In his book What makes us tick social researcher Hugh McKay has a section headed “Why listening is the greatest gift of all”. In it he says, “In fact if I had to identify one way to make the world a better place, I’d say: Listen more attentively and sympathetically to each other.”
Should we apply this principle more broadly by listening carefully to the non-human voices in our Earth Community? What might we hear? Expressions of pain? Joy? Desperation? Loss? How might we respond? A greater sense of wholeness perhaps? Maybe feelings of sympathy or inspiration.
One such Voice of the Earth serves to illustrate.
A small planted forest stands beside a grassed area near a home at Waterview Heights. Nature places a forest red gum seed in the open area and new life begins.
Slowly the tree grows, initially in isolation, but later as part of a mulched bed of planted trees and shrubs. With a trunk maybe 15 centimetres across and a height of seven metres it is doing well and its voice is saying, “You have encouraged me and now I am on my way to help rebuild the natural habitat of the area. The koalas will love me.”
But – these hopes seem dashed when grubs carve out a comfortable home within its trunk. Black cockatoos discover them and tear into the tree with their powerful beaks to reach their tasty meals. A pile of timber chips at its base and a large wound in its trunk are clear evidence of a weakened tree. Weeks pass and inevitably a strong wind fells it to the ground.
Months pass and although the stump seems dead no attempt is made to remove it. It is still an important part of this bed of habitat.
And then from the stump new growth comes forth, and a green abundance is soon climbing skywards.
A familiar Voice of the Earth exuberently cries out - “Look at me now! I am alive. You gave me a chance and now watch me respond. I will play my part in our Earth Community.”
This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on December 18, 2017.