By Lesley Miles
When we view it as our manifest destiny to control the natural world, we ensure our own extinction. The decisions that we make to separate ourselves from our environment—to keep us separate from nature—affect our lives daily and affect the vibrancy of nature all around us.
How many of us will go home having been here today, outdoors, feeling the breeze, hearing the birds, and walk inside and turn on the air conditioner? Or maybe Alexa has made it a perfect perfect 72 degrees inside our home already.
As we step into that conditioned capsule, we step out of the world, step out of relationship with nature and we step out of our own ability to even survive. It isn’t until we understand the impacts of everything that we do that we may be able to move from almost certain global extinction to survival.
Today, I read a New York Times article reporting that 29 percent of all wild birds are gone. That is over 3 billion birds missing, gone from the population since 1970, less than 50 years. This is the hard evidence of how our actions affect nature.
Years ago, then-Gov. Ronald Reagan said, “If you have seen one tree you’ve seen them all,” in response to saving an ancient redwood forest in California. Actually, when you see one tree, you are seeing a unique, complete ecosystem, an apartment building for hundreds of birds, a smorgasbord of insects and spiders that provide food for the birds, and then of course the natural drop of leaves and the important protection and nutrients that are added to develop soil fertility so that the trees can do what we view as their job: turning carbon dioxide into oxygen.
We intercede by spraying chemicals and by cutting down trees. We lose cooling shade, we lose life.
By isolating ourselves in our refrigerated homes, we become more and more separate and more divorced from our natural environment. It is only in the overarching experience of nature that we can understand what a tiny piece we are in our overall world.
But even though we are so small, our impact has become so great that we are now truly threatening all of nature. It is time to stop.
It is time to open our doors and windows to nature and understand how we can lessen the impact of global extinction.
So right now, I ask you to open your windows and doors to nature. Be aware of the impacts that you and our country have on the planet on a daily basis. Look at the materials that you use to build your home.
For energy, select solar and build all electric homes and cars. In 2020, all new homes are to be net zero—enforce that change. Or even better, reuse and remodel; it is the greenest thing to do!
Stand up for the environment. Stand up for the trees. Stand up for the birds. Stand up for the bees and insects. Stand up for our water. Stand up for our air.
Stand up and embrace the natural world around us so that we will survive.
Conquer the ignorance of the impact of all of our decisions, or our own extinction is at hand. Act while there is still time.
Lesley Miles is a Morgan Hill resident and architect, and co-owner of Weston Miles Architects in the city’s downtown. She delivered a version of these remarks as a speech at the Sep. 20 Global Climate Strike at City Hall.