The Planetary Imperative came into forcus today when I opened www.raingarden.com to figure out what to do with a URL that has been a disappointment, though with much potential, for nearly 20 years. It has been retitled “Lucrative Website For Sale.” Rain Gardens will hardly save the Earth, but restricting water runoff is a step in a good direction. Rain Gardens are widely used and should be much more ubiquitous. Our hope was and is that this website should advance that laudable goal.
Patti and I were trying to decide what to call a new horticulture business in Herbster, WI in 1999. One afternoon, looking at an enlarged framed photograph in our living room that I had made many years before; we had an idea.. The photograph was a birch leaf in the fall, beautifully colored with spots of carotene and a background of xanthophyll with a drop of rain suspended from the leaf tip. The drop acted as a lens for another background. The serendipitous idea was Raindrop Garden Gallery. We, but mostly Patti, took the idea forward with plenty of pain and meager profits for seven years.
The business needed a website and I registered RainGarden.Com. Little did I know how significant that URL might be for us and for the earth. Well, that may be a tad over hyped but consider this.
Water is life. Without the qualities of water – physical chemical and, yes, biological – there is no life. Water makes life on our planet possible. There may be, in our universe, other possibilities for life, but the only one we really know anything about is what is here. It has been here for something in excess of 3.5 billion years and inspite of a species bent on disruption, it will remain here for a few more billions of years.
More than 20 years ago, I wrote a manual for beginning biology students with a title: After 3.5 Billion Years; Studying Contemporary Biology. The manual focused students’ attention on the fantastic wonders of of the here and now; not on the wonder and awe of the future. Our awesome Earth is managing the impacts of human population expansion — really an explosion — that is creating a whole new epoch in the history of earth. The epoch is called the anthropocene to recognize and mark the remarkable and overwhelming impact of the presence of Homo sapiens on the ecology of our little blue orb. We humans have tipped the balance in a precarious direction; especially for us.
We are a spaceship in the universe; a chunk of rock with a capsule of air and uniquely abundant water that is just about right for survival — of humans and most, but not all, other species. We suspect, but cannot know with certainty, that we are not alone. Earth is probably not unique among the billions and billions of sun-like stars and their planets. Yet, we are what we know. We are real. We have evolved from 3.5 billion of life experimenting with what will survive and what can change creatively. Our creation is not supernatural. Our creation is natural as a result of selection generation by generation. We are here by chance. The dice came up the right way often enough to make our existence happen. We humans, together with every other living organism, are a legacy of a grand, multi-billion year experiment in fascinatingly complex chemistry. That is really something to think about.
Now that we are here, our existence comes with responsibility. Today is a day to recognize that responsibility. Raingarden (DOT) com was a little step toward responsibility. It was not enough. One step is never enough. But every step is necessary. Earth Day is also a step and was founded by the late Wisconsin Governor and Senator Gaylord Nelson. He reminded us that our economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment.
Our real responsibility is to think with every fiber of our being every day about why we as a species exist on Planet Earth. If we don’t do that critical thinking and follow where our passion leads, we will reach a time where our existence on Planet Earth vanishes. Then there will be human nothingness.
Think about that. It may make you weep. That tear on your cheek is water.