By Luisa Cristini, PhD. University of Hawaii at Manoa.
My connection to the Earth is simple: I recognize her beauty. Her beauty lies in her complexity and equilibrium. Everything in Nature is beautiful, symmetric, balanced, and perfect. Nature is complex and understanding Nature is difficult. To study her one needs to be interested, dedicated, patient, and curious.
I am a curious person and always have been. Since I was little, I have been interested in knowing how Nature works, how everything makes sense, how can everything be so extremely beautiful.
In high school I learned some natural sciences – biology, chemistry, and physics. But that wasn’t enough for me, I was still curious. So I decided to graduate in physics, because physics is the science that explores the natural phenomena and the laws that govern them.
I learned how Nature works on different scales, from the atomic to the cosmic. I learned mathematics, the language of physics. I learned how infinite universes are possible and that you need to develop different languages and laws to describe each of them. I learned that time and space are relative to us, i.e., to the world as we describe it based on our daily experience. I learned that some things have two natures, for example, light is a particle and a wave at same time.
Most importantly I learned that all processes have causes and effects, and that all actions have re-actions. This is a concept that has a deep meaning not only in physics, but also for human actions.
I learned that in Nature every process can be explained in terms of laws, laws that are written as mathematical equations. Some are simple, others are very complicated, but everything can be explained.
I love the complexity of the Earth system. Everything matters in the complex Earth system, from the smallest microorganisms in the deep ocean, to the planetary waves in the atmosphere, to the other planets and bodies in the universe. To us.
But how did the Earth become so complex and beautiful? To answer this question I started my doctorate in paleoclimate, the study of the Earth’s history and her climatic evolution.
I learned how climate and the environment have changed since Earth’s formation, 4.6 billion years ago. I learned what regulates climate on time scales of a few to millions of years. I learned when humans first evolved and how unique are the circumstances that allowed human life to develop on Earth. The Earth is our mother. We are here because she grew us. My connection to the Earth is pure love. I love the Earth as I love my mother.
But I also learned what we did to our Mother Earth in just few years.
Would you intoxicate your mother? Would you make her eat your garbage? Would you clog her veins up? Would you burn her lungs? Would you make your mother work for you until she is totally exhausted and has no more resources? Would you let her give you everything she has and give her nothing back?
But this is what we are doing to our beautiful Mother Earth. She is sick now: we made her so sick that she has a fever and, because of her high temperature, the components of her body (ocean, atmosphere, ice sheets, forests, …) are changing and we don’t really know how. Or what will happen. And although she is strong enough and will eventually survive, we are weak because we depend on her and we might succumb and die.