Posts Tagged ‘Mother Earth’

Only A Little Planet by Philip Hyde

May 10th, 2017

Only A Little Planet

The Plumas Lantern Newspaper, Greenville, California, March 1973

Opinion Column by Philip Hyde on Behalf of Nature with a Call to Action for Public Lands

Buckskin Gulch, Paria River Canyon, Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, 1969, from Drylands by Philip Hyde. Now in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, which is under threat from the Trump administration. When Philip Hyde made this photograph, Buckskin Gulch was relatively unknown. Today it is a very popular destination for canyoneers and photographers, as are other locations within Vermillion Cliffs National Monument boundaries. “The Wave” is considered one of the top photography destinations in the world. (Click image to see large.)

“It is only a little planet, but how beautiful it is,” wrote the acclaimed poet Robinson Jeffers from Big Sur. His lines expressed the basic theme of this column: the inter-relatedness of all things. “The greatest beauty is organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty of the universe. Love that, not man apart from that, or else you will share man’s pitiful confusions, or drown in despair when his days darken.”

Our purpose here will be to communicate the love of Planet Earth that underlies every effort to conserve it. We are here to share the surpassing beauty and the relationship between all things on “this green ball that floats us through the heavens,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson called our home.

Our subject matter in this column will be the ever-expanding range of environmental problems and concerns, which we will explore through commentary, book reviews, related experiences and essays about natural beauty.

The “little planet” theme is at once a shrinking, and an expanding concept. While some exploiters are hurtling through space to make a revolution of our planet in minutes, others are looking into inner-space more deeply than ever before, studying its intricacies more carefully, and not a moment too soon. We need to know all we can about our only home, to learn again what John Ruskin knew two hundred years ago, that “there was always more in the world than a man could see, walked he ever so slowly.” We need to sense this one world we have in its wholeness, and to see our own wholeness in it. It can be no longer logical – if it ever was, to suggest that a problem of Earth’s is someone else’s. This is too much like saying to a fellow passenger, “Your end of the boat is sinking.”

History, we believe will record that the most important thing achieved by the epochal moon-walks of our times was not so much that man then first walked on the moon, but that he looked back from the moon to his own planet and saw it complete, a beautiful brown, blue and white ball sailing through the immense depths of space. Man looked back at Mother Earth from enough distance to see her perfection and isolation and to sense as well, even though nearly unseen, the presence of his own umbilical cord of dependence stretching to connect to Earths life-support systems.

It is good to remember when thinking of the sophisticated technology so widely extolled these days, that the spaceship that put those men on the Moon was not so much a result of inventive genius as it was a conscientious, but rather crude imitation of the naturally contrived life-support systems evolved through millions of years of life on Earth, which, though assaulted by many of men’s activities still continue to make possible our lives here. This has brought a dawning recognition that we need to do more to preserve and protect these life-preserving systems to continue to survive.

There is an absurd charge made by some who would like to ignore the magnitude of this recognition, that those who view nature as necessary to survival are an “elite” who want to keep it for themselves. Such a fantasy would be ludicrous, if it were not tragic. The ranks of conservationists are filled with people with a large experience of nature. Were they indeed selfish “elitists” they would not be getting the word out as widely as possible and encouraging more and more people to go on trips and wilderness outings. Conservationists are not keeping it to themselves.

When I was growing up I tried, sometimes in vain, to lure my friends into the mountains by citing John Muir’s invitation, “To climb the mountains and get their glad tidings.” Muir published his invitation widely, and since my earliest pilgrimages, my work has consistently proclaimed to all who would look and listen, the beauty and joy of life close to nature. Nature enthusiasts’ advocacy and willingness to share with anyone is widely confirmed by the heavy and growing use of natural areas in all parts of the country. Many of these early friends, now in their middle age, are today joining the young to walk the old trails. If I had been an elitist wanting to keep it to myself, I would have been better off to never publish any photographs, or write a line in praise of nature, and admonish my mountain friends to refrain likewise.

Invariably, those who make the “elitist” charge are unwittingly speaking of themselves, for without exception, the nature they would make available to all is a nature plundered and maimed after the extraction of something translated into material wealth. These practical industrialists would convince us that we should choose the forest of a Weyerhaeuser ad over the real thing, or a dug out pit in raw earth filled with poisoned water and called a lake, rather than a natural mountain meadow. These are the economic elitists of the country working in the realm where the dollar is king, and there are no reservations for any lesser loyalties. Buckminster Fuller called them “The Last of the Great Pirates.” Fortunately for Earth and its other inhabitants this breed is dying out, and being replaced by those more responsible who can better read the signs of the times.

Landscape Photography Blogger Call to Action for Wilderness Public Lands:

Currently a long list of national monuments are under review of their status as national monuments and for possible sale, oil drilling, coal mining and other exploitative one-time uses rather than the ongoing lower impact, more profitable, more enduring and fun tourism use by we the owners. The US Department of interior has released the following list of Antiquities Act Monuments under review and announced a formal public comment period starting May 12. Be sure to make your voice heard and your plea made, either short or long, in favor of keeping our national heritage as it is: Interior Department List and First Ever Formal Comment Period.

Art, Earth And Ethics 2

July 24th, 2014

Art, Earth And Ethics, Part Two

Climate Change, Big Oil, Politics, Walmart, God, Religion, St. Francis, John Muir And Leave No Trace

(Continued From the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 1.”)

Recreational development is a job not of building roads into lovely country, but of building receptivity into the still unlovely human mind. – Aldo Leopold
Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California, Custom, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde.

Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California, Custom, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde.

(See the photograph large here in David Leland Hyde Portfolio One.)

Many people today would rather not discuss environmental issues. The environment is a subject that reminds people of thoughts and emotions they are often trying to forget. Bringing up such topics, some consider as taboo and as deadly to conversation as discussing politics or religion.

Along the same lines, when people are faced with, and allow to sink in a bit, some of the scientifically established facts of climate change, they respond with a wide range emotions: denial, rage, fear, grieving, indifference, resignation and others. If we do discuss climate change, it is with a dispassionate distance, as though it is not a matter of survival, of the life and death of our species, but something mildly in need of our intellectual attention and problem solving abilities, like an algebra equation. Some believe that an excessively hot planet with temperatures continuing to rise is something we can learn to live with. Meanwhile, many of the most credible sources say that just slight changes will bring about ongoing natural catastrophe, which in turn will readily destroy our economic system and our way of life.

Much of this can be debated indefinitely and is, but my intent in mentioning it here to begin with is to emphasize that these are serious, grown up problems that must be reckoned with, not forgotten about or avoided indefinitely. Each of us must start now to act in ways that have less environmental impact. We have to take responsibility and make changes ourselves, individually, regardless of what the US Congress, our president, or other world governments and corporations do. Regularly I see political slogans that say we need to keep Big Oil from causing climate change. True, we do need to stop subsidizing Big Oil, but we also need to remember they are in the business and we are all their customers. If we do not believe in their product, we need to gradually decrease our use of it, in all of its forms.

Climate Change through the refinement and distribution of fossil fuels is what Big Oil does for a living. It is what they have done for a living for a long time. Yet we must remember that it is the actual burning of the fossil fuels that is changing the climate. We are doing the burning. Meanwhile, we are asking them to change businesses, when we ourselves will not even change jobs to use less gasoline, or to do work that itself is more earth friendly. We will not change homes, change cars, or change other products we buy and use, yet we ask Big Oil to change the core of its livelihood. The picture will not change until we change. Major seed changes have almost always come from the people, from the bottom up, not from the top down. Top down management has brought us the world we have now, which is a calamitous train wreck about to happen. It would be easier to get off the train if it were moving more slowly, but as the train continues to gain momentum, we will begin to realize that jumping from the train is a better option than staying aboard. As a whole, the civilized world has doubled its energy use since 1980. This is a monumental trend in the wrong direction.

Most of it stems from short-term thinking, our own, as a people, and that of our leaders. The primary business of politicians on both the left and right is to kick the can down the road. As I listen to NPR or Democracy Now, I hear on a regular basis, politicians from California, or from the US, or from other countries, in the process of passing laws that set standards to be reached by a certain future year, usually 10 or 20 years from now. What is to stop the next batch of politicians in office from kicking the can farther down the road? Nothing. Which is why this kind of do-nothing, but appear-to-be-doing-something politics continues. We as a people rarely stop and say, “Hey, wait a minute, that law is not real. It is just a dog and pony show for the Television evening news.”

Examples of short-term thinking are abundant. When it comes to art, people would rather fill their homes with lots of cheap junk that will wind up in a landfill, than save and gather their resources to acquire a few quality pieces of artwork with provenance that will last and go up in value as a real asset to be sold at a profit or passed on to heirs. We have this same Walmart mentality about many items. We would rather buy a cheaper bike for $250 and have to buy a whole new one every four or five years, than save up and spend $800-$1000 on a bike that will last the rest of our lives. Even the $800 bike will no longer last a lifetime because planned obsolescence and lack of durability are built into the manufacturing system. Cheap is what people want, or is it?

Much of this comes down to education and how people are raised. Some parents teach their children to be racists, to hate people of other religions, or conversely, to be tolerant of all religions, to have empathy and appreciation for the diversity of cultures and myriad ways of living and worshipping on this planet. Some children rebel against whatever they are taught anyway, but Culture, environmental awareness, tolerance, open-mindedness or lack thereof are all teachings or programming, as are values, art, ethics and religion, which is man made. It’s all the same God, but some people try to claim that they have a different God, or that if you approach God any other way than by their approach, you are doomed and damned. I can see why some people don’t believe in God at all. Many others object to using the term, “God.” I certainly don’t believe in an angry, vengeful, insecure, spiteful God, the God forced down throats by Puritans and other fundamentalist extremists.

The early environmentalists and naturalists, sometimes called transcendentalists, such as Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson and others from the 1800s, believed God was in nature. This is also what Saint Francis of Assisi taught much earlier in the 13th Century. There is much debate as to when environmentalism started, though it could be argued that St. Francis was the first environmentalist. Moving forward into the 19th and 20th Century, one of John Muir’s main purposes for getting out into nature as often as possible, much like St. Francis, was to get closer to God and through immersion in the “works” of God, to have a spiritual, transcendent experience. A belief in God is not required to live a good life, but we must be careful of Godlessness and a lack of responsibility based on lack of faith in anything. Lack of faith in anything often blocks transcendent experience, which is part of what maintains our belief in existence and meaning in it. A belief in karma, what comes around goes around, or religious morality, even the threat of punishment has helped guide people toward fulfilling, thoughtful, sensitive and generous lives. It has kept people from living without regard for fellows or surroundings. When Friedrich Nietzsche said God is dead in the 1800s and people began to give up religion en masse, they no longer had an ethical basis for decisions or actions. People did not espouse any concept of consequences like the karmic law of cause and effect, which western civilization found in the East during that same time, but did not widely accept until much later. With religions often operating at the extremes and religious leaders acting in materialistic or perverted hypocritical ways, outdoor organizations, in many cases, actually now serve the purpose of educating people about God, Goddess, Great Spirit, Allah, Yahweh, All That Is, whatever you want to call It.

John Muir founded the Sierra Club in 1892. The Sierra Club’s primary purpose was to educate people about how to live and take recreation in harmony with nature. The Sierra Club initiated the idea of national forest preserves that became our national forests. The early Sierra Club defended and helped maintain the sanctity of our national parks. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, Boy Scouts of America and other groups began to talk about the concept of minimal impact that later became Leave No Trace, which is a sort of environmental Golden Rule, or outdoor law of karma. The US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service cooperatively produced a pamphlet in 1987 titled, “Leave No Trace Land Ethics.” In 1990, the Forest Service in conjunction with the National Outdoor Leadership School established a national education program of Leave No Trace, to work with the Forest Service instructions for motorized recreation called Tread Lightly. Low impact education is now offered through the Leave No Trace non-profit group and many other organizations all over the world.

The basic summary of Leave No Trace is formalized into seven principles:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Visit LNT.org for an expanded explanation of each principle.

The Leave No Trace principles could even be extrapolated into a business philosophy, a way to create true sustainability on earth. If we could operate industries such as mining and logging using long-term Leave No Trace principles, this would accomplish sustainability, in fact, not just in name. Most sustainability advocates are working too gradually, offering proposals that make industry just slightly greener in baby steps, rather than rethinking from the ground up. Again, just like the issues with Big Oil, and in our own private lives, these changes are often easier said than made, but we need to step up the pace, if the changes are to do any good, or stave off the destruction that is already under way.

More on Leave No Trace, how children and grownups learn ethics, or not, and how to live responsibly, in future blog posts in this series…

(Continued in the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 3.”)

References:

Walking Softly in the Wilderness: The Sierra Club Guide to Backpackingby John Hart

The Sierra Club Wilderness Handbook edited by David Brower

The National Outdoor Leadership School’s Wilderness Guide by Mark Harvey

Leave No Trace: A Guide to the New Wilderness Etiquette by Annette McGivney

Wikipedia Leave No Trace Entry

The Life of St. Francis of Assisi by St. Bonaventure

I Would Apologize Too: A Letter To Mother Earth

August 23rd, 2012

I Would Apologize To Mother Earth Also, Except That Implied In An Apology Is The Intent To Stop Committing The Offense, Which I Am Working Toward, But Have Not Yet Achieved…

Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Something about fast food, the Catholic Church, electric wires powered by San Francisco’s electricity grid and a sky turned apocalyptic in a pleasant Photoshop surprise, seemed appropriate to post again with this would be apology. Available as an archival fine art digital print.

(See the photograph large, “Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California.”)

Recently master photographer Youssef M. Ismail of Organic Light Photography wrote a blog post titled, “I’m Sorry – An Open Letter To Mother Earth.” This beautifully written expose is also an openhearted lament for what we humans have done to our home planet Earth. Echoing Youssef M. Ismail’s sentiments, talented photo blogger Monte Stevens made a blog post in his own words that he called, “I also apologize.” I would like to continue the trend and the tradition by adding my own message to the conversation.

The Holocaust?

I was also inspired to write this blog post by the holocaust that is currently transpiring. That’s right, I said holocaust: bigger than any holocaust we’ve ever seen of humans. I’m talking about the animal holocaust, the wholesale slaughter of our feathered and furry friends and relatives, directly by murder and indirectly through the destruction of their habitat.

Part of what also inspired me to write this letter to Mother Earth was an article in the current issue of Rolling Stone by Bill McKibben called,  “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math: Three Simple Numbers That Add Up To Global Catastrophe – And That Make Clear Who The Real Enemy Is.” Bill McKibben has authored important books such as The End of Nature, The Global Warming Reader: A Century of Writing About Climate Change, American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau with Al Gore, The Age of Missing InformationDeep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future and others.

“Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math”

In his Rolling Stone article, Bill McKibben reminded us that in 2009 world leaders signed the “Copenhagen Accord” agreeing that the most our civilization can survive is a two degree Celsius increase in global temperature. Two degrees is the fatal first number. Scientists estimate that we can pollute the atmosphere with approximately 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide and still remain below the two-degree safety limit. This is the safe second number. Engineers have since calculated that the amount of carbon in proven coal, oil and gas reserves is five times what will produce the pollution to exceed the safe two-degree temperature increase. That is, we have more than 2,795 gigatons of carbon already discovered and big oil and energy companies are still looking. This third and scariest third number is the amount of carbon already known, that if burned, will produce a planet 11 degrees warmer and “straight out of science fiction,” wrote Bill McKibben. This means that we need to convince Big Oil, gas and coal companies to keep 80 percent of fossil fuel in the ground. What it comes down to is that as a species, we humans need to let go of greed, the fear of not having enough, to survive. Strange that it’s necessary to let go of the fear of death to avoid experiencing it.

Is “Big Oil” Or “You And I” To Blame?

Therefore, to begin with, after I stop doing it, I will apologize to planet Earth for my part in continuing to drive automobiles and run other engines that burn fossil fuel, thereby supporting and fueling big oil’s greed addiction. For more on Big Oil’s greed addiction, see the blog post, “Exxon Profits $11 Billion As Oil Prices Skyrocket.” I drive much less than the average American, diligently combine trips and carpool, stay home a lot rather than “going out,” but I am still part of the problem. I could blame it on the car companies for not offering me convenient and reasonably priced alternatives, but other options are out there and have been for some time. There are diesel conversions to make it possible to burn biodiesel and there are electric vehicles available now, bicycles, horses, no I’m not joking, and many other ways of getting around besides petroleum powered automobiles. I live in a rural area and notice that many of my neighbors will drive the 54 miles round trip to Quincy, California or the 212 miles round trip to Reno, Nevada, several on the same day. If these neighbors took a little time to communicate with each other, or set up a system to notify each other when they would drive to town, we could all make travel and errands into social events. We are so addicted to convenience that we often “take separate cars” to the same event.

Alternatives have existed for cleaners, detergents and other household soaps and products for many years. I am sad that I have been aware of these alternatives for at least 20 years. I have made a point of using some of them, but up until the last few years I still used some toxic cleaners and other household products. Detergents that contain phosphates inevitably work their way into streams, rivers and lakes fertilizing algae and causing it to grow out of control killing native fish and other water dwelling beneficial insects, animals and plants.

I do recycle, compost and have a grey water system saving water and energy, but I could do much more. I eat locally when I can, but I often eat foods from far away lands, thereby increasing the fuel costs and my carbon footprint. I will apologize for this too, when I stop doing it.

Is Meat A Problem?

I still eat meat, but need to cut back. Humans are meant to be omnivores, not gluttons. In North America, the sustainable practice would be to get rid of the cattle that are destructive to the land, inefficient with resources and provide a lower quality meat that has a higher fat content than meat from the original native species: buffalo, or the American Bison. It is not the eating of meat that is a problem, but the quantity that Americans consume that poses a resource problem. If Americans reduced our meat intake just 10 percent, we could feed 60 million more people around the world. Science has proven we eat many times the protein necessary for our health, not to mention the consumption of fat and grease that leads to many diseases. For the overeating of protein, I apologize.

I apologize to Mother Earth for the toxic substances I use in my everyday life. I feel remorse for being naive and thinking government agencies are here to protect the public from poisons and other harm, when agencies such as the FDA, FTC, DEA, FAA, FCC, FDIC, ICC, NIH, and SEC are corrupt. Government agencies fill their board of director seats with executives from the very companies they are supposed to regulate.

Junk The Junk

Americans receive almost four million tons of junk mail every year, the equivalent of 62 billion pieces, about 240 mail items for every man, woman and child in the country. I am sad to admit that at most times in my life I have not had time to sit down and write every company that sends me junk mail asking them to desist. One year I did do this and had about six months of blissful junk free mail where I only received the mail I wanted before the whole process started all over again. I apologize for not having gone through the process all over again.

Coffee filters, paper towels, paper napkins and other household paper products are not naturally white. I will apologize later when I have stopped adding to the use of these products and instead opt for unbleached paper products or better yet, use washable or recyclable cloth napkins and towels. The bleaching of paper creates dioxin, which is a deadly poison that wipes out all living things in its path through our disposal and waste water systems.

More Apologies To Apply?

I apologize for having kept my hot water heater on high until recent years when I turned it down to a lower setting and bought insulation to keep from wasting heat and maintaining higher energy and carbon use than necessary.

I apologize for the times in my life when I didn’t recycle. I am sad that on those occasions I didn’t take the few minutes necessary to find out what company did the recycling in the area I lived.

Toxic paint both interior and exterior has surrounded me most of my life, but whenever I had to paint anything, I didn’t necessarily use the most Earth friendly product. I didn’t want to spend the extra money or do the research. I apologize. Paint and paint products account for over 60 percent of the toxic chemicals that private individuals dump into landfills.

At certain times in my life I drove on worn out, nearly worn out, unbalanced or under inflated tires, which alone wastes up to two billion gallons of gas per year in the US. I apologize that sometimes when buying tires I have gone the most economical route rather than purchasing the longest lasting, most fuel efficient tires, or just as stated above, cutting down on driving altogether. I have often not paid attention to rotating and balancing tires every five thousand miles.

Simple Actions For A Longer Life On Earth

In the book 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth authors John Javna, Sophie Javna and Jesse Javna explain that we can have a significant effect on the environment simply by maintaining major appliances such as refrigerators, range stoves, air conditioners and others. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy estimates that if each of us only increased the efficiency of our appliances by 10-15 percent, we would decrease the demand for electricity by about 25 large power plants nationally. I still use some inefficient appliances, but of course filling landfills with old ones just to replace them with new ones only compounds the waste problem. I apologize for not having phased out old, inefficient appliances a few times when I had the chance.

My list of apologies and promised apologies for the future could go on and on. Here’s just a few areas where I notice that either myself or my neighbors are doing more than our share to destroy the environment and continuing to do so, while we pay lip service to being sad and sorry about the state of our world:

–       Leaving water running while brushing teeth or doing dishes

–       Washing dishes with a dishwasher (hand washing uses half the water)

–       Forgetting to get tune-ups and other car maintenance on time

–       Buying and driving gas guzzling autos

–       Using non-rechargeable batteries

–       Not Recycling Alkali batteries. The technology does exist.

–       Not bringing our own shopping bags to the supermarket or grocery store

–       Having our own shopping bags in the car but not remembering to bring them into the store

–       Wearing bleached clothes that very often also contain formaldehyde

–       Using traditional oven cleaners

–       Using permanent ink markers and pens that contain harmful solvents

–       Maintaining a lawn in an arid climate

–       Buying food or other products from places that use Styrofoam

–       Using paper plates and plastic tableware

–       Choosing plastic over other materials in products

–       Failing to research products we buy to be sure they are not polluters or wildlife killers

–       Investing in polluting companies, big oil, and other Earth destroying industries

–       Not having your home heating system properly tested, tuned up and maintained

–       Keeping the heat on in your home or office when you are not there

–       Keeping any lights on in your home or office in rooms you are not in

–       Throwing away magazines and newspapers without recycling or donating

–       Purchasing foods that use extravagant packaging for marketing advantage

–       Using disposable landfill choking diapers rather than cloth washable diapers

–       Keeping all or most of the lights on at night in your business

–       Using disposable cups at work rather than bringing your own from home

–       What else are you wasting or neglecting to save?

If you are guilty of any of the above, you are helping to spell doom for our home planet Earth. It is easy to look at the vanishing beauty in nature and at environmental destruction and point the finger at someone else, or disconnectedly say that we will have to do better. However, if each and every one of us took more small actions each day, it would make a gigantic difference. We have to vote with our pocketbooks, as they say, and through our other choices to ensure the survival of our own planet Earth. I apologize for usually doing too little too late myself.

Our Addictions

One of the main issues is that as a society we have become addicted to convenience. We have also allowed television and other major media to program us to want more than what we have as a general practice. My father used to say that the secret to happiness in this world is to want less, to desire less. What we must seek if we are to live is long-term prosperity, not abundance at the expense of the air we breathe, the water we drink, or the wildness of the natural world within which is the preservation of the Earth, as Henry David Thoreau warned us.

Are you, dear reader, apologetic?

To learn more about living lightly through the ahead-of-their-time example set by Ardis and Philip Hyde, see the blog post, “Living The Good Life 1,” For a lively discussion on creating a sustainable world and related issues see the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 1.”