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The Wonder of Life

We all get our food and get rid of our wastes on the same planet. Photo courtesy of NASA


This will be the fifth and last in a series of essays penned by Bill Duesing and edited by Suzanne Duesing from the book Living on the Earth: Eclectic Essays for a Sustainable and Joyful Future.  It is fitting that we have looped around from one year to the next and have begun another as Bill mentions ‘the cycle of life’ in this final essay.
This essay, “The Wonder of Life,” focuses on a key theme of the Stewardship and Nature section of the Quarterly, that is, “fitting in with nature as we farm and live on the landscape.”  I want to thank Bill for allowing the SFQ to reprint his writings and hope you as readers have enjoyed them as much as we have at the Quarterly.
The Wonder of Life
 By Bill Duesing
The wonder of it, of the season, is life.
A birth, any birth, is into life –
the fantastic variety of life that covers our planet
and nowhere else we know-
children and wise women, sheep and hollies,
blue-green algae and maples, rhodeoendrom and catfish,
It is life –
grandparents and spruce trees –
the bacteria in our mouths and the whales in the oceans –
It is all life.
 
Complex, interdependent relationships covering the Earth,
connecting the nearly invisible with the enormous,
each living thing providing an environment
for millions of other living things:
The mychorrhiza on the roots of beech trees and
the flora in our intestines.
 
Earthworms, cows, cousins, nematodes,
oaks and mushrooms,
each occupying a niche,
each dependent on others.
 
An unbroken chain of evolving genetic information
passed down for a billion years,
connecting all living things to a common past –
as surely as all species are connected to all others
through the atmosphere which is inside everybody and
every green leaf.
 
We all get our food and get rid of our wastes
on the same planet.
 
The cycle of life is birth-growth-death
and decomposition for recycling –
making way for more life, releasing stored
nutrients for the good of life.
 
This continual cycling takes place
in the energy flow of the sun.
 
Dandelions, plankton, wolves, eagles, pines,
raccoons and honeybees –
It is all life.
 
An incredibe profusion of living things working together
to make the Earth habitable.
Just like the bacteria which inhabit the surfaces of our
bodies and the lichen which decompose rocks,
life changes and regulates its environment.
The rain forests and the algae on the ocean surface
regulate the climate.
The air, the soil, water and rocks
are created or modified by life.
The composition of the atmosphere has co-evolved
slowly, over a billion years with life on Earth.
 
In a very tiny fraction of the Earth’s history,
we have used our mechanical prowess
to change its composition very rapidly
Our fossil fuel, beef and forest clear-cut habits
are reversing the evolution of the atmosphere –
adding methane and carbon dioxide that
were removed millions of years ago as the
environment evolved to one where we could live.
 
With our high-energy lifestyles and our mechanical
thinking (produce and consume)
we are rapidly changing the environment
into one where we won’t be able to live.
 
Carbon dioxide (from our smokestacks and tailpipes)
and methane (given off by colonies of termites in
the tropics, as well as by the colonies that bacteria
have established in the bellies of cows)
are both greenhouse gases.
We know the probable effect of our waste gases
and should be wise enough to make intelligent choices.
Termite mounds participate in the birth-growth-death and
decomposition cycle
in a way that smokestacks and tail pipes do not.
 
Turkeys, oysters, fine cheeses and wines,
breads and broccoli,
It is all life.
 
Yeasts, green plants and animals,
nourishing us as we nourish them –
passing down their genetic information
with our culture.
 
We know the enemies of life:
war, pesticides, high energy radiation,
clear-cut forestry; asphalt
and lives lived as if disconnected from their environment.
 
We have the capacity
for the wisdom to make sensible decisions.
We should design a world
which puts priority on important and doable things:
feeding, clothing, housing, educating, healing and loving.
 
The miracle and wonder of a birth are reflections of
the miracle and wonder of life.
We need to cherish the whole interconnected
web of life on Earth in the same way
we cherish our family and friends
this season.
Reprint Permission: Living on the Earth: Eclectic Essays for a Sustainable and Joyful Future includes essays from the first three of the ten years that Living on the Earth essays were aired weekly on public radio from Fairfield, CT. The essays were written by Bill Duesing and edited by Suzanne Duesing. Bill and Suzanne operate Old Solar Farm in Oxford, CT where they produce organic vegetables, fruits and poultry. The book is currently out of print, but may be available in other formats from Solar Farm Education, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491.

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Rachel Whiteheart

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