Suppose, contrary to nearly universal public opinion, humanity doesn't deserve nature. Man is destroying ecological system after ecological system, extinguishing species after driving them into habitat corrals, constantly encroached upon by agricultural and housing development. The only way the story of the global environmental crisis makes sense is once hope is removed from reflections on it.
Every day is the New Day!
Whether it is the Arctic or the Antarctic, the polar caps are melting. Global Big Business cannot bear hearing this called Global Warming and has disciplined its house media and academia to rename it, the mealy-mouthed "climate change."
California leaders have created a tsunami of expectation for a gigantic El Nino wet weather winter, and desert flash floods and suburban mudslides in Southern California may erase the memory of the two hottest summers in its recorded history in the last two years.
Everywhere one looks, the authorities deny what one is seeing.
Every day is a New Day!
The term "Humanity doesn't deserve Nature" is precise, and it was uttered by a person who has been battling the government and developers for 35 years to preserve and protect the habitat wildlife must have to survive. It is an expression of exasperation and final acceptance that humanity is unwilling to save its own home.
There was once a place called "country," at least in the West. In fact, the entire West was considered country by the East. Country didn't mean nation, (it included many nations of Indians, Spaniards, Mexicans, French, Russians); it meant land outside of cities, land unsettled; later, it meant farm land, sparsely settled, with patches of land that had never been cultivated or had been cultivated and abandoned for pasture. Wildlife lived there. It was filled with birdsong. Flocks of birds flew overhead, startled Quail and Pheasants burst out of high grass. Long wedges of ducks and geese passed overhead day and night in winter on their long journeys. Deer, elk, quirrels, rabbits, many species of rodents, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, mountain lions and bears, lived in the country. Eagles, hawks and Turkey vultures flew above it all.
Suburbs, orchards and vineyards have crept in on country so that, to quote a country song, "Country ain't country no more."
And every day is a New Day
There is still country, some very large expanses of it, even in the Lower 48, even in California -- protected by government or non-governmental organizations, shields of public and private funds spent protecting what the Packard Foundation calls "Signature landscapes," what the Forest and Park services call "Viewscapes." As ecosystems crash, more and more elaborate public-private/win-win schemes are birthed from the obscene couplings of corporations with government agencies tasked to administer and enforce natural resource-protection laws and regulations. As these laws and regulations are fashioned and refashioned to allow the opposite of what they were intended to prevent, the only thing green are the pictures of the dead presidents that somehow pass in the dark.
Every day is a New Day, yet there is a kind of similarity if you look close, which our leaders are sworn by their owners not to do: As the environment deteriorates, the laws passed to protect it weaken. This is a strange and illogical progression, but, to repeat: Every day is a New Day. Forty years ago, scientists said 95 percent of California wetlands had disappeared. They still say, 40 years later, that we only have 5 percent of our original wetlands.
The concluding historian's remarks in Ken Burns' film, "The West," are that the West is a great "repository of hope." For a new day, a better day, a second chance, a new start, etc. etc. And those aspirations, shared by millions and molded by the ethic of unlimited exploitation of Nature for profit have marched in a steady procession of "New Days" across the history of the West like an endless line of covered wagons blending in with Dust Bowl-era farm trucks to the rapidly increasing migration to the Sun Belt after World War II. and those aspirations had no place in them for anyone or anything beyond benefits for the aspirants themselves. To this day and beyond, you hear their battle cry in city halls, urging the vote for the "hard, right thing" -- the next development to trample the remains of country.
Every day is a New Day and history began only when Me arrived.
Wildlife ecologies in cities and towns
It is important to note that ecological systems are not limited to country. Complex structures of insect and animal, as well as plant life exist in towns and cities. With the resurgence of backyard gardening in some places, some people have delighted in getting nose-to-nose with the miniature ecologies of bugs, bees, butterflies, salamanders, and all the other critturs that will come to an urban yards if it had not been drenched with pesticides to the point no worm could live beneath the garden or the lawn.
Opening day of dove season is the biggest hunting day of the official Game-Slaughtering Year proclaimed by the former California Department of Fish & Game, now hypocritically gentrified into the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, socially acceptable even in Marin County. The season starts before juvenile doves are ready to leave their nests.
Every day is a New Day in California, but you sure don't hear doves as often as you used to in the San Joaquin Valley. Or Mockingbirds, Crows, Magpies, Flickers (almost never), any other kind of woodpecker; in fact, you just don't hear birds much and yet you can remember when there was the constant sound of birdsong.
As far as rivers are concerned, the habitat for fish and turtles and many other fresh water species, our governments have followed the policies adopted by Herbert Hoover and Joseph Stalin that every drop of fresh water that reaches the ocean is one too many. California has created a huge industry based on the export of fruits and vegetables, cattle, fiber, milk, cheese and wine. This industry benefits very few and impoverishes a great many more because in fact while these agribusinesses farm the land, farm government for subsidies, they also farm their workers, for profit.
Every day is a New Day but California agriculture was built on the backs of ragged men and women and children and is still sustained by them.
Humanity doesn't deserves Nature anymore. Humanity has gone from the worship of Nature to some harmony with Nature to the pure exploitation of Nature. Nature's response is about what you'd expect if you ever thought about it:
How can we say that we deserve the bounty of Nature, the succor of Nature, the companionship of Nature anymore? Do we deserve the entire infinitely complex web of relationship that we have with Nature? And, while we are asking questions: What did Nature do to deserve this rapidly evolving, apparently cancerous growth on the planet called the Human Race?
George Monbiot, the great retired, world traveling environmental swashbuckler, writes that three-quarters of a sample of humanity in a poll believe themselves to be kind and nearly the same percentage believe other people are unkind. Right there is enough motivation to keep the kind Mr. Monbiot busy writing to try to persuade the rest of us to be kinder to the natural world. Another look at the polling results might be read as simply further evidence of the bottomless, blind hypocrisy of the human race.
We have watched for years the decline of all bird populations, species of wildlife and fish pushed to extinction, the creeping extirpation of the Honey bee, global warming enhanced drought, the decline and collapse of aquifers, new thousand-foot wells, and the constant expansion of agricultural and residential development, obliterating natural habitat in its path. We don't live in Wendell Berry's Kentucky Garden of Eden. Small is not beautiful here; the Large has obliterated it. We live in the San Joaquin Valley, which, ever since the Anglos arrived, has been the scene of an all-engrossing puppet show, starring not the medieval Punch and Judy, but the ever fascinating and thrilling characters of our modern era. Down here it is the non-stop, 24/7 "Boom and Bust Show."
The Boom and Bust Show absorbs all the attention of public officials charged with the obligation to decide land-use issues. They speak and think as if what remains of natural habitat is filled with Saber-toothed tigers with a sweet tooth for land-use decision makers.
The attitude of most of our citizens about the environment, hoping against hope to improve their economic lot by whatever means and by whatever values and opinions they may express, is the sage, circumspect and judicious: "I don't want to know."
And, being Americans, living in the bastion of the Free World, we of course have the freedom not to know, if we don't want to know. Religiously, we know that God gave us Free Will, including, presumably, the will not to know.
Around here,. you can get elected on a platform like that.
So, bemused as we are by the great capitalist puppet show, Boom and Bust, our minds are way too quick and agilely seeking the next good thing to notice The Creep. But, we can be forgiven because The Creep is a little more complex than the Buying and Selling that keeps the show going.
Scientists have been saying for several decades now that global warming is happening, is measurable and is most dangerous. This information has been manipulated in many, subtle ways by economic forces (Exxon for example) that stand to lose by the exposure of the problem. There have been, however, laws and regulations enacted to protect the environment, including at least slowing global warming. But these laws are challenged in court by the best trained lawyers in the land; and enforcement of regulations is easily checked by political pressure.
This process creates The Creep. The media is full of information about global, it keeps getting worse, more laws and regulations are passed, and more corporate lawyers are employed and congressmen dispatched by their funders to intimidate resource agencies from protection and enforcement.
The tensions in this social arrangement cause this new sense of time we call Creep -- both creeping self-destruction of capitalism, creeping environmental destruction, Think of how species extinction occurs. It creeps.
The garden here
We no longer hear the squeal of alarm from little songbirds when the hawks flies overhead, because neither are around anymore.
We can't see the Sierra or the Diablo Range except for a few hours after a rain. Asthma has been an epidemic for years; one is six children suffer from it.
"At this time of year, we should be seeing families of birds grouping together into flocks," said Lydia Miller, president of the San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center. "We aren't seeing that. We'll see how much wildlife comes down from the mountains. Now, we see a few nuthatches, a few flickers, a few white crowns, but we used to have flocks of hundreds. We don't have that and we haven't seen it for years.
"The numbers are crashing,"
She also noted that it is easy to be deceived by the concentration of birds in a smaller area. The same is true for mammals and resource agencies often point to the high density of some endangered species as evidence of recovery when in fact it is simply evidence of the few that remain gathering together in what is left of any habitat in which it can live.
"Robins, Killdeer, Meadowlarks," Miller added. "Where have they all gone? They are the indicator species, the eagles are the icons."
Humanity doesn't deserve Nature; and Nature doesn't destruction at the hands of Humanity. Humanity has lost the ability to think about Nature except as commodity or obstacle to the harvest of commodities.
But every day is a New Day.
UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences
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WATER: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization, Steven Solomon, 2010