A Fragile Planet Earth

Monday Author: Susanne Skinner

“We owe at least this much to future generations, from whom we have borrowed a fragile planet called Earth.” ~ Maurice Strong

The Earth. Our home and a living breathing ecosystem so mysterious and complex that even the most brilliant scientists admit there are things they can’t explain. It’s been around for a few billion years and has survived much worse than human habitation. That doesn’t mean pollution and climate change are not a problem – they are.

fragile planet earth in handsThey are a human problem. Humans need the earth to live. Humans have caused more destruction than anything Mother Nature conjures up. It’s time to take responsibility for what we have done and do things differently. We need to live here, so we really should care about our fragile planet Earth. If our actions lead us into extinction the earth will most likely bounce back, even if it takes a few hundred (thousand) years. Its fragility is due to the hand of man.

An age-old conflict exists between humans and the plants and animals that share our home. The humans use more and more natural resources without regard to their finite supply. The plants and animals don’t get a vote. The consequences lead to ecosystem damage and destruction, creating imbalances that put everything at risk.

Within this ecosystem all elements have space or territory. A balanced ecosystem means all inhabitants have the opportunity to grow, reproduce, and live well. When the ecosystem is out of whack the balance slowly begins to change and some of inhabitants begin to disappear. When they’re gone, they’re gone.

Unwanted Change

Some ecosystems can cope with variations in climate conditions while others are much more sensitive to any environmental change. The effects of small shifts in rainfall patterns, ambient temperatures and water supply can do great harm as well giving us a heads–up to potential threats elsewhere on the planet. It’s a system of cause and effect. All we need to do is pay attention to earth’s early warning system.

Natural events can also precipitate changes. Earthquakes, floods, volcanoes and drought drastically alter the balance of nature and humans. Man-made events like intensive agriculture, deforestation and urbanization cause habitat upheaval. These habitats shrink and become fragmented to the extent that they can no longer be sustained. The collective impact may not be seen immediately, but over time it becomes apparent and should become actionable. If we wait too long, it becomes irrelevant.

El Yunque

Last August my husband Alan and I experienced the magic of the El Yunque rain forest. This natural wonder is located just outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico and has been a part of the U.S. National Forest system for over a century. It is a mountainous, sub-tropical rain forest on the eastern side of the Luquillo Mountains. The actual rain forest is at the top. You hike up to see and be in the cloud; and it greets you with warm and continuous rains.

El Junque rain forest in Puerto Rico

Entering El Junque

This is a protected space – the hand of man is absent except for the pathways and signs. We spent a day walking through its pristine beauty, experiencing the sounds, quietness and intermittent rainfall it is known for. We were amazed at the delicate balance of nature surrounding us. The Coqui, a tiny singing tree frog about one inch long, serenaded us. They are in danger of extinction due to the deforestation encroaching on the forest’s border.

El Yunque is one of the oldest reserves in the Western Hemisphere, with over 240 species of trees and plants, 26 of them unique to the forest. It is the rainiest of all the National Forests with up to 240 inches per year. More than 100 billion gallons of rainwater fall annually. Quite a bit of it fell on me.

A side benefit of writing a blog is the education you gain while researching a topic. You think you know something, only to find you know practically nothing. The threat to earth’s resources is well known and documented. I have tried to do the right thing when it comes to conservation and preservation. We are green, we re-purpose and recycle, have a garden, and consider all of earth’s creatures to be sacred. Well, ok, maybe not the tick…

But until I experienced this rain forest I did not realize how intricate and delicate an ecosystem can be. All the right words are in my vocabulary, but I lacked an awareness of what they really mean. Once you realize the implications, they begin to haunt you. Knowledge demands more than just passive agreement, it begs for action.

The Final Frontier

burning earth in cupped handsWhere do we go from here? Eighty-three million people are added to the planet every year. No other place exists for us. Our home is being changed by human technology and greed—and overwhelmed by environmental problems. Human health depends directly on the health of our global environment. We own this.

There are no simple answers but strong requirements and laws are needed to guide global decision making in the decades to come. If we don’t save our home, we won’t be here to notice that everyone thought someone else would. Regardless of how you view this planet, it is our one and only home and it must be self-sustaining. For us, earth is the final frontier.

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