An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of June 4, 2017
Issued from Rancho Regenesis near Ek Balam ruins 20kms north of Valladolid, Yucatán, Mexico

PICKING UP TWIGS

Before fixing the daily campfire meal, I walk around picking up dry twigs to burn. Sometimes I reject twigs perfectly good for making a fire on the grounds that they are too thickly covered with lichens. Dry lichens burn as readily as paper, so the lichens' burnability isn't the problem. What concerns me is what I know of the lichens' complex life cycles, their importance in Nature, their beauty, and the spiritual insights that thinking about their curious way of being imparts.

At http://www.backyardnature.net/n/lichens.htm you can meet some of the lichen species we've met and admired over the years. You can review the lichens' amazing structure and biology at http://www.backyardnature.net/lichens.htm

It's awkward for me to talk about not wanting to burn twigs bearing lichens. For one thing, it draws attention to inconsistencies in my conduct. When I walk through the woods, I crush organisms much more sophisticated and just as beautiful as lichens, so why don't I stop walking in woods? In my vegetarian diet I eat untold numbers of plants, and fruits and seeds that could have engendered new plants, so, if this is the way I think, why not quit eating altogether?

These are points I've thought about a lot. In the past usually I got by with remembering that I'm a natural being, too, and as such have certain rights such as locomotion and feeding myself. However, over the years this argument as lost much of its logic for me. That's because -- same as an habitual criminal loses the right to participate in society -- by being so utterly destructive of the Earth's biosphere, we humans have brought into question whether we deserve the benefits of membership in that biosphere.

On another level, sometimes I remember that the Universal Creative Impulse seems to be evolving the Universe toward ever higher forms of complexity, feeling and integrated information. At least here on Earth, the pinnacle of that evolution appears to be us humans. Maybe that means that I, being very much more sophisticated and sensitive than a lichen, outrank lichens so utterly that if I destroy some while cooking my meal, it's OK.

But, then I listen to the news on shortwave, and hear the rhetoric of demagogues and zealots ever so eagerly embraced by the many, and I see that, on the average -- with important but too few exceptions -- we humans aren't so sophisticated and sensitive.

It's then that I find myself standing along trails examining each twig even more carefully than before -- not only for lichens but also for bugs at home in the twigs' hollowed-out centers, for dried-out fungi awaiting rain before coming to life again...

In fact, some days -- like this week when Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Climate Accord -- I feel like standing there admiring twigs until it is I who disappear, not they.