Dagdha's Blog

Gaian Disconnect

Posted in Uncategorized by dagdha on February 22, 2012

In a couple days I’m going backpacking in Joshua Tree, by far one of my favorite national parks. Unlike Yosemite, the Disneyland of our national park system, Joshua Tree rarely sees busloads of tourists who think an RV constitutes camping. I think most people view the desert as a barren wasteland, either too hot or too cold to be enjoyable, so they rarely invest the time required to appreciate her subtle yet elegant beauty.

When I was two or three, I vaguely recall watching my parents frantically pitch our old blue A-frame tent as hail started falling in Bryce Canyon.  A few years later I vividly remember camping on the beach with my dad and visiting the coastal tide pools, filled with crabs, shark eggs, starfish, and a veritable cornucopia of other marine life. Countless other memories of national parks and camping trips color the canvas of my childhood, and I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to have these experiences, especially when most of the people I know have never seen an unadulterated night sky or heard true silence.

Nowadays there seems to be a disconcerting proliferation of news stories about ecological distress at an accelerating pace, but the rate of environmental remediation doesn’t seem able to keep up with its destruction. I won’t belabor the well-established facts of mindless over-consumption that is the basis for this crisis, or the tools used to create such naive, inbred behavior. Instead I think it’s more useful to address the disconnect between acknowledging the issues and the lack of subsequent action.

The unfortunate truth is that most first world countries, namely the populations most responsible for our ecological deterioration, live in virtual realities constructed with concrete, plumbing/irrigation, and an ill-perceived notion of what really constitutes nature.  In perfectly planned cities, filled with green vegetation (kept alive artificially by imported water), our perception of nature is skewed by geometrically Euclidean architecture.  People in cities and suburbs grow accustomed to clean lines, neatly defined boundaries, and conveniently placed plots of grass, imbuing a false sense of durability and sustainability, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

The problem lies with a lack of direct communication with nature, not in the James Cameron Avatar sense, but in the form of tangible experience.  Too often I meet people who can’t comprehend the appeal of camping, preferring the temperature controlled, “sterile” environments of civilization, yet they have never spent a night sleeping under the stars.

On some level I can understand the naysayer sentiment. Regrettably I occasionally fall victim to apathy when it comes to camping, but any hesitation quickly dissipates once I escape the confines of civilization and the horizon becomes distinctly more organic.  The farther I travel, the more enthusiastically happy I become. With each mile I feel the weight of everyday expectations lift off my chest, allowing me to breathe the distinctly cleaner air more easily.  And when I finally reach my intended destination, ideally as far away as possible from the general population, I’m overcome with a serenity unlike anything attainable amidst the noisy chaos of society.

Only in nature can you appreciate the overly conceptualized idea that the Earth is a living organism and the fragility of her systems.  We only really notice nature when her immense power disrupts our artificial realities, giving us the impression that she is stronger than our creations and therefore more durable.  Just like our bodies fighting off infection, however, the Earth can only tolerate so much before irreparable damage is done.

Although I admire and support the collective efforts of conservation agencies like Green Peace and even the Earth Liberation Front, I think the  easiest and most effective approach for stimulating change is simply going outside (of civilization). If sleeping outdoors isn’t appealing, then go for a hike and explore the vast, untamed beauty of nature. There is an addictive clarity of mind and spirit easily accessible to anyone if s/he isn’t afraid of a little dirt, but that won’t always be the case unless things drastically change in the next couple of years.

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