In thinking about how ecosystems function, and about how every part of them seems to fulfill a role, the question came to me: in a perfect ecosystem, what is the role of humans? Or would a perfect ecosystem be devoid of humans?
A few possible answers came. The first was that humans would care for the ecosystem as its stewards. But the truth is this: no ecosystem needs us. They can get along just fine without our care, or even our love. Which some might think suggests the conclusion that Earth is better off without us. But I don’t believe this, for one very simple reason: we exist, and we love. For the Earth to be better off without us, we would have to be evil incarnate, and we’re not. We love. So what is the role of that love in an ecosystem?
I stood under a stand of trees and watched a wary squirrel dart from branch to branch, going about its business, doing what squirrels do. Maybe, as humans, we need to do what humans do. But what is that? And don’t we do a lot of uncaring, destructive things? Yes. But what would we be doing if we had everything we needed? We would all have free time. We would laugh, love, and be creative, and when the time came, we would take what we need from the system of which we are a part. We would take only what we need. Food. Shelter. Water. We would take these things in ways that are uninvasive. We would not have so many children that we ourselves become invasive as a species. We would give back to the ecosystem as much as we took from it.
We would, in essence, be doing not just what humans do, but what all elements of a perfect ecosystem do. Care for ourselves, take only what we need, and spend our free time in joy. We may not recognize when a bug, or a plant, or a bird, or an animal is joyful; their joy is different from ours. But when they have no need to hunt for food or care for each other, they relax. They grow. They sing.
Nature would give us all we needed, if only we would let it. This is not so difficult for us to do.