Scott Russell Sanders writes about having a true sense of appreciation for Earth in his letter to James Harmon for Harmon’s book, Take My Advice: Letters to the Next Generation from People Who Know a Thing or Two. The advice he gives is what he constantly tells his children, and how he tries to live his life. The passage from his letter that I love about the planet is, “Remember that the Earth, with its manifold life, is primary, and we are secondary. The Earth precedes us and will out last us.” In this quote Sanders is talking about how devastating we can be towards the planet when we live self-centered lifestyles and forget about life outside of ourselves. Sanders continues, “The Earth has made us possible, and moment by moment it sustains us.”
What I take from this quote is the importance of having a true appreciation for everything on the planet. Earth has provided us with nature, beautiful mountains, life sustaining rivers, and majestic coasts, but Earth has also given us places to build cities, the materials needed to surround ourselves in sheltered homes, and more. For Sanders the important idea when we reflect on the Earth is the ability to make considerations about what is good for the planet. When we only think of ourselves and are unwilling to make sacrifices to that will in the long run benefit the planet, we begin to damage the world we live in.
I don’t think that Sanders is asking us to abandon our well lit homes or get rid of our cars, but he is simply reminding us that we do not control the Earth as much as we like to believe we do. His quote is more of a call to awareness than a call to action. What Sanders is hoping we understand is that taking care of the planet, or at least making more decisions with the longterm health of the planet in mind, will help it sustain us for much longer. The more we begin to appreciate Earth and understand how it provides what we need for life, the more likely we are to begin taking part in actions to clean and protect our planet.