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Herbalism in the Space Age

Over the holidays, I was visiting family in New York. On the top of my list of museums to visit (I love museums) was the American Museum of Natural History. The featured exhibit was Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration, which focuses on humanity’s next steps regarding space exploration, travel and colonization.

Concept design for space station by Don Davis.

The event was fascinating. Whoopi Goldberg narrated the planetarium show, which stands out as some of the best science storytelling I’ve seen yet. I saw what plants dinosaurs ate, the Virgin Atlantic model planes for space tourism, models for lunar elevators, space station garden designs, the model for the space port currently in development in Las Cruces, NM, how we might deal with an asteroid, what to do when the sun burns out and the 1000-year plan for terraforming Mars into a second Earth.

Art by Stefan Morrell. Sources: Christopher McKay, NASA Ames Research Center; James Graham, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Robert Zubrin, Mars Society; Margarita Marinova, California Institute of Technology. Earth and Mars images: NASA

I think the exhibit was so well done because it had a clear and important message:

Humanity’s at a crossroads.

We’re facing deep decisions about how we relate to Earth and space.

What are we going to do?

All of this means that we’re expanding the context in which we think, imagine and act. So, what does herbal practice mean in the era when humanity is considering questions such as: should we plan to leave Earth? What does the evolution of our race mean on a cosmic time scale? Where are we going as a species?

These are huge questions, and they require thoughtful consideration. So, how are we as herbalists contributing to this conversation? I think we should. Our context is changing and humanity is going into uncharted waters. What’s the bigger picture of our work?

In pondering these questions, I keep coming back to connection as the nexus and grounding value I hold in my work. Connection to human and ecological communities. Connection to life itself. It’s a big curiosity of mine right now.

As people who love plants, life & community, what’s our contribution to the many crossroads we face? I think we have an important perspective to add. And a responsibility to do so.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Honestly, as a species I think we’ll do well to avoid extinction… it’s sheer cockiness to assume that we can fix the earth or move ourselves to another planet- we’re just not that important in the grand scheme of things, I mean, life has been around for billions of years, and will continue on without us. Which isn’t to say that I want this to happen- I don’t think that humanity is a plague- I think we’re capable of SO much, so much beauty, art, emotions, words, creation…

    But the earth could wipe us out very easily, very fast. I guess I feel like my work, here and now, is to a. put every fiber of my being into living life and connecting to the world around me, and b. maybe teach others how to do the same. What direction that will have us take at a crossroads, I don’t know, though…

    January 4, 2012
  2. Renée A.D. #

    ‘I guess I feel like my work, here and now, is to a. put every fiber of my being into living life and connecting to the world around me, and b. maybe teach others how to do the same.’

    I think that’s really beautiful–and yeah, I believe that work of reconnection is really critical right now. When I think of what is really needed in our world, it’s harmony and connection. When we’re connected, then we can make responsible decisions as a whole that takes into account the whole system. We can get outside our own heads and be grounded in reality.

    I guess in that sense, being an herbalist is just as much about facilitating this kind of conversation as much as it’s about crafting medicines and seeing folks–my 2 cents.

    January 4, 2012
  3. Ann #

    “being an herbalist is just as much about facilitating this kind of conversation as much as it’s about crafting medicines and seeing folks.”
    Agreed – great blog, glad to have found it!

    January 6, 2012
    • Renée A.D. #

      Ann I’m really glad you came on and read it! I’m really glad that you’re helping move this conversation forward with projects like Numen. I was really inspired by it.

      January 6, 2012

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