There is a George Carlin bit where he talks about environmentalists saying that they are “Saving the Planet.” His suggestion is that the planet has been here for millions of years, it’s outlived the dinosaurs and everything else, the planet is going to be fine – we’re the ones that are “gonna die.” When you think about it, it’s almost absurd to come to any other conclusion, but we do.
Outside the bubble of our climate-controlled, back-up-camera-enabled, twitter-following lives is a planet that has survived mass extinctions and flourished after. Beyond the ego-centrism of our modern lives is a human history that has shown great deference and respect to the environment and nature’s awesome power. Only recently have we concocted the notion that we as humans are greater than nature, than the planet; that we can make enormous impacts on the earth without consequences.
Which seems more reasonable: “Fracking is a good idea, we can get millions of units of energy without any environment repercussions” or “If you pump millions of gallons of toxic liquid into the earth’s crust at enormous pressures there probably will be consequences”? Yet the allure of possibly getting something for nothing makes people want to believe the fairy tale.
I have celiac and have often had people bring up the fact that it seems like there are a crazy number of people who have celiac/gluten issues these days. I agree with them: you can’t swing an ice ax around Boulder without skewering someone that is gluten free. But is that because people are bigger whiners than they were in the past as some suggest; or because humans evolved in unison with our environments and the plants and animals that were our food sources in the past, but now we genetically modify and engineer our food so that it is changing at a rate equivalent to thousands of years of natural evolution every decade our our human systems can’t keep up?
Modern life has become so driven by satisfying our own desires and whims (and the tools that we have at our disposal to satisfy them are so powerful and pervasive) that achieving the outcome we want seems almost a given (on a large scale, not necessarily on a personal level). Our sense of wonder and uncertainty – as well as our concept of consequences – have taken a terrific beating. “Someone will figure out how to fix…” is the refrain of people kicking the can down the road on the problems that we are creating for ourselves.
Spend a day in the mountains.
See how much they care about what you want or feel.
See how much power you have over the weather they throw at you.
Find out exactly what the consequences for your choices are.
And begin to understand how connected you have to be to your environment in order to survive.
These are the lessons that we are losing. The pervasiveness of civilization and creature comforts is killing the collective knowledge we once had about how we had to flow with our surroundings, how we had to integrate ourselves into our environment rather than control it.
This is why we need the mountains.
The way forward has to be on re-integrating with our environment, finding ways to participate in our eco-system rather than dominating it. Because if history has shown anything, it’s that no apex animal lasts forever…