Every day, around mid-afternoon, the gulls in Waterloo nest on top of the mall northeast of my house.
Every day, around dusk, they leave there, and head due south to a small factory, and swoop around it for a few hours before settling down for the night.
Add to that the crows, who travel to a forested area just south of campus at dawn and dusk and caw so loudly and in such numbers that it sounds like you're standing outside a half dozen racquetball courts. (Seriously, the caws sound like the echoes the balls make when they bounce off the walls.)
Add to that the geese, who have lost their fear of people a long time ago, and belligerently walk all over campus, staring down the cars that get in their way.
Add to that the ducks, who are much more timid than their avian counterparts, and try to fit into the hole the geese have made, only to be run off by the geese at every turn.
Add to that the single swan in Victoria Park, the only bird that the geese give wide berth.
Add to that the sparrows, chickadees, and other small birds that try their best to eke out a living where they can.
And all the other animals: the groundhogs on campus, the ubiquitous squirrels, the cats constantly patrolling their territories against trespassing from--well, other cats, mostly.
And the plants too--the trees, the bushes, the ivy creeping along the walls. Even--ick--nature's mooch, the grass.
It struck me today how all these living creatures are around us all the time, whose lives we can endanger pretty easily but can't do a lot to retaliate in return. And rather than reveling in the power that gives us, I think we need to appreciate the responsibility that puts on us. I'm teaching Tolkien's The Hobbit this term--more on that some other time--and one of the theories around Tolkien's work is that he promoted the idea of stewardship with regards to the environment, that people have the moral responsibility to act like we're looking after the land and need to keep it safe to pass on to the next steward, rather than look at it as if we're the absolute monarchs. The idea is still a little too "dominion over the earth" for my tastes. It suggests that we're at the top of the structure rather than a part of it, as if the environment isn't something we need to worry about. I much rather like the idea some sci-fi pundits have suggested, that we're the planet's janitors. We should do our best to keep things running, and doing that well is worth more respect than we usually afford it.
Anyway, the point at hand is less environmental responsibility and more--be humble. There's worlds going on around us that don't see us as the center of existence. They're not hostile to us--rather, they don't care one way or the other about us at all. We're a tangential part of their system, and they're just cawing to the world, or nestling in on a convenient roof or just trying to get by.