A longtime adherent to the Gaia Hypothesis, Diane Haynes is the author of Jane Ray's Wildlife Rescue Series for teens, which includes Flight or Fight and Crow Medicine (Walrus Books). Gaia Wild, about the plight of elephants both in captivity and in the wild, is due for publication in the spring of 2008.
I picture her curved over in the fetal position, head to belly, arms pressed to her head, enduring. I imagine her raking long hands through deserted plains, plumbing poisoned oceans, searching in vain for the children she's lost, straining to hold onto those who are slipping from her grasp. I recall her first portrait, taken in happier times from a star's-eye-view, the perfection of her face turned sunward, the indigos and greens of her gown finer than a royal's silks, her silhouette etched on the moon. Gaia is my mother. I am one of her children. Her eyes are closed now to shut out the unfathomable loss, but mine are open, and I see that it is my brothers and sisters who are going... going... gone.
34,000 plant species hover at the verge of extinction. One in eight bird species. One in four mammals. One in three of all known amphibians, four of every ten turtles and tortoises. Half of all the known fish species in Gaia's waters. Weyou and Ilose a brother or a sister species every ten minutes.
There is no hope in those numbers. And yet there are those of us who hopethat our recycling, our research, our writing, our voting, and then our children (when we are too discouraged too tired too old) will change these numbers, raise the dead, effect a miracle. We have been calling from the fringes for over a century, in still, small voices, praying with our lives for a miracle called critical mass.
We began in nineteenth-century Europe and North America in response to the Industrial Revolution and disease, became a full-fledged movement after the Second World War and a science by the 1970s. But it was our writers who made "the environment" real for most of us. Henry David Thoreau wrote Walden (1854), about the wildlife of Massachussets; Rachel Carson showed us the impact of chemicals on the natural world with Silent Spring (1962). Paul R. Ehrlich's The Population Bomb (1968) forecast the impact of exponential population growth on Gaia's resources. Meanwhile, E.B. White wrote Stuart Little (1945), Charlotte's Web (1952) and The Trumpet of the Swan (1970) for his niece, Janice Hart White, inspiring a generation of animal rights and environmental activists.
I am one of those. I volunteer at a wildlife hospital. I follow the news. I vote Green and I ride my bike. I write novels about animals and the environment for young people. They haven't learned to close their eyes yet. They see everything, and know the world is theirs to salvage, or to bury. I have been called a rebel, a renegade. I have felt like a street-corner prophet, a crazy lady, a fringe type, an outsider.
Until now. Until January 2007. When the miracle occurred. The miracle of critical mass.
In January 2007, politicians around the world named the environment as their top concern globally. In January, Virgin's Richard Branson offered a $25 million dollar prize for an effective solution to global warming and climate change. Closer to home, the University of Victoria, Alberta joined Ryerson University in offering a course on Animals, Culture and the Law, and British Columbia's Ministry of Education invited the Vancouver Humane Society to contribute to its new social justice curriculum. In January, Al Gore (the "Goracle") launched Save Our Selves The Campaign for a Climate in Crisis, dubbed "Earth Aid," which will culminate in 24 hours of concerts on July 7 of this year (in February, his film An Inconvenient Truth won two Academy Awards). And in January, a man apologized to animals, in public: CBC reporter Joe Schlesinger offered an open apology to elephants after the broadcaster aired a documentary that focused more on the few animals that had been rescued and re-homed at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee than on the majority in circuses, zoos and the wild left to fight a life-or-death battle for home and freedom.
I see signs and patterns in the everyday and the seemingly unrelated. I look for confluence and connections. I am a writer; I know that two disparate ideas, held together, can tell a story. I may be wrong, but this January, I believe I saw the fringe get co-opted by the mainstream, crazy become cool. I felt a tide turn, and I felt hope. I saw Gaia open an eye.
She will be watching to see what we do next, I expect, before deciding to turn her full gaze upon us again. Waiting to see whether January 2007 was another pop culture anomaly, or whether we truly understand now that we are all in this together. That we are, in fact, all one. There is only one. There is only Gaia.
Posted March 2007