Things That Need Fixing

In the spirit of yesterday’s post about the future, I am going to point out a few situations that need to be fixed. I find myself hashing and rehashing these same issues over and over again. Probably because I care about them and I see little change to the positive around me.

  1. We need to listen to multiple viewpoints, and we need to learn to work together. Of course, the current cadre of political candidates might tell you the opposite. We need to stop preaching and just listen. The reality is that we all must exist together and we have finite resources to sustain our species, at least for the moment. (Now is not a time to discuss space travel and related topics, as science and technology funding is ever decreasing and pushed to the back burner.) How can we make this country work? We all must work together, find common ground, and take care of each other. It’s that simple.
  2. Every single U.S. citizen ought to learn – and care about – from whence their drinking water comes. I am convinced that our domestic water supply (or lack thereof) is one of the biggest – if not THE biggest – domestic issue facing our nation going forward. Name for me, if you will, one watershed (or one city, for that matter) that isn’t facing some sort of water crisis. Pollution, drought, water rights based on historic numbers (either in supply OR demand) that no longer hold true, water rights disputes, allowing of non-essential uses (i.e. watering things like golf courses and lawns in drought years), etc. etc. etc.  I can’t tell you how many people have told me something like, “As long as the water comes out when I turn the faucet on, I don’t care where it comes from.” Ignorance is NOT bliss and people who hold attitudes like this are just ignorant and selfish.
  3. People need to openly admit that we, as a species, CAN and DO affect the climate and ecology of our planet. Here in North America, we have done a lot to change our section of the world, just to name a few: suppression of natural forest fire regimes, water diversion projects (dams, reservoirs, etc.), and even the forced removal of free-ranging bison on the great plains have all had impacts on water regimes, air quality, plant communities (and how plant communities function), and wildfire behavior, just to name a few. Each of these processes then affects our neighborhoods and the resources we need to sustain our lives. (Think we don’t need clean water? Ask the people of Flint, MI, what they think of that statement.) It is our own arrogance and dislike of responsibility that causes us to deny our innate ability to change our environment and climate.
  4. We need to take an honest, fresh look at what we consider “hard work” and “skills” and make ourselves willing to do just a bit more. This country’s infrastructure was built by hard work, and while some people still must work very hard, technology has made our lives a lot easier and more simple. But here’s the kicker: some things have not changed. For example, we still use toilets. They often require plumbers. Do you do your own plumbing? If so, great! But many people wouldn’t know where to begin, and that is the problem. Many skills have gone by the wayside for various reasons. We need to see a resurgence of skilled tradesmen and tradeswomen in the U.S. citizenry, and a respect for such trades, if we are going to close our borders and ‘make America great again’ (as one current candidate keeps blathering). There is a lot of work out there, if we had the skills – work that needs to be done and done WELL. We need to learn these skills and work hard enough that we feel pride in stamping our name to a job completed. Frankly, I’d love to see projects brought back like the Civilian Conservation Corps. Get young people out of their homes, away from technology, teach them some skills and trades, and send them home with a bit of money upon which to start the rest of their lives. (Maybe fewer people would raise an eyebrow at me when I say I knit my own socks, gloves, hats, and scarves. I have skills.)


Now, you might have thought I was going to talk about which political candidates I thought needed fixing. (Too late; they’ve already reproduced.) But I think our nation’s problems are deep and the Reactionaries trying to get into the White House are just the outward manifestation of these problems.


People Are Like Elk


I’m sure you’re well familiar with the current news headlines and world events: refugees, war, hatred, taxation, bombings, pollution, Donald Trump’s ridiculous hair…. The list goes on and on.

But what you might not be too familiar with are the population dymanics of one of the largest deer species in North America, the Elk. (Note, the moose is the largest.) Elk (Cervus elaphus) play a fascinating role in our ecosystem.

They are large ungulates that eat a lot. They eat plants at an astonishing rate, including some of their favorites, aspen and willow.

And I have this theory: people are like elk.

You see, elk were designed to be part of a larger ecosystem. They aren’t the top of the food chain, but when there is no top predator to keep the elk population in check, they eat everything in sight, leaving little food for smaller mammals. Those other species then suffer.

We Homo sapiens are just another species in the grand scheme of things. We may think we are the top of the food chain, but there is so much in our world that we either cannot control or mess up horribly. So much of our behavior backfires on the general pattern of (our) species existence.

We are quickly sliding down a slope to extinction. At least extinction of the life we humans know. Throughout the last 100-150 years, here in North America alone, we have caused two key phenomena (among many, these are the two I am choosing to mention here) that have forever altered the continent: the almost total extinction of the bison and the permanent damaging of the continent’s natural hydrology.

The removal of bison not only aided in one of the largest acts of genocide in world history, but it actually changed the soil quality of the interior of the continent.

Hydrology can be thought of as a fancy term for the earth’s water system and how it works. It should be obvious how polluted and/or drained our water system is becoming. Do some reading on the Ogallala Aquifer. Or Coldwater Creek in St. Louis County, Missouri. And if those two situations don’t scare you enough, acquaint yourself with the Colorado River and its tributaries. Then read up on the history of water rights in the west or pollution in the east.

We have done this to ourselves, folks. We may think we’re the top of the food chain, but we are slowly killing off our very own existence.

Yes, science and research can help us. I believe we should be investing in more scientific research. But we need to take a healthy look at ourselves and see the bigger picture. We need each other, and we need every single natural resource around us. Those resources are finite, at least in the span of several generations, so use them well.


**Want reading lists of good articles on elk, bison and water? I’ll post them sometime soon.