Google says it has a diameter 12 756.2 kilometers but this is not what I have in mind.
Size is always relative. You can either comprehend it – and then it matters to you – or not. And this is why you ignore it.
When we were monkeys – at least my forefathers were – ‘size’ didn’t have much meaning for us. We ate when hungry, soiled the earth when we felt like it – specially when we lived up in the trees – and when a specific place became too dirty, devoid of food or both we moved forward.
Then something happened. As we morphed from monkeys into apes our bodies grew so we could afford a bigger brain which enabled us to process an increased quantity of information – a big competitive advantage, until now at least. But it also meant we could not venture anymore on the topmost branches of the trees because they couldn’t support our increased weight. Suddenly our survival became linked with our ability to gauge the thickness of branches. Evaluating distances – between trees before a jump for instance – was important since the day we first climbed into a tree but at those times we did it ‘instinctively’; now, being helped by our now bigger brain, we started to become aware of the whole process.
Something else happened at about the same time. Because our body frame had become bigger we started to spend more and more time on the flat surface of the Earth – it was more efficient energy-wise and we could afford it because our increased mass meant better defenses. This way we started to perceive the world in a completely different way than we did when hanging from a limb.
Let me suggest you a small experiment. Climb into a swing and look around. As long as you remain still there is no difference but as soon as you start moving , in a way that comprises vertical and horizontal displacement, things look completely different. Before, when you stood still or moved horizontally, it was like the world stood still and it was you that moved inside it. You sense the motion with your internal ear but you evaluate the movements mostly by visually checking on ‘landmarks’, the things that surround you. When being caught up in more complex movements, like in a swing, the inner ear takes precedence over your eyes and you feel the movement more with ‘the seats of your pants’ than with your brain. (Btw, this is why sea sickness appears, your eyes tell you that you are standing still – if you are reading or something like that – while your inner ear tells you you are moving. Get on the deck and look at the horizon or at the waves, this way your eyes will confirm to your brain that ‘yes, we are moving’.)
And all this has immense consequences. When we were moving from a branch to another we sort of lived in a bubble we carried around with us while when moving on a surface we feel ‘naked’ and, as a consequence, we pay a lot more attention to what is happening around us. That includes becoming aware of the dimensions of the things that surround us. This way we found out that falling from the top of a tree is completely different than jumping from the lowest branch and that if we cross that creek in search of ripe figs our chances to encounter that rival troop of baboons increase dramatically. So we became aware not only of dimensions but also of boundaries and consequences.
We were one step away from becoming conscious. That happened when we felt, instinctively at first, that being sheltered from the elements is better than weathering them. So we came back to the shelter, night after night. Until the place became unusable because we had soiled it ourselves with our excrements. And this is how we had the first inkling about being responsible for the consequences of our own actions.
Unfortunately our understanding of this is still incomplete. First of all because our cognitive capacity is inherently limited, secondly because most of the time we rationalize instead of behaving rationally and thirdly because, until now at least, we could get away with it. The world was big enough.
At first we moved from place to place, as hunter-gatherers and later as nomadic pastoralists.
When we invented agriculture there were enough forests to burn down if we needed more land.
When things became ‘hot’ in Europe we started to conquer the other continents. Even now the misfits, the adventurous and the malcontents move around the face of the Earth even if confronted with great personal risks.
But how long will we be able to continue like this? Pollution, scattering of natural resources, soil erosion due to agribusiness, deforestation, overfishing… will be considered jokes by the next generations if we continue on the current track.
In fact our main problem is the way we treat our ‘neighbor’. Not only that we haven’t fully understood yet that by throwing ‘garbage’ indiscriminately around us we are polluting our very front yard and the stench is already creeping into our bedrooms but we also hadn’t understood yet that by constantly alienating the ‘guy next door’ we’ll end up living in a world too close to a SF/dystopian prison-planet for our comfort.
I’m speaking here about corruption in it’s many forms: political, economical, moral…