Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Planetary Depression

I have a planetary depression. I have tried to live in harmony with the environment nearly all my life. When I came to British Columbia I wanted to see the `Carmanah Giants’. These extraordinary Sitka spruce dwarf the man made high rises on Vancouver Island. If you ever want to experience the awe of the planet, visit them. But this is not a story about these trees. To see them I had to drive on logging roads. My route went through an immense clear-cut valley. I had never before seen industrial logging on this scale. The valley was a cemetery of tombstone stumps. The devastation was so complete, I wondered if bombs had been dropped.
My mind was so revolted, my stomach threw up.
I was instantly converted from an environmental sympathizer, to an eco-warrior. The pen became my sword. I became a dedicated environmentalist.
I spent a summer living among the majestic trees of the Walbran Valley. I wrote reports for any print media that would print them. I watched the struggle of activists on blockades. They were determined to prevent international timber companies from desecrating our forests. One night I slept in a clear cut to prevent timber workers and police from dismantling a blockade. My horizon was unobstructed. The forest had been felled to become wood for U.S. and Asian industry. The stars were my ceiling. I’d grown accustomed to canopied skies where stars blinked through treetops. In a clearcut, this was like a prairie sky loaded with stars.
But, eventually the demonstrations, the blockades, the arrests, the stories and the lobbying were a success. British Columbia now has the Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park.
So, over the years, I’ve been keenly aware of the background noise about the planet’s plight. I never did agree with economists who stated that violent plundering of the earth would be to our benefit. I remain convinced that our dedication to consumerism has caused the exploitation and devastation of the planet. I’ve been a Gaiaist for years; I’ve read all of James Lovelock’s books, including his latest and probably last – he’s now in his nineties - The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning.
Lovelock’s conclusions are depressing. Even David Suzuki doesn’t embrace them. But I’ve also read James Kunstler’s book, The Long Emergency. Kunstler wrote this book in 2005 and many of his predictions have come to pass. We have not progressed to the depths of his creative foretelling in, World Made by Hand but I have more faith in these forecasts than in the spun statements expounded by politicians with short term re-election agendas. Their words might comfort, if they were believable.
So, where can we go for comfort? I cannot suggest a solution, but I can indicate a new direction. I found this direction by hearing Wade Davis’s Massey Lectures and reading his book, The Wayfinders. Davis points out that Western culture developed on a singular technological path, while other cultures revere our planet and its origins. Davis, as an anthropologist, shows us belief systems that have survived the onslaught of corporatism and technology. He illustrates with examples of civilizations that have the same mental acuity, the same intellectual capacity but have developed without the technological advances of Western societies. These cultures have extremely sophisticated beliefs but have spiritual, not technological, solutions to our universe.
Davis’s conclusions are reinforced by my recent reading of Edward Berry’s, The Sacred Universe. Berry believes that mankind once had great respect for the earth, but now is alienated from it. In Western culture we are assured that modern technologies hold all the answers. Mankind’s present predicament underlines the absurdity of that belief, but Berry believes that by marrying the sacred to the practical mankind has hope.

I think he may be right.

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