Looking back over 50 years of satellite images of Earth, Michael Benson writes, “They seem to make the case that we’re inexplicably intent on engineering our own expulsion from the garden, in a kind of late-breaking, self-inflicted Old Testament dismissal.” In Benson’s August 18, NY Times article, Gorgeous Glimpses of Calamity, satellite images from space document the increasing deleterious impacts humans are having on planet earth. The photographs and eloquent writing make the article a must read and yet another clarion call for action. And if you think things aren’t really that bad, read Peter Brannen’s Headstone of an Apocalypse for a geological look back 200 million years ago at the last time carbon dioxide levels were this high. Are we really willing to let it all slip away, hoping everything will be okay?
This past week my family (siblings, parents, nieces, nephews) vacationed in the Squam Lakes region of New Hampshire. It was our 17th consecutive family vacation together. We kayaked, hiked, jumped off high rocks into crystal blue waters, climbed through caves, sat by the lake, swam, and so on. It was a beautiful, relaxing, decompressing week, and everyone returned to their homes refreshed and reinvigorated. That is what nature does for us. It rejuvenates us, restores the soul, and reconnects mind, body and spirit. How does one enter such benefits in the Gross Domestic Product algorithm? How does nature factor in to the S&P 500 Index? What is the value of nature and its beauty to all life forms, and are we willing to “save” for the wellbeing of our planet and its inhabitants?
My wife and I recently decided we are going to enjoy and experience nature as best we can in the coming years. We are going to swim, kayak, hike, bike, ski, sit, and relax. We’ll visit the coast, alpine meadows, high peaks, exceptional bike and cross country ski trails, and the many lakes and streams that dot this fabulous country. We’re going to spend the majority of our free time in nature. We know the climate is changing, and the environment is suffering. Frankly, we don’t want to miss a thing. We want to hear the frogs sing at the pond, the birds chirp in the forest, and the bees and insects hum in the meadows. We hope to see many more Perseid Meteor showers, clear blue sunny skies with puffy white clouds, winter wonderlands, and foggy August mornings burning off with the rising sun.
People often comment that the beauty of something is not fully appreciated until it is lost. Well, we are losing so much as we ponder what to do. Fortunately, it’s not too late to adapt to our changing world. It may be too late to go back to the way things were before the advent of the gasoline combustion engine, coal-fired power plants, and a burgeoning world population. However, we can and must mitigate the effects of climate change for future generations, preserving the expansive beauties our planet still offers. Back to this past weeks New Hampshire vacation, I was struck by the new families that shared the week with us. Young couples with their small children playing in the sand, fishing from row boats, and wading in the shallow waters of the lake. It reminded me of our time 17 years ago when our children first learned to fish, first learned to swim, and first learned to sculpt fairy villages out of piles of sand. It’s up to us to decide if we’re willing to be good stewards for our generation and those yet to come. If we are willing to rethink how we impact the earth, and if we all make subtle changes in how we live, we can adapt and mitigate climate change impacts. We can make a difference. As Margaret Mead says, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”