“It is curious, but till that moment I had never realized what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we are alive. All the organs of his body were working–bowels digesting food, skin renewing itself, nails growing, tissues forming–all toiling away in solemn foolery…He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone–one mind less, one world less.”
–From “A Hanging” by George Orwell.
“It is clear that there will be little development of life here in the future if we do not protect and foster the living forms of this continent. To do this, a change must occur deep in our souls. We need our technologies, but this is beyond technology. Our technologies have betrayed us. This is a numinous venture, a work of the wilderness. We need a transformation such as the conservationist Aldo Leopold (1887-1948) experienced when he saw the dying fire in the eyes of a wolf he had shot. From that time on, he began to see the devastation that we were bringing upon this continent. We need to awaken, as did Leopold, to the wilderness itself as a source of a new vitality for its own existence. For it is the wild that is creative. As we are told by Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), “In Wildness is the preservation of the world.” The communion that comes through these experiences of the wild, where we sense something present and daunting, stunning in its beauty, is beyond comprehension in its reality, but it points to the holy, the sacred.”
–From “The World of Wonder” by Thomas Berry
When life is snuffed out–whether by an anonymous drone or a mechanical throat-slitting in a slaughterhouse or a vicious chainsaw in the depths of a forest–what exactly occurs? Is it such a banal happening that it makes you tingle with the craving to simply change the channel? Doesn’t it make you a little numb? One slackened body in a ditch, the poaching of an elephant–its rumpled form deflated and dehorned–or the sight of poisonous fluid seeping into a fresh stream…none of our business, really. The world is a touch-and-go place where bad things happen. So let’s switch the channel and nuke another burrito. But what happens when you allow yourself, like Aldo Leopold in the Berry quote, to witness the “dying fire in the eyes of a wolf”? What if you allow yourself to feel grief over that light changing into darkness? What happens to you if you see a man who is about to be hanged dodge a puddle in his path and it bothers you?
The thing about the climate change crisis is that it is about you and me. It might not be sexy enough to make it to the headlines most of the time. But it’s not just happening “out there”–in another place or somewhere in the distant future. It’s the story of every living being. And wilderness destroyed means the end of us and our world. These days this planet seems like a loony bin. And unless we concern ourselves with more than our basic survival, we will lose all of the beauty and mystery of life.
I choose to care.