"In Wildness is the preservation of the world"

    One of my favorite activities is people watching. When Jean and I take Amtrak to our various destinations, we love to sit in the terminals and watch the never ending panoply of human beings passing by. What an amazing biodiversity! So much variation, one has difficulty realizing that Homo sapiens is a single species.

    One species we are, however, characterized by an almost infinite ability to change with the times, adapt, accommodate, get by, and respond to changing conditions through any mechanism other than evolution.

    The most pressing problem I see now is that the majority of humans have distanced themselves from the “natural” world through a manufactured infrastructure. This has resulted in an almost complete disconnect from Nature, certainly a widespread lack of understanding of natural systems, ecology and interrelationships among humans and life in general. Here’s a particularly egregious example of the outcome: Photos of beach tourists prove they are disconnected from Nature.

    The result is a government and regulatory structure that responds to human centered demands at the expense of the natural world, with little regard for the effects of economic and human population growth on habitat, species, and resources for all life. We see it every day here in Santa Cruz, a supposedly “enlightened” populace, concerned with all manner of things “progressive” (sic), except, in almost every instance, things environmental. Supposed “environmental” excuses are trotted out to support most any project the Powers that Be wish to pursue, for their own economic and social reasons.

    Thus, the once Greenbelt (no longer), Arana Gulch, was destroyed and turned into a playground for humans, based on the excuses of saving an endangered species and “getting people out of their cars and onto bicycles” (another lie, proven false). The Santa Cruz tarplant has now been extirpated from its only home, as a result of neglect and active destruction of its federally designated critical habitat. More cars now drive to Arana Gulch than ever before, and those who traveled by bicycle before the destruction continue to travel by bicycle on their preferred routes.

    “Forcing” change resulted in a continuation and intensification of the status quo, and increased loss of natural habitat.

    Ignorance of ecology and the natural world, coupled with a political system dominated by corporate interests and money has resulted in self-centered, destructive and ultimately suicidal societies that have reduced the biosphere to marginal viability, bordering on self-destruction.

    The only way to stop or even slow down the destruction is to tear down the barriers to human understanding of Nature and natural systems. Get rid of cell phones and cell phone towers. Eschew automotive travel and get back on our feet, walking upright and free, not crammed into spam cans on our butts. Tear up half the roads and unstraighten the rest, unpave the parking lots and return them to native vegetation and animals. Round up the growth maniacs and send them off to an island in the South Pacific where they can build sand castles to their hearts content. Retire airlines and cargo planes and use the metal to build light and efficient railroads, linking villages and communities spread aesthetically across the continent. Stop city growth at an ecologically sound limit, and don’t give in to development pressures to build more and more housing. Create incentives for residents to stay and live in place and stop moving on to “new” territory when they see the smoke from their neighbors’ BBQ.

    Get kids away from computers in school and out into the natural world. Let them lead their parents back to natural understanding of the real world, the natural world, our true home in the wild.

    “The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild; and what I have been preparing to say is, that in Wildness is the preservation of the world.” Henry David Thoreau

The Nature of Humans

As I’ve commented before, I’m wary of distinguishing between “Nature” and “Not-Nature” with regard to human beings.
Humans are part of “Nature,” that is, Homo sapiens is a species of animal that co-evolved with all other species. It’s important that we internalize this reality. 
When we deny the reality of our basic “Nature-ness,” we allow ourselves to engage in behavior that is destructive to the world of Nature. We ignore the fact that what harms Nature harms us as well. We give ourselves license to take from Nature without giving back, to take from Nature faster and in greater amounts than can be naturally replenished. We allow ourselves to create waste and “throw it away,” into Nature, faster and in greater quantities than can be naturally assimilated. We forget that there is no “away.”
It’s also important to understand that humans cannot bring about the “End of Nature.” Even if humans fail to end our profligate ways, resulting in global environmental “collapse,” Nature will abide. It may be that Nature will change to a form that does not support intelligent (sic) upright featherless bipeds, but it will still be Nature and natural systems will continue to operate as they have since the beginnings of life on this planet.
Nature Bats Last is not just a bumper sticker.
There’s no getting around the bitter fact that we can’t do anything we want and get away with it. We might as well get over it and get on with the task of becoming responsible members of the community of life on this tiny, much abused, whirling mudball we call Earth. Our friends and neighbors on the planet will welcome us with open arms, legs, wings, flippers and pseudopodia.
An article in Mother Earth News, Coming Home to Nature, speaks elegantly about the unity of humans and Nature.

Human Society – Going the Way of the Dinosaur?

Dinosaurs didn’t go extent. They just flew away!

The word sustainability has almost lost all meaning in environmental discussions, as it has been applied to all manner of human activity. Many are inclined to drop this word and use others in their stead.

Resilience, sustainability, adaptability. I hesitate to throw away any words, as words have meaning and reducing our vocabulary creates a depauperate language.

The word “sustainable” is particularly difficult because it is used to opposite meanings in economics and biology. Sustainable in classical economics means: “making decisions and strategic investments to sustain the community over the long-term.” In biological terms, sustainable means “making decisions and strategic investments that are not harmful to the environment or deplete natural resources, and thereby support long-term ecological balance.”

The concept I’m searching for is a quality of human society that allows it to continue indefinitely into the future without reducing the carrying capacity of the biosphere that sustains it. This concept embraces sustainability, resilience and adaptability.

Adaptability is a particularly slippery concept, because humans do not adapt to the world in the biological sense that others species adapt through the process of biological evolution. Rather, humans actively adapt the environment to human needs and desires. We do not grow fur to live in northern latitudes, we take from natural resources to invent fitted clothing and insulated houses. We do not grow gills and flippers to fish in the sea, we invent boats and fishing tackle. We change our environment to suit our needs. We are an impatient species, with no time for mundane evolution to bring us into conformity with existing conditions.

What is needed rather than adaptability is forbearance, the quality that Scots call ”let-a-be,” that Taoists call “wu-wei,” allowing the world to rise of itself, rather than to shape it into predetermined human patterns.

What would a “wu-wei” human economy look like? Such an economy would take no more resources than are naturally replenished, leaving sufficient resources to support all life. Wastes would not be produced in greater amounts than are naturally assimilated through existing geophysical processes. Food for humans would be grown within existing cycles of resource availability and biodiversity.

In short, human societies would exist in a dynamic equilibrium with all other species, subject to natural cycles of resource availability. Humans would a be a part of, not apart from, the non-human world.

Non-human species have lived this way all the time. Those that fouled their nests or outgrew their food supplies declined or went extinct (or adapted and flew away). The process continues today, with the addition that non-human species must now adapt to the human propensity to ignore evolution and demand dispensation from adaptation.

Human economies are created and maintained to suit human desires and needs. They are a mental constructs subject to human construction and modification. We “Homo sapiens” invented our way into the environmental mess that our economies have created. We have the capacity to invent our way back into a cooperative, co-evolutionary relationship with non-human species that will benefit all and ensure our species’ place on this planet in the future.

If only we would.

The Irrelevant in the Living Room


This week’s “Presidential” debate featured an animal that is seen more frequently clopping clumsily through the halls of the Grand Old Benevolent National Asylum for the Helpless in Washington, DC, The Irrelevant.
The Irrelevant is a four-legged beast, one end elephant, the other end jackass. One end never forgets the past, the other end can never remember the present. Both are stitched together at the hips in a tapestry of lies and misdirection provided by the sponsors of this longest of TeeVee soap operas, the Corporate Oligarchy.
The Irrelevant has lost touch with the people of the United States. You remember them: “Of the people, by the people and for the people?” The Irrelevant has forgotten just who we are, confusing “corporate personhood” with real live, flesh and blood constituents, who live, breathe, work for a living, and raise their children amongst the crumbling remains of the American Empire.
The Great American Dream, if it was ever real, is faded and torn like a flag left too long in the sun and weather. The promise of consumerism has proven to be The Great American Lie, as the people are beginning to realize that all consumerism does is fill your two-car garage full of junk so you can’t get your shiny new SUV in out of the weather. As the Government turns outward to defend The Empire, the people are turning inward, to family, neighborhood and community, finding satisfactions at home that have long gone missing on the national front. As gasoline prices hit $4.75 a gallon in California this week, the people are beginning to make choices about where to spend their overtime pay, and deciding that the latest frippery at the Big Box store is not quite so attractive after all.
What’s a Global Economy to do when the peasants refuse to play Follow the Leader?
The Irrelevant can’t discuss the realities of Peak Oilresilient communities, natural climate variation, limits to economic growth, finite resources and excessive population growth. To do so would mean whipping the blanket off the midsection of the beast, thus revealing the lie of the “Two-Party” political system and its inherent dominion under the economic thumb of corporate consumerism. So The Irrelevant talks out of both ends at once, each end pretending to be different from the other, but emanating the same stinking flatulence.
In the end, we must acknowledge The Irrelevant in the living room, and admit to ourselves that the course of “Progress,” if that’s what it is, is not a viable path to the future. In a world of finite resources, the mania for continued growth is insanity. We can no longer afford to use precious resources faster than they are naturally replenished, nor can we produce wastes faster then they can be naturally returned to the Earth. This is the sane and perfectly natural process that applies to all species on this planet, including and most importantly to Homo sapiens.

It’s time for a new image to inspire our lives, The Relevant, the creature that Recycles, Reuses, Rebuilds, and Reinhabits the world shared by all in the Web of Life.

They Ain’t making Any More of It

Mankind Using Earth's Resources at Alarming Rate

First, there’s that word: “resources.” It implies that everything on the Earth is to be used for human benefit. Animals and plants don’t use resources, so they’ll be left out. Seems questionable taste.

While Mankind may potentially be the reasoning animal, setting Homo sapiens inevitably apart from other creatures, to date Homo has failed to live up to the sapiens part of the name.

It is entirely possible for the human race to take its rightful place alongside all other life forms on this planet, not for spiritual reasons, not for ethical or moral reasons, but for the enlightened realization that humans cannot live on this planet in the absence of all other species that make this the only place in the Universe, as far as we know, where life flourishes.

Mankind is the only animal that can peer into the future and contemplate the consequences of our actions. We can see that we are rapidly drawing down the planetary credit amassed during billions of years of rampant evolution and geomorphology. We can forecast that at some point in the not too distant future we will no longer be able to extract key biological and/or geological products of the Earth that keep our various societies and cultures growing and developing. We can understand what this means in terms of the future of Homo sapiens on this Earth.

And we can do something to postpone or even eliminate that inevitable event…or not. It’s up to us. We know what to do. We know how to do it.

If we don’t change our profligate ways, Mom will step in and clean our room for us, and we won’t be happy with the outcome, if indeed we are still around to contemplate our plight.