“Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.”Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, 1949
This is not the first blog with this name… The original concept was a short-lived Tumblr blog that featured my own images as well as ones that had creative commons licensing through Flickr. Those images were then coupled with quotes and passages like the one above from prominent writers on ecology, nature, science and travel.
The idea mostly just served as a repository of things related to the natural world and humanity’s position in it that I found inspiring, challenging or otherwise thought-provoking.
But for the last few years I’ve found the statement “The Way You See Your World” to be more of a personal challenge. How do I see my world?
I ask that both in a practical sense… “How am I going to travel to see places I’ve never been before?” But I also ask it in a more abstract way… “How am I going to choose to frame this particular moment, this world event, or these actions by my neighbors?”
I’ve gotten quite good at planning out the former. In the last handful of years I’ve organized successful trips for me and my friends to more than a dozen countries, and plenty of smaller events and outings to places more local. I enjoy it, and for all of the exhaustion that scheduling and booking and coordinating can bring, it’s been worth it one hundred percent of the time.
The latter question, however, I’m struggling with.
I’m genuinely worried about the future. I’m worried about increasing income inequality. I’m worried about climate change. I’m worried about the waning influence of and public support for liberal democracy.
The survival of so much of what I love in the world (nature, travel, experiencing different cultures) hinges on how far we all let these things deteriorate. Can a vibrant cultural global exchange of ideas and experiences exist if people are too cash-strapped to travel, or are forced to work such long hours that they have no mental space for curiosity? Can the natural places we all love to visit, from beaches to alpine meadows, survive the relentless rise of the mercury? Will the infrastructure that protects our wild places like the National Park Service continue to do so as national governments turn away from serving the people and tip toward autocracy and kleptocracy?
I’m afraid the answer to all of these questions is “no.”
All of this leaves me with big feelings. Feelings so big that they’re often paralyzing. I want to do something to turn the tide on all of these encroaching problems, and I do not want to be overcome with despair.
I already do all of the bare minimum things a person can do… I support worthy causes; I write to legislators and sign petitions; I vote.
But the overwhelming swell of bad news so often just leaves me standing among my friends gawking and gesturing in that universal way that screams “can you believe all of this shit?!”
And we all shake our heads knowingly but abjectly failing to articulate the magnitude of the vast errors we’re all making as a society.
So this blog is started with an intention of at least ending that silent gesticulation. I want to spend some time each week in a thoughtful effort to articulate exactly what we’re losing and why all people should be clamoring to save our wild spaces, save our civic life and save each other.
I hope I can find some valuable ways to express why a life in connection to nature is a life better lived. I think this kind of outreach is needed to build and maintain a culture that’s founded on respect for the natural world and the ways we can live together within it.
In other words, I don’t know where this blog will go. It’s a thought experiment.