Earth is more than the planet on which we live. It is the word we use for soil. We may say it is ground. We also use it referring to humanity in relation to our environment. Being a system of systems within systems, we can say as Galileo is rumored to have done under his breath, “It moves.” While I do not subscribe to the Gaia hypothesis, I agree there is more going on than our best minds can imagine. We cause injury to Earth. Some times we do so out of ignorance by not realizing what our actions do. Other times, we do injury to Earth intentionally after weighing costs. Often we weigh costs with our thumbs on the scales to gain benefits for ourselves that are nothing but costs to other people. The wildfires in Canada are the most recent examples.
Earth And Terra
The science fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin was the daughter of famous anthropologists. She wrote a series of stories, The Hainish Cycle, that centered on the concept of being human. Hain is the planet where humanity colonized a whole host of planets including our own which is designated “Terra.” Earth in her stories appears to mean home. Each planet with humanity is called Earth by those who inhabit it.
Terra from the Latin phrase terra firma means solid ground. Other science fiction franchises began using this distinction. You now hear Star Trek characters referring to our home world as “the Terran System.” I suppose using the word Sol for the star the planet orbits would be difficult for some viewers. Terra is a destination in these universes. Earth is something more complex and relational.
Multiple Systems Thinking
People equate healing with power. Medical specialists are treated with deference and sometimes even awe. Pastors wish congregants took our word as quickly as that of an oncologist. Both professions are those people will turn to for expressions of hope. The difference, as I see it, is the cancer doctor has the education, ability, authority, and the power to fulfill the promise. Pastors do not have the power to heal. We can pray for healing and encourage patience to pursue their own healing. However, people do not go to the cancer specialist for cardiac expertise. The role of the pastor is almost always the same, though.
People trust specialists and practitioners for their health. Who do we turn to for the health of the Earth? It may depend on what we are trying to accomplish. Climate Change skeptics tend to focus on one field – economics. Climatology, geology, biology, and several other fields and sub-disciplines are discussions the state of the Earth in one way or another. We would not turn to any one discipline over others as the final authority on the state of the Earth. How then can we act in the healing of it?
The Climate change skeptics are on to something. Economics explains how humans act and react in artificially constructed environments called markets. The health of these markets are their primary concern. Economists are good at looking at multiple systems and how they affect one another. A few scientific disciplines (climatology and ecology immediately come to mind) are concerned with multiple interdependent systems. This is the beginning point of our healing mission.
The Healing Mission
Oikos is the Greek word for home. It is also the root word for economics and ecology. Why not put the two together? The subtitle of E.F. Shumacher’s classic Small Is Beautiful is “Economics as if People Mattered.” Herman Daly and John B. Cobb Jr.’s for the common good has the subtitle of “redirecting the economy toward the community, the environment, and a sustainable future.” Readers of this post should read these books. Restructuring our economic institutions and behaviors into utilizing non-exploitive methods would begin healing the Earth – planet, soils, systems, and home.
Climate skeptics have another point worth considering. The Earth is dynamic. It is constantly changing. Modern common sense makes a mistake by assuming there is a status quo. Even the so-called “Goldilocks” area where life may form in a star system is considered a region depending on the actions of the star it surrounds. 93,000,000 miles is not the standard. Medicine is always dependent on a patient’s condition.
If we want to heal Earth, we begin with healing our relationships to each other and everything around us. To do that, we need to educate ourselves about the needs of every person other than ourselves. In order to get a better idea about that I recommend Mutual Aid by Piotr Kropotkin.
Healing takes power. We should demand the power that would be used to do this. It means taking it from those who use hoarded money as their way of holding the attention of people. It also requires the culture of death and control by political and economic means ends. We cannot heal the Earth with the same destructive institutions and methods that caused the harm.