|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
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
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
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