Rhythms Disrupted

Since the beginning of time on planet earth each day the sun has risen over the eastern horizon and each day it has set in the west. Earth completes a single revolution on its own axis every twenty four hours and it completes an elliptical journey around the sun every 365 days. The moon appears in its full glory, with no shadow from this planet, about every 28 days. And the tides of our oceans rise and fall with the gravitational force of this satellite, rising highest when the moon is full and bright. In temperate regions we are blessed with four seasons. Spring brings new life, plant dormancy is broken, countless animal species are born, and water becomes freed from frozen soils. During summer all things grow, life is full and thrives with few impediments, and the long days brings warmth to our region and our souls. In autumn summer retires in an avalanche of colors, falling leaves adorn the moist earth, and all plants and animals store energy to survive the cold months ahead. Winter in the season of dormancy, sleep, and survival. It is stark. It is harsh. It is nearly futile for the weak. And yet this time when all is most raw the living relish their own survival. Bitter cold makes us see our breath, over and over and over again and we know we are alive. We are still alive and willing; waiting for warmer days ahead when spring will once again bring rebirth.

Our planet consists of endless cycles and rhythms. Each day we take roughly 21,600 breaths and our heart beats about 86,400 times. We do not count each breath and most certainly don’t tabulate each heart beat but we am aware that these simple rhythms allow us to live. When we allow ourselves to be aware of these background cycles we find a meditative state. Being aware of the most simple of all actions is, somehow, inspirational.

Each moment is precious. Each instant cannot be replaced. Our time here is limited and cannot be repeated in its exact form. Our only real future is what follows us; our legacy, our children, the life of and on our planet.

In this world where constants repeat themselves over and over again it is disturbing to see the natural cycles and rhythms disturbed. And yes we must recognize that the only constant is change, but we must also realize that this planet has habits that should not be altered. Like children on a merry-go-round we should be able to expect each revolution to be as exhilarating, as pleasant , and as eye opening as the last.

Most people should recognize that these constants, these “forever” cycles, are changing. Yes, the sun comes up each day, but for many it feels hotter. Australia has for six long years been in its worse drought in about a thousand years. Wild kangaroos and domestic livestock are dying by the millions. Fresh water is disappearing at alarming rates, and the country seems thirsty for a return to days when this dry island had enough fresh water to get to the next day. Other parts of the world have suffered from nearly unprecedented floods, tornadoes, tsunamis, and hurricanes. The basic cycles are still present. The sun still comes up, and goes down. The earth still journeys once around the sun every 365 days. The moon still revolves around the earth once a month. But it seems as if the cycles have been unintentionally modified. Like a spinning top wobbles just before it falls our rhythm has been altered. We are seeing the first embers of a firestorm. And few humans seem to be noticing.

In America, the human species have their own daily rhythms. They rise with the sun. They take a hot shower. They turn on the lights. They may or may not have a hot breakfast. They drink their coffee or tea. They go to work. Millions and millions of people get in their automobiles and drive to their place of employment. On their way they get stuck in traffic jams. Their cars idle while they go nowhere and listen to NPR, Limbaugh, or music on the radio. And when the traffic moves they resume their journey; all the while burning billions of gallons of fossil fuel. More fossil fuel is burned every day in the United States than in the previous 4.4 million years since the dawn of the human era. And every morning millions of pounds of carbon are released into our precious air. It hangs in the sky like fog on an autumn day over the Mississippi River. The radiant heat gets trapped against the surface of our planet. And every day and every evening when people commute home, often one person per automobile, it happens again. Over and over and over again. An unnatural rhythm that has disrupted the natural cycles of our living planet. An aberrant behavior and system of behaviors that threaten our very existence.

These natural cycles; the mixing of the oceans, the prevailing winds over each hemisphere, the release of radiation from our planet, are as essential to our living planet as each heart beat and each breath that we take every day. Some say it is highly questionable as to whether or not this planet can support seven billion humans. And many agree that this is a good question and certainly a question worth pondering. But before we spend too much time thinking about this perhaps we should think a little about how we behave. Are we fueling the fire or are we attempting to pour water on the flame?

We live in an age when much is possible. Everyday a new technological miracle seems to appear that revolutionizes the way we live. I can’t believe that if we put our mind to the task that we can’t end our dependence on carbon based fuels. I can’t believe that we wouldn’t even sacrifice some of what we have to live for another day. I can’t believe that we wouldn’t conserve so that our legacy would be remembered as something very good rather than something incredibly bad. And for the sake of our children, our children’s children, and for the sake of all that lives on this glorious planet I can’t believe we cannot change our ways so that this planet lives to see the sun rise into infinity.

Now is the time. The earth has displayed her ailments. If we expect the planet to right our wrongs we are seriously mistaken. The human species must work together to make this world whole again. We must allow this planet to restore its natural rhythms so that each day the sun continues to rise and each day the sun continues to set. And each day every human being can take 21,600 breaths of clean air, and our heart will beat 86,400 times in tune with our planet.

These natural rhythms. The rhythms that have supported life for several billion years. Our hope should be that they will continue so that each day brings a new dawn and the necessary time to help us understand where we have been and where we are going.

Written for www.wildramblings in November of 2011.  Please contribute this holiday season to an organization that helps our natural ecosystems to continue and thrive.

  • http://swamericana.wordpress.com/ Jack Matthews

    My goodness, Bill, you put it forcefully that we should, as a reasonable species, cease and desist or at least begin to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels.  “An aberrant behavior and system of behaviors that threaten our very existence….we are seeing the first embers of a firestorm.”  We must reduce, recycle and reuse.  There are so many canaries dropping dead in their cages and we must get a grip on these fossil fuels, living more simply.  I am an historian and the handwriting is on the wall that this planet is in crisis with overpopulation and the impact of the industrial age since 1750.  What began as wool weaving in England has now spread to technologies run rampant without reasonable controls, thermostats.  The rhythms you describe, the Australian drought, and sitting in traffic listening to that *%# Rush are entangled.  We must change.  I will work for change.  I am optimistic.  And I think we can change our consumption and get better rhythms beating again.

  • http://everyday-adventurer.blogspot.com/ Ratty

    I think we humans are very much like the planet we are living on. We both have an amazing ability to adapt to different conditions. As we seem to alter the planet, the planet seems to be trying to correct any problems we might be creating. If it takes natural disasters or even disease to correct the flow of things, I think our planet will make that happen. If the planet has to wipe out the cause of the problem, it will most likely do so. There have been mass extinctions here on Earth before, and then the cycle of things renews itself. Humans seem to have a similar, if smaller, ability to correct things and adapt. We’ve fought off all sorts of hardships throughout our history, and we’ve come out of them stronger than ever. If we are now the cause of any problems on the Earth, the Earth will fix them, even if it means ending us. But I think humans ability to adapt will not let that happen. Already, even with the first hints of a problem, humans are becoming aware that something may need to be done. The problem will probably have to become worse and we will have to face much hardship for us to really become concerned enough to put our full effort into helping correct the problem, but I think we will before it’s too late. Once the human race pulls together to fix such a huge problem, I think it will be fixed. And I also think that’s another way of the planet itself taking care of any problem that may arise. Things may look bad at first, but I have some faith that things will eventually turn out alright no matter how difficult the process might be.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Thanks Jack.  The elephant in the room, as they say, is the 7 billion humans that now inhabit our earth.  We are nearing the holding capacity for our species, and simultaneously we have to change the way we live, especially in the developed countries. 

    I appreciate your historical perspective, and it does give us hope, but I am concerned that we have never faced a crisis this large before.  Will this be the one that brings humanity together?  We will have to wait and see.   In the meantime we all need to do our part on a personal level.  Acting locally could be the first ripple of a new environmental tidal wave.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    I like your perspective here Ratty, and I really hope that you are right.  I do believe that if we humans all pull together that we can figure this out.  And you are right, the planet will right the wrong if we do not. 

    Our adaptive personality will have to include the kind of cooperative effort between all nations on earth that has never been witnessed before. Is it possible?  Yes it is.  Will it happen?  That depends on who leads us, those that see the hand writing on the wall, or those that are greedy and will attempt to squeeze every penny out of every resource just because they can.

    Your faith in both nature and people is nearly unshakable Ratty.  And I thank you for your point of view.

  • http://montucky.wordpress.com/ Montucky

    I recognize the same forces at work that you have pointed out Bill. I’ve seen them now in this same area for 70 years, and what I see is escalating at a rapid rate and it is not pretty. I cannot imagine that the excesses and waste can be sustained for another 70 years; the resources that cannot be replaced are rapidly running out. I am not as optimistic as I once was either. I no longer believe that our species still has the intelligence to understand and and too much arrogance to allow us to come to grips with our plight. The best I hope for is that our salvation, if there is to be one, will come from outside of the infestation that we have become.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Yes, one has to wonder if we are really that intelligent.  I think there is a difference between smart and intelligent.  Smart, may include our greedy side, intelligence recognizes long term survival.  Guess which one defines the human better.

  • http://fourwindshaiga.wordpress.com/ sandy

    Keep writing, Bill. As much as people don’t want to read it, it needs to be writtien. My 87 year old mom believes that we are in a cycle, and that things will improve over time. And, I don’t think she means thousands of years. Sad to say, I know quite a few people who choose to think that way.   

    It is NPR here, and I work at home, so am not sitting in a car while I listen. Hey, this would be an excellent essay for the radio. Why don’t you contact your local station, to see if they would play it?

  • http://www.anniespickns.wordpress.com Annie

    I’m definitely with Ratty on this subject. The earth is much older and wiser than man will ever be and it has a way of correcting excesses, sometimes with catastrophic (or so humans view them) means. Yes, we humans need to reform our ways of living, but the earth will not wait for us, she will continue to seek balance and I believe she will win, with or without us.

  • Barbara

    WELL said Bill. Yesterday I was brought up short when I was out looking for something to photograph for my own blog. I found a whole lot of Johnny Jump-ups in bloom. These tiny wild violas or pansies that spread throughout gardens are usually only blooming in spring and throughout summer. That mine are in full bloom with tons of buds, that the gazania is blooming as well and the Balloon Flower? I looked around. The thermometer read 15degrees Celsius – that’s about 60 degrees F – so NOT normal. 

    Greed and power – that’s what this mad consumption of fossil fuels along with other human-made disruptions of the natural rhythmns that this old earth has established is all about. We’ve been convinced by advertisers that we must have, need STUFF. What human inventions to counteract that, such as cars that run on solar power, homes that are heated through geo-thermal using the heat from the very earth itself to warm us, have been stalled by those who have control over decisions to continue the use of and exploration for fossil fuels? Why aren’t we looking at green energy solutions?

    No need to go on, you said it all Bill.

    I’m not as optimistic that the human species will survive as some who have written here. But it’s true, if the human race doesn’t make changes the earth certainly will.

    I’m emailing your blog to several people who need to be reminded… we need to get those of like mind working more together. There are several organizations who are fighting hard… please any who read this blog and the comments do as Bill requests and make some form of contribution this holiday season to an organization that is working to help our ecological systems.

  • http://nature-drunk.com Nature Drunk

    Well said, Bill. Just the other night we lost our power, the entire neighborhood did, due to a downed wire. The night became so black and quiet. As we prepared dinner, the lights flickered, dimmed, then went out. At that moment my family realized just how much we take things like energy for granted. Then of course we started discussing water, a resource of great value that is a huge issue in some parts of the world right now. 

    The time to make mindful changes and to be good stewards of the earth is “now”, as it has always been. I am thankful for people like you who are willing to step out and say what needs to be said to get people thinking — something not many do nowadays. Blessings to you and yours :  )

  • Wild_Bill

    Good idea about putting this on the radio, maybe I’ll contact my local Public Radio station.  Wonder how that works?  Generally, amongst my readers, I know I’m preaching to the choir, but I feel compelled to get people interested in their own future.  Thank you for the excellent suggestion.

  • Wild_Bill

    I have no doubt that you are correct with this opinion, but I’d still like for humans to get control over ourselves.  We are taking a lot of other important species out with us as we hurry to run off the proverbial cliff!  Surely we can do better than we have!

  • Wild_Bill

    Thank you Barbara, this is exactly the response I hoped that I would get!  I knew I could count on you!  Yes, the biggest problem is that everyone has been convinced that we need all this stuff that isn’t necessary at all, and then to make matters worse we drive 20 miles each way to the MALL to get it!  We can beat this one step at a time.  Education, dedication, and persistence will go a long way in reversing our bad habits.  And yes, we need to all give to environmental, conservation, and ecological organizations to help these organizations counter balance the advertising power of big business.  Thanks Barbara! 

  • Wild_Bill

    Thank you for your support.  I always appreciate your words and especially enjoy your blog.  There are teaching “moments” like when we loose power, or when there is a natural disaster that may have been caused by climate change, or even a simple traffic jam.  These moments catch people off guard, their defenses are down, and it is possible to make some important progress in changing attitudes.  Sounds like you took advantage of one of those, and good for you.  This is especially important in communications with children.  Thank you so much for reading!

  • Guy

    Hi Bill
    I have read your recent posts with some interest. I found that a number of your comments struck a chord with me and paralleled a number of the issues that I have been considering. I suspect that the announcement that the world population has reached 7 billion, something you have noted recently, has acted as a catalyst causing many people to reflect on the future.  Certainly for people who draw strength and solace from nature this trend is alarming for a number of reasons.  I appreciate the opportunity to share the thoughts and images you have been posting.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Based on your previous comments Guy, we think in a similar fashion.  The recent population announcements make for a “teachable” moment.  There are many ideas as the right the ship but little time.  Decisions must be precise, accurate, and aggressive.  I’m thinking/hoping that with the best education regarding this issue it will bond people together rather than create more division. 

    Let’s all meditate/hope/pray for the best possible outcome. 

    Thanks for commenting Guy, I really appreciate your input.  This is important.

  • http://www.landingoncloudywater.blogspot.com Emily

    Bill — A stark, alarming, and important post. So much of this hit home for me, especially–as a commuter–the bit about driving. One of my life goals is to live close to where I work so I can bike there. It’s easy to think the actions of one–ourselves–don’t really matter in the long run, but we have to start somewhere, don’t we? Thank you for this. Beautiful images, too.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill


    Although I still have some significant time left on this planet, it is much more limited than yours.  From your writing I know how much you love life, this planet, and all that connects everything together.  When I saw your highway poetry I was struck by what a great communication idea it held.  What I’m asking you, or rather trying to say, is that you, and others like you, hold the future of the planet.  At least a little.  Keep writing, keep expressing the passion that you do.  It will help.  It will heal.  You can’t imagine how important this will be. 

    And your book, your novel, write it.  You have something to say that we should all hear.

  • http://findanoutlet.wordpress.com/ find an outlet

    I can’t imagine anything being done to fix this until it personally affects each person on the planet. Every single culture in the world, some more than others, are encouraged to breed, breed, breed. No one will fix this, it’s deeply ingrained into many peoples of the world. Why are there so many ‘help save the children’ ads? Why not ‘help send the condoms’? Because they wouldn’t use them. I just met a guy here on the border who has eight children, just got divorced, and wants to remarry and start another family. How are you going to fight this kind of ignorance? He has no clue about overpopulation, nor does he care. He cares about status though.

    There are people who do care, like you and your readers, and we can live our lives responsibly and try to spread the word, though I have little faith in that. People hear what they want to hear. Fixing the governments of the world and their rotten infrastructures will take more than droughts and weather changes and animals dying. People can still turn their heads away. Now if the weather changed to the point where no food could grow, people would have to listen and demand an overhaul of priorities.

    Everything you say is absolutely true and frightening. But what, really, can each of us who do have respect for the earth do to fix it? Become an activist, get angrier, burn out, get sick? (This happens a lot with animal rescue volunteers so I’m sure it happens with any passionate cause.) I think things will get worse before they get better. That’s the modus operandi of the human race.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    I agree that humans are terribly ignorant when it comes to the big picture.  We are so focused on the little things in life that the larger scenario gets lost in the shuffle.  Sort of like not being able to see the forest for the trees. 

    It will take real leadership to change human behavior.  Not the type of leadership we see coming from politicians who march to the drum of our corporate leaders.  No this leadership will come from a grass roots level, and it will have to be something that people can identify with.

    My fear is that we will wait until the 11th hour 59th minute, 59th second to realize the error of our ways.  At that point it will be too late. 

    The good part?  Our planet earth will continue without us (unless we engage some sort of self survival mechanism buried deep in our psyche).

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