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:
SPOILER ALERT--THIS POST CONTAINS ADULT LANGUAGE 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.