"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
   
    Michael

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.

Can humans survive themselves?

After decades of environmental activism and organization, I’ve come to the reluctant conclusion that nothing can be done to prevent, or even mitigate massive environmental disruption, habitat destruction, species loss, air and water pollution and modification of natural climate variation.

This may seem obvious to some, and, I suppose, it is. It doesn’t make it stick in my craw any less.

Looking back, there have been victories: the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act. These legislative actions helped slow the rate of destruction, at least for a while.

Stacked up against the totalitarian hegemony of the global growth at any cost economy, and the failure of democracy as a form of enlightened government, these gains are insufficient to forestall inevitable environmental degradation and resulting economic collapse.

This startling revelation walks hand-in-hand with another: humans are basically stupid and uncaring. I don’t mean ignorant; ignorance can be cured by the application of information. Stupid means unintelligent, even to the point of willful ignorance.

In the human world, Homo sapiens has removed itself from the natural process of evolution. In the natural world, intelligence, the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills, is a required attribute for evolutionary success. Since humans no longer respond to selection pressure, intelligence is not required for success as a human being.

While this is bad enough among the general population, unintelligence has become concentrated in one critical area of human society.

To paraphrase Mark Twain: Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a government bureaucrat. But I repeat myself.

Government bureaucracy has become the universal haven for all manner of unenlightened twits, worthless ninnies, mental feebs, recalcitrant do-nothings, corporate toadies, and status-quo apologists. They have perfected the Peter Principle and taken it to new heights of development.

Dealing with these obstructions to progress, in any sense of the word, is like trying to walk through a wall of marshmallows. Every effort to bring the light of day into the gloom of government offices is misdirected, mislaid, misfiled, obscured with coffee stains, glued into incomprehensibility with sticky-bun detritus, crumpled and basketballed into the round file of oblivion, benignly ignored or actively resisted.

As if that were insufficient, government bureaucrats (GBs) are unequaled in their ability to act as if they’re doing something while all the while effectively emulating the Rock of Gibraltar. They’ve all gone to Bureaucrateze language school and each have the Official Bureaucrats Thesaurus (1875) close at hand for ready reference. Missives between and among GBs are replete with inaction phrases, weasel words (apologies to the genus Mustela), obscuratanisms and obfuscations. They excel in Concentric Bird logic (that which goes round and round in ever decreasing circles until it disappears into its own fundament).

The worst part of this appalling situation is that nothing can be done to change it. GBs are in control of the world and its social institutions. City Councils, Borough Assemblies, state legislatures and even that Great National Asylum for the Criminally Helpless in Washington, DC are all held in close thrall to the ministrations of the Government Bureaucrat Conspiracy.

“Is that a conspiracy theory?” whines the wag in the back row.

Yes, it is. GBs do indeed get together in conference rooms and plan how to build and maintain their throttle-hold on the reins of public process. Here is a web site, which, true to form, is slow to load, poorly organized and archaically non-interactive: Top 25 Government Conferences.

Back to my thesis: There’s No Hope.

Any prospect for substantive change in the relationship between human societies and the natural world is dependent on an organized group of humans who don’t care, don’t know, and worse, know what they don’t want to know about the effects of their actions on the broader biosphere, on which, ironically, their own future depends.

Thus, in answer to the title of this screed, the Cosmic Joke arrives at its inevitable punchline:

Homo sapiens will go to its long deserved grave laughing its empty head off.

Children, and Adults, Should Be Allowed to Get Bored

A recent article on the BBC, Children Should Be Allowed to Get Bored, pointed out that children, and adults for that matter, should be allowed to get bored to develop creative abilities and self-reliance, and that constant stimulation limits the use of their imagination.
I can’t say anything about raising children, other than having been a children raised by my parents. I have only my experience (and a thankfully brief stint as an adoptive parent) to judge by.
Fear of the Outdoors
Two things come to mind. Most children in our developed world are largely indoor children, kept in isolation by fearful parents and school administrators, fed by daily doses of lurid headlines, violent TeeVee and movies, and a steady diet of cacophonic computer input. Compared to the snug safety of the confines of home, the unstructured, untrammeled out of doors has little appeal, other than as a venue for organized sports and the regrettable necessity of walking from the house to the car.
The Necessity of Technology
One thing I learned in college, studying something called “Instructional Technology,” is that technology creates its own necessity. Technological applications are invented for problems that don’t yet exist. Technology is developed, marketed, sold, and consumed without thought for, or even the ability to contemplate, the unintended consequences of its adoption and ubiquitous presence in society. Who’d have thunk that the 80 pound “car phones” in the doctors’ cars in the 70s would morph into the tiny pink plastic devices glued to the ears of every nubile young girl in malls across America?
The ubiquitous presence of cell phones quickly led to smart phones, tablets and other mini-computers, iPods and who knows what other electronic distractions that have become the norm rather than a remarkable exception. Plugged-in is the preferred state of the human being in this day and age, child or adult.
Compared to this onslaught of electronic stimulation, soon to be upgraded with “virtual reality glasses,” the natural world bears little appeal. Why even go to a natural area when you can “see” and “hear” it from the comfort and safety of the home or mall? Why care about the preservation of natural areas, when we can “experience” them electronically without muddy feet, bug bites and danger from homeless people in the bushes?
Everything is Entertainment
As a museum curator, I witnessed the transition of museum management from conservation, preservation and presentation to entertainment. Every new  technology had to be employed to entertain the children and relieve the children’s parents from their responsibilities to the charges, if just for a brief few moments of respite. Museums are becoming theme parks, where visitors are plugged in to canned tour guides and explanations, rarely encouraged to explore and discover on their own, experiencing a mediated version of the already limited museum experience. A simulacrum of a simulacrum.

And so life has become a mediated experience of a world bounded by fear, ignorance and superstition. The Dark Ages have returned in the full glare of media exposure.

6 Reasons Why Global Warming is Natural

The article: Has CO2 warmed the planet at all in the last 50 years? It’s harder to tell than you think explains the uncertainty regarding the Anthropogenic Global Warming proposition.

It seems clear that the perception of human caused “Global Warming” is a function of several factors:

1) Urban Heat Island Effect (UHI) – the effect of concentrated human technocratic infrastructure that raises local temperatures. The proximate causes of UHI range from placement of weather recording stations in areas of artificial heat generation (airports, near air conditioners r other industrial heat sources) to generalized heat bubbles surrounding major cities. Selection of recording sites is critical in evaluating temperature records. (See numerous articles on Watts Up With That?)

2) Temperature data and data source manipulation – selection of recording sites, start and end points of records analyzed, step increases in temperature masking trends, manipulation of raw data, work to create the impression of a warming climate. 

3) Political agendas – environmental groups, UN/IPCC, World Bank, International Monetary Fund – organizations such as the IPCC, the Met Office, Union of Concerned Scientists, United Nations World Meteorological Organization are not scientific organizations, they are science policy organization. Therefore, the conclusions they reach and communicate are not scientific conclusions, they are policy recommendations based on interpreted results of scientific investigation. The United Nations focus is on “sustainable development,” and most, if not all of their policy documents are couched in terms of making the developed nations pay for continuing development in the “global South.” Environmental organizations such as Greenpeace, The Sierra Club, and World Wildlife Fund have changed from grassroots advocacy and action to political lobbying organizations, requiring multi-million dollar budgets and a compromising presence in world seats of power and influence. 

4) Natural climate change – Yes, the climate of the earth does change, all on its own. In fact, change is the norm. It is the expectation of a static, unchanging climate that is at odds with reality.
5) Media hysteria – Media mavins love a bold headline, even if it isn’t true.

6) Anecdotal weather observations – heat, tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding. Individual, (aka anecdotal) weather observations of floods, tornadoes, hail, thunderstorms, hurricanes give a perception of weather “out of control,” as if weather was ever in control. Today’s weather extremes are no different than those of the past. Anecdotal weather observations do not take into account the history of weather and climate variation.

Why Do Humans "Fight" Against Nature?

Crews fight off San Lorenzo River to save Boardwalk – Santa Cruz Sentinel

The attitude that we must “fight off” the “stubborn” river reveals a deeply dysfunctional view of the non-human world.

The philosophy that humans are engaged in a struggle against Nature is very old and increasingly tired. We are discovering more and more each day that the only way forward on this Earth is cooperative rather than combative, in harmony rather than seeking dominion, living as a part of the Earth, not apart from the Earth.

In our hubris, we continually build structures and facilities in areas such as floodplains, forests, volcanic slopes, ocean bluffs, and tornado and hurricane prone locations. Then we complain when natural events occur, as they always do, when Nature takes its accustomed course, rivers change their banks in natural meanders, volcanos erupt, earthquakes shake, tornadoes twist through the landscape and hurricanes come ashore.

Now we have created a new mythology, that humans are causing the conditions that result in damage to the human infrastructure, and that we can, through human action, stop natural weather and climate variation.

This is not an environmental attitude. It is the ultimate in human attempts to dominate the Earth and bend it to our service. We not only claim we have dominion over the living things of the Earth, but over all natural phenomena.

We increasingly encounter the attitude that human use of the Earth must come first, that our desires have precedence over the basic needs of all other living things, that we have the inherent right to displace the natural world for human use. Our dogs must be free to run anywhere at any time, no matter what other species are displaced from their diminishing natural habitat. We must be “free” to ride our vehicles wherever we want, no matter that critical habitat for endangered species is destroyed. Our amusement is far more important than the natural flow of rivers that support all life.

This is a self-destructive attitude, as we mortal human animals cannot live in a world devoid of non-human life. Our ability to survive as a species is intimately tied the health and biodiversity of the entire biosphere.

We are one with the Earth. Diminishing the health of the biosphere diminishes us as well

Let’s work with the river, not against it, embrace the river, not hold it away with temporary levees, cement and heavy equipment.

Let’s embrace Life.

Looking at nature makes you nicer – Behavior- msnbc.com

Looking at nature makes you nicer – Behavior- msnbc.com:

“…the “naturally nice” effect doesn’t so much hinge on daily hikes through the woods as it does paying attention to the natural elements we encounter each day.”

There you have it: MSNBC and the University of Rochester. It must be real.

Birds around our houses, squirrels in the trees, a spider hanging on her web on the carport uprights. Nature is all around us, even in the densest of urban neighborhoods.

It doesn’t take a trip to a national park, a week long back pack in the wilderness, a kayak expedition in the fjords. Just go outside, look around and open yourself to the experience of Nature everywhere.

Then share your experience with your friends.