The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.
So said John Muir, that famous naturalist and conservationist, who spoke, wrote and philosophized so eloquently about the environment.
Muir was particularly fond of the mountains. I share his affection, having preferred the mountains to the beach since I was old enough to have a preference.
So, it’s no surprise that on this, my third jaunt across the country, John and I spend alot of time exploring mountain highs, though we will visit the spectacular Oregon coast again.
This transcontinental trip has been particularly poignant for me since the United Nation’s dire report on climate change was made public just as we got underway. Hurricane Michael, the second catastrophic storm to pummel our coasts this season, served to emphasize the report’s severe conclusions.
I have viewed the splendour of each majestic vista and wondered what it will look like in 50 and 100 years. Will my children and grandchildren enjoy the luxury?
The irony of my concern is not lost to me. After all, I am burning a tremendous amount of fossil fuel to traverse the country in a terribly fuel-inefficient vehicle. All my recycling and the significant reduction of beef and dairy from my diet won’t balance the scales of my carbon footprint on this trip.
Therein lies the problem. I do some things to reduce my environmental impact, but not enough. I am a micro example of a macro problem. We passed wind farms in Missouri, Utah and Idaho — but not enough to make a difference. We drove by solar farms as well, but not enough to make a difference, because the oil wells we passed in Kansas are still pumping and the cattle on miles and miles of land across Wyoming are still, well, farting. (Cows contribute more to global warming than all the automobiles in the USA.)
And so it goes. Humanity catapults toward catastrophe doing something — but not enough.
Muir’s words encompassed a day. They were the longing of a human to take in as much natural beauty as possible before the sun set and hid the scenery in the darkness of night.
For me, the words are much more melancholic. It’s a big, beautiful world full of light and color and I feel driven to absorb as much of its natural splendour as possible while it irrevocably changes, ultimately lost in a darkness that my grandchildren may never see lifted.
I document what is so that they and theirs will know what was.