Not long ago I read I Contain Multitudes, a book about microbes and microbial ecologies in animals and humans. It’s amazing stuff! Since then I think about what will make my microbes happy; what can I do to foster a good ecology?
I am reading a marvelous book of essays called Cultivating an Ecological Conscience by Frederick Kirschenmann and to my utter delight I came upon the following passage in one of the essays:
From the perspective of evolutionary biology, the human species may not hold a particularly salutary place on the planet. We may be simply one of many experiments that microbes have devised to ensure their own survival. After all, bacteria were the first living inhabitants of our planet. It seems that for the first 2 billion years of life on the planet, bacteria were the sole occupants. All of the rest of life emerged in the subsequent 1.7 billion years. We have been around for far less than 1 percent of the time! So it may be that all of Earth’s ‘higher’ plant and animal species are simply ‘homes’ for the microbes — tenants who may well decide to switch homes when it suits them. If further planetary changes make it difficult for us to adapt, the microbes might replace us with some as-yet unimagined new species.
Isn’t that something to think about? Humans as mobile homes for microbes. We cannot live without the bacteria we carry around and if we cease to be home sweet home we are in deep trouble. It is, of course, more than just taking care of our bodies. Because in order to take care of ourselves, in order to keep our microbmobiles hospitable, we also have to take care of the planet. Without a healthy planet, we cannot have healthy bodies.
Care for your microbes, care for the planet.