Ideas that add up #35

Leave only footprints and take only memories

Instruction to boat-borne visitors from mainland Ecuador disembarking at the Galapagos Islands, quoted in Intelligent Life, Jan/Feb 2013

The new ager in me laps this up. Image of a bare footprint in the sand at twilight, morphing to nothing with every swish of the incoming tide.

Our society inculcates something of this spirit during childhood, when we learn — if we do — the approved customs of closing country gates behind us and taking litter home.

But not a practice we observe as a species. Maybe the scale is too great and the object of our trespasses too abstract (future generations? the biosphere?) for our us to comprehend at an honest emotional level. Regrettably, our planetary “footprint” to date is non-trivial — and the memory of it will scream from the sedimentary record till the end of this planet’s time.

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