Early in 2020, for millions of humans the concept of social distancing during a pandemic wasn’t conceivable.  In fact, it’s still hard to visualize this in populous cities. But now, this reality has set in for the whole world!   Our self-isolation stretched out, will take its toll.   

Our relationship to the environment, describes our sense of space.  Humans have their sense of space. But a sense of space or territory is felt by a leopard and a dog too.  

Today, all planetary citizens are experiencing what it means to live in a constricted (sense of) space.  At this poignant time, can we think about our impacts on the other living species?

It’s not my intention for my dear reader to wallow in this thought.  But, I think this is a good time to weigh our sense of space with other species, and our role in the Universe. Let’s look at our bodies and then the relationship we have with the environment. 

Donna Haraway in her work, “When species exist” clearly states this fact – that any living thing is a composite of multiple other living things.  She says, “I love the fact that human genomes can be found in only about 10 percent of all the cells that occupy the mundane space I call my body; the other 90 percent of the cells are filled with the genomes of bacteria, fungi, protists, and such, some of which play in a symphony necessary to my being alive at all, and some of which are hitching a ride and doing the rest of me, of us, no harm. I am vastly outnumbered by my tiny companions; better put, I become an adult human being in company with these tiny messmates.”

What if we can think like Donna Haraway?  And really know for ourselves that we need others (human and non-human alike) to survive!?  Not to only feel secure, but to thrive. 

We depend on so many biological systems to function well and flourish as humans.  This is at the human scale. At the public scale, our environmental ecosystems similarly, are composed of thousands of other species, each with their biological systems – all contributing to the equilibrium of the soil, atmosphere and water of the larger ecosystem in which all live. Let’s just think about the waste that humans create: plastic, chemical run-off, carbon emissions, garbage, oil spills, slag, and livestock waste (often filled with food material not natural to their bodies, antibiotics and hormones).  This kind of waste is so hard to dispose of without sullying the Earth. Going on to something more dangerous – nuclear waste! Everyone born after 1963 has radioactive matter in their teeth.  A fourth of a million tonnes of radioactive need storage and annually, 12,000 tonnes are added to this. If we bury it deep, future generations curious like us, are bound to excavate it, no matter how many warnings are put up in as many languages as possible.  Dumping this in the deep ocean is a worse idea. 

Contrast waste created in nature.  All waste in nature is some other living being’s habitat/growth enhancer/food.  Waste isn’t wasted in nature!   And natural habitats remain ever-fresh for all species to thrive.  

The point I am getting at is, human-animals need other species within us and without us, to flourish. 

We seek respite from our perfect, hygienic, hyperactive, human-filled cities and head off on vacation – to nature that is more “whole.”  We get our recreation, our unwind and our inspiration from nature. 

The more a thing is maintained whole, the more it flourishes and helps others to flourish.  This is why we seek out nature, untouched, whole and pristine! We must attempt to contemplate what this flourishing implies. We cannot treat Mother Nature like a garbage bin; nor can we only take from Her. 

Restoring and preserving nature is our most fundamental goal.  Without all the species that make up an ecosystem, the ecosystem isn’t restored and it isn’t nature.

I ask us all to share these thoughts with young children, as we ourselves contemplate how we might be better ancestors.  Let our children grow up understanding that humans are indeed mighty; but, all individual species have might and each has an important role to play in human and non-human ecosystems. 

I work with and for animals.  My ask is this, let our children observe ants…. and rodents too!  These are amazing creatures that can surpass human achievements.  They have social constructs and emotions and power – all of which come into play in their societies.  Allow children to spend their time observing all big and small creatures. Little spiders have a lot to teach us all.  Iconic creatures like elephants and rhinos and sharks do not make up the planet. 

Let’s help our children observe just about any other species.  Observing just one group of species, will teach them about our/human connection to nature.  The importance of butterflies and bees and bugs and larger creatures will simply be revealed without formal education.    More importantly, our children will incrementally comprehend our profound dependence on nature for human flourishing.  When they gain this understanding, they will begin to care and then do their parts to protect Mother Nature in Her Glory!   

In future write-ups, I’ll share more on hands-on education and humane gardens and deterrence of pesky critters non-lethally.  

Let’s all take this time as an opportunity to connect with Mother Nature – not in some far away place, but from within our own backyards.

Priya Tallam is a Geographic Information Systems specialist, wife and mom of two young adults. She is trained as an Architect and Urban Planner and at local government analyzed data to develop and apply sound policy for the health of the environment and people. In 2018, she established a non-profit centered on species and habitat conservation- vspca.org. She is an animal activist and advocate who encourages a plant-based lifestyle. Priya is currently researching the intersection of animals and design, aiming to demonstrate safe co-existence of humans and animals. One of the goals of this endeavor is to further human-animal flourishing in an urbanized world. Another goal is to encourage the stewardship of the planet. To this end, she promotes pedagogy to encourage ‘cosmic education,’ – working from the universe to the parts– genes, life-forms, ecosystems, individual cultures, history, geography. This is principally based on Maria Montessori’s work, but prepares young kids to learn by being inserted into real-life scientific research or natural living.