Consider the Sea Turtles

Here’s a fascinating paper on sea turtle migration.

Some turtles travel thousands of miles, apparently using the Earth’s magnetic field and other chemical cues to navigate–locating isolated feeding grounds, distant islands, and precise sections of shorelines, all without landmarks and despite mercurial currents and weather conditions. It’s astounding to fathom, especially considering that most people can’t even get around in their own city without satellites.

While sitting in the airport in Las Vegas (long story), I read about one hypothesis that holds that turtles who travel long distances today are tracing ancient routes traveled when the distances were much shorter–that is, when the continents were closer together eons ago. The theory is that the turtles, once finding a favorable route from breeding grounds to feeding grounds and back, simply replicated the paths from generation to generation, not noticing nor caring that the route expanded by a fraction of an inch each year. Now, they travel all the way across vast oceans, simply because old habits are hard to break.

They could, of course, also be traveling long distances because there’s less food in the ocean to support feeding in one particular area for too long. The once-teeming ocean, it must be pointed out, is now a food desert.

So what, then, can we learn from the turtles? The first lesson might be one of humility. There’s so much about this planet that humans are utterly ignorant of; as Bob Jensen wrote, “Our problem is not just the many anxious individuals who had particular trouble coping, but ways of living that aren’t designed for the type of animals that we are, as we try to micro-manage a world that is too vast and complex for us to control.”

This world is too vast and complex for us to control. Let that notion sink in, as you ponder the imminent blow-back as every natural system responds, with cataclysmic results, to being pushed to the brink by human hubris.


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