"Aboriginal people are right; we are the Earth, created like everything else from the four sacred elements of water, air, fire, and earth. This statement isn't meant in a metaphoric or poetic way but as scientifically demonstrable reality. When we think of the 'environmental crisis' this way, our response has to be completely different.

"We are water in the most obvious ways. More than half the weight of every human being on Earth is water. A glass of water contains countless molecules circulated around the planet by the water cycle. Water is the glue that holds life together. But how can we boast of intelligence and foresight when we deliberately release toxic materials into water and therefore inject it into ourselves.

"We are also air. If the planet were reduced to the size of a basketball, the atmosphere would be thinner than a sheet of plastic wrap. And that air is not constantly recreated afresh; it moves through the planet's living organisms, giving life and receiving their emissions. Increasingly, the exhalations of our machines have been added to that thin layer and are mounting up. We must breathe every minute of our lives. There is no boundary between air and ourselves because we are fused to air and it is always in us. The air we breathe out goes into the bodies of those next to us. Air is not an empty space or a vacuum; it's a physical substance that binds us together and links us with trees and birds and worms and snakes that share that air. We boast of our great intelligence. but, again, what intelligent creature, knowing the life-giving role air plays for all organisms, would deliberately release the most toxic compounds into that air? Whatever we do, we do to ourselves.

"We are fire because energy makes all life possible, and every bit of that energy was once sunlight. All the energy we need to move, grow, and reproduce came from the Sun through photosynthesis. But we take far more than our fair share of the Sun's gift to Earth, and our profligate use if fossil fuels, the planet's stored solar energy, is imperilling our own future.

"We are earth because every bit of nutrition that we consume to create our bodies and minds was once living and almost all of it came from the soil. Basically, we are compost heaps for the carcasses of plants and animals that we consume for our nourishment. We take other life forms into our mouths, ingest them, and incorporate their molecules into our own cells. Why, then, do we knowingly use soil for dumping our toxic effluents, as if they won't affect us?

"These sacred elements — water, air, sunlight, and soil — are basic to us as biological beings. They ought to be treasured beyond price, celebrated and cherished, and fiercely protected at all costs.

"The ultimate miracle is the diverse web of life itself, which creates, cleanses, and renews those four sacred elements. We are all kin, related through our evolutionary history, and in the greatest act of generosity, we create for each other the elements we need to flourish."