Out for a walk early in the morning I came across a puddle of urine from a little dog I´d seen walk by just seconds earlier. For some reason it caught my attention. How many times before have I walked past similar circumstances without it even registering? I can´t say why, but on this occasion that little puddle starting to stream down the sidewalk filled me with admiration. I thought about how ironic it was that a little dog has greater freedom than I. If I need to go, I have to first find a bathroom before relieving myself. This dog just lets go when and where he needs to. Or even just feels like it. It leaves its mark shamelessly and without remorse. Actually I have no idea what that dog thinks or feels. But what I´m getting at is that it can do its thing- numbers one and two- whenever and wherever it wants. It is a privilege which I do not enjoy. That dog even has a person who cleans up after it whenever it does more than just urinate. I neither need nor want that kind of service, but I found it weird that a dog has it. Walking along I came to the waterfront, where lately there have been hundreds, perhaps thousands of seagulls feasting on herring. The season started about a week ago and along with the birds, seals and sea lions are enjoying the bounty, jumping out of the water and barking all night. I think about the abundance these noisy, stinky beasts are wallowing in. And again I am struck by the notion that animals enjoy privileges humans have denied ourselves. Nature produces enough for all, and then some. Us humans seem to be the only ones that live in a state of constant lack (so much so that we´re driving other creatures to extinction with our greed). We seem to be the only ones perpetually dissatisfied with what we get for free. Those “primitive” tribes lost in the Amazon or the Kalahari work on average about half the time we do. And they do it among friends and family. The rest of the time they spend leisurely enjoying friends and family.And they’ve been living that way for thousands of years. They are, by definition, the most sustainable societies that exist. Obviously I am not advocating an end to civilization. But I would like to propose that we’re off course. That nature is wiser, by far. That we ought to stop boasting of our economic, cultural, scientific or political development, and instead recognize that in natural terms we are woefully unsophisticated- not only disadvantaged, but willfully ignorant. And having acknowledged this shortcoming, we should do our best to correct it, by studying nature- not as scientists who count and measure everything. But rather as naturalists who quietly admire, contemplate, reflect, listen, learn and give thanks. I propose also that we stop giving so much importance to counterproductive illusions and fantasies that try to convince us of the intrinsic value and goodness of work, study, money, religion and art. Because all of these, without wisdom are worse than useless. They are harmful. And ultimately wisdom is not to be found in schools, temples, museums or the market, and even less at the office- but rather in nature. In the solitude of the desert, the perspective that a mountain can give us, in the abundance of the forest, and the murmur of a stream. Nature is the only true source of wisdom, because it is the only one to which we all belong, no matter how much we deny it. Everything else is just a human construct.
David Nuñez is a biologist, photographer and author of several books on the Wildlife of the Mexican Caribbean, as well as a founding member of Mexiconservación.