Have you ever wondered why, lying under a tree, chewing on a stalk of grass, nature's wide vistas in front of you, you get this incredible feeling of peace and tranquility?
Nothing else in your condition has changed. Your problems and worries are still somewhere in the background, but at the moment, close to the bosom of Mother Earth, you feel her loving breath on your brow. You gradually give in to her warm embrace and drift off to blessed oblivion.
Why is it that you can look at the most fabulous creations of Man, the basilica in Rome or the Taj Mahal in Agra, and the pleasure is limited compared to looking down on a verdant valley, a meandering river at the bottom, or distant mountains, their snow-covered peaks glistening in the sunlight? Or the dancing waves on the surface of the limitless ocean in the moonlight? There are breathtaking vistas wherever you go. Whether it is fall foliage or desert dunes, you are mesmerized by the splendors of Mother Earth. And her fair face never gets tiresome or old. She has given pleasure to her children for eons unhesitatingly.
Those who made a covenant with her to tread softly on her and respect her, she promised sustenance and protection. For thousands of years Man existed on the planet in a delicate balance with nature and its bounties, taking only what he must. Mother Earth gave of herself freely. But that was not enough.
Man wanted to fly, not walk. He did not want just enough of everything for his needs but a lot of everything, much more than what he needed. God gave him permission to seek knowledge. He went at it with gusto. At first, he wanted to learn the nature of things. He was thrilled at each new discovery, at each new understanding. But soon his seeking went beyond discovery and understanding. His quest turned to find things for selfish use. Again, not for just enough.
As long as Man lived in pastoral harmony with nature, everything stayed in balance. But every inconvenience gnawed at man's desire to make life free of struggle and to dwell in luxury and comfort. For millennia he managed to find sustenance and security without inflicting much hurt on Mother Earth, but it was not enough. He created deadlier instruments of death to control all other species and have the mastery of his environment. And then came the Industrial Revolution, which changed the balance between need and want forever.
Now man was all powerful. There was nothing he could not do with his machines. He became the absolute master of his environment, subduing all other living things and using them for his own selfish ends. He wiped many species off the face of the Earth, damaged the flora and fauna on the surface and under the seas. He happily went around plying the waters of the oceans spilling waste and chemicals from his ships and used the seas as an unlimited receptacle for poisons of his excesses.
He put his effort in staying on this earth as long as possible without paying any attention to the quality of that existence. His greed resulted in creating a humanity that is ruled by a handful of fabulously wealthy individuals, with untold millions groaning under crushing poverty. With just enough knowledge, Man kept producing billions of new humans without regard to resources or their fair distribution.
Now, some choose to risk their lives crossing oceans in leaky tubs in search of enough to eat. He kept producing more and more toxic products for his convenience without thinking of how they would be disposed of. He found ways of hiding them from common eyes. He dug huge holes in the skin of Mother Earth and filled them with all this poison. He covered them with grass so these abscesses look green and smooth from a distance, till you get close and smell the stench.
He invented new ways to tunnel deep for Earth's riches, filling valleys and streams with polluted dirt and polluted water. He is now happily busy 'fracking' her insides without regard to the ultimate effect.
So Mother, we beg your forgiveness. Things have gotten so far away from what should have been that there is no way to reverse the damage. Man will continue to multiply uncontrollably. He will be consuming more and more of your riches and replacing them with toxic poisons till you cannot sustain any of your children and become barren. The rich are working hard to find a heaven somewhere else. The poor will suffer as long as they can in a rapidly warming, barren world, until they, too, succumb to man-made poisons and global weather changes.
You, Mother, will survive long enough to gradually shed Man's deadly fumes and rejuvenate yourself to the paradise you once were. New denizens will populate you. We can only pray that they have the wisdom to use their knowledge and skills better than we did.
Khan is a Charleston heart surgeon.