Art, Earth and Ethics 1 – The Abuse of Nature and Our Future

May 22nd, 2014 by David Leland Hyde Leave a reply »

Art, Earth and Ethics, Part One

National Forests, Spotted Owls, Environmentalism, The Abuse of Nature and Our Future

The Earth will survive, but will man survive on the Earth? – Philip Hyde
Secret Cove, Ponderosa Pine Trees, Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada of California in the distance, copyright 2014 David Leland Hyde. The water quality that gives Lake Tahoe its natural clarity and deep blue color were declining until environmental reforms in the Tahoe Basin turned the situation around. Lake Tahoe is clearer today than it was five years ago.

Secret Cove, Ponderosa Pine Trees, Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada of California in the distance, copyright 2014 David Leland Hyde. New Addition to David Leland Hyde’s Sierra Portfolio. The water quality that gives Lake Tahoe its natural clarity and azure blue color were declining until environmental reforms in the Tahoe Basin turned the situation around. Lake Tahoe is clearer today than it was five years ago.

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

My father, American landscape photographer Philip Hyde, and my mother Ardis bought 18 acres in 1956 for a few thousands dollars in Plumas County in the Northern Sierra Nevada of California. Plumas National Forest borders this land where I grew up, on two sides. Plumas National Forest also happens to be the top lumber producing national forest in the Lower 48 United States.

While my father was an artist and my mother a schoolteacher, my childhood friends were sons and daughters of loggers in Plumas National Forest and farmers in nearby Indian Valley. I remember conversations on both sides of the environmental equation. A good example of the nature of these discussions occurred recently. It was more of a one-sided rant than a dialog. A retired logger, who I consider a friend, and one of his friends, a claim gold miner, were raving about “those damn enviro’s.” Their comments were vaguely directed toward me, though also more general, offered in protest of all the injustices in the world and their own lives.

“I can’t believe the Feather River Land Trust won’t let us hunt ducks on the Heart K Ranch in Genesee Valley any more. We’ve been hunting ducks there for 50 years. Rich city people come up here and they don’t know anything about our way of life.” They were on a roll, fueled by beer and who knows what else. I did not intervene at first.

“There are no jobs left because of the enviro’s,” One of them said. “Yeah, and the damn Spotted Owl,” the other said. “Just because of one tiny bird, whole forests are closed to logging. What’s more important: one stupid little bird, or the economy? I’d like to take every one of those damn Spotted Owls and strangle them. People are the endangered species.”

I started to respond, but the old logger interrupted me, “We know what you’re going to say. You’re in cahoots with the wealthy Bay Area crowd. Don’t talk any of that rubbish in this house. I’ll throw you out.”

I rode my bike home and pondered how the above conversation has not changed for 50 or even hundreds of years either. What these hard working old guys fail to understand is that the Spotted Owl is only a symptom, just the tip of a very large iceberg. The ecosystems are breaking down and these few species that are dying are like advance warnings. Depending on your perspective, a few bees are not so important. “We can just get beehives to pollinate the crops,” another local said. Neither is it vital whether the local frogs can still reproduce, or whether any other single species, or single population of a species lives or dies. However, when you stop and think about how many human fertility clinics there were 30 years ago and how many there are now in every town, when you start to connect the dots, you begin to get the bigger picture.

The Earth is a web of all life. Everything is connected to everything else. You destroy one part of the web of life and you eventually destroy yourself. People reading this blog perhaps will say this is a “no-brainer,” that I’m not pointing out anything new here. True, but why are we as a collective not getting it? Not doing enough to change our perspective and our ways? Greed? Corruption? Selfishness? Lack of vision? Denial? Laziness? Pessimism? Resignation? What is your excuse for still driving a traditional car? …For burning fossil fuel? …For using plastic products? …For not recycling? Even hybrid and electric automobiles have a tremendous impact on the environment just through their manufacture and the mining extraction of the materials that go into them.

Is it really the environment that we need to save, or ourselves? When we act in ways that have less impact, carpool, ride a bike, is it truly on behalf of the environment? Is that the primary concern? Or is environmentalism really self-preservation? My father used to say that we do not need to worry about the Earth. It will be here long after we are gone. It is our own survival for which we need to be concerned. Therefore, are environmentalists in reality interested in protecting the environment at the expense of people, or precisely because it is our own future that is in jeopardy.

This paradox still escapes the majority of people in our culture. What do we do about it? I was lucky to grow up with both an environmental ethic and an art aesthetic. Care for the planet and beauty as a telltale of balanced health are ingrained in my psyche. Unfortunately, most people do not grow up as fortunately. To put in perspective how blindly oblivious and unaware some can be, take for instance one extreme case: this video of former Boy Scout leaders destroying an ancient rock formation in Goblin Valley State Park in Utah.

When I first saw this video of young men responsible for leading others into nature having no respect for nature, I was dismayed, not only about those committing the crime and their kind, but also about whether there is any hope for our civilization. What we fail to realize is that we are all taking actions much like these ignorant young men. Not only are there just enough clueless people like them running around that it is easy to fall into thinking we are doomed, but we are all clueless to a much greater degree than we understand. In the realm of photography, even many nature and landscape photographers seem to have no respect for nature or other photographers, as landscape photographer Sarah Marino reported in her photoblog post, in which she suggested a field etiquette for landscape photographers.

Regardless of misguided deeds and a destructive approach to nature by our whole civilization, I believe there is still hope. I am writing this new series of blog posts precisely because I believe there is something we may not yet know, something we have not yet discovered, some new information or new action that will save us. This does not mean we can sit back, relax, watch TV, play video games, surf Facebook and not worry. It means that we need to put all of our synergistic efforts and pooled resources into finding a solution. But are we likely to do that? That is the question.

A New Yorker article, Scientific American and Grist Magazine report that even many leading scientists believe it is already too late to do anything about Climate Change. Wow, that went fast. Many people still doubt and wonder whether it is reality or myth, truth or fiction. Those of us who have been reading the science know that it is based on much more than mere computer modeling. We know that the science of Global Warming is based on mountains of hard evidence and real measurements that are hard to misread.

The abuse of nature has gone on for thousands of years. It is even sanctioned in the Bible. Genesis says our role is to conquer and have dominion over the Earth. Fortunately, today large numbers of Christians are not taking the Bible literally. More moderate Christians are in favor of applying the passages in the good book that tout taking care of Earth.

In the recent winner of the Colorado Book Award, Dam Nation: How Water Shaped the West and Will Determine Its Future, author Stephen Grace covers the devastating state of water and drought in the Western US today. Water laws, originally developed in the much wetter East, protect the use of water channeled away from rivers and streams at the expense of in-stream ecological, aesthetic and recreational values.

As economies across the West surged, streams were dammed, ditched, and diverted until their beds were nearly bare. Many rivers became toxic trickles because they didn’t carry enough volume to dilute poisons and flush themselves clean. And each diversion for an offstream use, whether to grow crops, make steel or send drinking water to city taps, reduced the amount of instream flow available for supporting fish and wildlife populations, nourishing riparian vegetation, and promoting recreational pursuits such as boating, camping, fishing, and bird watching… To some, especially those profiting from raising beef on irrigated pasture—these uses seemed ridiculous at best, a threat to their way of life at worst.

Hoover Dam on the Colorado River helped supply the power to win World War II. After the War Hoover Dam was one of the underpinnings of the US rise to world power. Damming and diverting rivers has become as American as apple pie and as loved as baseball in the political arena, but the effects on watersheds, the durability of our limited fresh water supply and ultimately the health of the arteries of life on Earth is at stake.

On a larger scale, we are treating nature with the same abusive disdain across the globe. Are we lacking ethics or taste? Is it simply in our nature to be a parasite on the face of the Earth? Can we change? These and other questions, answers and ways out of the trap we have set for ourselves will be the subject of this new blog series.

(Continued in the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 2.”)

Please comment, email or write me through the Contact Form above what environmental issues, ecological concerns and related psychology and philosophy you would like to read more about.



  1. Tim says:

    I used to worry about things like this a lot, but then I learned that the Colorado River has been completely blocked by lava flows several times throughout its history. Hoover Dam is just like another lava flow, and will be gone in a blink of geologic time. So, I think we’re not really as dangerous to the earth as I used to think.

    However, I agree that we are dangerous to ourselves. I wonder what intelligent species will arise after mankind is gone.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Tim. Hoover and Glen Canyon Dams will be either gone, or probably sooner than that, filled in with silt. Are you implying mankind is intelligent? It could be debated, but I agree, we are intelligent. Our downfall is that we also are more driven by our desires and emotions than our intellect. Primitive when it comes right down to it, though not really primitive enough in the sense of staying in touch with nature, which is part of what I’ll talk about in future posts in this series.

  3. Phil Carson says:


    Just read your thoughtful essay. I think a good angle is to seek data on sustainable economic development through the enjoyment of wild lands vs. the extraction industries. That’s been my argument for Dinosaur’s preservation. But we’re in difficult times right now with folks who advocate destroying federally protected resources as some sort of protest against the “feds.” In Dinosaur, they’re smashing down gates and fences and running ATVs across virgin prairie. I picked up a bunch of dayglo orange skeet last week on a pristine overlook that someone thought should be their private range. The NPS rangers generally don’t get out of their vehicles unless it’s to hassle someone or clean a toilet. Couple angles there for discussion.

    Just saw your Boulder P.O. box at the bottom of the essay. Let me know next time you’re in town.

    Keep up the good work. I made (3) week-long trips into Dino this spring and have two more planned, if work and weather cooperate.


  4. Hi Phil, appreciate your coming back here for another visit. I’m sad to hear of more nature abuse, and worse, in a national monument. My father, David Brower and other associates worked extremely hard to help save Dinosaur from the Dam building vandals. It’s too bad their small time counterparts are still able to ruin such a special place. I’ll be back in Boulder most probably some time this year, even though I have my place there leased out for now. Glad you are visiting, valuing and photographing Dinosaur. More power to you.

  5. This is well written and has me excited for your next post. You strike some cords within me, saying it the way I’d like it said.

  6. That is a great compliment, Monte. Good grief, for the longest time I’ve been meaning to come visit your blog… not to mention put up my post that had your influence. Both will still happen, the former right now… Cheers.

  7. Sarah Marino says:

    When I took up landscape photography, I assumed that other photographers would naturally be interested in conservation or at least protecting the wild places they visit and photograph. That was a quite naïve assumption on my part. Just like any other group of people, there is a continuum of views on environmental protection and conservation among photographers. If even those of us closest to and fondest of special places cannot agree to protect them (or even treat them kindly), how can we expect the rest of our society to come to agreement on the same values?

    We headed out to hike around and photograph some scenic buttes on Colorado’s plains yesterday. I had not been to the area for a few years and was absolutely shocked at how many oil and natural gas wells had sprung up out of nowhere. Wind farms are also now surrounding the area, eliminating the beautiful views that used to exist. On one level, all of this domestic energy production is a positive geopolitical development for the United States. On another level, these wells have completely changed the character of the landscape and only signal our country’s addiction to oil. A lot of very complex issues come together in this one little spot. All this is to say that I can understand why good people disagree on these issues but the decisions we as a society seem to be making all seem so short-sighted, as summed up in this tiny little microcosm on Colorado’s plains.

  8. Tim says:

    Sarah: What a thoughtful entry. It’s good for me to be reminded that even folks who care about the landscape have different views on how that should be done.

    The wind farms especially bring up an interesting dilemma: they are generating electricity in a non-polluting manner, but they do change the landscape, so they aren’t completely good. I know that in the Columbia River Gorge area, there are laws that forbid certain kind of visual elements from the area, and so one wind farm had to either be in a different location or change the height of the windmills (I can’t remember) just so the windmills weren’t visible from certain spots. I’m not sure that is a workable solution, or even a good solution, as that only protects certain views, and doesn’t really protect the surrounding area.

  9. Hi Sarah and Tim, thank you for your insightful comments. Sarah, I’m going to lean on my father’s example to address your first paragraph because many of the who’s who of landscape photography today credit him with influencing them to use their photography for conservation. Your second paragraph and Tim’s comment I discuss further below. Dad’s personal belief was that those who photograph nature need to take an interest in conservation because if they don’t, nature may not be there any longer when they return. This has become true more and more. Steven Levine in his book “Planet Steward,” said that the reason he became a writer about the natural world was that when he returned to his childhood meadows and lands, they were paved over with asphalt and concrete.

    One of the issues is that the photographers who don’t care about protecting mother Earth, but only want to photograph her, either have not been outdoor photographers long enough to see dramatic changes to the places they like to photograph, as you have, or are very young and have yet to experience first hand how nature degrades at the hand of humans over time. Some nature and landscape photographers are merely roadside landmark postcard photographers and copycats. These types spend little time far away from the car. Therefore, there is little chance they will grow to love nature enough to help preserve her. Also, there are those who feel it is just not good business to mix conservation with ‘the business’ of photography, whatever that is. To me, landscape photography is a way of life, a passion and an art, more than a business. Funny because when I started out, I only promoted my father, which most people would consider a business, but I never did even then. It was always about long-term prosperity through conservation. That’s why I represent Dad. There are many occupations I could engage in to make more money, if I was only into business.

    Those who are interested in conservation need to remember we are in the ‘business’ of education. My father used to quote Aldo Leopold, “Recreational development is a job not of building roads into lovely country, but of building receptivity into the still unlovely human mind.” We all grow over time, either toward or away from nature. That’s what causes the continuum you mention, not necessarily merely that people have different views, which is of course a constant, but as you’ve probably seen, people also increase in environmental awareness and sensitivity as they learn and have more transcendent or just plain fun or interesting outdoor experiences.

    We cannot run our economy at the level of energy we now consume and successfully convert to solar and wind energy. These and all other alternative energy sources combined do not yet have the capacity to handle our energy use. Besides, as you mention, all of these energy sources have their environmental price and future endangering costs, just at a lesser rate than fossil fuels. Every wind turbine and every solar panel requires toxic chemicals to produce, mineral mining, and many other resource depleting extractions. My father also used to say, “The secret to happiness is to want less.” Some of the people on the planet who have the least are the most happy. This is a lesson we as a civilization must learn sooner or later. People hate the idea of “going back to cave man days,” but when we frame the debate in terms of the joys of simplifying, the sheer pleasure and freedom of living more simply and having fewer worries, a lot more people get on board and more will in time when they see the consequences of where we are headed now.

  10. Thanks for this great article, David!

    You might know about this Showtime series:

    Worth sharing with your friends!

    Are you in Boulder these days?

  11. Hi Bill, great to have your comment here and thanks for the link. I’ll look into that show. I’m surprised I didn’t let you know, I leased my place in Boulder out last summer. I’m in California at the family ‘homestead’ full-time. Well, I spent a lot of time in the Bay Area this winter working on Dad’s Smith Andersen North exhibition, but yeah, generally, I’m here in California. I almost came down to the East Side of the Sierra, Yosemite and your way this month, but the trip just didn’t seem to want to come together and I have become overwhelmingly engaged here for now. It’s nice to stay home. Though its funny, with all the running around, I still drive less than half as much as the average American does, whoever that is… and I do it in my Subaru Legacy Wagon that gets over 40 mpg, better than many hybrids.

  12. Oh, and one more item for Sarah, Tim and everyone else:

    Art and Photography. Can. Change. The. World.

    They are two of the most powerful forces that already have and already are…

  13. Mark says:

    Your Dad was certainly correct in that the Earth will be around long after we are gone for sure. I am just concerned with all the other species that have no choice in the matter that we will take down with us.

  14. No doubt, Mark. Excellent point. I write a little about the holocaust that is going on as we speak, the animal holocaust that is, far larger than any human Holocaust or Inquisition here: Thanks for bringing that up. I believe my father would have felt very sad about that too. He mourned small living things like flowers and butterflies, let alone the large mammals that are vanishing as fast or faster than the bees, in many cases.

  15. Russ Bishop says:

    Excellent post David. There are many differing opinions and conflicting information out there, but I do believe (as your father did) that our images can have a resounding effect on people.

    If a picture is worth a thousand words then let’s hope the beauty of the natural world has found its voice through our art. And that the emotional connection can in turn affect the voting, shopping and ultimately the protection of our natural resources for future generations.

  16. Hi Russ, I greatly appreciate your input. In addition to affecting how people vote, shop and their perspectives on conservation of natural resources, the aspect that many in the environmental movement either overlook completely, or don’t live nearly enough, is that conservation, besides protecting wilderness and restoring watersheds and other lands, also first and foremost means conserving resources, as in using less, each of us, ourselves, not blaming Congress or Big Oil, or the Coal Lobby for our own contributions to the problem. Keep making those beautiful photographs, Russ. They do raise awareness, no doubt about it.

  17. John Davison says:

    David…a very thoughtful and well reasoned article. Having had the good fortune to have known both your parents I have no doubt they would be in total agreement with your analysis.

  18. Hi John, Great to see you here. Thank you for saying that. It means a lot. Much of my own philosophy came from Dad. Though I didn’t and don’t agree with him on everything, I feel in his overall perspective he had it right… and that is probably one reason he was so quietly persuasive. These perspectives just make sense. They are lucid, sober and the addictions of our society and self-delusions and illusions have been stripped away. Talk about a huge influence on everyone he came in contact with. He was a walking wake up call, but he did it gently and with poise and class. I’m still learning from him. I tend to be the head on confrontive type, which definitely has its place and is absolutely necessary in some situations, but in general is not as convincing as his soft, easy, steady path.

  19. Hi David, had to comment after seeing the link Bill Neill posted. The co-producers of that show, Years of Living Dangerously, want to put sea walls on Nantucket beaches to save their homes. These walls will destroy our beaches and forever change our island. I guess it is a do as I say and not as I do kind of environmentalism!


  20. Hi Sharon, Interesting you point this out. There’s a lot of “Do as I say, not as I do environmentalism” going around. Truly, we are all guilty of it to one degree or another, as I allude to in the essay above, as well as the blog post I linked to in my reply to Mark Graf also above: One of the projects I would like to take on, if I didn’t already have an overflowing full plate, is to write an article in response to Bill McKibben’s peice, “A Call to Arms: An Invitation to Demand Action on Climate Change,” In the article, Bill McKibben is asking climate change concerned citizens to all join him in New York City to confront world leaders when they meet this Fall. The issue I have with all this is that such action is suggesting that the solutions are somehow primarily political. The idea is that if we can just get the US Congress to see the world could end, we’ll all be OK. Nothing could be further from reality. WE, THE PEOPLE, have to change our habits, or all the legislation won’t amount to as much as a large floating pile of plastic. I would like to ask the environmental activists who believe that Bill McKibben’s idea is a good one, how they plan to travel to New York City. Will they take a horse? A bicycle? A solar car? An electric car? A horse and buggy? I would bet a dollar that most of these so called environmentalists will get there on jet fuel or gasoline. A big issue today is that the petroleum culture and other abuses of nature are so ingrained in our civilization, it will take quite a bit of undoing, inconvenience and going against the grain to do something different. As Americans we are good at going against the grain up to a point, though most of us are easily herded by the media and manipulative politicians. Our biggest flaw, however, is our addiction to convenience. This will yet be our downfall, if nothing else. Call me a profit of doom if you like, but I’m saying that a true call to action goes much deeper than catching the next plane to New York for a fun-filled carnivalesque activism weekend. The main response I get to this line of talk is, “We have to start somewhere.” My reply is, that’s true. What are you doing to eliminate petroleum products of all kinds from your life? Usually it isn’t much, while the finger pointing at politicians continues. The sad thing is that many of those environmentalists are not conservationists. Many of them will leave the rally in New York and drive home in their SUV’s believing they have done what needs to be done for the year to save themselves and the planet. Or even worse, they understand everything I’m saying here and know all about it, but are still making only minimal real changes in their own lives.

  21. Should have linked to our blog – this is the project that the producers are involved in –

    Money and political influence are hard to fight and this project will now be appealed.


  22. Hi Sharon, thanks for sharing the link. It seems to me there must be some financial gain for someone through the installation of the geotubes to “save” the Sconset Beach and bluffs on Nantucket. Usually money is what drives “environmental solutions” that don’t work and create more environmental damage. In the case of Nantucket, you have an escalation of destruction to wetlands, the bluffs and the beach. It is sad to see engineering methods that “ignore the facts, the science and the law,” as you wrote.

  23. That’s one of the really great thing about the year-round residents of Nantucket, David. We have a strong environmental community here who does recycle, ride bikes or walk, and practice strong environmentally safe practices. They do practice what they preach. There are very strong land conservation groups here. What we learned recently when Cornelia Dean and Dr. Robert Young spoke here is that coastal management programs need to be set up on a regional level so that we don’t get into the kind of battle that we have going on here.

    Our coastlines are in real danger from rising sea levels and from the people who want to barricade themselves from the effect of that. I agree that we have to stop our petrochemical dependencies and make rational policies that will leave the world a better place when we are gone.

    Thanks for listening, David.


  24. Great of you to return and share the links and your situation, Sharon. I’m happy to hear Nantucket is environmentally aware today. The island may meet a challenging fate one of these days as a result of climate change… which will not be easy for any of us. Nantucket does have some pretty heavy karma, having been the world headquarters of the whaling industry during its heyday. Depending on how you look at it, the same people living there today probably weren’t the ones responsible for the whaling, at least they aren’t in the same bodies, but some of the old money families and the wealth gathered there may be handed down from whaling days. You would know better than I. Regardless, all any of us can do to clean up the past is to examine it and learn from it, while putting most of our energy into creating a better future through our actions today. Glad to see you working on such issues.

  25. This is really a fine post and a good start to talking about this subject..or subjects…David.
    I am afraid that I am among the pessimists in that our society is controlled by money more than ever. With the downturn there were a lot of jobs lost meaning comfort of life as most know it was at the least threatened and for many destroyed. Employers seem to be taking advantage of this fact to wring the last little bit of work out of every person knowing that not only are there few opportunities elsewhere but there are many just waiting for the opportunity to replace some unfortunate worker. So more than ever, people are not looking at nature as a necessity but as a luxury they cannot afford. Nature may be what means life for humanity but for all too many money has replaced it in concern.
    Employers…aka “job creators”…at least the big ones, are in the position to undo all that many have struggled for…clean air, land set asides such as parks and reserves…in the desire to create more jobs. Whether they would actually add jobs remains a mystery as despite all bail outs and tax breaks, the job growth has been slow and often negative while banks sit on cash reserves.
    So while I think mass movement can make a difference, over the long haul money always seems to find away to take center stage and eliminate whatever stands in its way.
    Additionally, the number of people with little or no respect for nature seems to be growing. I recently visited one of my favorite waterfalls, only to find a beer party site with a few downed trees and a store of wood pallets for the next bonfire. The pile of empty cans was impressive. And the whole picture…well, I didn’t make one…but it was quite depressing.
    All of that doesn’t stop me from trying, but sometimes it feels like the wind is always in our face.
    I’m sorry for A) being such a downer and B) my lack of cogent assembly of thoughts. I just prattle and complain.

  26. I’m grateful for your comment, Steve. Pessimism is a natural reaction to being aware and in touch with what is going on and with your feelings in response. Even complaining is more constructive than denial and lack of action. In fact, if complaining eventually leads to action, it is a valuable step in the process. I believe with our addiction to technology that the disrespect of nature will continue and even worsen for some time. However, keep in mind that, as my father said, “Nature bats last.” I believe that the trends will change… and that mother nature has a few surprises of her own that will get our attention quickly and rejuvenate our respect more effectively than any of our rhetoric, rallies or revolutions. Those of us listening to nature now are in the minority, but I believe in time everyone will be listening closely. Whether by then it is too late, only time will tell. It would be nice to think that at least some of us in the human race can somehow demonstrate enough vision and influence to sway the masses. We’ll see.

  27. pj johnson says:

    Excellent post, and important issues David.

    While I tend to agree with Steve Gingold, and believe there won’t be much change until the power structure on this planet is turned on it’s head, eventually us humans will wake up to what’s at stake simply because there will be no choice. Like you said, only time will tell if it’s too late.

    Yes… nature bats last, and there are no extra innings. And yes… the earth will survive. Whether life as we know it will or not remains to be seen.

    That’s why we must continue to work for environmental sanity, and I applaud the efforts you’re putting forth with this series (hopefully) of posts.

    Carry on my friend…

  28. I applaud your efforts and awareness too, PJ. Your perspectives tend to introduce some yet unrealized wisdom.

  29. George Fluke says:

    Hi David, Thanks for providing this forum, a lot of good questions have been raised by yourself and others. If I can add anything it’s that it is time to focus , not rant. We’ve seen the enemy, and it’s us. (human behavior) Fortunately, in the last 4k years every question or concern about us has been addressed by philosophy, with any contradictions being a matter of decorum; what to do when and to what degree. All we have to do is make decisions for the right reasons. The easy decision is to care, and I believe the sincerity on all sides. Unfortunately our liberal generation equates caring and fairness with rational thought, and so paints opponents as irrational. Well there’s more to morality than caring and fairness , and if the goal is to win over those with a broader moral palate, then it’s ironic that those most invested in “saving” the enviroment are the ones who need to change first. ( Watch Jonathan Haidt on youtube)
    I was happy to see you acknowledge transendence as part of the wilderness experience because it’s the link to Art. In my talk at the Mainstreet Artists Gallery on July 11 , I made the point that transendence ca be produced by metaphorical Art, standing on a mountaintop, halucinegenic drugs or dancing all night with friends. Transendence isn’t a property of them, they just trigger it, as does anything that inspires AWE! Transendence is produced in the brain area known as the precuneous, and acts like a switch to shut down your sense of self, giving you that feeling of being one with the universe. So do we protect wilderness so that we can transend? Or do we protect it because it would be good in and of itself? And yet, if we had no emotional connection. . .
    The difference between 2wd and 4wd is that 4wd gets you further and deeper before you get stuck. We should feel lucky to have used all available tech to get 7 billion people this far and deep into the 21st century, because it’s taken this long for the social sciences to find our true motives. And if motives have any relationship to purpose or meaning in life, then we have a basis for defining the good life . The final irony is that the freedom we have in the western world that enables us to study human behavior, also blinds us by making us selfish and WIERD. (watch Jerad Diamond on youtube)

    giving giving you that feeling of being one

  30. Hi George, I appreciate your comment, loaded with provocative ideas. Your point is well taken regarding focus and ranting. Ranting is helpful and productive as a warm-up to, or call to focused action and discussion. However, when ranting replaces action or self-questioning, it is merely an escape, not a solution. Glad you mentioned Jonathan Haidt, as his work is a good addition to any discourse on ethics and morality. I like how he reminds us that because everyone thinks they are right, if you want to change people, you can’t just charge in saying, “I’m right and you’re wrong.” We first need to understand ourselves. I’ve said all along that environmentalists who drive SUVs, or even ANY kind of car, use plastic and other petroleum products, are as much part of the problem as anyone else. In Part 2 of this series, I discuss how asking the government to change the world for us is merely another form of insanity. We need to see the virtue, joy and liberation in living more simply–wanting less and using less. I like what you’re saying about transcendence too. Transcendence needs to be in any good definition of art. If you can write THE definition of art, I feel that anyone else can too, though I’m not convinced that everything requires or benefits from definition. Transcendence is caused by any good art and is found in wilderness, or even a small piece of nature, or looking up at the stars on a clear night. In this sense, a small park, a sculpture, or a painting can partly begin to replace the wilderness experience, but not in full. Art can remind us, or even trigger the feelings we had in wilderness, but the wild, if experienced for more than a few days, offers a much deeper sense of not only transcendence, but reconnection to who we are at a deep root level. Wilderness is thus the best 4X4 for an elevated experience. For my parents, mine and a number of thought leaders and founders of the Back To The Land Movement beginning in the 1950s, for these ideas and a discussion of “the good life,” see the blog series, “Living the Good Life,” beginning with Jared Diamond’s 19 minute video, “Why Societies Collapse,” is required viewing on these subjects: Thank you for also mentioning him.

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