[VIEWPOINT]Destroying our history, our lifeAccording to Newton’s universal law of gravitation, the orbits of planets should be elliptical. It is what modern physics can say about the workings of orbits. Still, the orbits of the planets are regulated by far more diverse laws. The planets in our solar system, in particular, revolve in almost circular paths in the same direction. This suggests that the planets were created after they were separated from a huge gaseous mass that was revolving in the solar system a long time ago. That is, the current solar system is shaped as such because of the situation when the system was created. Indeed, the history of the solar system defines the current solar system.
Nature is shown not just by the laws of physics. There is more than those regulations in nature: History is also important.
When we think of “history,” we tend to believe that it only refers to the eras humans have recorded. But just as there is a history that cannot be explained by the laws of physics, history leaves its traces around us far more widely than we can imagine. Such things as fossils and geological strata showing the process of the evolution of life and the earth are the traces of history we can easily recognize. Still, all the things around us ―water, air and soil ― are things history has produced.
Unlike the atmosphere of other planets, which are mostly composed of methane and ammonia, the Earth’s atmosphere contains about 21 percent oxygen. Another planet like the Earth does not exist in the solar system. The Earth in its primitive stage had no oxygen, however. The atmosphere of the Earth was not given from the beginning, but made from its 3.8-billion-year history. The atmosphere of the present Earth maintains an oxygen density that is appropriate to keep life here alive. Not only air but also soil and water that lie right before us at this very moment are the products of the Earth’s 3.8-billion-year history.
The day after atomic bombs hit Japan and nuclear storms swept the islands, survivors still observed luxuriant flowers and grass around them. The power of nature to continue itself shows us how resilient it can be in the face of such great violence by humans.
That case confirmed that the history of the life of the Earth will continue no matter what happens. Indeed, the flowers and grass were symbols of hope and salvation. But we also have to see the horror that lies under the flowers and grass. We have to realize that the survival of the flowers and grass is an abnormal reaction of life that suffered a near-annihilation.
Now we are destroying the history of the Earth and life more than we did by atomic bombs. Our violence against other forms of life has now reached our wetlands. Especi-ally when economic gains are not guaranteed and the projects may cause great damage in the longer term, we are still frantic about wetlands reclamation projects. Such behavior is blind violence that destroys the history of life.
Wetlands are life. They are the history of the Earth. They are the children of the Earth’s 3.8-billion-year history. Now is the time for us to stop destroying history. Now is the time for us to use a wisdom that makes us approach all the forms of life not as a destroyer but as a companion.
I pay homage to the four religious leaders who recently taught us the importance of life. I pray that the fragrance of life spreads from Mount Halla to Mount Baekdu with their ascetic march from the Saemangeum wetlands to Seoul.
* The writer is a professor of physics at Korea University.
by Yang Hyeong-jin