At her core, she is one hot gal—almost 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. On her frigid surfaces, she can go as low as 130 degrees below zero. Her body is rocky, dirty, muddy, slimy, sandy and dusty. Her surface is pitted with caves and ravines, raging with rivers, oceans and hurricanes. She erupts with volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis. She’s also teeming with life, crawling and buzzing with critters, including some with no wings and only two legs who are reading this column.
All the while, Earth is spinning and orbiting through the silence of space with a mathematical precision that has given us clocks and calendars. We keep track of her spins with clocks, and we keep track of her orbits with calendars as she transports us through the cosmos with the predictable grace of a celestial being.
Yes, our Mother Earth is also our Spaceship Earth. And this—along with a conspiracy she’s harboring—is what we celebrate on April 22.
a Friz Kahn illustration
The date: 3 billion years ago. The place: third planet out from the sun. The characters: sunlight, water and blue-green algae. Blue-green algae discovers how to manufacture food out of sunlight and water. This manufacturing process generates a waste product, which the blue-green algae exhales. The waste: oxygen.
The date: 2.2 billion years ago. The level of oxygen waste is so high now that it is pollution. But some creative creature discovers how to render the oxygen harmless and actually use it as fuel. These waste-eating creatures become so prosperous that have many descendants—including us.
We breathe in what plants breathe out. Plants breathe in what we breathe out. Now, breathe in Latin is “spirare.” And we can hear “spirare” in our words “respiration,” “inspiration,” “spirit” and “conspiracy.” Con means “with,” so conspiring is breathing with—breathing together. And life on Earth is a conspiracy!
So on Earth Day, I’m paying attention to my breathing. Each time I breathe in, I re-enact an event 2.2 million years ago when my ancestors transformed pollution into fuel.
I’m also happy to be celebrating Earth Day in Hawai‘i, where we honor the conspiracy of life on Earth each time we say, “aloha.” Aloha means “to share the breath of life.” Alo means “to share” and ha means “breath of life.”