Grandiosity or Sustainability?


Back to the subject of saving the world. First, allow me to elaborate on my earlier remarks, where I said that it was my life’s ambition to save the world. To be more precise, I should state that, early in life (in my mid-teens?), the conviction came upon me that: 1 – the world needed saving, and 2 – I was capable of doing so, and 3 – that I would do so. It appeared to me practically fore-ordained that that would be my role in life.

My studies were aimed at this end, as I became more and more certain that the relationship between humankind and the environment was a paramount concern, while, at the same time, I was also certain that we needed to know lots more about “human nature” i.e. the biological (evolved) basis of human behavior. So I designed an individual major at Berkeley I called Human Ecology, and graduated therefrom with honors. From there, I went to Harvard, where I majored in Anthropology – looking at primate behavior, human paleontology (fossil man), the behavior of hunting/gathering societies and so on; all ways to get at the biological basis of human behavior. The intellectual climate, in the 60s, favored the nurture argument over the nature argument, but has swung towards the latter since, I’m happy to say. The invention of the field of evolutionary psychology was one response to that misguided understanding.

I dropped out of my doctoral program at Harvard, receiving a “terminal” Masters as a booby prize. I had decided that I was not cut out for the academic life, and I wanted to fashion a life that was more centered on outdoor adventure activities. I wrote this poem to explain myself, called “Parting Shot”.

“My friends, I would like to have stayed, and played – for Truth, the Knowledge that shall set you free –  the game of reasoned discourse but, you see, soon will be the shitstorm.

Now, far be it from me to tell you what to do but, by the same token, don’t tell me I need the Ph.D to know enough to say “stuff it”.

If it’s games you’d play, take a tip from poker and drop out when the odds are against you.

I know how that goes against your grain, to think in probabilistic terms, in terms of loss and gain – I’m sure the world could be saved, but will it?

Yes, will it – will it with all your might, but that won’t do the job as long as you’re a job- holder; something bolder is called for.

Can you go away? Not as a strategy to save the world, but as a strategy to save your own ass? There’s no mass solutions because there’s too much mass.

When they all start running, I don’t want to be over-run, and there’s still a chance to have some fun.

You say you want to stay in the city? You don’t like the woods? Pity.” (end)

Well … I have had some fun, but the world’s population has more than doubled since I wrote the above (in 1970), along with the advent of climate weirding, rising sea levels, the acidification of the oceans, the cutting of the world’s rainforests, environmental refugees, peak oil etc. etc. … and a world economic bubble that is about to burst. This last has the potential to bring this whole episode of human grandiosity to an end. What comes out of it will be sustainable technologies (and populations) or no technologies and populations at all. Here is a website devoted to the topic of sustainability: http://www.sustainability.com/

Steve Miller, Cathedral Pk, Yosemite, 1973

About believesteve

I am a photographer and have published a book of photography and accompanying text on running the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The first (print) edition is out of print, but a second edition is available as an iBook (eBook) through the iTunes bookstore. All Grand Canyon, river and nature lovers will enjoy my book: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-grand/id672492447?ls=1
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