"But why should I morn at the ultimate fate of my people? Tribe follows tribe and nation follows nation, like the waves of the sea. It is the order of nature, and regret is useless. Your time of decay may be distant, but it will surely come." —Chief Seattle
I cannot eradicate the haunting feeling that humans will one day join the ranks of the extinct. All around me I see a world slowly succumbing to our own inevitability, a fate thousands of years in the making. Some of us devise solutions to this catastrophe, despite its apparent futility. Some of us pray for engulfing flames and apocalyptic massacre, while others ignore all signs of peril. Whatever our outlook, we are all united by a common fate and all are travelers on the road to the future. We must think now about our course of action before our ability to deny and ignore is stripped away.
One prevalent, yet misguided solution to our current distress is to revert to ancient ways of living. The concept of simplicity presents itself as a noble solution to the problems of food and energy production, as well as providing reprieve from overbearing government forces. There is a certain neo-Neolithic romanticism that presses us into thinking that if we all grew our own food, built small sustainable communities, etc, we could prolong our stay on the planet. While some ancient people, primarily early hunter-
gatherers, lived with minimal environmental impact, we must recognize that their way of life was doomed and unsustainable in a growing world.
As populations grew and technology, like animal-powered plows and irrigation, developed, the symbiotic relationship between human and nature shifted. The shift was inevitable. Our lives, our world are the inescapable outcome of growing populations and festering greed. As soon as agriculture and technology took hold, people secured the freedom to acquire goods and wealth. To undo our present, we would have to undo agriculture, slaughter billions of people, somehow find a way to eliminate greed from our consciousness and revert back to wandering the earth with only our backpacks. The primal neophyte might believe he is doing that- hunting money from the pockets of the rich and gathering scraps from dumpsters, but the reality is lost and cannot be recreated. Even if we could begin again, we'd probably re-evolve the same way and find ourselves in the same predicament. In addition, we must realize that we can't all have our own house and grow our own food. There simply isn't enough land. And we can't forget about the urban world. Nothing is isolated anymore; we are all connected.
Our current path leads us to the edge of existence where we must bid farewell to everything we have ever known. Just like the dinosaurs before us, we too shall perish. So if we are to become extinct, does it matter how we live? Why should I raise my fist and reach out to others? Why should I recycle and sit in classrooms learning about pollution and global warning? Sometimes I see no point in caring. But it is my nature to defy, to resist, to create and destroy. I accept doom, but I refuse defeat. This acceptance does not facilitate complacency, as I do not wish to expedite our decay. I wish to live my life with beautiful nature, alive with fresh air, water, and soil, and despite the futility in the greater fate, I would like to develop my nature skills and be more self-sufficient. And I wish for future generations to share the miracle that is our planet. I am not ready to send the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren the letter of no hope. What apology could I possibly give to appease the anger and sorrow of those who come after us (and to those already left behind), who suffer through famine, drought, and war, as a result of our indifference and greed?
Trying to save the human race is the ultimate challenge and it goes hand in hand with saving the earth. We can and should attempt to dismantle the institutions that foster inequality, apathy, and greed, but really our survival is a struggle against human nature. It might seem pointless to fight such a tremendous force, but we should try. What do we have to lose? I at least don't want to die on the side of the corporations and governments. I want my eternal conscience to be clear, knowing I did not explicitly contribute to the unraveling of the human web. Deep down, under layers of murky misanthropy and bitterness, I desire hope and survival, as most of us do. I wish for revolution and rebirth, but I fear it is only plausible when it becomes impossible to deny the painful reality of ecological disaster. Only upon the most frightful and devastating threat will we see through the haze and realize we are mere steps from the final chasm. In the meantime, to even dream of survival, we must slow our wheels, promote chaos, and learn to build bridges.