The Symbiotic, Biological Purpose of Humans on the Earth

I regularly do a meditation practice that begins with being aware of breathing, in and out…in and out…relax, focus on it. Think for a moment about the exchange made with the trees and plants around. Trees breathe in CO2 and breathe out the oxygen we need for life, thousands of times a day. The plants, by the way, breathe in and out only once a day. For a moment I give thanks to the plants for breathing out the oxygen that sustains my life.

  We live in a symbiotic relationship with the plant life on this planet. Plants provide a lot of our food, clothing and shelter. Our homes are mostly made of wood and many of them are heated by burning wood. Plants breathe in what we breathe out. They also eat what our bodies produce, if allowed to decompose naturally as thermophilic compost rather than adding two to five gallons of water as flush toilets do.

  Ancient humans lived in truly symbiotic relationships with the plants around them. Most modern humans do not. Most of North America uses purified drinking water, often well water from underground aquifers, removing this plant food from its vicinity where it often ends up as waste and even as pollution.

  Rather than have a pipe to carry sewage out to our ocean and fishing grounds where it creates oxygen-depleting algae blooms, a better environmental solution is to require each household to compost its own waste as food for plants. This is an improvement over giving it back to the Earth as fertilizer—in a sanitary, thermophilic compost that anyone can build in their backyard using three wooden pallets that most large stores regularly throw out. This is more environmentally beneficial than watering ornamental planters with household grey water.

  There are books and documentary films addressing the problem of soil nutrient depletion all over the world. There are extensive studies by scientists attempting to bring this issue to our awareness. At the same time, there are extensive studies and subsequent community meetings addressing the problem of the ever increasing amount of sewage polluting waterways all over the world. Does anyone see how these two issues are connected?

  In order to keep sewage out of the water table, it must be kept out of all water, salt and fresh, period.

  Living with purpose, to me, involves seeking symbiotic relationships within one’s natural environment. Our purpose, in this era, is to return to such a state. This includes us stopping pollution and instead, using our waste to nourish the plant life that nourishes us. In nature, of which we are meant to be a part of, nothing is ever wasted. To learn how to do this in a simple and sanitary way, without buying expensive equipment, I recommend the Humanure Handbook, by Joseph Jenkins.

  For a moment, become aware of your breathing, in and out…in and out… For a moment think about how you are physically connected in a symbiotic relationship with the plant life around you. Think for a moment what you could do to complete this relationship.


Rena Patrick is a poet and commercial fisher who lives on a sailboat by Quadra Island. She is dedicated to using her talents to create a positive future wherever she can.