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Paul Andersen: Fair Game

Paul Andersen
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

Who but a killjoy would not rejoice at brilliant spring weather? Sunny, warm days. Mild nights. Birds singing. Buds bursting into spring blooms. It all would be rhapsodic for me if not for the implications.

Ever since climate change has been on my radar, I have observed weather patterns with new interest – and doubt. Is this weather natural, or is it a reflection of human meddling?

Stepping outside my door on a warm March morning, I see nature as yet another manipulated, perverted human artifice. The air I breathe is conditioned by industrial emissions. Trees stand or fall at the whim of humanity. Clouds mix with chemtrails in a symbolic contest for the heavens. Satellites sweep the night sky, competing with the stars and planets.

Waking up on a bluebird day once gave me joy. Now, I’m wracked with concern that spring has sprung too soon. I have long appreciated the exuberance with which “June is bustin’ out all over … ” – but not in early March!

I’m not alone in this. The New York Times last week reported: “Spring Gets Ahead of Itself.” A naturalist warned that species are becoming confused by premature warm weather, which could lead to problems with pollination and procreation.

“Winter 2012 will go down as the fourth warmest on record for the contiguous United States, according to the National Climatic Center,” the Times reported. “And so far, March will be remembered for the more than 2,200 warm temperature records that were set around the nation, setting the stage for severe thunderstorms that spawned rare, damaging tornadoes near Detroit. It used to be that a warm day in March felt like a gift, but now it feels as if we’re paying for it.”

Time magazine recently offered “10 Ideas That Are Changing Your Life.” One idea is that “Nature Is Over.” A scientist explained, “It’s no longer us against nature. Instead, it’s we who decide what nature is and what it will be.”

The Anthropocene Age is fully upon us. “The reality,” Time reported, “is that there may simply be no room for nature, at least not nature as we’ve known and celebrated it – something separate from human beings – something pristine.” Futurist Stewart Brand was quoted as saying, “We are as gods.”

But humanity is far from godlike. We have short vision, narrow interests, limited understanding. Putting us in charge of nature harks to “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” Our feckless meddling with the natural world is a Mephistophelian bargain with the devil that jeopardizes our very souls by changing what it means to be human.

Preserving the natural environment is one of the great moral challenges of our time, and we are failing it by blinding ourselves to the larger relationships nature provides. We sacrifice planetary humility for convenience and material pleasures, and in such hubris lies vulnerability.

Our notions of justice are confined to humanity alone. We defer a larger conception of duty by ignoring that which ultimately provides for us. We sever a connection to nature that completes us as individuals. A sense of mutuality with all of life is erased by the dictates of habit. Our self-righteousness exhibits a lack of self-control.

Nature is our whore, our mistress, our overdrawn bank account, our Walmart. We abuse her, exploit her, rape her, ignore her, deny her. Our Oedipal complex has never been more universal. She is our mother, but we plunder her with reckless lust. We appreciate her superficial beauty but fail to grasp her complexities, her fragility, her need for us.

Perhaps only hardship and sorrow can arouse our tenderness to what we subsume with our self-importance. Nature, to which we owe all, will have the final word, no matter how all-powerful we feel in altering and demeaning her mothering influence.

Bask in the warming sun, feel the tepid breath of spring, celebrate the awakening of flora and fauna. Then take a moment to ponder whether nature is really over for you or if there remains a spiritual link that joins us to something greater than ourselves.

If that link has value, then nature can never be over. It goes on within you and without you.


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