The Human Year

For most human cultures and with the general consensus of others, today marks the beginning of a new year. Though long established by religious and political tradition, it is an arbitrary assignment, having no significance in the natural world. Indeed, since a year coincides with the length (in time) of Earth's orbit around the sun, the winter solstice marks the beginning of nature's year.

Whatever New Year's Day we might choose, the interval of a year is firmly ingrained in the human psyche, tied directly to the awareness of our own mortality. We measure our lives by this time period and know just how many years we might expect to live. Some years hold special significance in our memories, usually related to relationships and events, while others loom as mileposts of opportunity or demise in our future.

Taking us through the seasons, each year enriches our lives and provides 365 days to explore the rich diversity of our home planet, from natural ecosystems to the varied manifestations of human culture. We would do well to make the most of each day and become less focused on the larger divisions of our lives; for all we know, those years may be limited.