Musing on the BP oil spill… and on ecological problems in general… brings to mind a bit of footage I saw on the telly many, many yrs ago, must have been in the early 70s at the latest. It was part of some sort of documentary program.
Location: aloft in a small plane flying over a locale in upstate New York or maybe New England. Establishing 2-shot: the program interviewer and an industrial entrepreneur type, an energetic, middle-aged man wearing expensive aviator shades. Out-the-window shot: plane’s-eye view of uninterrupted green forested hills, in full summer array, floating by below.
Entrepreneur Man: This is just begging for development. Look at it. Thousands of acres, going to waste.
Finis, as they used to say in the old silent movie titles.
I was no activist, though I was familiar with some of the founding texts and notions of the modern environmental movement, and I recycled our cans, bottles, and papers, which was lots more hassle in those days. But I remember thinking, “Man, you are tragically and monstrously wrong.” I felt, and feel, that there is some kind of probably impassable divide between a mind that sees a sight like that, and instantly responds his way, and a mind that responds my way.
All the lives down there in those woods. All the unknown patterning, the webs, the nets, the forces, the influences, the balances, the imbalances, the interweaving through space, through time, the history, the trembling present moment, the future unborn. “Going to waste”?????
Of course the idea that the natural world belongs to humans, and is there – was purposely put there, according to one line of god-thought – only and expressly for our use, is a pillar of the world we live in and were brought up in. It saturates the activities of industrial and post-industrial humanity. It’s a philosophical death-chant. It’s baboon thinking, except that’s a canard on baboons. If we intend to survive, we’ve got to come up with another way of looking at ourselves and the rest of the world, based on something closer to reality than a mass paranoid fantasy of aggrandizement.
I’m sure many people enjoyed the Discovery Channel’s “Life After People” as much as my sister and I did…