Their first mistake was their worst mistake: They neglected to consider that the earth on which they stood and trod had a soul. So the humans neglected to nurture it. Rather, they came to believe that it was the earth’s job to nurture them. They called its forests and rivers and mountains and prairies “nature” and then proceeded to act unnaturally toward it. They fought wars on its body, blasting holes with bombs and filling the wounds 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 its 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 took its revenge.
For while the planet’s body bore the scars and bruises of chronic abuse, as much as it had been suffocated by pollution, its heart weakened by stress, its muscles strained by the sheer weight of human activity—despite all these burdens that had broken its body, the earth’s soul was untouched. Indeed it was untouchable, for to humans it simply didn’t exist. 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 it was meant that plants should expand down into the soil and so be nurtured by its 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 its 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 exact its revenge on the humans, the earth’s soul sacrificed its beaten body further. For only when terra firma felt less firm (for indeed it was infirm) would humans understand the damage they had done.
But there was more. Viruses and bacteria grew and spread, became more virulent and resistant, and best of all it 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, its 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. But it will not last.
The soulless humans and the earth’s soul are engaged in 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, it is fighting back. And soon it will be the humans who will be fearful, the humans who at last will see what they’ve done, the humans who will finally surmise that perhaps the earth they have so savagely ravaged does indeed have a soul.
But it will be too late.