It's Time to Save the Planet
Regret. Think back to your childhood. Do you remember those infamous words "No playing ball in the house," and do you remember that feeling of terror as you tried to reconstruct your mother's favorite porcelain figurine? Its poor mutilated body shattered beyond recognition. Immediately your mind thought, "If I fix it before she finds out, it will be O.K. I just have to sneak the glue from the kitchen," but it was too late. She had heard the noise and came to see what had happened.
Regret. Now onto those reckless teenage years. Do the words, "The tree jumped right out in front of me" sound familiar? How did you react when you climbed from the car to see the fender and grill intertwined into a mass of metal? And oh, that nice shiny paint scarred with streaks of metal. Did your heart start to pound and your palms sweat as you thought of your parents reaction?
Regret. As an adult you didn't expect that old recliner that went to the dump last week to mean that much? You didn't think you would miss its worn, comfy cushions. How could you have known? And now there was no way to get it back.
The earth, unfortunately, isn't a figurine or a car or a recliner. Man did not create nature, yet we feel we have the right to use it in whatever manner we see fit. And like those items, one day we may regret what we have done. We will look for a way to fix the Earth, a way to make it better, and one will not exist. We cannot glue the ozone layer back together. We cannot paint over the missing trees of the rain forest. We cannot buy a new species of animals. Our actions today have long term consequences. Are we ready to deal with them?
"Unchopping a Tree" by W. S. Merwin is a fictional essay that explores in detail how a chopped tree can be reconstructed by man. Its futuristic views challenge the mind like a hopeful dream of redemption. Merwin describes how the pieces of the tree, even the splinters, must be gathered and pieced together like a puzzle. A special fixative holds everything back in place just as it had once been. Merwin makes the reader aware of what a pain staking task rebuilding a tree is. In reading this essay, I realized just how impossible it is to reconstruct our environment, and that we must protect it from further damage.
We, the human race, are solely responsible for the deteriorating environment. I believe that while we have improved our living status, we have endangered every other species. We prevent fires that replenish the soil, add chemicals to the water, and block the sun with thick smog. The current status of the world is our making. Our expanding knowledge is the cause and ultimately must be the solution. Merwin makes a similar statement about with whom the responsibility rests. "Even in the best of circumstances it is labor that will make you wish often that you had won the favor of the universe of ants, the empire of mice, or at least a local tribe of squirrels, and could enlist their labors and their talents. But no, they leave you to it. They learned with time. This is men's work"(Merwin 453). I believe we currently have the adequate knowledge to take responsibility for our actions. Unfortunately, our knowledge is not the same as Merwin's; we only hope that one day we can rebuild a tree.
While I believe we must correct the wrongs of the past, I know we have limitations. Like the rebuilding of a tree, certain things cannot be fixed. "We do not have the spider's weaving equipment, nor any substitute for the leaf's living bond with its point of attachment and nourishment"(453). This, however, is no reason not to try. We must remember that the environment is based on a chain of cause and effect. What good will it do to replant a forest if we continue to poison the stream that runs through it? I believe in order to succeed we must break the negative chain of events. As Merwin describes the reconstruction of a tree, he mentions the possible damage to the area around the tree. "Almost always it involves, in itself, further damage to the area, which will have to be corrected later"(454). Preserving the environment will not be an easy task, but it is not impossible.
A major step towards a healthy environment is a true realization of what we have done in the past. I think this was Merwin's main goal in "Unchopping a Tree". I agree and believe the weight of our mistakes provide incentive to prevent further pollution. Mother Nature's creations are extraordinary. We do not have the ability to recreate them. Even in "Unchopping a Tree", Merwin emphasizes, "When the splinters are perfectly complimentary, the appropriate fixative is applied. Again we have no duplicate of the original substance"(454). Nature cannot be manufactured on an assembly line. Its beauty is unique and demands appreciation as Merwin also implies, "There is a certain beauty, you will notice at moments, in the pattern of chips as they are fitted back into place. You will wonder to what extent it should be described as natural, to what extent man-made"(454). Though we cannot go back and make the world as it once was, man must be aware of past mistakes to prevent their repetition.
I believe the world has yet to learn its mistakes. Like Merwin, I too wanted to make you think, beyond statistics, how much our environment matters. I think that one day we may find ourselves lost in hopelessness and asking as Merwin asked, "What more can you do? What more can you do?"(455). I fear the response will be, "But there is nothing more you can do. Other's are waiting. everything is going to have to be put back."(455). If we let the degradation of the environment to continue, I fear that soon the job will be insurmountable and we will be paralyzed with regret. It is up to the whole human race to end it before "Everything is going to have to be put back"(455).
Merwin, W. S. "Unchopping a Tree." In A Forest of Voices, Eds. Chris Anderson and Lex Runciman. MountainView: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1995. 453-455.
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