Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Experience as a Survival Imperative, for Humanity and Our Earth

Elemental Beauty - Image c Lynda Lehmann 2009


A few days ago I read Robb's post Troubled Waters, at Musings at Aorotea. Robb's posts always resonate with me. They speak truths that many of us don't take the time to articulate, and his passion and wisdom inspire me. You might want to go over to read it and see if you feel the same way. Robb's heartfelt post moved me to write this related post.

Thinking about Robb's words, I remembered canoeing on stretches of the Delaware in places where my oar could not cut through the tangle of weeds nurtured by fertilizer runoff from surrounding farms. It was literally impossible to pull an oar through that underwater thicket. I'm sure that over the years, many would-be canoers have had to turn back when the going got tough, as we did. It was difficult and very sad to have to explain to our then six-year-old daughter, why we couldn't continue downstream.

I've seen pristine jewels of azure blue lakes nestled in the hills of New Hampshire, glistening in the sun, only to find out that they are dead from acid rain. NOTHING lives in them. I've also discovered other gems of lakes not in proximity to towns or industry, that are fighting infestations of Eurasian milfoil, an invasive aquatic plant.

I've seen a small local lake fouled by the waste of a single diaper containing fecal material. How irresponsible and unnecessary it was for that thoughtless person to pollute the crystal clear water with a disposable diaper, full of human waste! Our waterways are not garbage cans.

It's imperative to our survival on this Earth, for us to treat all aspects of the natural world with reverence. It is our precious planet that sustains all life, and we should not foul or squander our resources.

It seems we will be in an eternal struggle with what is pure and magnificent, in trying to build the edifices of human technology. At this rate, our realizations will come too late. I'm naturally an optimist but the writing is on the wall: man subjugates Nature. At least, he tries to!

It's not that we INTEND her destruction. But our profit motives and limited perspectives keep us anchored in an acquisition mentality, instead of an experiential mentality. It seems that we have given ourselves up to fear, and in trying to assuage our chronic, creeping fear--of loneliness, deprivation, scarcity, enmity--we forget about the imperative for pursuing EXPERIENCE. When we don't take time to experience the natural world, life becomes stale and much less meaningful. And then we forget to take care of Planet Earth, who sustains us and delights us with her beauty, as well.

We live in cages of our own device. Our complacency makes us accomplices as we further plunder the Earth in ways that are destructive and unsustainable.

When I'm here in the forests of Maine, feeling the embrace of the natural world, I sleep in peace.... I think we would all sleep better all the time, if we found our political will and took a stand on environmental issues that effect our collective survival.

What's the most joyous experience you've ever had, in encounter with nature? On the other side of the coin, have you run head-on into any form of environmental destruction that was clearly wrought by humankind?

29 comments:

  1. I wrote a post once called Death of a Stream. After reading your post I'm going to try to write a post on pollution at lest once a month.

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  2. I like to focus more on how things are improving, because there are many efforts all over the globe and what we focus on becomes stronger ... Maybe it is my imagination, but after four months abroad, being back in Amsterdam it seems to me that the air pollution is a little bit less ... maybe because everyone is on holiday, but who knows a sign of improvement ...?

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  3. Unfortunately, far too many people in the state I live in seem to DELIGHT in the destruction of nature. I think that anything "wild" terrifies them because it's unpredictable and can't be controlled. So they cut down the trees in their yards, let their dogs run loose and kill the endangered whistle pigs, pour oil into storm drains, etc. and get angry and say "There's no such thing as global warming" if challenged.

    Tragic.

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  4. Kia ora Lynda,
    I am honoured and humbled by your words.
    So much of our non chalance towards polluting the earth in singular ways, dropping a gum wrapper in the forest, or a fecal filled nappy in a lake, is exactly our disattachment from what is around us, and what we should be cherishing the most. I wonder how much of that is drilled into us by the way our system treats the Earth, as a product for us to use and abuse. Once we escape that cage, as you put it so well, that is one more person who will no longer drop gum wrappers, or nappies, and will stand up for all our wild places. One at a time. Kia kaha Lynda!
    Aroha,
    Robb

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  5. Oh Lynda this is very nice post. You know I get very angry when I see McDonalds garbage being thrown out the window on the highway. There are things I just don't understand. You should see my packets sometimes, lol, they are full of candy wrappers [yes I have sweet tooth sometimes, lol], notes, but I never have guts to throw it out as those McDonald's consumers. Excellent post for the environment Lynda. Anna :)

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  6. Hi Lynda!

    We live near the Guadalupe River. It's a beautiful place we are fortunate to have and enjoy.

    There are a lot of people who desecrate the river. I cannot tell you how many times I have come home with bags full of trash left by others. I do not know why people can't take their trash with them.

    Perhaps they don't realize fish and animals may eat their rubbish? They could be hurt by their crushed aluminum cans or suffocated by their plastics.

    Excellent post!

    Have a wonderful day!

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  7. ROBERT - Speaking of writing, much of mine has been about the environment. I wrote a couple of young adult novels with Gaia and earth stewardship themes, and I hope to revisit them at some point, edit them some more, and send them out.

    Posting on our blogs about environmental issues is a good way to raise consciousness, too. I think people hear dire warnings on the news, and then block the whole environmental theme out, without really thinking about the implications.

    Maybe you can re-post "Death of a Stream" or write some new pieces with Earth themes!

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  8. ANNE - I think it's good to focus on what seems to be improving, so we don't despair, while continuing to remind ourselves that so much more needs to be done. We need a new mindset, as inhabitants of our planet. She is our umbilical, connecting us to LIFE.

    I'm happy that the air in Amsterdam seems better to you, and hope that it isn't just a seasonal variation.

    xxxx

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  9. Hi Lynda,

    Magnificent text, darling!

    "What's the most joyous experience you've ever had, in encounter with nature?" - I am a total city girl, but from times to times I like going to the woods in Sintra (http://www.cm-sintra.pt/SintraImagens.aspx) and enjoy its music. There is something mystical about the woods that simply brings out the best in me. I get to ground myself and have esoteric experiences, which is amazing. Now, the most joyous experience I had was when I visited the woods near The Penha Palace (in Sintra) and it could swear that the trees were conversing with me - it was very mystical and peaceful.

    "On the other side of the coin, have you run head-on into any form of environmental destruction that was clearly wrought by humankind?" - our beaches (along Cascais area) were polluted a long time ago (now, they are quite clean - thank God); but I remember that you would see human waste, diapers and pads floating on the sea (it was disgusting). But not anymore...now they are so clean that even jelly-fishes can be seen near the sand.

    Here's to a better care of our environment, Lynda!

    Cheers

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  10. CONDA - I know a lot of people like that, too. I think it's so hypocritical to disregard the Earth and our larger, collective good in favor of personal convenience (like pouring old oil into sewers or drains).

    I feel sorry for those people, because they seem to be mired in a self-centered paradigm that precludes feeling connected to the universe, or to humanity as a whole.

    For me, most of the joy of my life comes from feeling connected to larger things, and I don't mean that in the way of religious orthodoxy. I mean it from an existential, experiential viewpoint.

    Thanks for your visit, dear Conda. :)

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  11. ROBB - I'm honored to have met you and all the other good people I've met on the blogosphere. I cherish my kinship with like -minded people: creative folks and lovers of the natural world. It's very comforting in this fragmented age, to go beyond the talking-heads hawking useless (or almost uselelss), dangerous products and exonerating only consumerism.

    Thanks for being you. Your passion for the wild and open spaces is a source of inspiration for all of us.

    BYW, what does "Kia kaha" mean?

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  12. ANNA - I have a sweet tooth, too, but like you, I try not to litter or pollute. It's destructive to do so and sets up more/further disregard for our surroundings. Litter begets litter, just like violence begets violence. And it's just not necessary.

    We want to leave a cleaner world for all the beautiful children like Matthew, who deserve to be inspired by the natural world and play in a safe, clean environment. :)

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  13. THE MUSE - Good for you, to pick up that trash! It really gets to me when well-off people, especially, who live in environmentally sensitive areas, show disregard out of ignorance and/or laziness. Like leaving the entire mess of garbage from a bonfire, strewn all over a beach or park. How selfish can one be?

    It's bad enough that our products and technologies produce so many toxins. Littering is only adding insult to injury. And I agree: those plastic yokes that come off cans and bottles, are certain death for birds and other animals who get them stuck around their heads and necks. :(

    How fortunate you are, to live near a river! I hope you continue to enjoy it as often as possible!

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  14. excellent post, it is so sad to see how much harm we do to nature. I've recently started looking after a stretch of a local river as a volunteer, it always saddens me how much rubbish there is there and how big a bag I need to take with me to clear the litter, but the good news is that the water is a lot less polluted than it used to be and the wildlife is better now than it was say ten years ago.

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  15. MAX - Sintra looks to be quite a beautiful and historic area.

    But of course I could not read a word on the page! Are there a lot of ruins and old monasteries, or do mostly estates comprise the wooded areas?

    I too, have those kinds of experiences in the woods. I have felt the forest become more real than real, if that makes any sense, as it embraced me with its whispering foliage. I am so happy in the forest, that I feel it's a form of joyous insanity.

    The peace I feel is endlessly satisfying and nurturing to my spirit, especially as I watch the behaviors of wildlife or the changes in water, sky, foliage and terrain.

    So we have that mystical feeling in common. It's a blessing to feel this way.

    Loving the mystery of the natural places will keep us attached to the idea of preserving it for future generations.

    I'm glad your beach areas are cleaner than they used to be. I think that in the States, we have also seen much progress. But other polluters move in to make us regress, mostly corporations in the name of profits. They tread heavily on sacred ground.

    Personally, I think that any actions that degrade the Earth are a sin against Creation, no matter what the religious creed (or the lack of it) that one pursues.

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  16. Crafty Green Poet - How good of you to take it on yourself to clean up an area by the river! It not only looks better afterward, but I bet it gives you a great feeling, to do it!

    It IS so sad to see areas neglected, or maligned by dumping, etc. We spring from the Earth. And we take from ourselves whatever we frivolously take from her!

    Keep up the good work!

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  17. Kia ora Lynda,
    Kia kaha is Maori - the indigenous people of New Zealand or Aotearoa - amd means Be Strong or Remain Strong.
    Aroha - Love,
    Robb

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  18. Kia Kaha and Aroha to you, Robb.

    :)

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  19. You have a way with words Lynda, and these ones are no exception.

    We need to take care of our planet so she can continue to take care of us.

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  20. In my years in the same place, a NYC suburb in NJ, I've seen things vastly improve here. Rivers and lakes that were once toxic and dead are revitalizing and teeming with life once again. I think we've come a very long way since the 1960's and 1970's when most of the waterways near me were a dead, polluted soup of toxicity.

    The work will continue and things will get better. The earth is resilient.

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  21. Lynda:

    I spent nearly thirty years of my life working in environmental management and regulation; and, I can tell you from all those years of experience, that it's a difficult job. Many people who claim, on the surface, to be environmentally sensitive, including members of certain national organizations, are, in fact, as destructive as those they accuse of wrong doing. I have seen it first hand.

    In my opinion, pure politics is one of the most destructive environmental killers of all time. I say this because I have seen republicans and democrats alike doing unbelievable damage through their environmental policies. On the other hand, I have also seen fantastically effective policies and laws go unnoticed because they were promulgated by the opposite party---in most case even over turned. The stupidity is criminal.

    The fact is, the best environmental program is personal. If each one of us do what we can, and I don't mean protesting, I mean to educate ourselves, and being careful not to pollute, or to damage (your case of the baby diaper) we could do immense good for the planet. But on the national front, as long as the feuding between our political parties continues, the earth will suffer. In the US it is not capitalism or greed that pollutes, it's our irresponsible politicians. They enact laws and programs, but then don't allocate adequate funding. It's always the same---pass the buck as far down the ladder as it will go, and then accuse the other party of non compliance. It's disgusting.

    It is an important subject with me, and I continue to support practical and intelligent environmental progress.

    If I could make one law, it would be for a mandatory class in ecology and the environmental in grade school and one class as part of your General Education classes in college. Let's educate our population.

    Happy trails.

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  22. Lynda,

    "Sintra looks to be quite a beautiful and historic area. "

    It is indeed :D.

    "But of course I could not read a word on the page! Are there a lot of ruins and old monasteries, or do mostly estates comprise the wooded areas?"

    You couldn't? On the upper corner (on the right) there is a UK flag: if you click on it, you will be led to the English version of that page.
    Ruins...not many; but there is the Pena Palace (Palácio da Pena http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pena_National_Palace), there are some convents and monasteries (if they haven't been converted into hotels yet). You also have The Seteais (which is absolutely dreamy - I have spent there one of the most delightful afternoons of my life) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seteais_Palace...and some others.

    "I too, have those kinds of experiences in the woods. I have felt the forest become more real than real, if that makes any sense, as it embraced me with its whispering foliage. I am so happy in the forest, that I feel it's a form of joyous insanity."

    "more real than real" it makes perfectly sense...it is like you belong there and not in your own reality, right?

    "The peace I feel is endlessly satisfying and nurturing to my spirit, especially as I watch the behaviors of wildlife or the changes in water, sky, foliage and terrain."

    I hear you!

    "So we have that mystical feeling in common. It's a blessing to feel this way."

    Yes, we do :D! Amen.

    "Loving the mystery of the natural places will keep us attached to the idea of preserving it for future generations."

    I do my part, Lynda. You know, we still have a lot to do about this, here in Portugal, but I think we are the right path...

    "But other polluters move in to make us regress, mostly corporations in the name of profits. They tread heavily on sacred ground."

    I know what you mean. Thank Heavens industries, here, are cooperating.

    "Personally, I think that any actions that degrade the Earth are a sin against Creation, no matter what the religious creed (or the lack of it) that one pursues."

    I utterly agree with you, darling! In a way it is a sin against ourselves too.

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  23. Yes, MAX, it's a sin against ourselves too, because we are part of Creation.

    Thanks for the links and info. I did not even think to click on a flag, if I even SAW it. I saw lots of intriguing photos and my eye was drawn to them.

    I will go back when I have a breather. Thanks for sharing part of your world with me. :)

    We are in the thick of it here. I will be painting doors and moldings every day for the next two weeks, at least!

    I'm glad your industries are cooperating. Profit seems to be the highest motivation in America, and I'm sure that many people would agree with me. :(

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  24. KATHY, MAX, SWUBIRD and LAURIE - I value your comments and opinions, and will respond as soon as I can.

    I have to run out to get a new printer, as I have to fill new orders for prints asap and am stuck without a printer compatible with my new pc.

    As luck would have it, right in the middle of all this construction mayhem!

    Have a great day, my dear blogging friends! I hope to make my rounds as well, in the next couple of days...

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  25. Hi Pal! Since I moved up here I just love nature and find many places to enjoy it. But my favorite is a road in Saratoga Springs park where you drive through the most lovely grove of tall, tall trees. I love trees because they are so strong and resilient but yet are fragile at the same time.

    On the other side, I'm from NJ and lived a half block away from a superfund cite which was a functioning paint factory when I was young. So many people I loved and knew were physically affected by the negligence of their fellow man!

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  26. Great post Lynda, I see people all day long throwing garbage all over our Mall parking lot, they think nothing of it, such a shame, makes my blood boil.

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  27. KML - exactly. if we destroy our planet we destroy ourselves.

    thanks for your kind words, kathy. xxx

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  28. LAURIE - I think you're right about that. Things have improved in a lot of places, and some species have rebounded. And our collective consciousness is growing.

    Earth is resilient, and each spring it's so comforting to see the new life sprouting up everywhere. Still, there is so much to do to protect our planet, and especially in helping poor nations with sustainable development. The poorest nations do the worst degradation to their environments with clear-cutting and burning the forests. It's a dilemma. While we in the USA consume 20% of the world's resources, which is just as destructive. :(

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  29. SWUBIRD - that's the best idea yet: educate. not just a smattering, but in enough detail to have it make an impact on young minds and form a comprehensive picture, not just a token, piecemeal approach.

    i believe it, about the politicians. it's petty squabbling and a culture of "make the other guy wrong," that is helping to sink our ship. maybe we can't change that, but we can educate.

    in education, both parenting and earth stewardship are overlooked. yet they are both crucial subjects and are related in a meaningful way. it's about taking care of, what we say we care about. personal responsibility is the first and most important step for each/all of us.

    i've hoped to see more gov. and corporate accountability for decades--the lack of responsibility is one of my pet peeves. but we can't rail against the powers that be, without cleaning up our own acts.

    we have "duff" here for a lawn, all weeds and natural indigenous bushes and such. visitors have scoffed and suggested we "clean up" and plant a proper lawn but we don't, because this is better for the lake and water runoff from the forest, and for wildlife habitat. people always want the "other guy" to sacrifice. "not in MY backyard," they say.

    we say "yes, leave our backyard ALL NATURAL!" it's absurd to kill off large tracts of nature and then try to compensate by bringing pets and house plants into our homes!

    Swu, i hadn't realized that so much of your work experience was related to environmental issues. You've had a lot of experiences and you share them well.

    thanks for your input. sorry it took me so long to respond--been painting moldings for HOURS each day!

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