32 years. To assess and understand the amount of change that happens anywhere in our global arena in the span of 32 years is obviously a huge undertaking. And unless you have a lot of time on your hands you’re probably not going to spend it trying to understand the minutia of every aspect of human progress and decline. Reflecting on my own 32 years, however, I would argue that our progression in the realm of technology and the “advancement of knowledge” has consequently taken us further from understanding and acknowledging our role in the subsequent nose-dive the health of our planet has taken. I feel that at this point anyone should have a hard time debating that this is due largely to our carelessness and lack of foresight. I welcome and encourage any discussion in the realm of climate change and how the dwindling tradition of experiencing the outdoors on an animalistic level has contributed to our misuse and lack of understanding our natural world as a whole. Our collective apprehension to “unplugging” and giving fewer fucks about this or that particular gadget and the supposed “convenience” or status it may bring to our lives, I believe, will be our ultimate downfall.
There is a quote by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, in his book Let My People Go Surfing where he states “No animal is so stupid and greedy as to fouls its own nest – except humans.”. He makes a very valid point. I think that our ability as humans to shape and change our world to suit our needs as we see fit is one of our greatest strengths and consequently one of our greatest weaknesses. Sounds very comic-book-cliche’ but that immense collective power that we wield comes with an enormous responsibility. The catch, it seems, is that the responsibility lies in our ability to see into the future. But we as humans have repeatedly proven that we have approximately zero fucks to give until it is nearly too late to do anything about our situation.
I’m not a scientist and I’m not an authority on any of the environmental sciences, nor will I ever claim to be. But I don’t have to be to notice what is happening all around us. I’ve made it a point in my adult life to travel and experience new cultures and ideas whenever I have the opportunity. One of the things I have noticed is that the disregard for our home is everywhere. I haven’t been anywhere on this planet, no matter how remote it may seem at the time, and not seen garbage or the impact of human carelessness. For example, swimming in Jade Lake, high in the Alpine Lakes wilderness of Washington state, I’ve found garbage. The lake isn’t exactly the easiest place to get to either. You have to want to get there. The journey is a real pain in the ass at certain points of the year and that’s part of its beauty. Finding Clif Bar wrappers and Zig Zag packages on its banks to me is equivalent to finding a flaming bag of shit on your parent’s doorstep. Somebody, sometime, decided that what they did or left behind was of little or no consequence, if they considered it at all. There are approximately 7 billion humans on this planet. Imagine the impact that many self-important organisms can have on just about anything. Visit anywhere on any coast on any continent. Take in the crisp salty air. Marvel at the vastness of blue and green. Let it make you feel small and insignificant. Then look down. If you don’t see some form of human refuse then walk 100 feet in any direction and my guess is that you will.
I’ve been struggling with this particular issue for about 10 years now and it has proven very difficult for me to somehow pull together enough coherent thought to make some kind of useful argument without getting worked up and saying something offensive. Ultimately turning would-be constructive debates into lessons in adult communication. Recently I realized that my ability to make a coherent point without letting emotion get involved is like trying to climb Everest without legs or supplemental oxygen. I have also realized that over the last 10 years the need to bring true emotion to the table in this argument is great. We have people like Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and organizations like Protect Our Winters, and many, many others, taking the lead and bringing educated and poignant arguments to the table. Maybe more emotion is what we need. Native populations all over the world are up in arms over resource harvesting and the dreadful impact it is having on their own livelihood on a near daily basis. Literal tons of toxic waste are being leached into our life sources at alarming rates. We are systematically destroying everything that we as living organisms on this planet rely on for life every single day. Maybe the time for well-directed and very real emotion is upon us. It seems logical that empathy for those suffering from the direct effects of mono-cropping or exploratory resource harvesting would lead to a larger scale outcry against the forces behind the destructive mechanisms at work.
I could go on and on ranting over the different points and counter points involved in this argument and ultimately I would end up feeling like a snake eating its own tail. But I will say this, it has gotten to the point that the state of our environment and those involved in the politics of environment have found their way into my reasoning for how I plan on living the rest of my life. I always assumed I would someday have a family. I’ve always wanted to be a father. The thought of raising children and sharing my experiences in the outdoors with them is the stuff that the best dreams are made of. But lately I’ve strayed from that. My dream of someday becoming a father has been replaced by an absolute fear that the world our children inherit is, quite literally, fucked. I fear that the things I grew up experiencing with my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and whoever else won’t be there in twenty years. The mountains may still stand but their dress will have changed. The forests that give us life are being changed rapidly. Old-growth is a novelty. The glaciers I’ve walked across or even admired from a distance are disappearing. And the fish?! So much of my life has been intertwined with the lives of fish. Some of my clearest memories over my lifetime have involved the cold, wet, long, happy days respectfully catching, cleaning, sharing and consuming fish from Washington to Alaska. The threat to salmon alone is enough to form a rock in my throat. Not to mention tuna. Or whales. Or any other fresh or saltwater creature.
My point is that something has to change. The people in control of our future need to be removed. Every job I’ve ever had would have cut me loose if my work performance in any way resembled the bullshit being fed to all of us on a regular basis. I’m not saying it to be extreme. It’s the truth. Our planet is hurting and it’s all of our faults. The choices we make now are directly related to what’s coming down the line. The time for pointing fingers has passed. We have all of the knowledge and resources available to us right now to make the changes that will ensure a healthier and less toxic future for those that come after us. I have 2 wonderful, beautiful, and incredibly intelligent nieces. My dream for them is that they will someday have the opportunity to experience natural life the way I have. That they will be empowered by their own vulnerability in the natural world. That the world I grew up knowing and loving will still be standing to humble and enlighten them as well. It isn’t too late yet and as long as there are young people to “Inherit the Earth” we should all be thinking about what we can do to ensure that the Earth they inherit isn’t that far off from the one we take for granted today.