Friday, October 2, 2009

End of the line?

I read pretty much anything Sean Nash writes--he is a biology teacher in Missouri, yet teaches one of the premiere (OK, kickass) classes of oceanography in this fine country. He recently wrote a blog piece on a film (or what we used to call film--I guess video is the word now).

Mr. Nash wrote (yet another) fine post, linked above. This is my response:

I am one of the water people–I am banging away on the keyboard less than a mile away from the Delaware Bay. My wife is out walking, she’ll find the edge tonight.

Anyone who’s lived more than a few decades along the shore can see the changes. It’s complicated, though, by the wide variations in local populations, but not so complicated that imminent collapse is invisible.

I have neighbors who farm the sea. At least one other in our town is a scientist who helps set limits on those who make a living on the waters around us (we live on a cape).

The scientist does not know the waters as well as my scalloper friend, though both recognize the problem.

I will not be able to attend your event, but urge all who read your words to visit your websites–you have created a marvelous program about, well, our world.

I fear we may be well past a tipping point, but I find hope in my night walks. A comb jelly glows its electric blue when caught in the tiny curl of a bay wave, a ghost crab freezes in front of me, then runs into the water, seemingly defying physics as it treats seawater like air.

Life is here, it is happening, and it will keep happening. 3 billion plus years is a long time–the media is excited by the recent unveiling of Ardipithecus ramidus (”Ardi”), but my faith rests in the critters that have found their niches independent of the nonsense we’ve created.

Contrast 4.4 million years (Happy Birthday, Ardi) with the 3.5 billion years or so life’s been around on this planet. Do the math. Really, do the math.

We are not special, though we are part of something truly special. It’s enough for some of us to be bit players in a larger scheme of, well, awesomeness.

(These words make more sense when sitting on a jetty watching the tide rise and fall. They make no sense sitting in a building. Guess where I prefer to be?)

Descent with modification will trump “evolution.” Evolution is a human conceit–revel in the moment of life.


Louise Maine said...

As a person who lives amongst agriculture, I see life and death and the cycling between. Like you I believe we a re beyond the tipping point, but even though I see nature rebound, I am not as optimistic about the nature of humans. We should have learned by a number of past mistakes, but ego believing that there will always be more and the world is there for us to just take is troubling. I know it is cynical, but one cannot help but see the unraveling on a number of fronts. Like you, my walks in nature re-energize me and give me some hope.

Kathryn J said...

I just went over to the NOAA report and discovered that living within 50 miles of a Great Lake makes me a coastal dweller. I love living near a large body of water but have studied firsthand the issues of watershed drainage and coastal pollution. Scary stuff!

Part of my graduate ed program involved running a camp where kids studied water quality and gained an understanding. One of my concerns was that while they gained understanding, they didn't gain a sense of agency or even possibility about improving the situation. This is all something I struggle with when including environmental issues in Chemistry learning.

It's a beautiful day here. I plan to spend time outside perhaps I'll pay a visit to the big water.

Charlie Roy said...

Always an interesting post. I took in the last of my lettuce, peppers, and egg plant this morning after our frost last night. I thought of you and once again wanted to say thanks for inspiring me to actually have fun with the natural environment. My little patch of garden has been more fun than i ever would have imagined. Be well.

doyle said...

Dear Louise,

Well, so long as life is likely to rebound, I keep my cynicism at bay. I worry about spending my last years in a Mark Twin type of darkness, but so far I've been ridiculously happy.

Glad to see you back writing!

Dear Kathryn,

Yay, you're on of us!

I felt landlocked the years i was in Ann Arbor.

I'm not sure what we should do about teaching the children--for me the issue is when we teach it, not how. Kids have enough folks misrepresenting life--we need to keep true to what we know. (I know you already do this--if you didn't, you would not be facing your dilemma--there are advantages to total lack of awareness.)

Dear Charlie,

I love my October garden--even as the plants start to pale, they keep putting out fruit. Not as big, perhaps, and maybe not as tasty, but still sustaining, hope in the face of increasing darkness, fading away before the sun returns in spring.

Gardening takes us back to the original garden, a good reminder of what matters, as mysterious as it is.