Essays, Stories, Adventures, Dreams
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
But Don’t Take My Word For It
Trolling the waters of Internet social sites leads to the realization that among the millions of people who choose to respond with comments, there are the cautious ones, the reckless ones, the thoughtful ones, and the intemperate ones. Their comments, especially among sites that invite political commentary, are often short, punchy, on point, and clever. Or not. However, if ever the politicians wish to better understand what We The People think, they can learn a great deal from reading selective comments and hopefully learn from them. That is not to say that everything posted on line by common citizens constitutes inspired wisdom. Much of the commentary can readily and justifiably be culled. Be especially careful of the trolls and the political hackers who purposefully deceive us. But don’t take my word for it. Nonetheless, the Internet is truly a place where everyone can learn, even if the posted content is largely opinion. We The People are, after all, a multicultural society composed of people who are cautious, reckless, thoughtful, and intemperate. Among other things. Not to mention well educated, or moderately educated, or poorly educated. Everyone has an opinion and deserves to be heard. Not all opinions, however, carry equal weight. We alone decide on their merits, and that brings us back full-circle to our current state of world affairs.
Should opinions trump facts? In politics, at least, it seems that well-crafted and heavily marketed opinions hold sway most of the time. Verifiable facts are essential as proof of the pudding, so to speak, but in the final analysis the acceptability of the pudding itself is a matter of taste, and taste is subjective.
This chronicle is also about opinions and thus is subjective in many regards. But it also highlights empirical facts that can readily be acknowledged even while being debated. Whereas science prides itself as being fact-based and objective at its core, there is plenty of room for subjective discourse. As perhaps the best example in these contemporary times of scientific debate, the issue of climate change is not only on the front burner, but the status of the debate itself impacts how society reacts to and makes adjustments to climate change. But don’t take my word for it. Analyze the circumstances for yourself.
The environment is another issue that comprises both objectivity and subjectivity within the parameters of a putative debate. Objectively, nobody will deny that we live in a world that nurtures us in an inherited environment that has allowed us to exist and to thrive. As the world population has expanded and transformed the very landscapes on which we reside, it is undeniable that we humans have altered our environments.
The Natural Environment Has Many Interactive Components
One may presume that the word “environment” should be considered in a general way, but when we look closely it becomes evident that there are many subdivisions of the grand domain we casually refer to as the environment. There is the air, there is water, there is land; furthermore, there is dry land, wet land, flat land, mountainous land, and frozen land. By the hand of man, we have altered our environments, both the seas and the land. We have become the stewards of the land and of the seas but over thousands of years we have altered the many environments that we have inherited, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.
Just recently, one trending media site posed a question to anyone who was willing to provide an answer. The unadorned Question-and-Answer site named Quora asked, “How are humans being influenced by environmental factors?” A simple, straightforward question…too simple because there are many answers.
We are being influenced by the passive environments we inherited, and we are being influenced by the environments we have altered. Where to start? Do we start with the passive and ambient factors in our air? There are background levels of pollution from decomposing vegetation and emissions from volcanoes, methane releases from melting permafrost, from dust storms, etc. Or do we start with the factors of our altered air quality and temperature control though air conditioning, ventilation system filtration and artificial shading?
Water as part of our inherited environments is no less a consideration when describing the complexity of our earthly resources. Sea water, lake water, river water, rain water, and ground water are all different entities with respect to their loci of occurrence, available volumes, and their chemical compositions—despite the similar physical appearance. How we steward one of our most precious resources is vitally important if for no other reason than the fact that humans can and do regularly pollute and poison our waters on a grand scale. It does not require special equipment or training. All it takes is carelessness and inattention.
Land is the one natural resource that humans understand the best because we all have, without exception, a life-long exposure and personal knowledge of one kind of land or another. A land environment is no less complex, however, due to the combined variables such as annual temperature regimes, precipitation, native vegetation, topography, geologic features and the underlying minerals that so feverishly drive us to deface our landscapes. But don’t take my word for it. Survey the land for yourself.
Despite the wealth of its resources on the surface and under the surface of our land environments that have allowed us to prosper by developing our lands, much of earth’s land surface is remote, vacant, inaccessible, or prohibitively expensive to develop. But don’t take my word for it. Others have come to the same conclusion.
So, how have humans been influenced by environmental factors? We alter them, or try to do so. Within reason, that is not a bad policy. If we did not fight against naturally occurring disease, we would not live as long as we do. If we did not raise the air temperature in our homes during the winter, we would be very cold for extended periods. If we did not cool the air in the summer, there would be widespread discomfort. If we did not take pains to ensure that we are drinking clean water, the water that we inherited as part of our total environment would definitely influence our health. If we did not study and understand genetics, there would be no new fruit or flower varieties, no resistance to the basest of environmental constraints that regulate growth and development. There would be no transplantation of species into other climatic regimes, no adaptations of man or animal to climate changes. But don’t take my word for it.
Humans are the creatures with the cleverest brains. We are born into this world that is structured with a variety of environmental factors and biological imperatives. At their core, the environmental factors cannot be erased, but they can be altered. Likewise, biological imperatives concerning life functions cannot be erased, but they also can be ameliorated to permit us to grow and thrive. We The People have to learn about what can and should be adapted, and what should not. But don’t take my word for it.