The Woodcarver’s Home: A Climate Change Fairytale
Little Red Riding Hood Illustration by Margaret W. Tarrant Image source: http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/fairy-tales-zipes-adam-kirsch/#.UyyYtV6T4xM
One essential feature of any good fairytale is a lesson. Originally written for adults, many of these stories persist as warnings to children to behave properly lest some terrible monster eat them (Paton, 2011). Now, let me tell you a story.
There was once a poor woodcarver named Silva. After being abandoned as a young boy, Silva spent his life in solitude, living off the land around him. His only amusement was the figures he crafted from trees around his home. He may not have understood the lavish indulgences of a well-endowed supper table but he was happy. One day his peaceful seclusion came to an end, for Silva encountered Morus.
Morus, unlike Silva, had spent his entire life surrounded by the push and pull of other people. His family, crowded and destitute, had sent him out to seek new lands and great fortunes. Upon stumbling onto Silva’s forest home, he was fascinated by this simple, peaceful life. Morus wanted to know how to replicate the prosperity he saw in Silva’s existence. For such land with so many opportunities must be a boon for any man.
Silva, amazed yet frightened by this revelation of mankind, accommodated Morus’ inquiries. Silva showed how he chose the right tree for carving, caught his game and built his home with stones. Morus began to understand Silva’s livelihood, albeit with difficulty, but also saw a way to improve it.
“Why cut just one tree at a time?” Morus enquired, while he followed Silva one day. “Why take just one grouse, when there are so many more to partake in?”
Silva, confused, asked, “Why would I take something I do not need and eat when my stomach is filled?”
“Because you can, when so many can’t!” Morus replied.
“But what would I do with it?”
“Enjoy it, sell the bounty and live a better life!”
Silva returned to silence wondering how one could sell what one did not own? His cycles and patterns were not just his but also the forest’s, he followed its will as surely as he did his own. Morus realized the only way to show Silva the potential of his schemes was a demonstration.
One morning, weeks and days later, Silva awoke to the sound of several voices. Startled, he rushed outside to the late morning light. Morus stood with several other men around a large mound in the distance. As he approached it became clear this pile contained the corpses of hundreds of birds. Morus turned towards him, a broad grin on his face.
“You are up, good, I have a great fortune to show you!”
Silva could not speak; his heart beat with a staccato rhythm. These birds could have fed him for years and at once were gone.
“What have you done?” He whispered as he reached the gruesome reaping.
“What do you mean? I have sold this fair game for several gold coins.”
“Gold coins? What would I do with gold coins?”
“What do I want with money when there will be no game for years, you have slaughtered my life!”
“I have improved your life! You no longer need this small house or your meager meals!”
Silva turned away in anguish.
“What use is man’s wealth when what I truly need is gone?”
Morus did not understand his misery, there were trees to spare and land to cultivate. One only needed to move forward, to expand. Morus and Silva parted ways that day, one back to his family to report of this wealth, the other to despair in his lost peace.
Over the years the forest disappeared, the rough stone house weathered to nothing. Silva, though long forgotten, saw the true result of his encounter with Morus. For when you destroy what cannot be replaced, you may gain wealth but will lose life. What is at one time taken away, can never be given back.
Morus is hopefully, obviously a representation of humanity’s effect upon the earth. Silva is the earth, willing to accommodate us at first but unable to stop our destruction. The single, greatest concern for population health is climate change. Public health requires living populations and thus a habitable earth to be of any use. We need to rebrand climate change as this message (Subramanian, 2013). Hopefully my overdramatic fairytale provided some small moral lesson, treat our earth well and we can survive.
Paton, G. (2011 Mar 14). Parents who shun fairytales ‘miss chance to teach children morality’. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/8378975/Parents-who-shun-fairytales-miss-chance-to-teach-children-morality.html.
Subramanian, C. (2013, August 08). Rebranding Climate Change as a Public Health Issue. Retrieved from http://healthland.time.com/2013/08/08/rebranding-climate-change-as-a-public-health-issue/.