Thursday, May 19, 2011

There but for the grace of God ...

Roger Ebert tweeted about this a day or so ago. It's a short film/documentary about the Salton Sea in California called The Accidental Sea:

The clip's only about 6 minutes, so take a look. Powerful stuff about the hubris with which we fuck with nature and how nature will ultimately fuck us back. Some of the scenery you will recognize if you've ever seen Into the Wild, as Chris McCandless' adventures led him to the Salton Sea for a time. I couldn't help but think of The World Without Us as well because of the manner in which the desert reclaims the land ... and quickly. One of my favorite lines from the clip:

It's easy to look at the Salton Sea and say, 'Of course it failed' ... But I look at it and think 'there but for the grace of God go the rest of us'. (paraphrasing)

And by this he means that basically anywhere we try to alter nature for our purposes, we are in danger of some push-back. We need to work in harmony as much as possible so as to mitigate these wild swings. This has been said before but it bears repeating: "Saving the planet" is really a misnomer. The planet doesn't need saved. It'll be just fine and will outlast us. We are merely a blip in its timeline. What we do need to do is make sure that we do our best to make it livable while we are here.

"... in the day after humans disappear, nature takes over and immediately begins cleaning house - our houses." -- Alan Weisman in The World Without Us


CyberKitten said...

If things where more logical human & hubris should rhyme.

We keep forgetting that it is far easier to destroy than to create. We've certainly got the destruction thing down... not so good at the create part though!

wunelle said...

Haunting. I think your comment is right on the money: we don't need to save the planet; we need to save ourselves on this planet.

dbackdad said...

CK -- Indeed. Hubris is a uniquely human trait. Especially American humans.

Wunelle -- We always seem to be a step behind. I'm sure all these developers and buyers in the 50's in the Salton Sea just thought it was manna from Heaven. They never gave a second thought to the fact that it only existed because of a screw-up and that the desert would eventually rectify the situation.

Really, the majority of our cities are lesser versions of this. We re-route and damn rivers. We plaster over plants and animals with concrete and steel. We unnaturally create greenery where it doesn't belong and remove it where it does belong. But the planet is patient and it will take it all back. It's just yet to be determined how long that will take.

Sadie Lou said...

I thought I'd first ask for forgiveness from you guys (all three of you) for engaging you in a debate I was unprepared to have. I'm sorry that I lead you there and then promptly removed the posts. I should have just invited Wunelle to our private blog and we could have discussed openly and privately-as it was, it was unfitting for me to have that discussion publicly. Anyhoodles, hope you can accept my apology.

Secondly, I believe that humans are commissioned, by God, to be good stewards of our planet and I think that he designed this relationship to be just as Lance said, "...we fuck with nature and how nature will ultimately fuck us back"
We reap the consequences of our lack of concern towards our position of being excellent stewards of what we have been given.

dbackdad said...

No apologies ever needed here. I'm certainly guilty of going sideways with some of my comments sometimes. I apologize if any offense was given.

Definitely get Wunelle in the The Round Table. He'd be awesome there (and certainly more active than I have been there lately).

Sadie said, "We reap the consequences of our lack of concern towards our position of being excellent stewards of what we have been given. -- No truer words have ever been spoken. Well said.

CyberKitten said...

We certainly *could* be stewards of the planet if we put our minds to it - although this would probably be as much a statement of our hubris as anything else we have done so far. We can do much only because we have developed the power to do so.

This doesn't mean that we have the right to decide which species lives and which dies or to decide where rivers flow or where forests grow. We should, as much as possible, leave the world as it is - or embrace the fact that we can do pretty much as we want and accept the consequences of that fact.

dbackdad said...

CK -- Steward implies management not reshaping. I'm not a believer in the drastic corrective actions suggested by some (seeding the atmosphere to cool the Earth, putting some large African animals in the plains of the U.S., etc.). There's no way to ever predict all the consequences of an action accurately. The best thing we can do is do less. The less we alter our environment, the more nature can take of itself.

CyberKitten said...

dbackdad said: The best thing we can do is do less. The less we alter our environment, the more nature can take of itself.

Indeed. I am, however, still disturbed by the idea of human 'management' of the entire planet.

wunelle said...

For my part, no apologies necessary; no offense taken.

But I come to doubt the utility of carrying on a protracted discussion on these matters. I feel I've been exposed to the best rational arguments I'm going to find about the supernatural world and they fall quite flat to my ear. It seems what is needed is for one simply to believe and let it rest there, and this is a step I'm simply not willing to make.

Likewise (though I won't presume to think for you) I suspect that no argument I will make will put you in a different place. And so I wonder what is to be accomplished by the exercise.

Anyway. So it seems to me.

Sadie Lou said...

I kind of tend to agree with Wunelle. Perhaps it's better to emphasize our similarities rather than highlight and argue over, our differences?