My Letter To Leopold, bcc: Muir
I write to you from an abandoned farm in an indescript rural town about 15 miles or so from Interstate-80, the massive throughway that stretches from New York to California. Yes, our great country is completely engulfed in a web of asphalt now and it is difficult to find a land that is not gated, owned, trimmed or tamed. In an attempt to free myself from an environment that more closely resembles a circus, I’ve travel west in search of nothing. Nowadays it seems every inch of our nation has been touched by development and I, not made of plastic nor glowing in neon nor graphed on a pie chart, am finding it near impossible to experience nature.
What have we done to the land? Well, large retail stores, some with over 100,000 square feet of merchandise, have created residential clusters in their geographic vicinities because living more than 3 miles from the opportunity to purchase electric detachable toothbrush heads, 5-gallon tubs of mayonnaise, or undergarments with witty phrases on them is just not an option many folks consider. Land is hunted, not by nature-enthusiasts, but by developers and real estate agencies. Their wooden sign posts mark new ventures, living communities of cloned impersonal homes and retail stores. Our culture has become simplified and reduced to ad slogans, emblems and trademarks, one more meaningless than the next.
But I have escaped for now. I sit on a damp patch of grass as I write to you, discouraged and tired. Yet upon the Earth, and within the breeze and scurrying insects, my head is calm– the collective hum of nature at work is my salvation. They make compact discs with these sounds of nature, you know? Active streams, the loquacious chirping of the wren and pitter-pattering of a wild fawn have been encased within a circular optical disc for our convenience. It really is quite silly.
So what has happened? The business side of things has infiltrated, and now dominates, every faucet of our existence here in America– politics, food, waste management, tennis shoes, healthcare, farming, education, and so on and so forth. Remember agriculture? Now it is agribusiness. The speed and profit-driven quest for increased output at a lower cost has pushed manufacturers to cut corners. Adherence to the Environmental Protection Agency’s loosely monitored guidelines is often sacrificed to help with what the business-types call “the bottom line”. To translate, money is top priority.
A man often finds great pleasure in being correct, be it a testament to their keen intuition, brilliance or expertise. Yet I’m afraid you will not rejoice in being correct this time. You wrote of a world depleted and run ravaged by its own people. We are there now. I write to you because you knew the fate of the machine of industry. Besides the effects on the natural world (e.g. the pollution, drought and famine), industry has manufactured a social isolation amongst American citizens. I feel alien here, a nation that had such potential for greatness that continues to spiral down a path of greed and amorality.
The people of the present day need to understand the impact of their careless stomps. Their participation in an evil cycle perpetuates it. They need to understand that there are alternatives to finding fulfillment through consumption and, if they must bestow such an importance to materialism, that it is within their ability to contribute, or at least not exploit further, to the natural world around them by patronizing socially and environmentally progressive companies that can supply them with goods with a lesser impact on the earth and its resources. If the people can grasp that they have a responsibility greater than their own immediate gratifications then a shift in consumer demand will have businesses altering their products, and how they are manufactured, for the better. It would be a great start. I put stock in our future generations, raised with an awareness of environmental issues, to help the evils of industry and over-development dissipate through the coming decades like the eradication of an awfully debilitating disease. Your words and theories contribute to that resistance. We can do this.