More and more of us are realizing we are now facing humanity's greatest challenge. Over the next two decades, the global warming climate crisis threatens to bring about the end of our Anthropocene Epoch - of us and virtually every multicellular life form. In this 'save-the-planet' book, Stephen Erickson introduces you to exquisite creatures, human and non-human. The challenges they face reveal the immensity of the threat facing each of us - and its urgency. Widespread awareness is essential. Most of us don't realize who our Arch-Villain is - the main cause of our predicament. We all need to. And we can't win this fight without a clear understanding of the one solution we have. One which has been in existence since the beginning of time. Key to achieving this solution rapidly and at necessary scale are Five Compassions: for Animals, for Self, for the Land, for Community, and for Democracy. Compassionate activism can create THE GREAT HEALING: the healing of our planet and the halting of the ongoing sixth great extinction. More than a 'call-to-action' book, more than a book of compelling stories... this is a book with a plan. Four esteemed thought leaders have joined Stephen, contributing 3 new short essays, photos, and a poem: Wendell Berry (essayist, novelist, poet, farmer, national treasure), Joel Fuhrman, M.D. (author of 6 New York Times bestsellers including 'Eat to Live' and 'The End of Diabetes'), Alan Lewis (Food and Agriculture Policy for Natural Grocers) and investigative photographer Jo-Anne McArthur, whose images are as heartbreaking as they are beautiful. There is a reason you were born here in human form at this very special time. You matter. You are part of a special generation. You can create the future you want to see. Find your voice, use it. Join us in what will become the most important cause of all of humanity's endeavors to date. You have the power. More than you realize. You'll see.
want to introduce you to exquisite creatures. Sherneka Johnson and Sky Smith, Thomas Quicksilver, Brady Kluge, Lucinda Monarch, Earl 'the Worm', Marlon Foster, and Wendell Berry. The challenges each one of them faces are very different. But it turns out, their challenges are interrelated. The day I realized that I had to stop, recover my breath, and keep my balance. Because the severity of what is confronting each one of them reveals the immensity of the threat facing each one of us. We are entering the fight of our lives - a fight for
our lives. World War II was a biggie. This one is bigger. And we may not prevail. The challenge each of these exquisite creatures faces reveals something else as well. Maybe, just maybe. a solution. Five Compassions. Acting with inspired compassion, you can help enable all of us to achieve The Great Healing. "All of us?" Who is this "all of us?" Everyone. Every living creature on this planet. The Great "what?" What needs to be healed? Life is good. And in so many ways, when you think about it, it really is. Each of us has been born into a moment in time that affords us unprecedented access to, understanding of and possibility in, a world of wondrous beauty and complexity. This is an amazing moment in the history of human evolution. With your computer or your cellphone, and Internet access, you can quickly, with remarkable efficiency, find out just about everything - past or present - on any subject, any science, anyone, any thing
about any aspect of life just about anywhere on this planet. For example. Meerkats. These little guys weigh about two pounds each. In German, their name - Erdmännchen - means "Little Earth Man." Are these little earth men smart? Do they have social skills? What's up with them? Meerkats are not soloists. They are intensely social animals that live together in groups in bolt-holes, which are burrows with long tunnels and usually several entry points, in the desert grasslands of South Africa. They peek out of their bolt-holes at dawn, emerging to forage together in packs called "mobs." One meerkat is selected to remain on high ground or in a tree as lookout to keep watch for predators. If an eagle, a hawk or a jackal nears, he'll signal everyone. Imagine that's me. That guy is a lot cuter than I am, but for a stretch imagine that's me. I'm the lookout at the moment and I've just spotted a threat. I'm about to alert you. But bad timing - you're busy in the middle of your morning mob scene. Using your keen sense of smell, you've just located and dug up a plump, juicy scorpion, a tasty delectable, and you're all set to dig in. The threat is a venomous Cape cobra. The hungry snake has locked its gaze on its prey and is close enough - the targeted meerkat faces near certain death. The Cape cobra's lunging strike will be lightening quick and the venom from its bite is poisonous enough to kill an animal the size of six adult humans. The other meerkats don't stand around watching. Nor do they run away. They encircle the cobra and, the instant before it strikes, another meerkat lunges at it from the side, its sharp claws slicing the ground right by the cobra's exposed flank. The snake has to turn protectively and face this meerkat, then turn to fend off another, then another. Collectively, the meerkats - lunging one at a time - control the snake's attention and then. a couple of them shift aside, creating an opening. An opening which the snake realizes is an escape path. Its only
escape path. The meerkats have decided in which direction they will allow the cobra to retreat and they keep clawing at it until the snake backs down from a fight where it most certainly would have been badly wounded, undulating away from the meerkat mob, away from their foraging area, and away from the bolt-holes where their young are nestled. The little earth men have learned the advantages and power of collective action. Their survival depends on it. Any living creature's day-to-day most fundamental goal is survival. Given our preoccupations - striving to achieve our goals and our desires, utilizing all of our devices and skillsets, secure amidst our comforts and a standard of living within the civilization we have created - it can easily be taken for granted, that survival for each of us is job number one as well. Say someone showed you a photo of this fish and you wanted to find out where she lives, what she does for fun, and what that weird thing is sticking out of her head: You can easily find out. She's a triplewart sea devil who swims around in the deep ocean. By deep, I mean at depths down to 15,000
feet. In a swimming pool, the water pressure at a depth of 10 feet is .3 atmospheres (atm), which is about 4 pounds of force per square inch on your body. When you swim underwater along the bottom in the deep end you may feel a little pressure, especially in your ears. Oceanic water pressure at 15,000 feet is around 459 atm or 6,749 pounds of force per square inch
How is a creature built to withstand that kind of pressure? We have to submerge in a mini-submarine protected by a specially designed shell to visit her in order to avoid being instantly pancaked by the water pressure - and here she is looking at us. With eyes
. How do those eyes withstand this tremendous pressure? How are they made? Blue eyes straight from Game of Thrones
. Sunlight fades as you descend in the ocean. Aqua-blue water darkens as more and more water separates you from sunlight until, at around 650 feet down you leave the photic zone and descend into a depth where sunlight no longer penetrates.2
You find yourself immersed in ocean darkness. Complete wet blackness. This triplewart sea devil - let's call her Hazel - lives here. She will never see sunlight. She navigates in perennial darkness. So, she has a light sticking out of her head. Is that to avoid bumping into rocks? Hazel's face looks like she's run into more than a few. Is it to illuminate her features to attract a potential mate? She's swimming solo. Should she consider suspending it a bit further back to cast a more diffuse light on her facial features, perhaps creating a more sex-appealing allure for that chance encounter? How did that light get there? Did it start as a growth that somehow lit up and elongated over several thousand generations until at last, arriving at the optimal hanging lantern position? Is it a tactile appendage, like ET
's finger? It turns out that this light's appendage is an evolution of the triplewart sea devil anglerfish's dorsal fin. And Hazel keeps it suspended right where it is with good reason. Right in front of her mouth. We've got the technology and we've got the skills. Whatever I want to know about triplewart sea devils like Hazel, if someone knows it, it's not difficult to find out. Hazel is indeed a female. Her 'light' is actually an aggregation of glowing bioluminescent bacteria that attracts other fish who mistake it for prey.3
They swim in to eat it, only to become Hazel's meal in short order. Now that I know a little bit about Hazel, I'm concerned about her and this is why. It turns out that we humans can and do extend our reach, sinking into Hazel's depths without a submersible. Plastic bags, as well as some of the other countless varieties of discarded plastic that we're filling the oceans with, drift current-carried into her depths.4 5
Non-biodegradable translucent phantoms appear like jellyfish, a food staple of many fish. Other small, often brightly colored, plastic objects descend like food remnants, appearing like torn bits of fish that have fallen prey to and been partially devoured by surface dwellers above. These objects are consumed by fish like tuna and whales in the surface depths, and by the denizens of the lower depths, like Hazel.6 7
If during her wandering, a bit of baggie appears before Hazel's glow and she eats it, it'll coat her stomach like some horrible wallpaper or laminate that she can't redecorate away. It'll adhere, indigestible, covering her stomach lining or clogging her intestine like those of so many of the whales beaching themselves8 9
or the fish fishermen are catching, or sea birds like these on Midway atoll: youtube.com/watch?v=ozBE-ZPw18c10
Hazel's at risk because she's not aware of this new threat. It took her countless generations to get her lantern light glowing bright and well. She's eaten very little that was not food to sustain her. Will she and her fellow triplewart sea devils learn to distinguish prey from plastic? Or will they perish in silent agony having failed to figure it out? For every species - even us humans - awareness of new threats entering our environment is essential. Understanding those threats and then adapting by finding and implementing solutions, enables us to survive. It's easy for us to become complacent as it appears we've...