Their first mistake was their worst mistake: They neglected to consider that the earth on which they stood and trod had a soul; they did not understand their responsibility to treat their home with tenderness. They called her forests and rivers and mountains and prairies “nature” and then proceeded to act unnaturally toward it. They fought wars on her body, blasting holes with bombs and filling the cavities with blood and limbs. They cleared trees to erect enormous structures, heavy and unmoving, that, unlike the trees, had no symbiotic relationship with the soil on which they sat. The waters, the ground, the skies, all were poisoned with chemicals; discarded manmade materials that the earth did not want and could not use obscured her beauty and troubled the animals. The bland colors of industry’s concrete and steel further eroded the earth’s life-affirming hues of blue and green.
It was only a matter of time before the earth fought back.
For while the planet’s body bore the scars and bruises of chronic abuse, as much as she had been suffocated by pollution, her heart weakened by stress, her muscles strained by the sheer weight of human activity—despite all these burdens that had broken her body, the earth’s soul was untouched. To the humans, it was unknown. But it was the soul of the earth that directed the enormous spinning mass to be a garden in a galaxy of cold grey lifeless orbs. This soul was never intended to be a forcefield for the earth’s surface, for plants were meant to expand down into her soil and so be nurtured by her nutrients. It was this necessary vulnerability that made the earth so precious, and yet so easily exploited by humankind.
But this soul had powers of its own. It, too, could exploit, and it did so with the damage that had been done to the atmosphere, the ether that the planet needed to breathe. The soul reacted and responded to the change in climate that humans had caused by unleashing weather of the most destructive sort: floods here and droughts there, hurricanes and tornadoes, intense heat and brutal cold, blizzards and blazes. There came earthquakes and mudslides, tsunamis and melting ice caps. To punish the humans for their misdeeds, the earth’s soul sacrificed her own beaten body further. For only when terra firma felt less firm (for indeed it was infirm) would humans understand the damage they had done.
There was more. Viruses and bacteria grew and spread, became more virulent and resistant, and cleverly they affected the humans without harming the earth. In fact, as more and more humans died or stayed inside, the earth began to breathe more freely, her seeping gashes formed scar tissue and began to heal. Animals fearful of the human presence began slowly to return to their natural habitats, and so temporarily were able to revive the long-rusted natural cycle. For animals have always respected the land, sky, and water they inhabit.
Now, the soulless humans and the earth’s soul remain engaged in a battle, one that the humans cannot win. It will be a long battle but the earth can wait—certainly much longer than the humans can. In the meantime, like a mother bear protecting her den, she is fighting back. In time, it will be the humans who will be fearful, humans who at last will see what they’ve done, humans who will finally surmise that perhaps the earth they have so savagely ravaged does indeed have a soul.
Will it be too late?