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Pescara del Tronto earthquake 2016

Pescara del Tronto, one of several medieval Italian villages shattered in the August earthquake (Photo: Reuters)

This week the earth opened up, crushing hundreds of people while they slept in their beds in Italy, and damaging thousand-year-old monuments in one of the most sacred sites in Myanmar.

Bagan's temples earthquake damage

Some of Bagan’s ancient temples suffered damage in the August 23 earthquake. (Photo: bbc.com)

These were only two of many such events that happen around the globe in any given week, some much worse than these in terms of scope and loss of life. But hearing news of these disasters afflicting countries where I’ve not only travelled but lived and worked (I spent 2 years in Rome when I was 25), I couldn’t help but feel a more personal connection to these particular tragedies.

It was also a sobering reminder of the fragility of the places we call home and that our own ‘achievements’, whether they take the form of charming medieval villages, or inspiring towers reaching for the sky, can be erased in an instant. The cost is both human and historic, and in both cases, the world has lost something that cannot be replaced.

It’s easy sometimes to forget that we aren’t just living on a sphere whose dirt and air are held in place by gravity – we are inhabitants of a living organism, one that showers us with blessings in many forms, but also flexes its muscles occasionally, growing in fits and starts that can have fateful consequences for all of the creatures who live on it.

Astronauts get this concept – they understand the delicate balance between the planet and its inhabitants, and recognize how crucial it is that we embrace this co-dependency if we all want to thrive, and not just survive. It’s called the ‘Overview Effect’, which many experience after having viewed the Earth from their spectacular vantage point high above it.

But even without that vantage point, as an Earth-bound traveller who loves nature, history and culture (read ‘people’), this week’s events reminded me of a very important lesson I sometimes forget: to appreciate every moment I have on this planet, and every part of it that I am lucky enough to visit.

Bagan Myanmar morning balloon

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