Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Eco freaks

Sorry, couldn't think of a nicer thing to say. Give me a moment of personal opinion, reflection if you will. No links, because these are either matters no necessarily exposed to the public, or involve something seen on television.

So last night I'm watching the tail end of a show on, I believe, The Learning Channel (though it might have been The Discovery Channel, because they're right next to each other and I often just toggle back and forth; it's all a blur). The show was about the Grand Canyon, and the portion I caught was on the Glenn Canyon Dam. Much controversy (surprise!) and some danger, too, as illustrated by footage from the 1983 flood season along the Colorado River, which is the river the dam blocks up.During that year, water in the lake rose faster than the dam's flood gates and spillways could handle, threatening to destroy the dam itself. Apparently, a project is now in the works to tear the dam down, rather than risk its sudden, catastrophic collapse. Much lamenting that Glenn Canyon, the part underwater, will never be the same, even with the dam gone and the river "restored," boo hoo.

Bummer. I am not a dam fan, growing up thinking they were fascinating, getting older and discovering that they are seldom truly built for the publicized reasons. In California, the #1 reason for dams has nothing to do with flood control (the stated, public reason) and everything to do with shipping water south. Those greedy bastards (and I mean the Metro Water people) even had plans to tap rivers and streams in Canada. Well, to dark ugly places with them, eh!

No, what caught my ear last night was the eco-freak, and I'll call him that because I don't know his name and, well, he was a freak. I wish I had recorded his statement, but paraphrased it was, "Some day, the Grand Canyon will recover [presumably from all the shit we nasty, vermin-like humans have done]. It may take a hundred thousand years, and that's all right, because with luck there won't be any humans around any more to muck it up." (Emphasis added on "with luck" and those were his words.)

So to this dolt, humans are always the problem and if we'd just go away, all would be better in the world. Only...only, if we go away who would know? This might be a fascinating variation on the philosophical question, "If a tree falls in the forest, and there's no one around to hear it, does it still make a sound?" Well, sure, but the more fundamental question is: Who cares? You can admire in the abstract a pure and pristine Grand Canyon, restored after a hundred millenia, but by then enormous portions of it will be gone, destroyed by the very forces that created it. And it can be as pure and pristine as you can imagine, but there won't be anyone around to admire it, make note of it, etc.

I lament the loss of Hetch Hetchy, which by all accounts (especially those of John Muir) was a valley even grander than Yosemite. It lies underwater, a reservoir that is the main water supply for San Francisco. But that's what it was, not what it is...or ever will be again. (If you're interested in attempting to restore Hetch Hetchy Valley, BTW, try here. This project dates back to the Reagan Era, when the Interior Department recommended the restoration.) As regards Glenn Canyon, the part underwater, one local environmentalist at least recognized this basic fact. Take away the dam, she said, and it won't matter; the canyon will never be the same. Never.

Why is man so evil, as surely he is to any eco-freak? We modify our environment, yup we do. So do all animals, to one extent or another. We do it on a vast scale because...well, because we can and it keeps people alive. Do existing ecologies get destroyed? Yes. Are other species endangered? Often. Do we count more, are we more important, than other lifeforms on Earth? Well, yes, 'fraid so. Does this mean we tromp around with supreme indifference all other life? Hell, no! Note my conversion from pro-dam to anti-dam; I am flexible and can be swayed by reasoned argument. Telling me how wonderful things would be if we (humans) would just go away is neither reasoned, nor an argument; it's a statement of irrational dogma.

But then, my opinion doesn't count. I'm one of those dreadful humans. Quick, let's ask the Pet Psychic!

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