Like every yahoo around, I have been noticing that there are some changes taking place out there in our natural world. The most obvious being the climate, but, of course, there are plenty of other disruptions that are new to me in my now almost eighth decade. Clearly every little or not so little blip that occurs in the normal scheme of things causes another proverbial head-on collision for humanity.
All over the world there are water shortages, and that includes in our own southwest, while some other river basin is flooding with a once-in-a-thousand year event. To top that off, some areas are being toasted with temperatures in excess of 125 Fahrenheit. These events are enough to make anybody take pause—even for an individual like me who appears to be full of pauses.
As a biologist with a hankering for insects, it is not hard to notice that nighttime streetlights are no longer surrounded by swarms of confused bugs, like we used to see as kids. I haven’t even cleaned my windshield all summer where not long ago it was a daily job to remove bug splat from our windshield. On and on, we hear of habitat loss (how many Ducks Unlimited and Trout Unlimited pleas can I possible get?) along with diminishing biodiversity reports.
To top it off, there are groups of folks almost intuitively realizing these same issues, and go bonkers trying to blame somebody else or some other group for all of these disruptive changes. They are fighting mad and in some cases latching on to authoritarian politicians who claims they have all the answers (they don’t) which on occasions means getting rid of the science that made us who we are, or in some extreme cases, loading weapons of war. It just becoming a mess.
During the heat, it’s harder to go outside, so I did a little research and found a word that possibly represents an idea that might prevent me from adding to the many issues banging relentlessly at us. The word most commonly found, and the one Nate Hagans from the University of Minnesota uses is ‘simplification’. By this he means, I need to just take it down a notch and not consume so many things because, as he points out, all the ‘stuff’ I use from nature is finite and the more of it that’s used, the less is left for future generations, AND many bits of consumption are becoming disruptive to the natural world.
I kicked it around and had a hard time envisioning something different than what we have been doing for so long. It seems I, and maybe many of us humans, might want to look at a new form of development, not necessarily associated with material growth.
Having recently been in Europe (I know, burning jet fuel), it was very visible there to notice a number of glaring differences in their lifestyles, and this is a life style that I was informed consumed one half the amount of energy and materials per-capita we do. They don’t have a lot of ‘stuff’ but rather have events and social outings where folks get together and just hang while sipping wine and nibbling cheese. One glorious evening we WALKED to a sixteenth century cathedral to get drenched in a wondrous choral performance.
In Ireland we did walks-about and marveled at the scenery, the colorful people, maybe the fishing fleets along with some legendary dolphin who fancied entertaining tourists, and then in the evening drifting to a pub to play music and tip a beer. Life was slower there for the old men sitting under a street side stoop, gesturing wildly and telling stories about the little people.
Going be tough I suppose, but I thought I would start by not driving 200 miles to go fishing, maybe trying to ride my bike to the bakery, attending the children’s musical tonight (where I exhausted my smile muscles), and admittedly talking to the rutabagas in the garden. Still, it is not hard to notice how so many of us have consumed so much that all of the mentioned problems are being caused by too many of us using too much stuff. So, if some local were to be seen around town being real simple, let it be known I have taken notice of the growing situations and what you are seeing is a legitimate effort at simplification—and it ain’t easy. Talking to rutabagas should no longer be seen as antisocial or a sign of mental collapse.