Tuesday, June 25, 2024

#177 / Turnabout Is Fair Play

The above image shows us what the Smithsonian Magazine has called, "A Very Angry Octopus." 

A column by Craig Foster, a South African documentary filmmaker, naturalist, and founder of the Sea Change Project, appeared in The New York Times on April 23, 2024. That column describes a somewhat more congenial octopus encounter. 

Foster's column is titled, "An Octopus Changed How I See The World." That's the hard copy version of the headline. Online, Foster's opinion commentary is titled, "An Octopus Took My Camera, and the Images Changed the Way I See the World."

If you can envision this encounter, Foster is first described as he is working underwater, filming an octopus. As noted above, Foster is a filmaker and naturalist. After Foster gets some film of the octopus, the octopus grabs the camera away from Foster, and the octopus begins filming him. An old phrase, "turnabout is fair play," seems perfectly to capture what happened, and Foster turns out to be a good sport, and reflects on what this "fair play" turnabout might teach him:

I was gifted with a new way of seeing the day I got mugged underwater. I had been filming creatures living in the Great African Sea Forest off the coast of South Africa about a year ago when my camera was grabbed straight out of my hands by a young octopus thief. Wrapping her arms around her bounty, she zoomed backward across the ocean floor.

As I wondered how to get my camera back without alarming my young friend, something surprising happened. She turned the camera around and began to film my diving partner and me.

The intriguing images she captured — videos of her own arms draped over the camera lens with our bodies in the background — had a profound effect on me. After many years filming octopuses and hundreds of other animals that call the Sea Forest home, for the first time I was seeing the world — and myself — from her perspective.

Where I live, in the Cape of Good Hope, I am privileged to be surrounded by nature, but we are grappling with pollution and dwindling numbers of shellfish, fish, raptors and insect species. Worldwide, we are at a tipping point with an estimated 69 percent decline in wildlife populations.

When I consider the vast network of living creatures on earth, it’s clear that “saving the planet” is the wrong goal. Unless earth gets obliterated by an asteroid or experiences some similar catastrophic event, the planet could go on for several billion years. But without the biosphere that makes it possible for us to eat and breathe, humanity could not survive.

The question we should be asking is what caused the precipitous increase in species loss and what can we do to reverse it. To me, it all started when we disconnected from our wild origins. While agricultural and technological revolutions have enabled massive population growth and innovation, they have also instilled the belief that we can control nature, that our planet is an infinite resource to be mined for our advancement, comfort and entertainment [emphasis added].

I do think that Foster is "asking a good question." The world we most immediately inhabit, the "Human World," or the "Political World," as I often name it, is a world that proceeds from our own actions. That world, though, is totally dependent on the "World of Nature." When our actions (actions that are the product of human choice) heat up the oceans (and that's happening, by the way, just in case you haven't been paying attention, and haven't talked with an octopus, lately), the impacts on ocean life are inevitable, and, of course, the life of the oceans will determine our own fate. 

Let's learn from the octopus who sent film back to Foster. We are all creatures in that "World of Nature," which I sometimes call, "The World The God Made." How it all came to be is a mystery. Various stories have been advanced in explanation. What all those stories have in common, however, is this indubitable fact. We, too, like the octopus, are creatures of this Earth. We are "created," and we are not the "Creator" of the world upon which we ultimately depend.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment!