Two things happen to footprints on a beach ... they can be quite visible when you happen to visit the beach early or, if it is later in the day, they can disappear in a mass of anonymous footprints. Either way, when the tide changes they soon will be gone. They are temporary marks on the landscape.
So it is with man. We leave sometimes inescapable evidence of our passing but seldom any permanent traces.
It is a little different in the mountains. The first visitor might leave subtle traces of their passing, a broken twig or a trampled clump of moss. It takes years and many, many passages before there is a well-defined path or a rut carved by thousands of passing feet. Given enough time, one even can discern paths across solid rock along rocky ridges. In either case, the evidence of my individual passing is temporary and soon disappears.
Most folks who notice these things also feel a desire to leave the places that they pass through the same as they were when they entered these places. After all, they have seen photos from space that show how smoke from fires half a world away can pollute our air at home. We become concerned about the negative influences we have on this world by just being here. I suppose that this is good. At one time in the past we viewed this place as a gift that we were free to expend because we knew that it would constantly replace itself. It took some time for us to notice that the replaced world was not quite the same as the old world we thought would remain forever. The air was perhaps not as sweet, the water in our streams began to cause us illness, the forest trees were not so grand as those we saw in old photographs.
We seem quite comfortable talking about these things. Still, we are much less committed to trying to address how we might change the dynamics that we are beginning to notice. We argue whether the changes we see are perhaps simply cyclic and are therefore reversible. What we seem not to address is a time line for action. And, even more deeply, a commitment to act at all. If we simply wait, things might get better. That is possible!
I'm encouraged that we have begun to notice that new technology often has unintended spin-offs. A space program spawns an environmental consciousness here on Earth. A race to space, which we initially lost, leads to international curtailment of a nuclear arms race ... at least for a moment. And rather than taking away the mystery of life, modern science has added to this mystery and even tentatively whispered that they might not yet have all of the answers to all of our questions. That's progress! From my obscure viewpoint ... hanging out here on the Olympic Peninsula ... God does not appear to be dead at all. If anything, her creation seems to have grown in wonder and awe. We no longer just have atoms and matter, we have antimatter. And we have learned that these atoms themselves are mostly empty space! The more empty space we can discover, the better.
What we seem to still lack is a will to do something besides waiting around for a more favorable cycle to begin. What we need to consider is a way to apply our scientific model to humanity. Science tells us that everything is made of the same stuff. Shouldn't that include people? This stuff seems to act in rational ways. Couldn't people do this?
Science says that everything is interconnected. Doesn't that include people? Maybe we do need some new laws ... something like, mutual respect. What a far-out notion!
Richard Olmer's column appears in the Sequim Gazette the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. He can be reached via
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