustainable. Economists like to talk about sustainable growth, but there’s no such thing. For the truth, look to biological systems. Any population that gets out of balance within its environment finds ways – natural or artificial – to bring it back into balance. For a long time now, humanity is racing forward with precious little appreciation for just how out of balance we’re pushing this planet and our place here.
It’s time for us to work together, to embrace stewardship. Live and love all peoples, Red, Yellow, Black, White and every other variation there is. We are all One.