Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Essay on Man's Treatment of Nature

Warning: This is an unedited stream of thought, and might confuse or inspire the reader... I'm not sure, it's unedited.

A white Audi sedan stopped at a red light. Expensive car, I say to myself, not too surprised since I live in Washington, DC. As I'm debating in my head about which company or department this person could work for, the driver's side door gently opens, and a styrofoam container is sweetly placed on the pavement. The door shuts, the car rolls forward. Places to go! Things to do! Obviously a very important person, with no time to waste.

This is where most Americans are at in our thoughts related to environment. We know what we have done to our world is horrible, but we still do it because it is our way of life, and that is a hard thing to change over night. "If I softly place this piece of trash (that is recyclable) on the pavement, maybe no one will see (since it is ILLEGAL) and it will have no consequence," the Audi driver must have decided. Well I saw this act my body sent a rush of adrenaline through me, compelling me to run into traffic and pick up that piece of foam, flailing my arms like a madwoman! Fortunately, the light changed and traffic moved on, saving myself from becoming squashed like an aluminum can on the side of the road. Environmental laws, like most laws, are meant to protect humanity from its own destruction, but since most of us not on the enforcing side see police as the enemy, we like to take matters into our own hands. This mentality I condone entirely on a circumstantial level, such as when human rights are compromised, or when man tries to control nature without respecting order and diversity. However, it does not apply for all things, like fines against littering. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of help for police on this act because there is no way to enforce unless seen firsthand. And what about when a civilian witnesses this? The only thing one can do is to pick up the trash herself, in the hopes that maybe the litterer will take notice.

The real issue that this selfish act has brought to my attention, is that we as a society are becoming conscious of cause and effect on the environment. This is a start, but of course only a product of the trendiness to be green, and not because we really believe it.

On the corner of the block I live on there is a small courtyard with benches where many people gather after work, school, or to meet up with friends. There are four trashcans here, yet every evening the ground is covered with trash; most of which is recyclable. Most of the people who hang out here are your typical thoughtless teenagers, obsessed with taking, ignorant to consequences. I also believe this is a product of growing up in a poor, crime-ridden city where hope is sometimes hard to find, and education is lacking. If there is no hope in the world to them, then why would they care about saving it from destruction? To them, it is already destroyed. By morning, the courtyard is spotless, thanks to a city cleanup crew, but by the end of the day, the sea of foam has returned.

This is the way Americans have acted ever since the modern environmental movement began in the early 1960's. "Let's form a cleanup crew! Let's change the world! Yay yay yay, we'll save all the little birdies and foxes," yadda yadda, this approach obviously did not work, which any city dweller can attest to. Finally policies are being placed to "force" people into transition from wasteful to sustainable, such as businesses charging 5 cents per plastic bag at a checkout here is DC, or completely getting rid of them, as they have in Berkeley, CA. This is not enough though! We as a whole society need to realize the interconnectedness of nature; that any and every act against it will eventually destroy us. And if the people understand this, we can change how business operates.

But I'll be realistic here, an environmental revolution is far off. We have distanced ourselves too much from nature, hating it even, and loving our precious technology, the savior of mankind. Bugs are icky, kill 'em. Plants are invasive, kill 'em. Water should come in a bottle, because it is tainted and will make us sick! This mentality is incredibly ignorant because we forget that these things are this way because of man's tampering with the natural order, and introduction of chemical poisons used carelessly. The young city kids on my block most likely have never learned about or seen nature's true beauty. And if they did learn about it in school, they probably don't believe it. How could they when all they see is pavement and trash, and their idols all preach about material wealth and monetary gain as the only way to reach happiness? How could believe in nature's beauty without reading Walden, Silent Spring, or ever taking a walk through the park?

This brings me to my next point about how far we are from a revolution- our obsession with parks and beaches. Isn't it clear we do enjoy the water and sand? Driving through the countryside? Hiking through the National Parks? We do love our earth, as these activities prove, but we feel so distanced from it that these things have to be vacations, holidays, sacred moments only acted upon once in a while due to busy distracted life. We cannot enjoy nature from a stuffy office, or crowded room controlled by a television. I'm not saying the Amish way of life is a great model, but we could learn something from the way they slowly acquire land, cautiously cut down a tree, and use all the excess. In fact, the Amish and other Puritan related lifestyles came out of knowledge passed on from the Native Americans; like how to carefully plant certain crops during planting season and resting when the season was over.

My friend likes to say that mankind was ruined when we invented things that move faster than our own feet. And from a purely ecological standpoint, I believe he is right. While we pushed our fields harder and harder to meet ridiculous demands, we forgot to listen to the land in all our haste. Swarms of insects took over the fields, and we wondered why, even though we wiped out all the natural insect ridding plants and parasites. In forgetting where we came from, because we moved to fast, pollution took over our cities, along with excessive radiation and man made chemicals in our fields, causing cancer and other health problems. Our Capitalist society gave us the mentality that faster and bigger is better, even if that wasn't the original plan, and because of this "right" to take and gain wealth, we have taken too much to support ourselves any longer. Space exploration was invented to feed this "right" to take whatever we find and exploit it, leading us to releasing our trash into space, not charting new paths simply for discovery and good.

What will become of us, the Humans, Leaders of Animals, Protectors of the Garden? Could it be that Eden has been around us the whole entire time, yet in our search for truth, we have completely missed it? Is the Apple really a symbol of technology (quite ironic, I might add) and by abusing it we are leaving the garden behind right now? Could it be that this timeless allegory is more applicable today than ever before? We have completely missed the message from Nature, which is that if we take without thinking, Nature will not be able to survive and we will die. This story, that so many of us have been raised on, has truly been the answer all along, not the question. Men, upset with the way the world is, have tried to blame Women for all his woes, forgetting that in the story, Eve came directly from Adam's rib, meaning both sexes are made from the same matter. Mankind, upset with the way the world is, has tried to blame the Devil for all its woes, neglecting the fact that the Devil took the form of a Snake, which Shamans see as a symbol of death and spiritual rebirth, a factor in self-actualization, meaning the snake could really be man's mind. This story says that all plants and seed bearing fruits were to be used in accordance with Nature itself, not that Nature is the enemy to be controlled, but for food and nourishment. And if plants are supposed to be used the way they are, why would the Conservative Right who believes this story is the truth want to ban certain ones, kill others, and tamper in such a way that we bypass the natural order of things? Man wrote this story, in an effort to explain the way life is ordered and how it came to be so that we wouldn't keep screwing it up, and Man has interpreted it so many ways that no one seems to remember why the story was written in the first place. I seriously doubt most believers of the creation story have ever sat down and reread since childhood, with an open, curious mind, otherwise they would heed the warning not to destroy our environment.

The Adam and Eve saga as I see it is simply a warning not to take what we don't need, not some immature who-did-it about original sin. Humans have an evil inside, which is to take what we don't need. That is the Snake, the Devil, as I see it. Systems like Capitalism can fuel this evil urge, leading to destruction from within our own selves. Yes people have a right to do what is natural to them, but if one person disrupts another person's natural state (abusing another person) or environment (littering), then it becomes a contradiction, because we share the same environment, and are made of the same matter. If one person takes more than nature can support for him/herself, then that person is taking life from another person, animal, organism, and thereby destroying him/herself, for the compromised organism will in turn take from something else. No energy can be gained or lost, we know, therefore energy must work on a continual shift from one organism to the next.

Instead of realizing that evil comes from within and therefore we have the ability to use it or not, we have placed blame on imaginary characters for all the damage we have done (the Devil did it!). Until we come to terms with this, we will continue to destroy ourselves. You don't believe me? Let's go back to the city kids who worship the self-righteous pop stars. What good comes from these idols? Do they solve any problems, or do they add to them? I'd love to hear anyone with a story of a problem solving pop star, honestly I would! It would be refreshing. Or how about the Gentle Litterer who knows he has a choice to make the world nicer but chooses not to? They all must still believe that there are greater evils than man that are uncontrollable, and therefore all human actions good or bad really make no difference. Laziness is simply a by-product of this mentality, not the cause. If man really understood that the greatest evil comes from within, then he would feel more empowered to do the right thing.

What we need is a change of heart. And the best way to change this would come from talking about this fact with each other, but since that won't happen just yet, we need to hold businesses accountable for the ecological damage they've allowed. We need to place strict laws prohibiting waste and applauding sustainable practices. We need to see become educated about every product, its cause and effect. We need leaders to believe in mankind, and they need to be respected by mankind in turn. We need to have environmental spokespeople who are credible, logical, and respected. No more fanatic activism, and no more Michael Moore or Glenn Beck extremism can be tolerated. These immature, fear-driven campaigns do more harm than good, and the loud, angry way they deliver messages leave the listener no time for thoughts of their own to trickle in- no personal checks and balances. Its just, "Yeah that's right, you said it!" without really knowing what "it" is.

People have forgotten to think for themselves. Bottom line. We have forgotten to observe the world, the damages to nature, the beauty that is still holding on, and look for answers there.

We Americans are not happy with the world: on a political level, yes, but also in our own anxious and depressed minds. Could it be we are anxious and depressed as a result of going against nature? Of taking too much? We need to stop looking for someone else to blame, but really think of what our actions have done and are continuing to do today. Maybe I'm asking too much of the American people, for we are quite far removed from nature that it could very well be too late. But I know from history that when a people are really unhappy, they take action. I just hope the action is for Nature and not against it. I am going to work hard to push the action towards saving our ecosystem and not simply blaming a group of people and forming a militia that could turn into a civil war. War will not fix our problems for we have to face the war inside our minds first, and that is a very difficult thing for us to do.

Any comments are welcomed, as this is only the beginning of a much over due discussion. And if I have offended you, I am glad. That means your mind is finally working.

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