September 23, 2018

Green Wave on the Horizon? . . . by James Bishop, Jr.


“The wind that blows is all anybody knows.”
— Henry David Thoreau

In the Hopi American Indian language, Koyaanisqatsi translates as: a crazy Life, life in turmoil, life disintegrating, life out of balance and a state of life that calls for another way of living. In one of the Hopi prophesies about Koyaanisqatsi, it is said that if we “dig precious things from the land, it will invite disaster and near the day of purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky”.

No cobwebs in the sky yet but it will not be long unless the raid on America’s public lands is brought to an end by the awakening of the thus far silent majority: Have we had enough destruction of ancient ruins and threats to the Grand Canyon itself?

In the 19th and early 20th century, Americans were led by Teddy Roosevelt, who was influenced by author and philosopher, Henry David Thoreau. Roosevelt held off major coal and oil interests, leaving an amazing legacy that his adversaries had to deal with — as they are doing now. It was Thoreau who said America should have nature preserves, “not for idle sport or food, but for inspiration and our own true recreation.”

Using his authority to protect wildlife and public lands Roosevelt created the U.S. Forest Service, 150 forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks and 18 national monuments by enabling the 1906 American Antiquities Act. During his presidency 230 million acres of public lands were created.

Sadly, that inheritance is in danger for the first time, starting with a Sedona favorite – Walnut Canyon, a national monument near Flagstaff, AZ, rich in ancient ruins and at least 60 million years old geologically. A group of Sedonans were stunned to see a sign announcing that funds were unavailable to continue programs. Also underreported by major media is that the greatest roll back of protected public lands in history is underway all across America.

Drivers to New Mexico will see the first signs of backlash popping up: THE PRESIDENT STOLE YOUR LAND. Meantime, the president’s henchmen are leasing public land or auctioning it for oil and coal without obeying laws. Also, The White House is drafting rules to make it easier for major polluters to drive up the temperature of the Earth, as well as weaken the Endangered Species Legislation. Already oil drills are threatening one of the greatest sacred ruins, Chaco Canyon.

However, faced with a Robber Barons intent on attacking public lands, what if The Green Majority has had enough?

What if 16 million birdwatchers would send a message to Congress, governors, foundations, colleges? You would have political message that is more than ten times membership of the NRA. Teddy Roosevelt Republicans have been quiet, while the current administration has tried to destroy a century of bipartisan love of the land with little opposition.

When will the Silent Green Majority find its voice?

Help could be on the way. Seeds were sown over 150 years ago from a quiet little man named Henry David Thoreau who created the basic philosophy for living in balance. Wrote he, “Live in each season as it passes. Breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the Earth… in wildness is the salvation of the world.”

Thoreau was the first to merge romanticism with science so there exists a kinship between humans and all other forms of life. As he wrote then, “I learned to regard man as an inhabitant or part and parcel of nature, rather than a member of society.” Thus, gentle reader, nature has as many rights as we have.

Too, Thoreau finds the universal in the local. He combined positive attitudes of Native American and Asian philosophy, which was rare for his time and remains an issue. He reconciled the weight of scientific discoveries with the broader intuitions of the soul and broke apart the Darwinian backdrop of nature that was filled with death and violence. Thoreau shattered the mechanistic, scientific outlook of nature and created an ecological philosophy.

Nature is being attacked again by the government. Thoreau contended that Nature and Man are the same. We now have a government that is treating nature as a moneymaking machine – uranium from the Grand Canyon.

There is no Teddy Roosevelt waiting in the wings to restore Nature, but we do have Thoreau. As Robert Harrison, senior Stanford professor insists, “Thoreauvian legacy is how to see the world again in its full range of detail. Nothing has suffered a greater impoverishment than our ability to see the visible world. It has become increasingly invisible to us as we succumb to the sorcery of our digital screens. It will take the likes of Henry David Thoreau . . . the most keen–sighted American of all, to teach us how to discover America again and see it for what it is.”

Truth be told, we have to be Thoreau.

It is up to us.

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