I’ve been at a loss for words. I’ve long expected, even eagerly anticipated, the end of our civilization and the eventual recuperation of the natural world. But I thought it would happen due to ecological collapse, not because the country elected an infantile insecure ignoramus. At this point, I think anything could happen: riots, civil war, assassination, nuclear war, dictatorship, revolution, dying of embarrassment–they’re all on the table. While we wait, before we sleep, between the woods and frozen Lake, here are many words I found.
I heard another somewhat nature related podcast–this one comes from Wyoming public radio and is called HumaNature. All of the episodes are worth a listen and most are quite good. Whitewater rafting, a long canoe trip, Bigfoot, a shark attack, and snowmobilers are among the topics. The most celebrated episode is about intercontinental travel with a donkey, but I thought the most powerful one was about fly fishing and breast cancer.
After hearing that one, I sent the link to my fly fishing fanatic ex-roommate in Yellowstone, whose sister had had cancer. He enjoyed it and agreed that it brought people closer to nature. He wrote that he was feeling lonely that he was going to be the last of three of us who started working in the same Yellowstone office in 2010 because the third wouldn’t be returning this year. I told him that my life was less without the wildlife and open spaces (although the Lake helps) and that when people ask me why I left Yellowstone after four years, I still shake my head wondering how a situation that was so perfect for me turned so bad, but that even if I decided I wanted to return, I didn’t think my body was up to the long bus trip anymore.
That was because the route and schedule had been ruined when a different company took over in 2013. I still check Montana newspaper sites and read in December that the company might be abandoning its Bozeman stop if it couldn’t find a new location which is actually in Bozeman by the end of 2016 because the location they moved the station to fifteen miles out of town has hurt business. Who could have guessed?
I was looking for an update (not found) on that and discovered that the company has returned to the old schedule with my arrivals and departures in the afternoon instead of the middle of the night and abandoned its detour to the frakken fields. So the trip would actually be much shorter and more pleasant again. I still strongly doubt that I’ll work in Yellowstone again, definitely not this year, but I’d consider the bus doable again (at least til Trump fraks everything up and it detours again). Financial, physical, and residential factors would still have to align in unlikely ways for me to return.
A few weeks ago, I started reading Edward Wilson’s latest book, Half-Earth. From the flap, “Wilson is no doomsayer, resigned to fatalism”. No, because all we have to do is set aside half the planet for the other life forms. I’m sure Trump and John Doe and Mary Smith will be glad to do that. Before I gave up on the book, I nearly wept reading the extinction chapter, and raged along with Wilson at the climate change and wilderness deniers and the Anthropocenists. Rather than the book, I’d recommend this Smithsonian article on the subject. (Ignore the comments, unless you need further proof that humans will never do this.)
I’d rather point you toward a book likely to be much less well known, The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy by Michael McCarthy. I’ve only read thirty pages, and I have issues with it–it’s by a British writer with corresponding examples (and spelling) and I have a strong North American bias in what I care about. Even without that personal issue, he’s given to very lengthy sentences overflowing with commas and semicolons. (I like to play that way myself sometimes, so believe me when I tell you he overdoes it.)
I don’t know what my final opinion of this book will be, but I think it could be inspirational or a bittersweet consolation (to me at least). I like the fact that he’s already pointed out why environmentalists (and humanists) fail–because they won’t acknowledge that people aren’t necessarily good and may not care about doing the right thing, or any thing beyond their short term personal interest. It’s the tragedy of the commons until Delaware falls off Antarctica. Oh, wait . . . And beyond.
Quickly recapping some recent reads and listens:
Frans de Waal asks the question Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? and the book provides many interesting examples of observing a variety of species as well as a history of the evolution of ideas about animals. A section on octopuses led me to read the next book.
Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus largely involves her time interacting with fascinating octopuses at the New England Aquarium which I visited several times during my Boston years. Usually I was only there to go on a whale watch but the book still felt like a visit home. I enjoyed this book except that it didn’t examine the ethical issue of keeping obviously intelligent animals captive even after the death of one who escaped the aquarium tank. She does ask the question of someone who captures wild octopuses for aquariums—no surprise what his opinion is.
Yellowstone Standoff by Scott Graham is a rather silly mystery in which wolves and grizzlies team up against humans after being microchipped by a mad scientist type. I read it because of the title and it was another quick visit to my past.
I generally finish TC Boyle’s novels without considering them among the best I’ve ever read, but I always keep an eye out for the next one because he chooses subjects which interest me. His latest, The Terranauts, is based on Biosphere 2, the ecological and sociological experiment from the 1990s.
Engineering Eden by Jordan Fisher Smith includes a subtitle referring to a violent death (by grizzly) and trial (lawsuit against NPS) to try to make it seem more exciting to the average reader but it’s primarily an environmental history of how nature has been managed in national parks. There’s a lot going on in this book—too much really, as it constantly jumps from one subject to another. Despite the author’s efforts, I don’t share his opinion; working in Yellowstone left me with no sympathy for people who die as a result of rule-breaking bad choices. Looking through the book’s notes led me to a great discovery—this NPS online resource of historical documents organized by park: https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/parkhistories.htm
I was facing some days at home after surgery last week and decided it was time to reconnect to the internet. One of the first things I did was research the dozens of books on High Country News’s recent list and added several to my library holds list. http://www.hcn.org/issues/48.19/recommended-reading-to-take-you-into-the-next-year
Despite always looking for new books to read, time may be getting short (sure, I’ve got 23 years left according to the stat charts, but those don’t factor in things like eyesight or comprehension or homelessness or Trump). I think it’s time to return to Thoreau and some favorite field guides to relive the places of my life such as Sierra Club’s Southern New England and North Woods, and Peterson’s Eastern and Rocky Mountain Forests.
While being internet-free at home for the past six months and inspired by blog reader Jain, I’d download podcasts at the library to listen to later.
Outside/In is described as a podcast about the natural world and how we use it. I wind up liking about half the episodes. It’s often too goofy for its own good but it comes from New Hampshire Public Radio so sometimes feels like another dose of (past) local flavor for me.
Home of the Brave has varied topics but most recently did a three part series on grizzlies in the Yellowstone ecosystem (which included comments from Doug Peacock and David Quammen and has great photos online too). There’s an old interview with Charles Bowden also.
Out of the Past is a series of commentaries on film noir movies. It’s usually more academic than I’d prefer, bringing me back to my unpleasant year as a grad student in English when I was taught that every novel written in the 18th century was a metaphor. But I prefer to think back on my time in the darkness of Cambridge’s Brattle Theatre where I originally saw most of these films.
You Must Remember This is also about the film world, specifically Hollywood’s first century, including a sixteen-part series about the blacklist.
If after the most recent election, you’re already longing for a time when good people ran the government, The West Wing Weekly is running through the old tv series episode by episode. One of the cohosts was in the cast, and guests have included other cast members and real life politicians and scientists.
Inspired by that podcast, I started looking for others based on favorite old tv series. I found a fairly new one about Buffy the Vampire Slayer but after a few episodes decided it wasn’t for me. I then discovered another podcast about the series which has been running much longer and seems like it might be more to my taste, called Dusted.
And of course, if you don’t catch them on the radio, you can find Fresh Air and This American Life episodes online as well.
Four ships on the Lake this morning,
Bald eagle in a tree above, harassed by crows.
Tin soldiers and Trump is coming,
Amerikkka’s reality TV,
Kardashian VP? No need,
First lady has fake bimbo covered.
O Canada, my cries of passion,
Grab me by the penis,
Annex me! Annex me! Annex me!
I’m no fan of Clinton; only something like Trump could have made me vote for her. He is scum, ignorant and incompetent, and completely unqualified for the job.
This is a very dangerous moment in history, a go back in time and kill Hitler moment. Unfortunately, most of the gun nuts voted for him.
I’ve never had a high opinion of the U.S. public, but it’s never been lower.