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.