An article by Thomas L. Friedman called the Age of Interruption elicited some comments from his readers, including this letter from someone who claims to be Cynthia Emerlye of South Pomfret, Vt. and appeared in the New York Times on July 5, 2006 where-in she waxed eloquent about the need to embrace nature.
(Editor’s note: I don’t believe that Cynthia Emerlye of South Pomfret, Vt. is a person. This is the name of a company in that town and it was probably written by some employee who wished to remain anonymous. RK)People keep yammering about the need to “return to nature” in order to restore their humanity and save the planet. Return to organic farming and eliminate pesticides and chemical fertilizers. No genetically modified foods, no roads, no cars, no electricity, no modern central heating or cooling in the home.
Having grown up on a farm in an area that had a substantial number of wells, springs and cisterns as water sources, along with outside toilets for personal use, I am somewhat familiar with the concept.
I remember well and with great nostalgia those starlit nights when I would lay on my back and see the great expanse of the Milky Way. In the country it is far more expansive than you could ever see in the city, or for that matter, even imagine in the city. You felt as if you were looking past eternity. You would be surprised at how many shooting stars appear on a clear night.
The problem with that is this…..Life isn’t lived that way. Those grand nights weren’t every night, and during the day those sights can’t be seen at all - and the memory of them doesn’t ease the burdens of everyday living. Just because these moments are prized and cherished by those of us who were able to enjoy them doesn’t alter the fact that the rest of the time was substantially more difficult. In other words; the farm is nice place to get away and visit, but I don’t want to live there anymore.
It is interesting that the people who lived that way didn’t quite see life the way these romantic greenies present it.
• When electricity was introduced into rural areas, very few said…"no, none of that throwing the switch stuff just to get light for me."I had uncles and an aunt that did that. I want to see these romantic greenies do that on the first wash day. Does it ever occur to anyone to ask: If primitive was so good in the past; why did they ever abandon it in the past? If primitive is so great today….why do those who have the opportunity abandon primitive today abandon it so readily? I read about celebrities who rave about an outdoor experience as if they have had an epiphany….and then they go home. If it was so great….why didn’t they stay….forever? Apparently Friedman really "loved" it for four days. I would have liked to have interviewed his guide, who knew every "chirp" in the jungle, and see if he would rather live with his family in modern America or primitive areas of South America.
• When running water was introduced into these areas, very few said…."no, I would rather haul gallons and gallons of water up from the spring."
Clearly, this is what some really desire and they would find contentment with this lifestyle, and those who wish to abandon modern life and revert back to nature have my blessing. As for everyone else, I think this is something most people would really hate. Worse yet; I think few would survive.
This quote appeared in the Blog Café Hayek regarding this letter. “Consider, for example, Thomas Babington Macaulay's description of life in the 17th-century Scottish highlands -- before anything beyond rudimentary commerce and industry reach there:”
“His lodging would sometimes have been in a hut of which every nook would have swarmed with vermin. He would have inhaled an atmosphere thick with peat smoke, and foul with a hundred noisome exhalations. At supper grain fit only for horses would have been set before him, accompanied by a cake of blood drawn from living cows. Some of the company with which he would have feasted would have been covered with cutaneous eruptions, and others would have been smeared with tar like sheep. His couch would have been the bare earth, dry or wet as the weather might be; and from that couch he would have risen half poisoned with stench, half blind with the reek of turf, and half mad with the itch.”
I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t sound like a good time to me. The movies don’t really depict the true nature of life in ancient times. It was brutal, ugly, backbreaking, uncomfortable, unhealthy, and most importantly; very short lived. This is the embrace of nature.
We may wish to embrace nature in a loving way, and I think this is a good overall attitude, but let’s not lose sight of reality. Nature has no loving embrace for us in return. Nature is unthinking, brutal, unkind, uncaring, unhealthy and will make life short lived for those who aren’t prepared to change their environment in order to survive.
Nature will shine on us one day and rain on us the next. It doesn’t care, nor is nature able to care. Nature is an environmental machine that operates under a set of laws, and those laws have no human concepts of reality or compassion. Let’s stop being anthropomorphic about nature. Nature has no human qualities, period.
How many of us really want to go back to those eras? If we did, how may would survive the first year? How many really know how to produce the food they would need to survive? If you were able to produce enough food to survive, how do you preserve meats, fruits and vegetables without refrigeration or canning processes? If you did grow enough grain to get through the winter how would you process it and store it?
It was done in the old days. Do you know how? How many really do? To some extant I do, but none of that has any appeal for me at all. I have no desire to embrace primitivism, and I don’t seem to see the greenies embracing it as a permanent life style either. They pontificate about the glories of primitive living from the comforts and well laid tables of the modern world.
The environment has to be properly cared for, but all things in nature must be used as a means of survival. I am not talking about abusing nature. Having grown up on a small farm I know and understand the concepts of conservation (there is a difference between conservation and preservation) for future utilization. It is just like a bank account, if you deplete it there is nothing left. Nature does not think and does not care. Nature has no feelings, no concerns and no desires. Nature is here for our use and our benefit, not the other way around. We are not imposing on nature. Nature belongs to us.
I don’t really believe that this lady really intends for her comments to be taken to the above stated extremes, but these odes to nature have an impact on people’s emotions. Clear analytical thought becomes very difficult when living in an imaginary world of serendipity. In the Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip, wonderful, valuable and agreeable things not sought for suddenly would appear. To embrace nature for its beauty and grandeur is fortifying to the spirit, but to embrace in order to humanize it as if nature was warm, wonderful and serendipitous; is to place it above mankind. That is eco-religion. That is eco-terrorism! It isn’t very bright either!