Not Often a Beautiful Relation

“While almost all men feel an attraction drawing them to society, few are attracted strongly to Nature. In their reaction to Nature men appear to me for the most part, notwithstanding their arts, lower than the animals. It is not often a beautiful relation, as in the case of the animals. How little appreciation of the beauty of the landscape there is among us! We have to be told that the Greeks called the world Beauty, or Order, but we do not see clearly why they did so, and we esteem it at best only a curious philological fact. For my part, I feel that with regard to Nature I live a sort of border life, on the confines of a world into which I make occasional and transient forays only, and my patriotism and allegiance to the state into whose territories I seem to retreat are those of a moss-trooper.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walking

The New Hampshire sky at dusk last night was filled with the wispy smoke of fires from California. Instead of moss-troopers crossing the border and plundering the land, nature is taking over and reminding us that the world is on edge. Burning, warming, and recoiling from mankind’s continued affront. I see the fires out west and look at the drought in the White Mountains and understand it could easily happen here too. Were it not for the steady march of tropical storms coming up and soaking us we could well be there already. But that endless string of tropical storms is yet another symptom of climate change. The earth has a fever, and ignoring it will not make it better.

There’s a certain draw to the life of the 17th century moss-trooper, those Scottish brigands who would plunder the British across the border and then melt back into the landscape. The inclination to melt into the landscape seems more natural than mankind’s push to conquer nature. I’m like Thoreau in this respect. Too much of mankind has the opposite view: plunder nature to fuel profit. No appreciation for what we have, only how much money we can squeeze out of the land and sea.

I’ve found that the same people who believe that news they don’t want to hear is fake are the first to question science around climate change (or COVID-19 for that matter). In America anyway, the rhetoric around the rights of the individual fueled by the limitless opportunity for self-expression the Internet provides has created a world where the adults in the room are constantly being shouted down by the maddened crowd. Something has to give. We’ll either plunge into chaos or rally towards a unified focus on sustainability and order. I fear for the former but hope for the latter. I wonder, what will it be?

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