I’ve been looking over my last few posts and have noticed something–they’re all rants. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea–that I’m only capable of a few rants here and there and that my ability to rant is confined to a few topics.

One more rant here–this time about the future of nature and nature writing. The rant was originally written for a graduate level nature writing class I’m taking, and well, I just decided to let loose. The textbook for the class is Frank Stewart’s A Natural History of Nature Writing and my response is in response to the secondary appearance of McKibben in the last chapter–who was ringing the death knell for nature and nature writing.

I’m kinda proud of this post, actually:


Tree Museum Ahead: Entrance Fee $10

Because we are of the Earth, we have a subconscious, primordial drive to
preserve that which we were born into.  McKibben is a bit idealistic in
his assessment that before the Industrial Revolution people lived as
noble savages at one with nature. Methinks the medievalist serfs did
some agri-damage, although I have no proof. I’m pretty sure the Vikings
also did some slashing and burning, and Iceland seems to have recovered.

That being said, has the Industrial Revolution sped up the process of
degradation? You betcha. Is it irreversible? Doubt it. I doubt that we
can do that much harm to Mother Earth. In fact, I doubt that we can do
as much harm as a massive volcanic eruption, ice age, or smattering of
earth-crashing comets can.  Sixty-five million years ago, anybody?
Does this mean we should gather up all our extra plutonium and dump it
into the water supply of Gotham City or commence paving what’s left of
the rainforests? Heck no. We are the natural stewards of the Earth; we
are working to preserve it. But we’ve got to stop playing Chicken Little
because no one listens to a crazy cock.

According to McKibben, nature has to be wild and free to be nature. Does
that mean the lily pond outside my front door is not nature because it
was built by hand? Is it my imagination or does it sound just like a
babbling brook? Or do I need to go $800 away to the waterfalls of Hawaii
to truly experience nature? Fuck you very much. Please don’t tell me how
and where to enjoy my nature.

Apparently parks are good enough for most people. A little bit of
greenery here and there is good enough for the soul. We call them open
space here in Colorado, and these parks are crowded on the weekends,
which, McKibben will be glad to hear me say, takes away from an
otherwise pristine experience: too many people crowding up my nature
hike makes me surly, for sure. But enough of us surly bastards will do
something about it. What do I do? I go enjoy that same park on a
Wednesday morning, come back completely refreshed and rejuvenated, and
commence to spread the Gospel about how the less spoiled nature is, the
less the human element is present in nature, the better off we all are.
“Nature’s better than Xanax,” I tell them. My friends look at my
permanently furrowed brow, which seems to have softened, and believe me.
At least for a minute.

In fact, the “psychic and spiritual” part of nature will actually become
more meaningful because there will be less of it (p.219). Maybe, in
2059, we’ll all have to meditate on the single bonsai tree under the
glass globe in the center of town. With all due respect to Miss
Mitchell, that bonsai tree will have as much, if not more, effect on us
than the Grand Canyon because it’s all we’ve got. Talented nature
writers might be able to write about the bonsai’s simplicity and
spirituality in a way that would turn Thoreau’s thumb green with envy.
Why not ring the bell of hope instead of listening for the clang of doom
and gloom?

Maybe the landscape architects, the ones who know the extent to which
the re-greening of America has on the American psyche, will be our
spade-wielding saviors. Until then I’m going to enjoy the local parks
during the week.

How do we save nature? Enjoy it, one afternoon, one hammock nap, one ski
run, one wave, or one peony-planting at a time. Then, tell your friends
and family how awesome it was, and if you’re so inclined, write about it.

Oh yeah, and recycle.