You travel through space and its character changes. One place feels different from the next. But why? What has changed? What separates here from there? This from that? A border? A river? A county line? A mountain pass? An accent? The name of the chile in the omelette at the local greasy spoon? You'll find, often, that the true "nature" of a place is deeply coded into its most banal elements.
Imagine a drive from the Great Basin to the Great Plains. You can do this in a day. How many "places" will you see? What will be their character, their suite of aesthetic expressions and sensual impressions? What are the elements that define those spaces, that make them as they are and how do they reveal the forces that have shaped and continue to change them?
You are on Interstate 50, Eastbound. A blinding, billowing desert surrounds you, envelops you. Smokey blue ranges run North to South, and they coalesce and dissolve as you barrel along a 30' wide black ribbon you could cook on. This is your home, this road and route are, neatly, your realm. Time here is odd. So is the spatial dimension we call distance: you round a bend, skirting the toe of a mountain, and you glimpse the next one through which you're bound to find and trace some gap. It feels like it's 15 minutes away, and it's actually 50 miles off.
So you resettle yourself in your soaked seat and plod on. In the hotter-than-hell months, the sage and sweetgrass are baking, perfuming the air. There's a somewhat greener lining of the road -- just 18 or 20 inches of lush scrub running down each side of it, a bit less emaciated than the legion and drabbed expanses stretching to the horizon -- a gift of the rare moisture that slides across and off the edge of the asphalt, as waves of mirage sheet off the horizon. When you round a curve, you'll notice that the low side of the grade is twice as tall, and twice as green as the high side, the latter unblessed by the precious capture of dew and monsoon. You make your approach on that next pass and feel the engine struggle a bit as the climb begins, almost imperceptibly at first, and you wait for the cruise control to notice. You mount the crest, eye your next range, and settle into this next chapter, the same again, and different still.
Then things change. Or perhaps you just notice that they have. There's more iron in these rocks: they're pink and orange, supplanting the flat beige and grey—this new desert is painted, no longer baked, washed out and swept away into drab. The hills are made of something else, and are shaped differently : scree slides and frozen bajadas collar the buttes, thrust up in discreet locations, where before there were continuous, undulating sweeps of smooth dusky chaparral skinning the land, the mountains and gullies all peppered by volcanic black boulders. You drop down off some plateau you didn't quite realize you were on, and wind down through the breaks as the badlands give way to another lowland, scarred with arroyos. Now these begin to change, and you see they're now stuffed with desperate willows swarming some secret depth, though you never see water. The constant and syncopating frame of the road, The Fence, has evolved also: Its posts are now creosote, mesquite and alligator juniper limbs, no longer the ubiquitous steel U-posts of the BLM. The spacing of the barbed wire's posts is different, the barbs themselves are even tied a little differently if you care to look, as are the wires differently strung, ever so subtly.
The signs, too, have changed, and the culverts, and the pitches on the dwellings, which are very few and very far between. There's a new frame and truss logic for the high tension wires. Their concrete piers are cast differently, deeper for the deeper frost line. The cottonwoods clustered around homes are taller than they used to be, though they seemed like they barely used to be at all in the desert from which you've somehow emerged. There are no clouds, anywhere. A cornflower dome, expansive beyond understanding holds court, glaring down on one and all.
Remembering to slow down as you cruise through "town" is a task: going from 80 to 30 is a bit jarring. But there's probably one sheriff in this county who's looking exactly for you and your number to pay the town's water bill. And now you start seeing the signs of water, and the life that is its inseparable fellow. Green comes back into the world; whispers of the rhythms of agriculture begin to establish themselves. Not just the field and its rows, but of the accoutrements they entail and engender : gates are made out of old, scrounged farm equipment. Tractors and their kin, cannibalized to various degrees, slump in driveways, rusting into oblivion very, very slowly— the lack of water retards oxidation. The sun, however, is still beating to hell everything that isn't a tree. The little fluted gullies of the foothills are now laced with lime green, quivering stands of cottonwoods, and at some point there rises out of the distance a new range, this one straddling the horizon and clearly greater than its cousins out in the wash. In the distant periphery, huge splotches occasionally catch the corners of your eyes: an irregular field, an alkali lake? They're shadows of clouds, projected with a razor's precision onto the hardpan, flowing sheets of shade that silently slink along smoothly beside you.
The changes come more rapidly now: a river, wide and silted to the same shade as the land itself, rages to your right. The crops change : no longer the grasses of the parched expanse, the corns, barleys and alfalfas. These new crops are orchards, vineyards, melon farms. And as you crawl up the toe of the slope, they ebb away, gone and lost as quickly as they came -- some secret band of blessed conditions. The pinyons vanish now as you climb and the hills become steeper. The world's now raw granite shot with stands of shimmering aspen, stock-still sweeps of pine, spruce, and fir—huge swaths of them dead or dying, scourged and seemingly sucked dry by some boring beetle, leaching the color out of the land as the thinning air does the same. There are caches of fallen cottonwoods left out on the grazing meadows to season or rot, when hours ago there was no such thing as wood : none dead, drying or dying, never mind standing and growing.
You are tracing the river upstream, and it shrinks and breaks into its tributaries like a squadron spreading out on approach. It incises even as it attenuates, and appears to fall down and away as you climb : from a valley bottom flanking the road to a canyon's floor, then a shimmering ribbon lining the base of a gorge, lost from sight. The houses here are distinctly alpine now, and the cars are different, clearly the whole income bracket for that matter. There's snow now, too, and alpine meadows fade back into the world as you climb. These spaces--the forest, the meadow, range, the scrub and scree--they're playing some elastic game with each other : one fades as another becomes clear; two blur together to become a third; a fourth emerges to displace its forbearers and begins the game again, yielding yet another kind of place. You clear the timber line and the world is all bold, bleak, bald granite. Wisps of cirrus clouds loom, which don't appear to be things, but patterns painted on the very skin of the sky.
You crest the summit and the whole progression happens again -- unravelling this time in reverse. Yet this side of the range is different, nonetheless. You round a bend to spy a great, sweeping grassland fading to the sky of the east, black-bellied thunderheads lay to the south. The sumac scrub and oaks begin filling in, then supplanting the stands of pines as you plunge down through the flatirons and hogbacks, and by the time you hit the foot of the mountain you've left the forest far above and behind. And the foot of the mountain is a line. It is incredibly clear, a threshold, a shore of some kind : you cross this line and -- BANG -- that's it for the mountains. Maintain your heading, skirt the Oachitas and Ozarks and it'll be almost 1500 miles till you hit the Allegheneys and shake off the reaches of the Mississippi embayment once and for all.
But long before you reach that next, invisible range, you've got a few prairies to cross, and all the life that swirls about their evidently empty expanses. When dry, the prairie is bleak, bleached and boundless. One-stop towns crop up as staccato reminders that there are actually people still alive amongst these low rolling hummocks of short wild grasses and stubbled wheat. Dark clouds prowl low, raking the tops of the silos before giving way in a biblical deluge. The road steams, shafts of light slant back through, and the tempest is gone. A grain elevator materializes on the horizon, a dark smudge of the town's low, warped windbreak at its base. You race trains. Hours pile on and you realize that the land is changing, but that the evidence is more subtle and sly than before : The fence, again. No creosote limbs here. The gate. A different gauge of irrigation pipe. The mailbox post, the windmill, the well. Different materials, distinct forces, discreet forms. The plants and critters locked in their eternal loop of exchanging energies. These things belong to and are products of this space. Some stay, some go. Some do both and come back again. They feel related because they are. They fit. Obviously. Mysteriously. Indescribably. Inextricably. These are connections of consequence and contingence. And they define the sense of the place: the articulation, expression and embodiment of it. They describe it : a web of things in a field of space on a plane of ground shaping and shaped by all those things. Even the sky—especially the sky—is different in these differing places, and its blessings and hexes probably do more to define "the land " than anything else. Yet there is one sky. And one land : one skin of this earth comprising places beyond counting.
Perhaps you make the tallgrass prairie by day's end. A sea of grass, shadows of wind, slinking, sliding and spilling out across it; slipstreams swirling in swells and squalls out into the endless expanse of greens gone grey in the dying day. You see the sun down as the deafening cricket and cicada chorus imperceptibly slows and catfish and bass boil the pond before you, jumping for the dusk hatch, a riot of rises and their concentric ripples fanning the shore. The cranes and longspurs have long gone north, and seem to have left all the bugs behind. The smell of the air, the sounds of life. The breeze itself. A train floats along in the distance, tracks polished to seemingly converging lines of light itself. Peer around at and ponder the family of things that are in this place, of this place, that are the place. Sense their histories; their origins, possibilities and fates; their purposes; those who made and use them, and how and why. How they weather; how they wear;
their patinas; the palimpsest of their amalgamations and combinations. The stories all etched into the skin of these things. That is the landscape : The minutiae en masse. See these things, and you see far behind and ahead, in space and time, all at once. This is what it is to talk about the land.
We once used a chain to measure and subdivide the land.
It was 66 feet long.
That, multiplied by a furlong, is an acre.
So surveyors would walk parcels with this chain and count lengths,
adding links to the count where a fraction of 66 feet occured.
And as American was divvied up, these chains clinked their way West.
By the time the plains had been allotted, anyone who cared to measure would have noticed an odd thing.
The longer a surveyor had been in business, the larger his parcels became.
They weren't getting sloppy.
The chains were getting longer.
Decades of wear, tens of thousands of miles walked had secretly
ground and shaved down the interior circumfrence of the links, increasing their diameters imperceptibly.
Odd. The chain was such a stolid, solid, steadfast thing : a chain could never stretch.
The men who schlepped these things all over the country were bound to them.
Just as they were bound to find this out. Just as they were Westward bound.
Bound to a belief.
They all agreed it was static : this, the heart of the myth we tell again and again.
The chain proved that it was not. By its very use the chain betrayed its master's expectation.
With each little 'clink' the chain whispered of its real nature, its true fate and destination.
The chain knew. The miles and years knew. Maybe a surveyor here or there even knew.
The parcels, larger with each stretch of the chain knew it : they quietly proclaimed it.
They were bound to grow.
And the chain, from the very act of its components' diminution, was growing as well.
It was bound to.
"Be not cog upon gear
Nor spoke in the wheel
Be the salt in the tear
Know the rake of the keel.
Race nearly run
Tires weep to be done
Be the ghost in machine
Make it rattle and hum. "
- M. Varial
Things Fall Down
The Bottle Project
The Flicker in the Flame
In Baja I'd stopped for lunch in a tiny town. I was standing around in front of the cafe when an old woman--probably 70 or 80--wandered, humming to herself, onto the veranda. Her english was a hell of a lot better than my Spanish, and we started chatting. She asked why we came all the way down there to surf. It was a fair question : going to Baja was an ordeal, and you didn't need to leave La Jolla to get perfect waves. I said that getting away from the crowds was a big part of it, but I also said that Baja was beautiful. This isn't untrue, but for the most part Baja is bleak and harsh. And the lack of respect for the land was jarring : huge drifts of trash in all the zanjas, septic seawater near the municipal centers and detuned carburetors all rankled.
I didn't say any of that, but when I said Baja was beautiful, she shook her head and said, "It used to be".
She pointed at a fence festooned with all manner of junk laced into the barbed wire, an upright, grotesque mandala of windblown bags. "When I was a girl, we used to throw our trash off the back porch--but it would just dry up and fall apart." She patted my hand and moved on, humming softly. And she was right : back then there was so little in the way of synthetic materials and packaging circulating in the economies of remote Mexico that what she was saying was essentially true : everything was made out of something at least primarily organic, and it would break down and blow away accordingly.
Though the entire material ecology of the consumer culture had been transformed by plastics, the practice of throwing trash out the back door persists.
Waste is an Invention
On a canoe trip with a friend in Maine, we were talking about the legacy of the sawmills in the region and the paper making industry that had thrived in the dense northern forests. He nodded, and softly said, "Is that why the water's so dirty?" I looked at the river, expecting to see something alarming : a spill of some kind, a bunch of trash floating along placidly beside us. Nothing. Then I saw what he was seeing : the rivers in Maine in the summer run the color of black tea.
A massive leaf drop in the preceding fall is metabolised in the spring thaw, and the tannins in all those billions of leaves bleed into the water, tinting it. Also entailed in that exchange is a massive nutrient cycling and a keystone of the entire region's ecology. I don't know what he had expected : a Carribean blue or Sierran crystal, perhaps. I told him about the tannins, and he seemed mildly interested and in no way moved.
The lid of this ancient beer can says, "Don't Litter. Dispose of Responsibly".
We are creatures of the line.
We make lines, see lines where there are none, bend and break them. They connect us, divide us; lines define and deride us.
Lines connect other things, too, and separate them, delineate and obfuscate. They sharpen to blades and blur to fields. Get close to or far enough away from them and they are still lines. Lines are of the common tongue.
We drew lines with sticks in the sand twenty Millenia ago, our tongues less nimble, to show each other what we meant : the profile of a mountain range where the water was sweet or the hunting good.
Take your spear then, it is a line, or bring your bow and an arrow, three lines and the invisible one that leads it home. Or cast a line on which to pull a fish from a stream that is itself a line.
Then you'll eat, and perhaps, your line will last.
The silhouette of a beast to fear, the pattern tinted in its scales that spells fatality. The shape of one to follow, the shape of one to flee.
The oldest lines that mattered : game trails and their crossings, convergences, edges of territories. Migration lines; the invisible, inevitable, immutable destination toward which we are pulled on a line.
Lines of trade, silk roads and assembly lines. Asphalt and iron lines that entwine, ensnare and entangle our world. Lines hidden in the sailor's head, hinted at by secret lines between
the stars whose light rides on a line.
The axis; longitudes; a route; a plan; the path of an object pushed or pulled any distance, anywhere. These are lines.
Lines painted on rocks, made of rocks, lines in the cosmos framed by rocks.
Lines inked into skin. Lines on palms, creased beside the eyes, a smile itself. The lines of the human : its curves, its cuts.
Lines drawn on maps,
and what is a map but a family of lines?
Lines are the shadow, the path, the shore, the meteor's arc, painted on the sky, or the bolt of lightning that splits it;
the horizon line.
Lines as rings deep in a tree, family lines,
lines of a song, rhythm itself :
the narrative is a line, a circle is one too.
Tension is a line. So is desire.
A line between comfort and fear.
Our fate hides at the "end" of a line. The space between is a line, or ones beyond counting.
A line connects you to all you've done,
every place you've been, and another, or perhaps lines innumerable, extend into what has not yet come to be, to what you have not yet seen.
The line that is lineage, that we trace back
to its origin, our beginnings.
An entity is singular : it occupies one space
at one time. Both of those change,
and a line is their reconciliation.
Nerves are lines, as are veins. Material, energy and thoughts travel upon, across and through lines, is managed and bound by them.
Lines are motion, the dance and the cycle,
the wheel, the line that returns to itself,
the snake that eats its tail.
Lines are scoured on the earth by itself,
and by us. Lines delineating truths hidden in
the ground, painted on mountains,
raked across plains.
Five thousand concentric lines hiding in the trunk of some strange, stunted tree hunkering in the high desert.
The word is a line : spoken, scribed or understood. As is any sentence,
thought or dream : a story, in short.
Line is meaning. And mystery.
Line is life and its wanderings,
its beginning and end and refusal to do either.
Of course, all things on the earth are of the earth, and our machinations to combine and amalgamate them into durable "junk" with an almost absurd longevity seem inevitably to lead to products that, maybe fittingly, feel cheap but are now technologically indespensible.
And yet, everyone seems to agree that the finest things are those processed the least : wool, linen and cotton; wood oiled with animal or vegetable fat; leather; marble and granite; ceramics and porcelain; the regrettable ivory; native metals, silk, vellum and fine paper.
These do not require industrial processing, though can certainly be processed on an industrial scale.
The amount of energy expended by industrialized societies to hide their garbage, byproducts and 'waste' and bury it in the very earth
they expect to spit up sweet water, crude and corn is astounding. This process is privatized, profitable and politically protected.
We move truckloads of 'garbage' with deisel fuel -- they are hauling water in huge quantities, without even knowing it (or caring).
This costs money, wastes energy and resources, heats the world and will amount to another one of our undoings.
The earth has only very recently had to come to know waste, an inefficiency that it simply wouldn't 'waste' its time accomodating, much less inventing.
All things in the natural world that we think of as waste are the opposite : fuels, foods, and fodder for the cycles to reclaim, reorder and reintegrate.
Waste is an illusion, an inefficiency, and an invention.
I do not condone littering (see Waste is an Illusion, above).
But once in awhile you find yourself in a place that piques your creativity--
often to write about and muse on the land, your place, this earth and (y)our scurryings upon it.
And the idea of being able to contact someone somewhere else and communicate to them this bizarre connection between you might feel irresistable.
So write about it. Put it in a GLASS bottle, and cork it with a REAL cork. Seal it with wax, and send it, as the saying goes, down the river.
Make sure whatever you broadcast is worthy of the act, though, and always keep an eye out for the messages of others,
those slipping through the ephemera most of all.
And how. Some fall slowly--spilling, sliding and sloughing off toward the center of the earth. Some things fall down all at once. The land itself is constantly heaving itself up to be reduced again--laid low by the wind, water and weather wracking the lithosphere. The rumblings of the earth tear things down as well--Vesuvius, Krakatoa, Tohoku. We build in spite of them, and we often build imagining that built things are there for good.
They aren't. The Parthenon, Coliseum and the Temples of Malta, Giza and Ratfyn are standing on borrowed time. Because to build is to assemble and combine things that would not otherwise find themselves configured just so. And the forces which wouldn't assemble the configuration in the first place have no concern whatsoever in maintaining it. The earth is indifferent to our build-ings, but we see now that our influences are felt globally, as if that had somehow been a controversial proposition for a species sharing a planet to ponder.
The beavers, termites and ants, bower birds and baya weavers discovered the capacity to build, and do so instinctively: the blueprints for their creations are coded into the same recipe that regulates their biology. It is in their genes. Small ones watch older ones, but a baby beaver separated at birth will expertly build a dam nonetheless. It is a pull, a haunting: the mashed-potato tower that seems to build itself at the dinner table as your family looks on concerned.
We build because we can. Or, most nobly, out of true need. Then we keep building because we think must to support what we built and what it allowed and now must accommodate. We build beautiful things, brilliant things. And for every one of those how many are built not because they should be--or are even truly needed--but because we believe they must be?
We build things to connect the built things. These fall down also. Bridges, dams, nuclear power plants. The entire concept of the built environment seems predicated on some notion of permanence. Preposterous. The elemental state of life is in a dynamic equilibrium : things must change, but not too often, drastically, or unpredictably. But food, light, warmth and water come and go, they ebb and flow, and life persists by coupling with these rhythms. A state of flux, fundamentally, is life.
The state of flux defines the environment, and the dynamics of the earth, manifesting most dramatically in cataclysmic events -- meteor strikes; earthquakes and their great waves; fires; landslides and storms. And we think about these events as discreet : they have a beginning; they occur; they end. Things go back to "normal". They give us, in these terms, opportunities to recover and rebuild, to reestablish and regain our equilibrium, our prized static state, whose foundation is conceptually, inextricably and incorrectly linked to this notion of permanence.
As a species, we desire stability, safety, and predictability. It gives us more and more frequent opportunities to "live" -- in the evolutionary sense as a function of more opportunities to reproduce, and in a societal sense in assurance that you can get up and drive to work and sit on your ass for eight hours, five days a week fifty weeks a year for fifty years and get food at the market and drink the tap water and rent a movie. You pay your taxes, your insurances, and your village is then a stable place, and it'll raise your child while you spend your "life" at "work".
Of course, some villages manage to stand for Millenia, some empires for that matter. Mountains and mesas, even some trees outlive them both, but appear to stand as a byproduct of the forces pulling us all toward the center of this rock, slung around our nearest star.
But sooner or later, things fall down.
Designer // Builder // Artist // Activistst
"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation."
Outside a little nowhere town in Kansas I saw something strange : A tree. The winds and fires of the prairie generally do not suffer trees in the very middle of the country, excepting those which hunker down and pray to rise in some gully or the lee of a grain elevator.
A bird had roosted on the rim of an abandoned silo, and dropped a hackberry seed down inside, with a dose of fertilizer to boot. The thing took off, and wound its way up toward that permanent circle of light, bursting its crown out the top when it finally made it, balanced on a spindly, odd trunk far too thin for the open air. And yet, in just this certain place, this perfect circumstance, it rose nonetheless.
Rise up. Into the sky against the shackles and reins of the world and its bounds. We rise from our cradles, from our beds, from the grave according to Mark, from ashes and dust to which we fall and rise again. This is life, and our ceaseless rally therein.
Up into the heights and havens and heaven and hearths of Valhalla and whatever the hell else you think, or know, or were told is up there. This is the way life acts because it is stamped into us, and onto our secret compass: the one that saturates us all, that causes us to rise again against each day and punch the clock come what may.
To stand, again, and struggle and fight. And rage, as Thomas knew, against the dying of the light.
So is life, in its myriad modes. More of a poem than a riddle though : life cannot help itself but rise, and upon the fall to heave a sigh. Then rise again, drawn to the sky.
An odd thing, the 'up and down' of it. We think hell's down under the ground where we all end up. We think heaven's up in the clouds where no one does. Disdain for the mother, and fear of the dank and deep dark earth full of creepy crawly critters. We want to spend eternity up in the air and light and nothingness. That feels cleaner, neater. This is transcendence to a species whose whole life is in and on the ground, and this odd little shell of life that inhabits it. I suppose familiarity breeds contempt.
The steelhead running upriver, the redwood older than christ and taller than the statue of liberty. This is life in its risings. The locust brood booming every 14th year. The bears stirring at the end of their impossible slumber. An endless stream of bats, of birds, of butterflies, pulled toward their next season, the next bloom, hatch, and hunt.
The simplest thing : a seed. Infinitesimal, inert. It finds its way into a pocket of earth seasoned with some light and moisture and it rises. Against impossibility and raging winds. Through a crack in the pavement, though a chink in the fence, to a circle of light at the peak of a crumbling cement silo.
The rising is the arc of life, and to be laid low again merely the balance of our secret inflection.
"Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."
We make decisions about the future, in the present, based on the past.
How does one reconcile these states? How far back do you search for insight? How far forward can you “care” about or reliably predict what will be “good” for the future? At what point does a practical investment in your material reality become an abstract act of altruism toward some place, or a people who do not yet exist?
It is a question that has, rather suddenly it seems, risen to the forefront of all conversations about the world we inhabit, and how we do so. And it has emerged because of an awareness of our species’ widespread and irreversible global impacts.
Partially this is a function of a single generation’s technological advances in the realms of remote sensing and communicatoin. We can not only observe our world and measure it in new and incredible ways, but share that information and communicate about its meaning instantaneously in a continual dialogue and discourse that knows no bounds.
Yet we are nowhere near defining, much less resolving the normative context of that conversation : the social ills and pitfalls that have plagued mankind in perpetuity have not taken a backseat to the realization that we’re nudging our world towards planetary exigencies we cannot fathom. In fact, many of those perennial challenges have come to simultaneously embody and illustrate the catastrophe of irreversible global degradation unfolding.
Poverty, disease and injustice continue to pound their steady dirge. Much of the contemporary discourse on topics of how our environment is being compromised employs these dimensions of the human condition (and modern hominid existence) as wedges and opportunities for insight into our global challenge.
But long before unsustainable practices in resource use reached the inflection point manifested in the Industrial Revolution, humans had established social systems and patterns of cultural exploitation based primarily on and perpetuated by inequality. Many anthropologists embrace constructs of an evolutionary ‘survival of the fittest’ rationale to support a perspective of social equilibrium described, primarily, by our inevitable instincts towards competition, dominance and their resulting hierarchies.
The Anthropocene epoch, though defined by our species’ jarring (and apparently blissful ignorance of) influence on planetary chemistry and ecosystems does not necessarily lead us to a deeper empathetic capacity on the level of the individual. In other words, seeing and knowing that we are all inextricably, if distantly or abstractly, connected matters very little if that connection is not felt.
The conversation attempting to articulate and address this paradox goes something like this : Humans are connected through the planet we share. We are commonly affecting the planet. We have an obligation to the other people on the planet because they are therefor somehow related to us and we have an obligation to ourselves to raise the next generations in as “good” a world as we can. Thus acting in our immediate individual best interests is not necessarily in the best interest of the planet nor by extension the distant, abstract planetary citizen.
If this thought experiment seems familiar, it should : it is the Tragedy of the Commons, writ very large. But the concept of citizenry, of people who are connected and somehow responsible to and dependent on one another wants standards that reality trumps. Compare life expectancy or various metrics of life quality, hardship, etc around the globe and glimpse a reflection of our constant, immutable human visage : inequality.
Seen in this light, the concept of standards or norms for global citizenry become rapidly abstract and inaccessible. How can one individual, family, community, society, state, country, continent, or hemisphere impose an expectation on another whose resources, history and future are characterized by dramatically different profiles?
Ironically, many now utilize the novel paradigm of imperiled planetary systems, boundaries and threats as lenses for examining our perpetually renewed societal injustices. To do so actually eclipses the bounds of that mode of reasoning. The flicker of the ephemeral human life and experience are an exoneration from true culpability for the ravages we allow or perpetuate on the earth, which by contrast we assign a kind of permanence : the ever-burning flame.
We cannot reason our way through, out of or around the global challenge by trying to “fix” the injustices in the human condition in the context of the challenges posed by a destabilized and deteriorating planet. Those evils reside within the human psyche. On the other hand, how can a planetary species attempt to change course without embracing the concept of a shared culpability and connectedness that describes and binds us to a common identity? Our inequality undermines that process. And our impermanence makes that inequality our undoing.