“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”
It’s probably not a big surprise to learn those words are attributed to John Muir, naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States.
Many of us, myself included, understand Muir’s notion on an intellectual level. But, for me anyhow, it didn’t fully click until I started spending more time in nature. And in particular, being in the same general area regularly over time.
Ten years ago, I sold my conventional house in the GTA, and went from a suburban 50 foot lot to 50 acres of varied woodlands. It was a big learning curve, which has flattened a bit over time but still much to see, find and learn—pretty much every time I walk the trails or whack through the bush. Observing the same environs over time can sensitize us to change and highlight how many links exist, both on a macro and micro level, both within the local ecosystem and beyond.
Like an enormous, never-ending network, everything is interconnected in one way or another, or in many ways. Sometimes those connections are obvious—as if it were a multi-lane straight highway—and other times the connection is indirect or even tenuous like a meandering cart track through the bush. Does (can?) anything exist in strict and complete isolation? But the connections are there and close observation of the same area over time can help bring focus on them.
The current situation with the novel coronavirus, both its spread and how humans deal with it and react to it, also highlights the inevitable interconnections that exist in multiplicity everywhere. It is, at once, scary and awesome. And it reminds us we have limited control.