By Stuart Camps
A big old orangutan sits beneath some trees at forest's edge, gazing across spreading farmlands and logging tracts. The many human apes from out beyond the forest must seem quite confused and bewildered to this calm old man.
A small black bird flits through the bushes to sip from a shallow rocky pool... The large orangutan scratches his backside and yawns, takes a leaf and munches on it.
Is the fundamental threat faced by orangutans and other non-humans really that of deforestation, pollution of the land and seas, and extinction of species?
Watching an ever-increasing number of people moving in and about the forest, felling the trees of his vanishing home, the quiet ape, sensitive to how things are, must notice that humans are motivated by an unusual kind of thing...
To the orangutan, and all others who are not human, our own peculiar human efforts of life must seem like anxious attempts to reconnect, to be sustained somehow, to achieve what the non-humans already naturally know. Like us, the red apes of the forest also know fear, and death. And they suffer too, in the orangutan way. But they, and all the other-than-humans, respond to such things in a different manner than us. The squirrels, the flitting birds, the deer in the meadow, the turtles underwater, all accept more easily than we do, these cycles of life and threat and death. Such are simply parts of the stream in which we all live, and, unlike us, the non-human beings are folded more naturally into the water's flow, whichever way it turns. Because of this they are an example for us of a deeper consciousness that we may also claim if we are willing.
A younger orangutan climbs down from a tree and sits beside the old man. They glance at each other, and then away... thinking... contemplating... a broad soft hand rests momentarily across the younger's hairy shoulders. The orangutans must wonder why some humans seek to destroy the forests while others of us work so hard to protect it.
What, we might ask ourselves, is so different from our passionate intentions to save and preserve wilderness, and our other "more massive" urges toward its ruin? While some fear losing healthy forests, oceans, and skies, others of us are equally afraid of not fully exploiting them. To the calm ape it must be plain that the human tribe is living by a single and common fear, regardless of the differing goals and ideals we might think we hold among (or between) ourselves.
The orangutans sit close, their shoulders touching, two red backs at the edge of the forest, in the warm sun...
None of our conservation, deep-ecology, or environmental preservation will save their kind while our "other" hand simultaneously deals in destroying them, along with their habitats and home.
The orangutans climb quietly back into the forest and disappear among the leaves and shadows. The small black bird flits again from the rocky pool onto a
nearby root buttress, its tail twitching back and forth...
Like the ape in his simple apeness, our inherent humanity could more deeply inform and sustain all of our life, and give room to all other life. Until we allow this to become the force and motive for how we participate in the cycles of Earth, and for how we make our human home here, no lasting (or real) conservation will ever be given by us to this world we so intimately depend upon. Instead, as if lost, we will only continue to suffer our ancient fear, confusion, and sense of separation from all life, unless we discover another, more intelligent, and better way to live.