Good Company

I am continuing to read Round River—a meditation of immense wisdom in journal form.  What am I learning?

  • That land is different than country
  • That the hobbies of common people following their own curiosity can be more powerful than the most sophisticated science because these humans are puzzling-together the life story of a  plant or an animal, its natural history
  • That trying to change a person’s mind or behavior by threatening them with calamity does not work
  • That we are diminished in direct proportion to the incremental loss of wilderness

With Aldo Leopold I enjoy easy company with a man who understood what it means to be human.

3 thoughts on “Good Company

  1. Larry Chamblin

    Susan, I respect–I should say admire–your emphasis on the positive. We all know that positive incentives work better than negative. We are sometimes inspired by positive ideas and images; negative ones only lead us to despair, to a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.

    Yet I feel that our condition–compounded by our failure to face our condition–is so dire that a positive attitude is all but impossible. Lately I have been reading “The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crisis” and Lester Brown’s “World on Edge.” The latter book is a litany of our planet’s ills, from falling water tables to expanding deserts; from regional tensions brought on by food and water insecurity; and challenge of seeking a sustainable future for a population of eight and soon to be nine billion people.

    As one of the writers in “The Post Carbon Reader” says, we face not a problem–which implies that there is a solution–but a predicament–which calls for responses. We all must try to find positive responses, in the management of our daily lives and in our interactions with people. But as much as I do not enjoy projecting the gloom and doom of dire prediction, I also feel compelled to speak the truth as I see it in the face of massive complacency and apathy.

    In an effort to support our local bird population with native plantings, I planted a beauty berry bush beside an elderberry bush about three years ago. I now watch a pair of mockingbirds feeding at the clusters of bright purple berries. But I know that the population of songbirds in our backyards is shrinking as we continue to eliminate and contaminate natural habitat. In our changing climate, we are headed for a 2-3 degree Celsius (or greater) global increase, which could cause the extinction of 20% or more of all species. Rising temperatures could put half the world’s population at risk of severe food shortages and starvation. And so forth.

    David Orr, writing in “Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse,” says that “no broadly informed scientist can be very sanguine about the long-term future of humankind [and all earth’s creatures] without assuming that we will soon recalibrate human numbers, wants, needs, and actions with the requisites of ecology within the limits of a finite biosphere.” My own ability to be positive is directly linked to my perception that there is or there is not real action to recalibrate our human impacts.

    1. I think we are seeing what Orr predicts in programs like Boston’s like those in Boston featured on NPR’s Urban Cities focus. The focus on mitigation and resilience, though necessary, appear to have missed a key step, nay an essential, life giving step: we refuse to change the underlying values that drive our thoughts and actions. I guess that is where I focus. It’s true that its hard to keep a positive attitude but then I stand in the sneakers of an eight year old girl looking to her future. I want to help her understand the world that she will navigate and hopefully make decisions about from another set of assumptions than those that seemed engrained in our generation. For her I stay in the positive, giving her all that I have right now and then supporting her and her generation. We need to get behind these kids.

      As always, you honor me with your thoughtful responses that teach and nudge and encourage me that there are people like you “out there” who are doing all the right things for a sustaining planet.

      1. Larry Chamblin

        Susan, I certainly agree that there are efforts to adjust to the natural limits, to recalibrate our human impacts. I take some satisfaction that our own efforts locally–and many like them and others much more ambitious–are bringing about small changes. I believe that local and state efforts, including citizen efforts like ours, are becoming the leading edge. This is not enough, but it is where we are today. We need your positive outlook to keep us confident that we can move forward toward a sustainable future. But we also need to keep in mind the reality of where our current path leads.

        Susan, keep up your good work in holding these issues up to the light.

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