Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the word coexistence
. I ask myself, “What does it mean to coexist?” I’ve concluded that this concept is really very simple: coexistence
is simply people existing peacefully together in the same place at the same time. This sounds so easy; we even teach kindergartners to do this. So why then is this so difficult to achieve?
I believe that the basic problem that keeps us from coexistence is faulty character and a faulty value system. For so long, we have been living according to a value system that focuses on career success, money, and material comfort. Long ago, perhaps this value system helped us to survive and to create an enjoyable human world around us. But now, this attitude has gotten us in terrible trouble. It has caused us to pollute the earth in such a way that many natural environments and animals are threatened, and the climate system that sustains life on earth is in a state of imbalance. Something must change now
We do not have the luxury to ignore the warning signs that the earth is sending us. At one time, the idea of global warming and climate change was theoretical, but now the evidence is undeniable. One place that has especially affected me is Lake Powell, on the border between Utah and Arizona. Over the decades that I have lived in Arizona, I have often traveled there and have loved observing the mysterious sandstone rock formations that jut out of the blue waters of this reservoir. Lately, however, the water levels there have been dropping precipitously due to drought, revealing landscape that has been underwater since the early 1960s. The lake’s water level is now at around 20% of its capacity and is continuing to drop. According to scientists, this is happening due to a megadrought brought on by climate change.
There are many other examples like this in the news all the time these days: many dangerous hurricanes and storms, bizarre fluctuations in seasonal temperature, and many species and habitats under threat. We can no longer afford to sit around and wait to see what happens. The effects are already real, and we must change now.
But what value system should we have and how should we change
? Changing our basic values might sound difficult since there are so many religious, political, and cultural points-of-view out there, and people have a terrible time agreeing on anything. But I would like to suggest that the change we need is not that difficult and is quite practical: we need to switch from a self-centered value system to an earth-centered value system
. People do not need to give up their religions or any of their other beliefs; they simply need to acknowledge the simple truth that the earth is at the center our existence and that our lives depend on her for life and sustenance.
Really, our relationship to earth should be like that of a child to an ailing parent. You would not let your mother suffer or be abused by anyone, right? Well, the earth is literally the mother of all life, and, like infants, we are completely unable to live without the air, water, and food she provides. This should not be difficult for anyone to see and acknowledge. If we can just see this simple fact, then our relationship to earth will change, and our relationship with other human beings will change, too, because we will see that we are all our brothers and sisters as children of the earth
Learning to love and manage the earth well will help humanity grow to a higher level of emotional and spiritual maturity since it requires us to expand our love and empathy beyond ourselves and our immediate family. In fact, we must even expand our hearts beyond our nations to encompass the whole world and all her children, including all plants, animals, and humans.
If we don’t learn to coexist in this way as earth-humans, we are effectively choosing the opposite of coexistence: co-destruction
. Just like a child must change to live a productive and meaningful adult life, humanity must grow up and evolve to embrace a broader value system and a more complete definition of success. If we act now, a beautiful life of thriving coexistence is within our reach.