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No (Place or Wo)Man Is An Island

On February 17, 2010, in Environmental Ethics, Nature, by Meghan
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Winter sun sets fast and hard on Joshua Tree National Park's Ryan Mountain.

Leslie and I rolled into Joshua Tree National Park and smack into a murky soup of preservation lost. The national park’s horizon was dusted in a brown-tinted haze and we unknowing wondered, “What’s in this air?”

We’re not too dumb and soon put two and seven together when we looked at our California state map to see that the population din of Los Angeles begins just over a mountain range to the west. Within the confines of one of our nation’s national parks, our sore throats were breathing the atmospheric remnants of Los Angeles’ dirty secrets.

I get paid to be shiny and happy at work about this kind of thing when I encourage people to love the place they are vacationing, even if I’m certain that they themselves are doing more harm than good. But no one pays me on this here blog, so I can say what I wish. People be ashamed of yourselves! We only have a few national parks, really, separated by slurries of highways and subdivisions and other symbols of humanity, and we have to trash even them, also? On days like those in Joshua Tree, I’m embarrassed to be a part of this whole human race thing.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” (John Muir)

John Muir was probably the world’s best naturalist. In that way, he’s akin to my biggest, coolest boss. I also like to call him Yosemite National Park’s grandfather because he worked to his literal death to protect the place in its young, budding status. Thus, he’s sort of, kind of, my national park family, too. A lover of nature and a caretaker of granite, John Muir got it unequivocally right when he said that this whole freaking world, whether we like it or not, is web-like connected.

You, you Chicago urban-ite who is reading my blog while you eat your lunch at work: you are evolutionarily endowed to all that is this planet, including the pollution that weighs heavy at Joshua Tree National Park.

You, you National Park Service employee who is a member of the tiny, brassy choir to which I’m already preaching: you are linked in effective spirit to that lunch-eating Chicago reader.

You, you huge-ass SUV driver who’s scanning my blog on your iPhone while you wait in drizzle and Seattle traffic: you cannot evade your connection to the badge-bearing National Park Service ranger.

Me, just another human being with a pissed-off voice about the environment: the Seattle SUV’er in the rain is my proverbial cousin.

And now look, we’re all a big hug-gy family! Witless sarcasm aside, it’s true. Joshua Tree National Park is an amazing place. On this first visit, a running vacation with my dear runner-friend Leslie, I fell in love with the awkward, shy, and so-very-strange Joshua Trees. I lusted after dry desert washes a-print with more coyote tracks than those made by humans. I was enamored with sweeping horizons because, in wide-open deserts, the world does go on forever. Three weeks ago, I knew little of this place. Now, I’m linked to it, captivated by it, in emotion.

Maybe now you can see why I love a good desert horizon? A sun-gone earth's end in Joshua Tree.

It rained like heck while we visited, and brim-filled the water of this place called Willow Hole. The value of this random desert hole is in all that water, a whole bunch of liquid in the Mohave Desert's middle.

Joshua Tree's barrel cactuses, with their slow-growing but ridiculously long red spines, have been around much longer than I.

The earth and sky intermingled in torrents of storm-y fighting on this day. This peaceful calm afterward must have been their ending handshake.

First, during my Joshua Tree visit, I got so mad. Then, I got so-damn sad to see and feel what humanity is doing to this national park. Next, I nearly cried about the millions of people to the west of Joshua Tree National Park, over those looming San Bernadino Mountains, who must be so much more mired in the disgusting, filthy products of their own development. This whole thing is not about idealistic ol’ me. And it’s not really about one particular national park, either. It’s about all of it, all of us, on a collective, world-sized scale.

If we’re ever going to get beyond our current state of spiraling mass destruction, it seems that we’re gonna have to grow to love people and places and things that are well-beyond ourselves and our own backyards. We humans do not give a shit about that which we do not care. But the moment we fill a twinge of affection or love or maybe just lust for something, all bets are off and we go to enormous lengths to do good for them.

One of the best things about Leslie is that she just plain loves life in beautiful places.

It's impossible for me to not fall for a place, view, moment in time like this one.

This is the best part about our human race, our adaptation of emotion! The emotive reactions of one inspired person have inordinate, do-good powers. I urge you, then, to take yourselves and your affective domains to your nearest national park, or maybe just your local-est pretty place. Get out and play, see the world, don’t be afraid to fall in love.

“No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main…” (John Donne)

Don’t believe me? Or that guy John Donne, or the one before him, John Muir? That’s okay, I’ll leave you with some of our world’s best scientists talking about their interconnectivity theories. This video comes from here:

3 Responses to “No (Place or Wo)Man Is An Island”

  1. JeffO says:

    The LA smog often floats all the way to the San Juan Mtns in Colorado, with a little boost from LV on the way. You can sometimes see this from jets, or satellite images.
    A guy once argued that "there's NO WAY! That's just BULLSHIT! There's no way smog can go that far, and there's no way it could get over the mountains east of LA."
    But they even showed the satellite images on the news, and I've been in the San Juans two times where I couldn't see the distant horizon – it just faded into the murk.
    Forest fires add to this, but the two times I speak of, there weren't any fires.
    Things are getting better. When I moved to Denver, on cold winter days, I couldn't see a mile. Now, even on the worst smoggy daze, I can still see the mountains.

  2. Danni says:

    Interestingly, the Chicago lunch-eater probably leaves a smaller environmental footprint by having public transportation, more local shopping opportunities and more walking opportunities than someone living in the middle of nowhere. Also, from a water standpoint, Chicago is probably the more environmentally friendly place to live (compared with SoCal).

  3. Sunshine Girl says:

    A very Avitar Post Ms. Meghan. Yup, we are all Connected.

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