Enclose yourself in a dark room
Innumerable oxygen molecules ride the undulating tides.
Seawater is aerated by winds that cause waves.
A bit like carbonated water is impregnated by gas,
seawater is aerated by the photosynthesis of aquatic plants.
Have you ever swum in sparkling water?
Then again too high or two low dissolved oxygen levels harm aquatic life.
Seawater species should avoid club soda and the dead zones of the globe:
the Gulf of Mexico, the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the East China Sea.
There are no reddish hues here.
The grey substance is illuminated by green, blue and violet sparks.
Vision is different in this semi-dark liquid.
Ultraviolet rays do not burn but lend the surroundings perceptible.
And you focus by moving your eyes forward and backward.
Hearing is different too, more like touch.
You hear by sensing currents, vibrations, and motion.
The sound of your breathing is a soft repetitious gush.
Bathing the resonating life, at times you are stirred by the push and pull of strong water streaming and might take a ride in a sudden burst of air bubbles.
To outsiders it seems a languid life, but predators are around, and you best keep in your flock to survive.
Avoiding suffocating is more difficult.
Without decisive measures we cannot choose what we breathe.
Bury yourself or a part of your body in a pile of soil
You are a worm inching through cool and wet granules.
Your effort leaves criss-crossing tunnels in its aftermath.
Moist vapours spawn slithery pathways and your undulation pushes air through them.
Leaking a rich and musty odour, the soil is ventilated and mineralized
Can you see beneath the surface?
It might make a difference – in deed “to treat soil like dirt is a fatal mistake” (Monbiot 2015 as reported by Puig de la Bellacasa 2017, 169).
The largest portion of life on earth exists underground in the subterrestrial.
Overflowing with animation, the planet’s crust forms a biosphere the volume of which is nearly two times as large as that of all the oceans together.
Bacteria, archaea, fungi, worms and insects thrive in the buried covering composed of different types of rock and sediment.
In the dark deep-set terrain, bacteria draw energy from rock minerals through chemosynthesis involving oxidation.
Hidden in component parts in the in-between, there is oxygen, even if here air barely exists.
All the same, borne in the environmental interactions of living and non-living things, borne through “conspiring – literally, breathing together.” (Macauley 2010, 26) air owes in consistency to the gases the earth’s crust emits.
Roam in the midst of some trees
Trees have existed for 370 million years.
Trees suck in and leak out gaseous components and particles.
They are attractants and repellents.
They signal to and support each other not the least when warding off perilous wildlife.
Us these sophisticated transmitters repeatedly lure into their nearness.
Lean on a tree and become one of its intimate extensions.
Can you witness the way in which the tree imparts information, through a gradual streaming?
Each according to their grace, short and tall, straight and twisted, narrow and wide, trees linger sideways and tower upwards to the skies with an uncanny familiarity for most of us.
Not counting exceptional territories, they still remain more than not in our vicinity.
Listen to their leaves rustling in the wind, and you might feel their roots crackling under your feet.
Tree roots interlink across species and couple with fungi friends.
Sparking vital communication and kindling root growth, the subterranean interlocking extends the contours of trees into surprising measurements.
A spread and steady persistence, trees subtend rich ecologies of dependable scaffolding.
Trees care and share, they react to their environs and pass on acoustic, electric and chemical messages, filter and store harmful particles, feed many, form diverse microclimates, taper noise, offer shade and shelter, make for building materials. . .
They are no taciturn materiality.
A “vital organ of the planet,” they are “like lungs on the animal body” (Macauley 2010, 100).
More than one, their networks form a “Wood-Wide-Web” (Wohlleben 2016, 29) with a different temporality to that of ours.
Light a match and observe the Fire
Dare you touch, snap, crackle, pop, whirls of heat dancing, flickering.
The wild burning power eats oxygen, decomposes its fuels into char and ash, gives off heat and fumes and emits gaseous flames in different spectra of light.
We are fire-tenders since a million years.
We have learnt to meter out the fuel and control combustion.
Escaped fires cover up to 5 million square kilometres of the globe each year.
Do not light a match on dry land!
Stand still at a busy crossroads
Yellow, grey and sticky, the air is stagnant. Smog.
Wind piled gases from vehicle engines’ and industrial facilities’ fuel burns tingle eyes and make us pant.
In humans, smog is known to make lung functions decrease, to induce problems in blood flow, to increase blood pressure and heart rhythm, to cause arrhythmia, obstructive pulmonary disease, peripheral vessel disease and neuro-degenerative illnesses. Smog provokes cognitive malfunction, fertility and foetal growth problems, miscarriages and premature births.
Owing to vehicle exhaust, more than 300.000 humans die prematurely each year across the globe.
A failed survival.
What is the number of plants and other critters?
Queasiness, retching, sickness, withering, and erosion inflicting material bodies.
When the winds are low and the traffic is high, a vaguely reeking haze accumulates amid urban structures.
In part perceptible, mainly not, silently sinister vapours hover in the air.
To attentionally observe the commonplace murk simply requires one to stand next to a running car’s tailpipe.
Did you know that in China smog is tenfold to the worst days in Finland (Harjumaa 2019) and that aerosols travel and spread beyond territories?
Changeably present smog is a non-local hyperobject (Morton 2013) occasioned by us humans and formed by many.
A precarious multitude, the air we breathe comes from elsewhere.
How to tend the undecided without tarnish?
The imperatives to stop nuclear power, burning coal, wasting electricity and driving private cars, the imperatives to avoid traffic and flying, the imperatives to turn vegan, walk and cycle, to use respiration filters, to take oxygen supplements, to stay indoors, to live in non-industrial areas and more. . . are the consequence of respiration being an omnipresent negotiation between the wholesome and the vile.
On a windy day walk at the shoreline
Throw, hurl, crash, bang.
Rain, sand, branches, debris rampage in the gushing and howling wind.
Thunder booms and the waters rise.
Angered weather hits and upsets.
Severe storms uproot and shake up their surroundings and recast order in ripples.
Can you recollect a frenetic reordering in your vicinity?
Parented by the sun that warms Earth unevenly, a steady air current moves horizontally on the surface of the globe.
Tempered by variance in air pressure and temperature there are many: planetary winds, trade winds, the westerlies and polar easterlies, periodic winds and sea, land, mountain and valley breezes.
As a gentle movement wind is a caressing contact.
As a hostile current it is a collision that thrusts objects and beings into displacement without consent.
“The poetics of storm. . .is basically a poetics of anger” (Bachelard 2011/1988, 16).
Storms balance global heat and take us by surprise owing to their intensity.
They are “entirely motion and nothing but motion” (Bachelard 2011/1988, 223).
They eject small and large material bodies from their known habitats. They bring rainfall to dry lands, spread particles and seeds across lengthy distances, mix sea and ocean waters, clear debris in forests, too. . .
The animism of the elemental furies “. . .is divided, hurried and jostled” and “creates a multitude of creatures” (Bachelard 2011/1988, 231).
A savagely generative atmosphere.
Let a piece of ice melt in your mouth
In Case of Emergency place ice on the sprain.
Intense cold feels like a burn.
Try it out with an ice cube and see water in solid form disintegrate its crystallization.
Melting and watery ice is slippery.
Thawing glaciers and permafrost slide, break up and cave in.
The ground under our feet is moving.
Observantly attend to any technological device
We consist of vibrating groupings of molecules, uninterruptedly permeated by and screened off from various fluctuations.
Oscillations and waves make us sweat, relax, tense, hear, see and more.
Extending well into space, Earth’s magnetic field subtends radio waves and wireless networks.
It likewise carries intelligence that directly interlinks living beings.
Technologies impact transference, like the technique of the caring heart.
The heart tempers resonant frequencies and establishes sustaining connections between us, other beings and the geomagnetic field of the globe.
In the midst of radiation, we are radiating factors – complex processes of de- and recomposition – that have the opportunity to generate spells of synchronicity.
Apparently transhuman, “we are bodies in technology,” used by technology in endless nature-culture information processes (Ihde 2001, 137), even by technologies of compassion.
Lay on the ground and gaze at the skies
The heavens of outer space are here, intergalactic dust, interstellar dust, interplanetary and circumplanetary dust, comet dust and asteroidal dust, that is.
Did you know that emerging accretion discs of colliding gas and dust grains initiate the formation of planets?
From nebula to solid rock, plants and critters, we are extra-terrestrial through and through.
Extend your perception and detect an oxygen molecule in the interstellar medium.
In the swirling cloud of gas and fine particles can you see life emerging?
We live in a rapidly expanding universe, and “perhaps our destiny is truly in the stars” (Kaku 2018, 8).
It is an ancient belief that life came from outside our globe, a spirit descending.
Without parting soul and flesh, this might be the case.
Life travels thousands of lightyears, according to some.
Uncannily saved from radiation and extreme temperatures, kernels of the living travel between planetary systems – panspermia.
Asteroids and meteorites hitting the Earth bring along organic compounds.
Science tells us that life is born from the shared chemistry of hydrogen and great energy.
The exact formula remains undisclosed.
The enigma of dark energy.
Like our quest for life and its conditions, Earth’s atmosphere extends beyond its moon.
We might opt to become two-planet-and-several-moons-species.
Laser beams form thoroughfares for future globetrotting.
“The dinosaurs became extinct because they did not have a space program” (Larry Niven according to Kaku 2018, 7).
Books and articles:
Bachelard, Gaston. 2011/1988. Air and Dreams. An Essay on the Imagination of Movement. Dallas, Texas. The Dallas Institute Publications: The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.
Ihde, Don. 2001. Bodies in Technology. Chicago, Il: University of Minnesota Press.
Kaku, Michio. 2018. The Future of Humanity. Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality and Our Destiny Beyond Earth. UK: Allen Lane an imprint of Penguin Books.
Macauley, David. 2010. Elemental Philosophy: Earth, Air, Fire and Water as Environmental Ideas.
Mielonen, Matti. 2019. “Tuliko elämä avaruudesta?” Tiede 4/2019, 15–21.
Morton, Timothy. 2013. Hyperobjects. Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World. Chicago IL: University of Minnesota Press.
Puigde la Bellacasa, Maria. 2017. Matters of Care. Speculative Ethics in the More than Human Worlds. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.
Wohlleben, Peter. 2016. Puiden salattu elämä. Kasvimaailman kuninkaiden tunteista ja viestinnästä. Helsinki: Gummerus Kustannus Oy. (suom. Pirkko Roinila).
Do Trees Talk to Each Other? https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-whispering-trees-180968084/ (retrieved October 18, 2019)
Harjumaa, Marika. 2019. Purkitettua ilmaa ja keuhkoja puhdistavaa teetä - Aasialaiset yrittävät selvitä savusumun keskellä. https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-10700033 (retrieved October 16, 2019)
Ikävalo, Kari. 2018. Tuore suomalaistutkimus. Metsillä voi olla luultua suurempi rooli ilmastonmuutoksen torjunnassa. https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-10518485 (retrieved October 17, 2019)
Scientist identify vast underground ecosystem containing billions of micro-organism. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/dec/10/tread-softly-because-you-tread-on-23bn-tonnes-of-micro-organisms (retrieved October 17, 2019)
Soils portal: Understanding soils: What is exactly ‘soil’? Soil air: breathing in and out. https://soils.landcareresearch.co.nz/understanding-soils/what-is-soil/soil-air/ (retrieved August 10, 2019)