Long walks in the woods with friends can lead to fascinating conversations.
On a recent sunny day, our footsteps crunched over freshly fallen snow. A group of friends shared how they each experienced listening to ensemble music. Some choose to close their eyes and picture a story unrolling, like a movie reel. Others enjoy the technical aspect of the music, how the different instruments emerge in solo or interact with others. Individual notes tracking over a range of scales, sending waves and ripples of sound through a concert hall.
The conversation stuck with me for days, as I thought about how other living creatures experience sound, like whales, for instance. The ocean’s dark abyss limits eyesight, while water dilutes scent. With limited sight, and muffled scents, whales must depend on other sensory skills. Soundwaves move faster in water than in air, and the ear bones in whales are highly developed to process sound. Whales vocalize ultra-sonic pitches that travel through water and echo back, allowing whales to “see” their environment using echolocation. Whales depend primarily on sound to navigate, feed, and socialize.
Bees also depend on communication to navigate, feed and socialize. A scout bee will return to the hive and share her findings in a detailed “waggle dance.” She dances out a map indicating the length of distance to the nectar source, the richness of the nectar, and the direction in which to travel. Her co-workers will watch the dance once, and immediately fly off in the direction indicated.
Plants that are visited by the bees have their own unique way of processing food. They absorb sunlight, convert the energy to sugar, and grow into a food source to sustain other living creatures. Plants breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen, a key component of our own survival as humans.
Whales hear shapes, bees dance maps, and plants eat sunshine.
Plants are made of sunshine and air; humans are made of water. Sixty-five percent of the human body is water, the same salinity as the sea. Soundwaves move through us as we dance our own maps. Sunlight makes us happy, and our bones strong.
What a wonderful world we live in. A symphony of sights, sounds and smells that nourish our bodies, and engage our senses. And yet, there is the sense that the slightest tremble of butterfly wings will set calamity in motion and disrupt the entire balance.
Here’s where it gets dark.
Whales throw themselves ashore to escape something terrifying they’ve “seen.” Bees suffer colony collapse under a storm of pesticides, damaged eco-systems and mono-crops. Just as air pollution causes respiratory disease in humans, dirty air kills plants.
What if we humans were the proverbial butterfly, the cause of massive disruption? Industries contaminate the water that fills our bodies. Pollution disrupts photosynthesis, killing off pollinators and plants. The delicate interplay of clean water and clean air is essential to whale, bee, plant and human survival.
Real protection comes in the form smart legislation to manage resources and curb pollution. Liberty Bell High School students interning with the Methow Valley Citizens Council researched climate bills and armed themselves with knowledge. This week, that student envoy met with elected representatives in the Washington state Legislature to advocate for action on climate change. We should follow their lead, and demand an effective strategic plan from our representatives that addresses the human causes of climate damage and provides real solutions.