Earth Day 2022…

I can’t say that nature is voiceless. Godnose she’s speaking loudly now. Driving home from scenic, fun-filled Del Norte yesterday with a friend after celebrating her 70th birthday, all we could talk about was the recent fire in our town and the incredible dryness of the landscape all around us. Everything else in our conversation returned to that.

Whether or not we humans contributed to what’s happening now remains, for many, an open question. For me? No. I’m sure humans have contributed to this. Can we stop it? I don’t think so. Maybe the best we can do right now is not make it worse through our actions. Maybe.

The size of nature is truly beyond our comprehension since it’s basically EVERYTHING including us. That’s why many humans talk about nature as if it were something external, but it isn’t. It is us and we are it. We humans truly cannot live without it. 😉

Me 1965 in the middle of it. ❤

In 1970 when I went to one of the two demonstrations of my life, the first Earth Day, I was only 18. I ditched school, had my mom’s car, took some friends down to Colorado College (Colorado Springs), and we stood around and listened to speeches. I don’t know about my friends, but I felt two things. One, that I was DOING something, two, that it would change things. In reality, I wasn’t DOING anything and the actions taken by people all over the US that day DID change things that desperately needed changing, for one thing the Environmental Protection Agency was formed, partly as a result of Earth Day 1970.

I never imagined Earth Day would turn into an annual event, a semi-holiday and a celebration? What? But 23 years later I was in San Diego representing Mission Trails Regional Park — an urban wilderness park I was working for.

It is a large swath of open space surrounded by city and a Navy base. I hiked there almost daily with my dogs. I didn’t know it was being fought over by the various “powers” who fight over things, but it was. When I accidentally met the president of the foundation one day, “my” chaparral had only recently achieved protection from development. From there it would move forward to become the largest urban wilderness park in the United States, then 5800 acres, now 7000 acres. In “my day” I was often the only human wandering the trails; now it’s a very popular destination for hikers and mountain bikers. All the work I/we did was to prepare the delicate landscape for its future. Our idea was that if people WENT there, SAW it and LEARNED about it, they would value it and protect it. I don’t know if that theory has held or not. I suspect it’s 50/50. Some people get it, some people don’t. Those who don’t regard the trails and hills as a commodity that exists for their enjoyment; a product, not a living thing.

And THAT is the tension between nature and humans.

I have thought a lot about my evolution as a hiker, not as a matter of the physical changes that take place over time (grrrrr….) but in the depth of my understanding of my own actions. When I first started hiking the chaparral (which is incredibly fragile and highly flammable) I cut trails wherever I wanted to. I followed deer trails up hills, cut across areas where, I later learned, wildflowers grew. I thought I loved nature and that’s why I wasn’t “controlled”by the trails and fire roads that were right there, too. Over time, I began to see that I wasn’t “loving” nature. It wasn’t about my “freedom” to go wherever I wanted. By the time it became a park, and I was working with the rangers to lead groups of volunteers building trails, I was adamant about staying on trails. The advantages of that weren’t just preservation of the landscape, but safety. Rattlesnakes are everywhere in that landscape and a lot more visible on the trail than off.

Yesterday — in the incredibly beautiful magazine (catalog) put out by Patagonia — I read an article on clean climbing by Mailee Hung. Clean climbing is basically climbing rocks in such a way that the rocks are not damaged by the protection used by climbers to stay safe in their ascents and descents. It’s a HUGE topic and I’m no expert. BUT it’s also a philosophy — leave no trace? Pack out your shit (literally and figuratively)? Hung’s article concluded with a statement that sums up exactly what I believe we humans need to shoot for in everything we do — as much as possible. “Clean climbing means restraint in the face of our egos and humility in the face of nature, an effort at self-mastery rather than world-domination.”

That’s the lesson.

Featured photo: My friend Lois’ son, Mark, and me at Earth Day/March for Science, 2017, Colorado Springs

23 thoughts on “Earth Day 2022…

  1. I always wondered about humans who think of the natural world as something “out there”, not recognizing that we are in and of that world. With a group of friends, I organized the first Earth Day in my high school. One of my friends curated an art show as part of it. His piece was a sculpture – a sink and toilet back-to-back, with the toilet outlet plumbed to the sink inlet, a pile of mud in the bottom of each, and the title “One Man’s Meat…”.

  2. I love your concluding quote! I think Nature has been trying for the last couple of years (if not more subtly for longer than that) to teach us exactly that message.

  3. That first earth day was so important to me too. Made me change my major from electrical engineering to environmental science, then go on to work in the water pollution control field. Like you also though, I don’t have much faith that we’ll ever stop fouling our own nest. Still, we have to fight the good fight where we can. Keep up the good work.

    On Fri, Apr 22, 2022, 12:09 PM Women’s Wilderness Legend “Summer is the seas

  4. I learned early that one little change in nature could result in far reaching ripples. Knowing that I’m still trying to make some changes in hopes my small efforts will bring some benefit. I love that you have been so active over so many years…

    • I think I love nature the way people love their families because it’s BEEN my family in a way. ❤ And I agree; any good we do is SOMETHING and it matters.

  5. You know what I love the most about you (I’ve scrolled for 30 minutes to find you 🥰)?…you walk the walk and talk the talk. “Did man decide the mountains are beneath him?” It says it all, MAK. I planted yesterday. I went to the trails. I pondered and cried a bit (my youngest was recovering from surgery and found out he’ll be deployed in NINE days…it’s all good. He’s tough and can’t wait to see Germany. BUT I have NO control. I don’t control the water lapping up on the shore, or the buds blooming, or the stupid decisions made by people throwing their trash. I have zero control on anything. But me. Nature loves me back. She isn’t narcissistic or passive-aggressive. She never argues or manipulates my thoughts. I’m her and she’s me. It’s the only real comfort, and faith, that I bank on. So I’ll keep doing my part and stop making efforts to things that aren’t me or mine anyway! Kuddos for doing your part, MAK! Finn and I love you! 💛💕🌏🌏🌿🌱

    • Wow. I hope so much everything goes well for your boy. ❤ Nature here has been pretty pissed off lately, but she has every right. The dogs and I have been trapped in the house for two days and today will be another one. But tomorrow???? Fingers crossed the weather forecast is right and REAL April will have returned. ❤

      • Thank you! ❤️ it will all go well. Poor guy. His senior year a bat (part graphite, part aluminum) BROKE in half when a friend was batting and Jay was on deck. It’s a miracle he’s here. The trainer rushed to her house after finding 4 of Jay’s front teeth and put them in milk. When I got the the hospital the whole team, and school superintendent, was there. His stepmom calmed me down to prepare me to see him. This was his 9th (or 10th?) surgery. His teeth didn’t take and he now has great implants. But it took a bone grafting surgery 3 months ago to prepare for these. His sinuses were obliterated basically. He’s had reconstructive surgeries and so many nose and sinus surgeries. Now sleep apnea. He’s so tough. He was a darn good ball player and he said, “Mom, I’d never make any money playing.” And there you go. Great mindset. I was so happy to go to the field at his base in Montana and watch him have fun playing again for old times sake! I’m hoping you can get out tomorrow!!! I hate being trapped in!! Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy and stormy so a good writing day for me! 💛❤️💕🤗

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