Wild Nature, Naturally
I recently wrote an article that was related to respecting, preserving, and repairing the environment. While thinking of how I might do this, I asked myself the question, "What do most people think of when they hear the word environment?" Probably they think of the places where they spend most of their time, or they retrieve mental images of state and national parks and seashores they've visited or seen on television and in books. Ordinary human beings seem to be docile creatures, relatively tame and malleable, addicted to comfort, and inclined to spend most of their time indoors, electronically occupied. For the most part the twenty-first century human being is a thoughtful creature, eager to please, and readily amenable to adopt popular strategies that will benefit the entire family of man, quite a burgeoning herd.
When the subject of climate change and global warming suggests individual life changes, most human beings are eager to comply for the collective good. They are quick to turn off lights when leaving a room, proudly replace high energy bulbs with the more efficient variety, or carefully manage the settings of the thermostats that control air conditioner usage. That wasn't hard, was it? Pass the hamburgers, the chicken nuggets, and the scrambled eggs, please; never mind that the cow manure is leeching into the creek; never mind that the factory chicken tastes like cardboard; never mind that the yolks of eggs these days are pale and lacking any hint of viscidity.
When venturing outside into regulated suburbia, one of our thoughtful human subjects might pause for a moment of reflection: "Perhaps I should replace my gasoholic Sports Utility Vehicle with a hybrid automobile." Or this typical modern suburbanite might note all of the plastic bins aligned up and down the curbs, and wonder at the prodigious amount of waste and garbage generated by just one neighborhood, or for a moment stand under the blazing sun and gaze skyward at a slate-blue sky, and decide, "God almighty, summers are way hotter than they used to be."
Yes, God almighty, indeed; it does seem to be considerably hotter in the summer than it used to be, and something is indeed wrong with the preceding picture of the typical suburbanite. The scope is too narrow, the focus too limited. Fixing the environment seems to mean fixing by it in a manner sanctioned by plutocratic decree to guarantee the continued accommodation of modes of living so as not to conflict with excessive patterns of consumption—so as not to tamper with the growth and profit objectives of the enterprises that manufacture the consumable goods. The environment for most of the population is limited to their homes, their neighborhoods, their shopping malls, their cities, the highways they travel, and the places where they work. Indeed, something is missing. Raw, (wild) unadulterated nature is missing.
Wild Nature, Naturally
My aforementioned article included the suggestion that a concern for the environment might be fostered by walking out into nature, into the desert, into the mountains, into the forests, and along lakes, rivers, and seashores. How very naïve; I was criticized for having offered a simplistic solution for restoring the environment, for having suggested that climate change and global warming might be arrested by merely walking into the woods. Stuff and nonsense. Well, I hadn't intended to posit a walk into nature as the elemental solution to climate change and global warming. I was merely trying to suggest that one might begin the process of healing self and environment by first cultivating an appreciation of the natural environment, an appreciation of the wild, an appreciation of uncorrupted Nature. Environment is much more than the artificial constructs of the human species, more than house, neighborhood, city, state, and nation.
The human species came out of the wild, out of Nature, and amounts to one of the fruits or offspring of Planet Earth. When we know our home planet, know the plant and animal species. know something about the cycles of weather and tides, feel the rhythm of flowing water, relish the changes of the seasons, and are in harmony with all of the other natural processes of life on Earth, we will be better equipped to act as, and call ourselves, stewards of the environment—not just of the manmade environment, but of the wild environment. True, merely walking into nature isn't the cure for global warming and climate change; it is merely the first step. This first step seems to be an essential obligation of an ecologically astute and caring citizen of our lovely blue planet with its abundant greenery, fecund soil, and fragile atmosphere.
So? What is to be learned about where each of us is taking shelter? How much do you, gentle reader, know about your environment? Please understand that you are not an artificial construct of the industrialized, technological world; you are not a mere consumer; you are flesh, blood, and bone, and you came out of the world, out of Nature, naturally. The best thing that you can do for your home in the universe is to engage in the process of helping to develop balance and harmony between human beings and all of Nature. To begin to accomplish this worthy goal, you must learn about your world. What do you really know about your environment? Can you answer some of these basic questions about where you live?
Wild Nature, Naturally
- Where does your water come from? Can you describe the journey of water from rainfall to its final destination at your kitchen sink?
- What specifically is the disposition of your sewage? Where does it go?
- What geological events or processes created the topography where you live?
- What are the first wildflowers to bloom in your region?
- Did you see any stars in the sky last night?
- What form of energy costs you the most money? How and where is it produced?
- What is the largest wilderness area in your region? Have you hiked a trail in that wilderness?
- Can you name six edible wild plants in your region?
- How long is the growing season where you live?
- When was the last full moon, and how many days will it be until the next full moon?
- What kinds of rocks and minerals are found in your region?
- Have any plant or animal species become extinct in your region? Are any endangered? What difference will that make?
- When did you last observe a wild animal or bird in its natural habitat?
- Consider your present position while you're reading this. Can you point north?
- Do you have any furniture that's made of solid wood? What kind of wood? Where did it come from?
- Can you identify the native trees in your neighborhood? In your yard? Can you identify the plants or trees in your yard that are not native to your region?
- Do you know how to make fire with a bow drill? (This might seem to be a ridiculous question, but the feeling one gets when first accomplishing this feat is magical, as if a link had been created with one's primitive ancestors.)
- Have you ever been hiking in the misty mountains when a light rain is falling?
- Have you ever waded in a cool creek on a hot summer day, trees bending from the bank and creating shade?
- What does camping mean to you? Parking an electrified trailer on an asphalt slab next to the trees?
- Are you respectfully quiet when hiking a forest trail? If so, you have a far better chance of observing wildlife—bobcat, deer, and skunk.
- Can you identify any one bird by its song or call? Two or more birds?
Certainly the list of things you need to know about your environment is extensive, and you could likely add a great many more questions, questions that would likely make me feel inadequate and foolish. The point is to become comfortable in your wild skin; the point is to appreciate all of Nature. (Allow me to remind you, gentle reader, wild simply means untamed, pristine.) Your neighborhood and community are within the totality of Nature, you came out of Nature, and you will more appreciate the need to be environmentally sensitive once you have reacquainted yourself with your natural identity. So—take that walk into the woods. Tread lightly and reverently.