Evolution is the underlying theme of my novel Free Ralph! An Evolutionary Fable.
This is the third in a series of essays exploring that theme
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Only a Fish Out of Water Can Learn to Walk
"There's Always a Next Step" – The New & Improved Law of Evolution

by Stephen Wing

If you were born in the greediest nation on Earth, how would you know?

Our lifestyle may not feel so luxurious to us; we're used to it. But measured against the vast majority of human beings around the world, both past and present, we live like Pharaoh.

Like Pharaoh, we depend on an armed force to maintain our wealth by taking it away from defenseless peasants and other kings. But the military that protects American corporate interests is only one branch of that force. The corporations themselves, armed with bulldozers and oil rigs, supply our luxuries through an ongoing assault on the natural world.

We grow up immersed in our culture’s fascination with wealth like the proverbial fish who takes water for granted. Of course, millionaires can afford to live in their fantasies, insulated from reality – that's what wealth is all about. But those who understand that our real riches in this life are our families, our health, and nature’s beauty can no longer afford to swim in the sea of illusion.

If you were born in the most wasteful nation on Earth, how would you know?

Our garbage conveniently disappears each week as the garbage truck makes its rounds. But the necessary corollary to our culture of greed seems to be a continual stream of worn-out objects and the discarded packaging of new ones.

Since ancient times, piles of garbage have accumulated outside human settlements. For millennia they consisted of bones, shells, stems and husks, effortlessly recycled by nature. But when non-biodegradable compounds were invented, no one realized we were creating an entirely new category of waste. Nor was it immediately obvious that the raw materials of metals and plastics might someday run out.

We grow up immersed in our culture’s environmental blindness like the proverbial fish who assumes the ocean will always be there. But some of us have learned the hard way that landfills leak toxic chemicals which are poisoning our families, and mining and manufacturing are spoiling nature’s beauty. The sea of illusion has become too polluted for swimming.

Greed and waste are two sides of the same coin: the illusion that we are separate from nature. Exactly where is it that you end and your environment begins? If you breathe air, you are part of the circulation of the atmosphere. If you drink water, you are part of the water cycle. And if you eat fish, you are part of the ocean’s ecology, no matter how far from the beach you live.

I don’t advocate going back to a pre-Pharaoh lifestyle. Human evolution can only go forward. But it’s time to acknowledge that the water we have been swimming in for so many generations is getting murky, and crawl out onto the shore to look around.

Recycling our waste, as nature does, is one example of participating in nature rather than exploiting it. But as the Recycling Coordinator at work, lately I’ve been overwhelmed with plastic bottles, two-thirds of them the waste product of bottled water.
Studies of bottled water show that most of it is no cleaner or healthier than tap water – just more convenient, better-marketed, and packaged at greater expense to the environment. Recycling the bottle does little to compensate for the environmental cost of bottling it.

It’s becoming clear to me that many people are fish blindly swimming in plastic fishbowls rather than in free-flowing natural water. But as the New and Improved Law of Evolution states: there’s always a next step. For many of us, that next awkward wriggle up the beach is to carry a water bottle, and refill it.

 

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