I wonder if the rapid development of resources in a nation leads equally to the decline of resourcefulness in its people. At least one aspect of the thought is undeniably true. For instance, relying so heavily on outside sources of entertainment, we have become almost incapable of entertaining ourselves. How many parents face the daily question from young children: “Gee, what is there to do anyway?” How many of us, for that matter, can even share a family evening without resorting to the electronic entertainment that has inserted its wedging effect in nearly every North American home?
Nowhere is our lack of inner resourcefulness so apparent though, as in the exhaustive land-wrecking we condone for the mere sake of keeping an ephemeral, materialistic “progress” on its feet. The ravishing of land has hidden beneath the ambiguous term “development.” Whereas the natural community of land is a mixed healthy, self-sustaining enterprise; our form of development is unilateral, and simply provokes ruination of the stable community for the sake of extracting a material that is eventually translatable into dollars. That such development is unilateral, is further indicated by the generally irresponsible attitude humanity has exhibited in destroying rivers with filth; mocking the beauty of its landscape with litter and garbage, and accumulating goods in some insatiable urge to clutter dwelling places with material objects of an accumulative quest. Strange to say, when a person destroys the work of man we call him a vandal, but when one destroys the work of God we call him or her a developer!
The present economic crisis has led us to justify the sanctioning of huge oil pipe lines through vast tracks of unspoiled wilderness. Since we lack both the character and wisdom to moderate own demands on environment, we unconcernedly plan to subject our country to further despoliation for anything that will provide propulsive power. Though most of us have nowhere of importance to go – and should realize by now that we cannot escape from ourselves – the final irony may be that we travel onward to the last gasp and drive our nation to the poorhouse in an automobile.
Basic to our increasing lack of resourcefulness is the fundamental mythology we have come to accept – that man is more important than the Earth itself. The rise of humankind may be a flowering of the Earth, but it has sickened our planet to the point whereat it will soon be no longer capable of sustaining that flower. Nature’s experiment with an intelligent being will have been a failure. The efficient operation of the environment depends only on the sunshine-trapping green plants and on the organisms that decompose material that is no longer living. The passage of man along the extinction trail would only be marked by more lush greenery on Earth. Like Adam in the Garden of Eden, we are ignoring our role “to dress and keep the Earth.”
Instead of resourcefully using our technological expertise for man and the continued health of the planet, we have become captives of our machines. We have been lulled into the state of bring unable to distinguish between luxury and necessity. We are blinded to the simple fact that clean, fresh water is a necessity to the basic health; and have instead decided that some labour-saving gadget is a necessity that makes the sacrifice of clean water an “externality.” We truly have things backward. The thought has already been well stated: “What matters it if you gain the whole world and lose your own soul?” But we haven’t time to figure out what that means. We are too busy chasing the illusionary happiness of wealth and power.
Every day we let pass without moving in the direction of restoration of harmony with the Earth moves us that much closer to the point of no return. At this point, there is little more permitted than harassment by words such as these. Society prefers the glibness of the advertiser who blesses their wants, and it is an ultimate paradox that a conservationist is considered a radical. We have no time to listen to anything that smacks of conscience and if one listens there is still the gap between hearing and acting. All that we have now is a “permitted lip-service” which may be used to prove that we live in a democracy. Sadly though, there is no abatement of demand on resources, no abatement of the philosophy that we need to be over-warmed, over-entertained and over-coddled by the environment. It is evidence of short-term thinking that neither individuals nor industries nor institutions have ever recognized a moral responsibility to the natural world which would transcend the greed which we fancy to be need.
Yet we say that we are concerned with the future of our children. What future?