This planet has survived cataclysmic challenges over its 4.5 billion years of existence: Glaciers that locked near continents in a deep freeze, volcanoes that spewed ash, earthquakes, continental shifts and more. And it came close to shutting down all animal life some 65 million years ago when a giant meteorite crashed into the Yucatan Peninsula in Central America.
Still, life prevailed. After a planet populated by massive creatures that roamed the earth for 160 million years (think about that!), that one meteor broke the dinosaur dominance and reduced animal life here to a few, small, lucky, surviving mammals.
Then, sometime between 3-5 million years ago — a span of maybe a few minutes in the heartbeat of Earth — a true marvel emerged. For the first time, Mother Nature somehow managed to bring about the evolution of an intelligent creature — the early human. Yes, they were limited, both in size and intelligence but, as hundreds of thousands of years passed, the brains of these early humans grew in size and, eventually, early man learned how to make tools, spears, fire and speech. Then, about 100,000 years ago, maybe more, our species, homo sapiens, came on the scene.
Early on, actually for tens of thousands of years, we were of little or no consequence to the earth and its resources. We were too busy just trying to stay alive. We traveled in small bands, or tribes, and struggled, on a regular basis, hunting for meat, digging up roots, working together to survive.
For a better understanding of that early time, pick up a copy of “Tribe” by Sebastian Junger, who earlier wrote the best-seller “The Perfect Storm.” Junger explains how early humans, in small groups, depended on one another to survive. The social hierarchy was far more level than today because every member of the tribe contributed to its survival in one way or another.
But something happened along the way. Today, despite a quality of life for many of us that is the highest in the history of man, far too many people are unhappy, addicted to drugs, alcohol, food or a small, bright object, one held up close to our faces to collect the garbage of the moment, distancing ourselves from each other more with every passing day.
So, one could reasonably ask, what does any of this have to do with the outdoors? Only everything. Look at what I have personally witnessed in the past 25 years or so. I can remember, clearly, sitting against a tree, dressed in heavy camouflage for the May 1 opening day of the Vermont spring turkey season. Those early-May mornings were sometimes in the upper 20s. No buds beginning to show the beginnings of leaf production, no black flies, no mosquitoes and, even more comforting, no such thing as ticks. That has all changed over the past two decades or so. Now, early in the first week, I can see leaves clearly opening, mosquitoes and flies buzzing about my head net and ticks, so many ticks that on some days, I would leave the woods with a dozen on my clothing and another three or four embedded in my skin.
The weather, here and everywhere, has changed drastically and not for the better: Climate change, the extinction of more and more species around the globe, over-population, drought and more dangerous hurricanes. I think the point has been made.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we have elected a man to head the most powerful nation on Mother Earth, one who lacks introspection, empathy, honesty, an inquiring mind and ordinary intelligence. More like a lost child than a man, he has been clear on the subject of global warning: It is “a hoax,” Trump has said repeatedly. Think about that for a little while.
The saying “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature” is not mine. Wish it was. It was a catch-phrase created in a TV commercial for Chiffon margarine back in the 1977. I believe that saying is a warning to our age, to our hubris, our propensity for making one bad decision after another when it comes to the health of our planet and our species.
One could make a good argument that, based on the folly of modern man — with poverty and the homeless on the rise in the richest country on earth, with ongoing wars, and especially with global warming — Mother Nature may be thinking, hey, maybe we should do something about these pesky humans who have a propensity for dropping doo-doo in their own nests.
Mother Earth could be in deep thought these days. Let’s see, despite all of the insanity it produces, wars haven’t brought about the end of humans, not earthquakes or any other form of natural disasters. Can Mother Earth hope for another big meteorite? Could be a long time coming. Wait, I’ve got it — That old standby, the indomitable virus. But next time, one that is truly lethal, big enough and nasty enough to wipe out, well, everyone.
I know. It sounds dismal. I want to be optimistic for the future of my three sons, my six grandchildren, for all of us who are trying to get by in this world. But we had better wake up and smell the roses real soon.
Mother Nature? She’s been around the block more than a few times. She has seen it all. She might be thinking, “OK, this little experiment didn’t work out. I’ve had it with this species. Let’s shut it down. Maybe the next ones in line, say the dolphins, will handle this ‘big blue marble,’ somewhat better than these selfish, upright humans.”
Maybe Mother Earth, Mother Nature, is just waiting for the right time. And for us humans? Time is running out.
Contact Dennis Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.