Viewpoint: Don’t Call The Planet ‘Mother’ Earth

By anthropomorphizing our planet, we find it inconceivable that it might become inhospitable to human life

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Planet Earth
NASA

As soon as reminders for Mother’s Day pop up on calendars, environmentally minded writers get invitations to weigh in on our love for Mother Earth. I’m refusing them all. Referring to our planet as Mother Earth gives us a false — and dangerous — sense of security.

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Yes, we humans crawled out of some dark stew of primal ooze. In that sense, Earth is our mother — and of course we are nurtured by the food that springs from her.

We expect mothers to love us. Mothers care, they protect. Mothers are even willing to give their lives, if that’s what it takes so that their young can survive. New parents know that profound alteration, that ready sense of ferocity and tenderness that must be at the heart of what we call mother love. Once we have babies, we might as well take our hearts out of our chests and pin them on our sleeves — that’s how vulnerable we can feel.

But our planet could care less about us. We have a Mother Earth who is totally agnostic at best. She could care less who or what is creeping and crawling over her warm belly: humans or cockroaches.

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We keep forgetting this. By anthropomorphizing our planet, we lull ourselves into thinking that those marvelous ecosystems that have sustained us for so many centuries us will magically right themselves, that Mother Earth will take the abuse we mete out and adjust herself to take account of us. And she has, of course — all those lovely carbon sinks filling up with our slop. But only to a point. Somewhere deep inside, we have a hard time wrapping our minds around the fact that our planet could become inhospitable to human life. It’s magical thinking, reinforced by terms like Mother Earth.

Heavens knows that having a Mother Earth sure doesn’t mean we’ve taken good care of her. I won’t even begin to venture an analysis of the mass psychology of children who foul their nest. Suffice it to say that the best way out is to focus on the globe’s real mothers — and fathers, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters. We’re the ones who have the capacity to care about our children’s future. We might be better off thinking about our world as our child — and indeed, she is a galactic child, at 4.5 billion years, compared with the universe. If we act like responsible parents, perhaps we can figure out a way to safeguard Baby Earth’s future.

47 comments
eoncarbon
eoncarbon

Someone needs a trip to the jungle for a brew.

schrisdel
schrisdel

"But our planet could care less about us."  Note: the phrase is "COULDN'T care less." 

Terrance_Blount
Terrance_Blount

A few of us I think are missing the point. The author's title is meant to capture your attention. I believe the idea she is trying to convey is that the Earth (unlike a mother) will rid of a specie if need be to protect itself and it's longevity versus sacrifice itself for our survival regardless of abuse. Father Earth says survival of the fittest and good luck. ;-)

govindsingh
govindsingh

Speaking purely from an anthropogenic perspective, if she wasn't like a Mother, she would have gotten rid of us long back. We are, after all, very bad children...the worst she may have had so far!

AaliyahY
AaliyahY

Fighting the good fight. 


Like Don Quixote.

MyShariaMoor
MyShariaMoor

" If we act like responsible parents, perhaps we can figure out a way to safeguard Baby Earth’s future."

How about starting with safeguarding Americans abroad? Maybe we can keep from sacrificing their lives to protect some mendacious narcissist's political aspirations.


Just a suggestion, of course.

lady_liberty
lady_liberty

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie,and worshiped and served created thingsrather than the Creator—who is forever praised.Amen.  Romans 1:25


lady_liberty
lady_liberty

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie,and worshiped and served created thingsrather than the Creator—who is forever praised.Amen.


Romans 1:25

manwithblackhat
manwithblackhat

This is what happens when people run out of reasons to complain.

Maisnam Jhaljit
Maisnam Jhaljit

arguing is a wrong notion...all living beings drink water eat food breath air...do we need someone to translate the meaning of 'mother'...

Caroline Clarke
Caroline Clarke

Shall we take a closer look in actual fact it is made up more of water so shall we change it then to Mother Water - either way mother earth mother water it is perhaps regarding as because because because or to take it turns happily

Stanley Wong
Stanley Wong

Then call it Father Earth. Your father will discipline you if you are naughty.

riccismiles
riccismiles

I stopped reading after the second paragraph. HUMAN mothers do a lot of the things described after we are born and continue until they are gone. However, MANY MANY "earth mothers" simply give birth to children and provide early nourishment. THAT is all MOTHER EARTH does for us and to ask for more is simply the arrogance of human beings. I'll CELEBRATE mother EARTH's day this Sunday for all she does provide and please do not SLEEP on the daily protection she provides and the constant attention she gives to us all in the form of the daily air we breath, etc.. THIS writer was drinking something STRONG when they convinced themselves they had a "neat idea". 

Alise Howard
Alise Howard

How ignorant.! Doesn't the earth give us food,water and minerals to make the things we need to live and survive. The Same Thing a Mother Does.! There are Different Ways to Look at Anything You or I Call Mother.! A Mother Nutures and Takes Care of It's Own. Also, That Sounded a Lot Like a Command.! Get It Together.!

Thea Kaproulia
Thea Kaproulia

More like the planet is now an elderly mother who needs looking after from her kids after all she's done for them.

Gunjan Syal
Gunjan Syal

What a waste of time, author draws the same conclusion as the one she questioned in the opening. Can i have my 5 mins back?

Savas Ozyurt
Savas Ozyurt

If your mother wants to kill and torture you, okay you can call the earth your "mother". But there is of course the other one: a Mistress, which I think suits much much better.

Grm Siri
Grm Siri

While we are all terminal from the time we are born, I shall continue to believe that my life is nurtured throughout by our Earth Mother... without the nurturance of her various components I would have died long ago. Freedom of speech is good, freedom of belief is just as good IMO.

JonGibson
JonGibson

'Couldn't care less'.  Many mothers abandon their offspring if trouble arises, leaving the young to fate, so they can breed again.

Joanne Leigh Danvers
Joanne Leigh Danvers

Ok, whatever you say Madam. Maybe people have called the world Mother Earth for centuries because we as humans were given the opportunity to live on this planet and should RESPECT it as we would our own mothers?? Just a thought...

Alvaro Sevilla
Alvaro Sevilla

I will think that is very twisted and obscure what this gentleman are saying. It is definitely confuse, for those who do not want to love at their own mother. Pensaria que es un poco retorcido y obscuro lo que dice este caballero. Es definitivamente para confundir a quien no quiere ni a su propia madre.

pendragon05
pendragon05

Considering the earth provides us with food and water and a safe home to live (compared to aimlessly floating around in outer space) - is that sense she is a "Mother Earth." There is no interplanetary government quite yet to feed, water, clothe, educate us lowly earthlings. Better our planet to be a "mother Earth" than a Breeder Brain.

DBritt
DBritt

Wow, sensible article, cuhraaazy comments.  Who knew this metaphor was so sensitive?

breezybby0x
breezybby0x

This is one of the most ignorant things I've ever read. The Earth IS our mother, it sustains life and gives us ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING we need for survival! Natural disasters keep the balance of life in check, a reminder that humans are in fact NOT superior

icstupid
icstupid

Someone has some serious mommy issues......

ScottLong
ScottLong

natural disasters is mother natures war of reminding us who is in charge. who remembers the old commercial with the line it's mot nice to fool mother nature

MaseWehrle
MaseWehrle

@pendragon05 And the author did mention "Yes, we humans crawled out of some dark stew of primal ooze. In that sense, Earth is our mother—and of course we are nurtured by the food that springs from her."  Did you read the article'? I think Mother Earth is a correct for a totally different reason however like the author said, "Heavens knows that having a Mother Earth sure doesn’t mean we’ve taken good care of her. "



tag1555
tag1555

@DBrittA lot of folks have substituted environmentalism for religion, whether they realize doing so or not, hence the over-the-top comments. What the writer has said is heresy to the religion of Green - denying the deity of Gaia, Mother Earth, etc. - and so she'll get a lot of hate in reply from the believers. Earth is just an inert piece of rock, like all the other planets, which happened to have a ideal mixture of magnetic field and distance from a star to promote life. That doesn't mean we shouldn't practice conservationism wherever we can, but that's for our own sake and because we're sentient enough to realize the wisdom of that, not because the planet is alive or aware of anything we do."Mother Earth" is just anthropomorphism run wild.

dsb
dsb

@breezybby0xOverstate your case much? The earth does not give us "ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING we need for survival". It doesn't give us sunlight.