Some might cringe at the use of “essential workers,” feeling perhaps that using the same word for plants and animals as we do for overburdened healthcare workers is a bit much. However, Didi Pershouse paints a striking picture of our dependance on the multifaceted life that sustains us. Similarly to systems of power, infrastructures, and the myriad systems we’ve created, we humans have obfuscated the work of ecosystems and too often forgotten the fragile balances we’ve broken in the course of our development and ever-expanding footprint on Earth. Respect for, and collaboration with nature could not only save more of it, but also greatly help us.
Many species are also frontline workers: facing huge risks while going about their daily labors. They are harmed and killed, intentionally and unintentionally, with antibiotics, pesticides, tillage, harvesting machinery, logging, construction, and more, without thought for how their work — and the systems that depend on their work — will proceed without them. […]
These large-scale collapses come from a profound loss of cultural understanding. To fail on this scale requires that many people view the living beings around them — plants, animals, insects, microbes, fungi, (and the land, forests, oceans, continents, and atmosphere that they continually regenerate) — as something quite different from what they actually are. […]
What is the essential work that ensures the viability of the critical infrastructures of soils, forests, oceans, and atmosphere, and how much of that work is done by non-human workers?
How do we design societies and governance to ensure that this work by other species — and their human coworkers — can continue? […]
Other species not only manage and maintain the supply chains on which industries and economies depend, they also manage the weather that those supply chains depend on: providing the biological materials and transport of water for clouds and rain, as well as regulating temperatures on land and greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.