Last week I had a tale about losing my dog, Bro, temporarily. It drew a couple of responses that got me to thinking. Rather than bury my response to them in a thread of comments, I’ve decided to pt it here:
JOANN AND DIANA:
Thanks for the kind thoughts.
There’s a nuance in Joann’s comments that may benefit from a response. I think our attention, vis a vis the environmental issues, should be analyzed in two parts; problems and solutions. Unfortunately which arena one is dealing with, and when, is often not so clear.
I, at least, don’t see my solution to the environmental problems as pessimistic. Indeed, I think it is highly optimistic. [For anyone who may not know, I advocate terraforming another planet as a means of dealing with Earth’s environmental problems.] I may be discounting much of the pessimism engendered by what I regard as humanity’s over-stress on “the good of humanity” and under-stress of “the good of nature,” but that is one arena in which I think we are dealing much more with problem than solution.
We routinely acknowledge the obvious dependency on the total that the smaller entity has (there can be no “us” without a viable “nature”), but that fact is rarely shared in our actual thinking. Given the choice between an ill for a human being and an ill for some natural system, we virtually always choose the latter.
But understanding that there may be others who read the fact that my solution will, at best, save only a small part of humanity as pessimistic does nothing to change my belief that that result is actually very optimistic. Remember, I view the problems on Earth as nature-threatening, not merely humanity-threatening. In my view, “saving the planet” is, quite literally, closer to my goal than “saving humanity.” But to the extent that “saving the planet” is thought to mean “saving the Earth,” I most emphatically disagree. To me, “saving the planet” is only meaningful as “saving the life-force that lives here.”
In my opinion, the parts of my position that are legitimately accused of being pessimistic are those that relate most directly to the problems themselves. I am very critical of the current attempts to delay and/or avoid the problems inherent in our growth in population and increase in standard of living.
I don’t think we are “saving the planet” in any meaningful sense, nor do I think our current thinking is apt to. A very large part of the problem, in my opinion, is our continued reliance on ideas which are not–and in most cases never have been–working. That is, I think, legitimately described as a pessimistic outlook. Nor do I think it realistic to imagine that our current efforts are going to “save the planet” nor that our better angels will awake in time to do it. I see our reliance on the old solutions as part of the problem.
But I am very bullish on there being a good outcome. I believe there is time to keep Gaia alive and well, despite the awful things we have been doing to Her here on Earth. My sense of urgency stems from knowing how long my solution will take and how quickly we seem to be moving toward true disaster.
I am also optimistic in thinking that some of us humans may succeed in “getting off,” and in doing so, will find themselves–or more accurately, their progeny–returned to a Garden of Eden. The details of such a transition deserve much greater explanation than I want to go into now, but suffice it to say I’m not making the statement casually.
I guess the clearest analogue to what happened with Bro would be imagining there were no coyotes in the woods that would notice him or that, even if there were, he’d have been able to hold his own against them–or perhaps that there would have never been a conflict. Those, in my mind, would have been best case scenarios, and hence optimistic.
But I don’t think they would have been realistic. The only way in which they may have been realistic is if coyotes are not familiar enough with cataracts to recognize Bro’s handicap and if his size was large enough to dissuade their temptation to attack. He is on the verge, size-wize.
The pessimistic view I did hold inspired great concern, prompting a request of extraordinary intervention from my good friend, Steve. Had I not been so pessimistic, I might not have called on Steve for his help. Without Steve looking for him, he might well have been discovered by coyotes before being found. Even that might have turned out okay, for Bro is not an obviously small or infirm dog, but it is not how I would have liked it to go. There was just too much risk.
Steve’s assistance brought the frightening potentials of the situation to a pleasant conclusion, and I am very grateful for that. But, if anything, I Believe the role my pessimism played was positive and I am glad I didn’t merely hope for the best. Each moment Bro was free in the woods may have been delightful to him, but they were laden with unnecessary, potentially lethal, danger.
That he survived may well have been the outcome in any case, and yes, that did cross my mind, but I don’t think that should be a justification for my having allowed the risk accidentally. He is no match for a coyote, let alone a pack, which there most certainly would have been shortly after a decision was made to attack.
Once upon a time, he might have been safe on his own, but I think that is no longer true.
I’ve known of many a pet falling prey to coyotes in Tahoe and I feel a duty to mine to prevent it happening to him, whether it leaves him a captive or not. Such a judgment is innately bound in moral ambiguity, and I recognize it might well be judged differently by others–or differently, as I’ve often done myself, for different pets. In this case, and in my opinion, we were lucky.
But I have never been one to think my wishes, in and of themselves, effect the outcome much, so I am not inclined to take either credit or blame for the outcome based solely on the prevailing tenor of my own wishes. That is also a largely philosophical position, and I recognize it as not being universally ascribed to.
But I am not comfortable leaving the salvation of life on Earth up to luck. So I shall continue with my Mission whether I have misgivings, as I did upon the loss of Bro, or not. My campaign is, largely, based on the question of which is more realistic: thinking we are currently headed toward “saving the Earth” or “destroying it?” And whether we are going to alter that direction, if the direction is toward destruction.