Well, the season for grand political theatre is almost over. I’m feeling like most of the country who are so tired of the divisiveness that has defined this overly long election. Certainly, a major disappointment is the lack of any real environmental dialogue or engagement from either of the parties. Three national debates…and hardly a mention of climate change at all. We were much more preoccupied by Hillary’s emails than we are the fact that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere passed a historic and negative 400 parts per million this year for the very first time ever! We have no idea what this will ultimately mean. We believe that this can’t be a good thing, but we are willing to take the chance? Do facts matter and are we close to a point where it won’t make much of a difference what we think and feel? Nature has her own schedule and we have been consistently wrong in guessing what time it is.
I find going out into Nature breathing deeply and keeping my eyes open helps a great deal. This is my restorative. Walking parallel to the Ohio River and atop the Devonian limestone, my eyes register the circling Osprey looking for a good fish in the shallows. The nearby purple loosestrife flowers are alive with insects of many species doing what is important right now which is attending to life. Cooling its feet in a shallow spring, I come across one of the park’s box turtles. I give it my full attention and love. It’s life amazes me. Once it was a leathery egg laid in a dirt hole. When it hatched, a tiny, nearly exact replica of its parents emerged from the shell debris and soil. Instinct led it to seek shelter and to react to that gnawing sensation in the pit of its stomach by eating something. It’s alive and has its own reality deeply rooted in the history of life.
Living with the seasons, the turtle puts on a new growth ring for another year of life. I have caught up to this one…decades after it left the egg. I feel at peace and a feeling of well-being when I see Nature going about its daily and routine ways of life. This is the way it has been before there was an us to proclaim ourselves to be the height and purpose of it all. One needs to go out into nature more to fully appreciate creation beyond the strictly abstract and intellectual.
Our ability to transform our world is so complete that we can use a material like crude oil to create plastic flowers! But should we and why would we want to in the first place? It is specifically the effects of using fossil, hydrocarbon-based energy sources that have led us to the situation we now find ourselves. Collectively, we have let oil and coal become more important than clean air and water. Here in Kentucky, the political campaigns are fueled by the so-called “war on coal”. What most people miss, is that this has less to do with environmental regulations and more with market forces. Coal is a dirty form of energy that has been supplanted by the use of natural gas which is much cheaper. Ordinary citizens are not taking down the old coal-burning plants and replacing them with natural gas burning utilities…big business is. Coal jobs started to really disappear when it was discovered that you could reach a lot of coal quicker and employ fewer miners with mountaintop removal. The fracking techniques used to obtain today’s boon in natural gas are also fraught with huge issues which are now coming to light.
We have the current and not fully resolved situation involving the Standing Rock Sioux people and an ill-advised and designed pipeline that the big corporate world have decided needs to go under the Missouri River. Despite all our vaunted technologies, we lack the ability to make a pipeline that won’t eventually break releasing its poison into the waters. What is so hard to understand about that? I stand with the people who know that clean water is life. For awhile, it looked like the Ohio River was making progress, but in a way, the changes we are seeing in the climate have affected us here. Currently, we have several large basin projects under construction in Louisville to deal with the reality that it rains more and a lot harder now which now overwhelms our sewers sending untreated waste directly into the river. It will take billions of dollars and a lot of resolve to fix this, but I suspect, we will limp along trying to convince the people who make money the measure of everything to act sooner than later.
So, here I stand on the wrack line between land and liquid. I will continue to come out here and record with my camera and pen, the anecdotal changes I see happening in the park. I come out here to challenge my creativity, see what there is to see, and restore my spirit. Ultimately, the quality of our water and the environment at large is a referendum on our collective spirit. We certainly have been found wanting and another election cycle is going by without so much as an acknowledgement that there are big challenges to the very substrate that sustains us all. I will try to curb my disappointment, by immersing myself in the moment. So long for now…until next time from the Falls of the Ohio.