As Pride Month comes to an end, we are honored to share with you the following guest blog by Marlon Reis, the First Gentleman of Colorado. He is a tireless advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, as well as for wildlife and animals of all kinds. We are proud to have him as an ally and friend.
As a species, humanity has—in great measure—sought to define the parameters of the world we share. These efforts to more narrowly define one’s lived experience (like so many things) is not so much a conscious effort to marginalize as it is a means of processing the information overload with which each of us struggles on a daily basis. The more we learn about the world beyond our backyards, the more difficult it becomes for us to reconcile our own experiences with others. But, to quote one of my heroes—Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi—“Diversity is our strength, unity is our power”.
Indeed, strength is a quality every living creature depends upon to survive in what is often a hostile world. The strength we develop as individuals is as varied as the circumstances we face. And each of us is called upon to be strong when we encounter systems built on the idea of majority rule.
It is hard to be oneself when the society we keep dictates right and wrong, just and unjust. Without fail, our social order urges us to the conclusion that to be oneself—to celebrate one’s diversity—is acceptable only so long as it does not undermine the end-goal of assimilation into a world ‘outside’ nature.
Yet diversity is the natural order of life. And our universe is beautiful not because it is a pattern endlessly repeating, but because it is a tapestry with mysteries still unsolved, and the ‘dark matter’ of what we have yet to discover.
Our will to live depends upon knowing that however hard yesterday might have been, today is a fresh start.
Celebrating our diversity is an affirmation that we do not exist outside of nature, but that we are very much of a piece with it. Until we unify in recognition that diversity is our strength, individuality remains a mark against anyone—human or nonhuman—who is unwilling to suppress one’s identity in order to be part of the ‘in-crowd’.
Equality can and must be achieved by recognizing that what we share is our diversity, and that when we appreciate one another as individuals, we are empowered because we are aligned with nature.
This Pride Month—more than half a century since the dawn of the modern fight for LGBTQ+ equality—we have lessons to learn from the biodiversity that surrounds us on Planet Earth.
There is much to admire when one takes time to study the seeming chaos of ecosystems. The closer one looks, the more marvelously clear it becomes that each and every plant and animal has a role to play. In place of what we expect to be disorganized, we find that order is not a series of straight lines and right angles, but rather puzzle pieces that dovetail to create a miraculous and airtight ‘whole’.
Unlike the concrete jungles in which so many among us spend our days wondering why diversity is viewed as a negative, we can take solace in knowing that in nature, it is a sign of balance. The concept of ‘waste’ is nonexistent in nature, because every living creature has something to contribute.
And when we see that diversity is what makes ecosystems strong, we realize that waste is a byproduct of inequality; the consequence of failing to see that things work best when we value our differences and unite as one.
So often, we are taught to believe that the systems built by those who came before us somehow improve upon nature’s capacity to provide us what we need to live. But how can that be true when so many are struggling to get ahead? The building blocks of life, like fresh water to drink, and clean air to breathe, are plentiful, yet not accessible to all.
In my heart of hearts, I believe that humanity overcomplicates what is simple and true. And while we argue ad infinitum about the laws and governance that lead to inequality, we learn more about fairness and justice in the awe-inspiring diversity of a coral reef, or the countless lives that live in symbiosis on a single tree in the Amazon Rainforest.
In human society, we struggle with ageism and the fallacy that there comes a time when we are too old to be useful, and we cease to be relevant.
But in nature, old growth forests play host to a dazzling variety of lifeforms. More than the saplings, they sequester and hold fast to greater amounts of carbon dioxide, relieving our skies of human-made pollution. Old growth forests also stand guard against wildfires that would consume younger trees, effectively ensuring a vital future for new generations of plants and animals to live and thrive.
One wonders how communities, nations, our world–indeed, humanity itself–will ever solve the question of how to live together in peace and mutual respect?
But the answer is there if we are willing to look: “Diversity is our strength, unity is our power.”
Photo credit Flickr user albirder