I toured an exhibit at the National Aquarium in Baltimore about “Jellies” – jelly fish. They do an amazing job in multi-media presentations. Screens with comments about the tanks underneath, beautiful displays, mood lighting and of course, the star of the show, the jelly fish.

I was quite struck by the time line outside the exhibit. Jellies have been around, little changed, for over 300 million years. Humans, on the other hand have been around for about 200,000 years. I’m not sure what jellies have done to influence their habitat. My guess is that their impact is small, even though our planet is 70% water. Plankton or algae may have a wider impact. And, early on, there did not seem to be enough people to seriously affect the planet, either. Now, things are clearly different. There are too many of us to sustain the earth without serious change and we are incredibly reluctant to take action when it is hard and is not universally agreed to.

I keep trying to apply systems thinking to address that conundrum. We all want a better, safer, healthier planet for our grandchildren and their grandchildren, but we can’t agree on what we all would have to do to get there, nor if we would be willing to take the necessary steps. The continuing spill in the gulf, and the resultant damage to ocean life, beaches, marshlands and the people who depend on them to eat, feed their families, recreate, navigate is mind boggling.

Life in that aquarium as a jellyfish sure looked easier.