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Wild People


A couple weeks ago, as I was kayaking, I noticed how loud the birds were all around me. Screaming and crying, flapping and diving... I thought "how great this is". It dawned on me that, had it been a group of teenagers making all that noise, I would have been extremely annoyed, thinking something to the effect of "Those jerks are ruining my ability to experience nature". Yet, are they not nature too? What is the difference from a bunch of rowdy birds playing, and a bunch of rowdy kids?

A few days later, I was sitting at a picnic table in the woods, overlooking the Baltic, reading a book. Along came a group of young folk with BBQ gear. They asked if it was alright if they set up their picnic there, and I said sure.

Remembering my thoughts about how I perceive the sounds of the rest of nature differently than I perceive the sounds of people (also nature), I decided to re-frame this occurrence. I consciously chose to view them as part of the "wildlife", rather than a group of hoodlums attempting to break up my peace.

Sure they were loud, but as I started to think of them in the same terms as I think of a pair of birds playing loudly in the water, I began to actually enjoy having them nearby. The fact that I didn't understand what they were saying may have played some role in helping me to view them as I do the rest of nature, but I did understand the laughing and vocal inflections.

This brings me to my point (somewhat).

Sometimes I think things similar to what I wrote about yesterday, other times, I think:

Why not just let people enjoy their life? Why not just do whatever I want? It is certainly easier to not think about the results of my actions. In fact, thinking about it, and doing something about it is a full-time job (for inefficient me that is). If trying to be responsible is that much work, why do it?.

Let's face it. Becoming "sustainable" is impossible, and humans have never been "sustainable". Why should se sacrifice things to achieve the unachievable? Maybe I should just enjoy life the way it is until it is gone. Sure, a lot of people get in the way of my ability to enjoy life by doing things such as driving cars where I want to ride a bike, and yes, being locked into a system that bases ones worth on economic status above all else can make it hard to live the way I want to, almost ensuring that I have to be what I have, until now, called "stupid". But since living smartly is really not an option, why not just enjoy the stupidity, and why try to force other people to realize their stupidity? Why not just let them be?

As part of my thesis project we have been interviewing lots of people, taking a look at how a structured strategic planning framework looks when people apply it to their own life. Part of it is taking a look at their values and desires, their vision of what they want their future to look like.

Although the point is to look at how that desired vision fits into a sustainable world, it is obvious that it does not. I find myself feeling guilty about asking them to give up their vision. I do believe that with a little imagination and some more recognition about how some things they think are making their lives better are actually making it worse, they could build a vision of an attractive future which is more sustainable. But if they believe that it is good, why burst their bubble?

Who am I to ask someone else to give up what they believe is best for them? If someone really likes their job, who am I to point out that it is accelerating our inevitable end? If someone really loves their shrimp cocktail, who am I to point out that it is destroying the ecosystem? If someone really loves that diamond ring, who am I to point out that people die that they may be happy?

And that is where I find my answer. It may sound as though I am being sarcastic with this whole post, but I'm not. I seriously think (all the time) "Why not just live the good life until it's over?"

The answer I always come up with is not that living the good life we know today greatly reduces the chances that my grandkids will have anywhere need a good life. This is something that can be prevented by simply not having kids.

The answer I always come up with is that, sure, I can live the good life. Even if the more we live it, the harder it becomes to sustain it. If I chose to, I could make enough money to afford to ensure that I can, within reason, not be so directly effected by my own actions. But how can I ever forget that every "good life" point I accumulate, is at the expense of someone else. For every shrimp I eat, there are people in southeast asia loosing their valuable ecosystem. For every diamond ring I could buy for Tomoe, there are people being killed and enslaved. For every coffee refill I have at the coffee shop, there are people being denied the ability to meet their basic needs. For every mile I fly, there are people in Nigeria who can no longer grow the crops they need to live because the oil companies have polluted their land and water.

Yet, despite knowing this, despite the fact that I can't forget it, and I hate knowing it, I still keep asking myself "Why don't I just give it up... live the good life and forget about all that... it's not going to last that long anyway. After all, we're all part of nature, and nature works in cycles. Soon the human race will be gone, and something else will start. Who am I to get in the way of that?"