Friday, November 19, 2010

Living in Harmony

(Again, for some reason, the YouTube only shows up here when you click through to the full post. Sorry about that, gang, but I cannot figure out the glitch in the HTML no matter how many times I stare at it. Weird. In any case, it is a lovely preview, and I hope you'll click thru and watch it. -- CHS)

This evening on NBC, a documentary called Harmony will be aired at 10 pm ET featuring Prince Charles and a host of environmental scientists and plain old regular folks, just like you and me, who are trying to make a difference in their own communities.

Harmony has been years in the making.  By people who have devoted their lives to making our world a better place, to teaching communities how to better use their resources without decimating their own environment so that they, and the land around them, can live together in some sort of harmony over the long run.

Too often, our considerations are only about short term gains or our own selfish profit without a thought to the cost of our decisions and behavior to anyone else.  Look where that has gotten us.

The environmental changes that have led to the need for this movie have been years in the making, bad decision after bad decision.  We see the results of this in island communities and coastal disasters, in once full fishing nets that have now gone bare and bee population collapses all across this country, and in so many other ways every day.

The question is, what will it take to wake us up to the need to make better decisions?  To be more careful and nurturing?  To preserve the beauty around us and try to make decisions that do less harm instead of not caring about the longer-term consequences of our actions?

I wish I knew the answer to that.

When I was growing up, I used to go hunting all the time with my father.  Some of my dearest memories of childhood with him came during that time in the woods with him, enjoying the beauty around us and the silent cathedrals of trees as we walked together observing the land and all of the animals that lived on it.

Although I was a pretty good shot -- well, in all honesty, better than pretty good -- I never bagged any game because, for me anyway, my father's hunting skills provided plenty for the family and taking more than we needed just felt wrong on a number of levels.  In my mind, you take what you need and no more, because that allows balance and sustains the wilderness and the animals within it for generations to come.

The thing is, my father would never have let me take more than we needed, or that others in the family could use, anyway, because he was a conservationist at heart as well.

He taught me to be a steward of nature, to respect the land around me and to treat it with care whenever possible because what you gave to the land and the animals around you came back to you as well in the end.  If you did not take care of your environment or took more than you needed, you would pay for it in later years with famine or disease -- it's just how that balance has always worked for as far back as any of the folks in my family have farmed, worked and hunted the land here in WV.

We have lost that stewardship here in this country by having it denigrated as "soft" or "anti-corporate."

I think that because so few people really work or live off the land these days, that we are losing that personal connection to its ebb and flow, its cycles and harmonies, because food comes from the store and how it gets there is a mystery to far too many of us.  How it is packaged, or shipped, and what the impact of all of this has on us all in the long run is a mystery as well.

What I would say to those around this country -- and around the world -- who feel that way is what Teddy Roosevelt said years ago:
"We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields and obstructing navigation."...

"I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us."
Teddy Roosevelt was no softie when it came to dealing with corporate excesses, but no one could rightly call him an anti-capitalist. He realized, as most thinking people do, that the benefits of commerce come at a price, and that price is the need to check excesses so that balance may be maintained.  That the drive for greed and extending wealth can be channeled into the creation of things of value, rather than merely lining someone's pockets and creating nothing else of worth whatsoever.

Roosevelt recognized that the plunder of resources without a concomitant check and balance would create a void, because our environment -- at times both robust and fragile -- cannot ever be wholly recreated, so that generations to come would lose the ability to enjoy the same potential as our own.

My child, all our children deserve better, more thoughtful decisions on all of our parts.  All of our children are going to be asking us "what did you try to do to help make the world a better place when you were really needed?"

I want to have an answer for that for my own child.  And I hope you feel the same way.

Watching Harmony this evening, perhaps we can all begin to think of some better answers together.  Better yet, maybe we can all begin to do something together.  Imagine what wonderful changes we could make if we all began making better decisions all at once.

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