|Fossilized 3.66 million-year-old footprints|
from Laetoli, Tanzania,
Photograph by Raffaello Pellizzon.
One of the things Dad often said on these outings was: “Take only photographs, leave only footprints.” I used to think he was clever to come up with such an original piece of advice. I have since discovered that he was not so original, although I still consider him to have been clever.
The original sage advice predates the invention of cameras. The original quote has been attributed to Si’ahl (anglicised to Chief Seattle) of the Suquamish and Duwamish people; he lived from the late 18th to the mid-19th centuries. He is quoted as saying:
“Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints.”
Sadly, our modern-day, westernised, extractivist lifestyles do everything except leave nothing but footprints. We do everything from trampling upon endangered plants through to digging up the earth for resources.
We pave the landscape with roads and parking lots so that we do not even need to use our feet. The weight of an average car is around thirty times that of a human. Currently there are almost 1.5 billion cars in the world. That is a huge weight upon the earth. Imagine you are a small sand crab attempting to burrow into your home near the high watermark of a beach. Suddenly along comes an SUV weighing around 2.2 tonnes. What do you do? Burrow down further into the sand, thus using up valuable energy, or take your chances that the SUV monster will miss you by mere centimetres?
That is how life can be for some of the smallest of the earth’s non-humans. For the larger non-humans life can be just as difficult because of human trampling. The disruption to eco-systems around the world, because of our trampling, is massive.
What too, of the damage done to ourselves? Note that the quotes above mention footprints; they do not mention bootprints or shoeprints. Why is that significant?
Because, by walking upon the earth barefoot we literally ground ourselves. We feel the earth, we allow the earth’s energies to enter our bodies through the soles of our feet. We connect back to Mother Earth.
Walking barefoot has other health benefits. Barefoot walking encourages the use of all the muscles of the foot, whereas the wearing of shoes impedes some muscle development. There is also a growing body of research linking healthy immune systems with barefoot walking and contact with the earth.
Imagine what sort of impact we would have on the earth, and upon ourselves, if we took heed of this quote over our lifetime? For some, as they near the end of their lives, they will look back and ask if they have left the world in a better state than when they arrived?
If we leave nothing but footprints there is a good chance that they can answer that in the affirmative.