Quibbling Over Earth Semantics

posted in: Conservation, Journal, Nature | 3

I wasn’t quite sure I was reading an intelligent person’s take on things when I read the speech by Michael Crichton, posted by Dan on North Coast Cafe. What is it with this unreasonable fear of environmentalists? Why do environmentalists evoke such reactionary diatribes? Why is it such a difficult thing for all of us to take responsibility for the only place we have to live? No one would question a homeowner’s efforts to economize and better run their household and dwelling, and yet it seems as if everyone has to continually argue about the need for maturing in our practice of living on the planet. Crichton’s simplistic and willfully negligent speech, ignoring the years of painstaking research and sweat of serious scientists and environmentalists who daily live and see the effects of our actions upon the planet, only reinforces the tendency to stick our heads in the sand and hope the problems go away.

I believe environmentalists are in most cases realists who look the world’s problems straight in the eye and attempt to find solutions to seeming insurmountable odds. We (and I count myself among them) are attempting to break the old habits in favor of a healthier way of life, so that all benefit. Crichton almost seems to have been paid under the table somewhere… I mean, take this quote from his speech: “I can tell you that DDT is not a carcinogen and did not cause birds to die and should never have been banned.” Did he even research how DDT works to cause birds to die? Did he think at all about exactly what DDT does kill, besides the crop-eating insects that it is targeted for? Does he have an inkling about how the food-chain works and why an imbalance is so destructive? Did he take the time to read Rachel Carson’s life-dedicated scientific research?

Crichton thinks that because he is some hotshot Hollywood writer and moviemaker that he knows what he is talking about. But he is just that, a hotshot Hollywood writer and moviemaker, not someone who has spent his life trying to understand the natural world or to live within its demands. Even his description of people who go outdoors to experience it, with an attempt to justify his view that “The truth is, almost nobody wants to experience real nature. What people want is to spend a week or two in a cabin in the woods, with screens on the windows. They want a simplified life for a while, without all their stuff. Or a nice river rafting trip for a few days, with somebody else doing the cooking. Nobody wants to go back to nature in any real way, and nobody does. It’s all talk-and as the years go on, and the world population grows increasingly urban, it’s uninformed talk.” by portraying an example of his trekking trip into the Himalayas, where he questions a porter about why it is necessary to take so much care in crossing a mountain river: his conclusion about the dangers of nature in a remote place only reveals his vast ignorance about learning to live in wild places so you don’t get hurt, which includes learning to cooperate with others rather than scratch and fight, and that this very uncertainty is part of the reason serious venturers into the wilds come back again and again to take the risks… it is a need and desire for many people to find a way back to our early roots of self-reliance, use of our innate intelligence, attempting to find some kind of real and practical relationship to our surrounding world rather than trying to dominate it on every level, and redefining and reevaluating what spirituality means in the sum of our lives.

No the natural world is not romantic… and what mountaineer worth their salt is romantic about the crags as they climb them? The insects in the garden eating your cabbages away are not romantic. I think environmentalists who deal with this daily have a very clear understanding of the price nature asks for survival; but that doesn’t mean that a person can’t LOVE the natural world. Anyone who would stop to gauge the romanticism and “reality” of children would probably never have them, seeing as children eat away your finances, causes innumerable inconveniences, disrupt well-laid plans, and often get into age robbing troubles, but, in spite of that, people continue to have kids, Crichton himself, most likely.

What Crichton fails to get is that we environmentalists LOVE our world, including the people in it. We want what’s best for it and will do what is necessary to protect it and make sure it is healthy, that it can grow up to have its own life when we are gone. For us the world is alive, not just some dead thing that can be chainsawed into firewood for the fire. Crichton calls environmentalism a “religion”. Perhaps. He’s assuming, of course, that “religion” is always a bad thing, that it cannot be molded into an aspect of our lives that does not necessarily prevent rational thought or change when it is necessary.

But then, perhaps he completely fails to grasp that environmentalism is probably something new, something beyond the dogma that he has his mind set to. And then, too, in spite of his acknowledgment that the environment needs to be protected, he gives absolutely no suggestions for solutions to the big problems. Kind of hard to believe his ability to perceive anything if he traveled to Nepal, but completely missed all those people living in abject, overcrowded, lacking-firewood-because-all-the-trees-have-been-cut-down poverty, isn’t it?

Crichton declares that all environmentalists live in a fantasy world… really, I ask you, who is he to talk?

3 Responses

  1. Reminds me of a 10 year old kid driving 120mph down the wrong side of the freeway with absolutely no sense of his or anyone else’s mortality. He ought never sit behind the wheel.

  2. Unfortunately the world seems to be run by the equivalent of 10 year old kids driving 120mph down the wrong side of the freeway, particularly the U.S. right now.

  3. I “love” his notion that “nature” is all bears and bugs and drizzling rain and nothing else. Feh. It’s that, but it’s so much more (and what’s wrong with bears and “bad” weather, anyway? I’d rather deal with those than cars and smog any day.). It’s incredibly short-sighted of him to declare that the only “real” way to live is to wall ourselves up in boxes and pretend that the world outside doesn’t exist or that it is all under our control. Where does your food come from, Mr. Crichton? The moon?

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