Ask most people if they care about the environment, and they will tell you that they do. It would sound almost inhuman to say otherwise.
But what is strange, is that many of the things we like to see, smell or hear just don’t seem to fit with all that the environment should be. It makes me wonder why these things have our interest or why we view them as we do.
Let’s look at the first big example —the Grand Canyon. This is the biggest example of soil erosion there is; a river that has carved a ditch in the ground like no other.
And what have we done to it? We have dammed it up so that this mighty river no longer reaches the sea but ends in a swamp. All of the water is used up for drinking, irrigation, recreation and making electricity. And we visit this site by the thousands, daily, to see an example of what we try to prevent most of the time.
Another breathtaking place is the Badlands of South Dakota. This is a place that has been carved by water and wind for centuries and continues today. The sun striking the cliffs and pinnacles reflects back radiant colors of red, pink and purple. This area, too, has been made into a national park because we see the beauty that is there.
Then there are the many caverns, which were carved by water beneath the ground. The steady drips of water leave behind tiny bits of minerals to form stalactites and stalagmites like icicles hanging down and pointing up. But why is erosion beautiful to us?
We marvel at the mountains. The bigger and higher they are the more we admire them. And the same with volcanoes which will always make the evening news should one erupt. These are examples of Mother Nature at her wildest, pushing the Earth’s crust skyward as one plate hits another — one going down and the other pushing up to form mountains and volcanoes that spew molten rock into the air.
We often comment about beautiful sunsets when, in fact, dust and other particles thrown high into the stratosphere by volcanoes may be what are making them, such as when Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted in 1991. These beautiful afterglows can last for up to five years after the eruption.
I often wonder about the names we give to our housing developments. I have heard such names as: Eagles Rest, Foxes Run and Peach Tree Hollow. The fact is, to put the houses up, we had to cut down the peach trees. Plus, there are no eagles or foxes to be seen because their habitat was destroyed.
We go to buy a new car. Who can resist that new car smell? We take a deep breath, breathing in all that newness, when in fact these are gases emitted from materials and glues.
I think that if you showed small children pictures of oil-drilling derricks and told them what they were and then showed them the Eiffel Tower, they would think it was another drilling rig. Yet who could think of Paris without thinking of the Eiffel Tower?
I think about the Fourth of July, with all of the noises and exploding fireworks, bombs bursting in air. How does this sound to those who have experienced battle?
Maybe we can differentiate between what is real and what makes a celebration. I cannot answer that because my military time was between conflicts and I never thought it proper to ask someone who had been in combat how the fireworks made them feel.
Recently, I have been hearing more and more people expressing their feelings about using perfectly good drinking water for flushing our toilets.
Most of the people where I live get their water from wells drilled into the aquifers. It does seem wasteful. And then we go to the store and buy bottled water.
There are the sounds that trains make as they cross our country, the mournful sound of their whistles and horns. It used to be steam and now it is diesel horns. The sounds are to warn us of the coming train, but it has some melodic charm that I like to hear, especially when it is off in the distance. The whoooooooo whooo whooo just gets to me. I have no reason why.
Sometimes sounds are in the ears of the beholder. I remember when my aunt came to live with us. She had the second floor bedroom, which was up among the branches of some trees. Early every morning a bird would perch on a limb by her window and sing.
She had spent most of her life in the city and, hearing horns and sirens all of the time, she had gotten used to them. Yet, she said if she could get her hands on that bird, she would wring his neck.
For my aunt it was a bird. For many others it is animals like bats and snakes that we have some innate fear of.
Is it because some find them ugly? I am sure Mother Nature does not think so, and most surely these creatures have their place with us with their jobs to do.
For millions of years, trees and plants evolved to best take advantage of the nutrients in their habitat. In the spring, many plants and trees grow leaves which, through a process called photosynthesis, produce food for the plant.
In the fall, the leaves drop and decay and provide more food for things that grow. The leaves form mulch that holds the rain and helps to prevent too much runoff.
As plants die, they are returned to the cycle that provides for new plant life. And what do we do? We rake the leaves so we can spend countless hours tending grass that we cannot eat.
Many of the things we see, hear, smell and do are not always in tune with nature works, but we are getting better. I just hope that we can understand enough about our Earth so that we can take care of it before it takes care of us.
One day we will all be environmentalists.