There are times that I find myself wandering pensively in the woods, asking aloud, “so how should I presume?”
I just read about the land sinking — up to thirteen inches a year in some places — in the Central Valley of California.
I also just read about there being no mountaintops left in certain areas of West Virginia anymore. None. And, the coal companies are pulling out. West Virginia’s usefulness to them as a sacrifice zone is over.
I also read about the botany studies indicating that the sounds of nature have empirically diminished — less bird song, less insect cacophony — having been drowned out by the noise of industrialization. So, really, how should I presume?
T.S. Eliot’s Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, like so many literary examples in modernity, is concerned with issues of meaning, doubt, and individual significance. Prufrock is riddled with uncertainty as his place in the universe seems shaky. He questions, but appears to find no answers. Prufrock finds the modern world becoming a place of spiritual emptiness, a certain absence of the sacred proliferating as modernity takes hold.
Prufrock, then, bombarded by questions that he is unable to answer, finds himself growing old in a world that seems alien to him. I am there. I can’t wrap my mind around a world that is willing to destroy nature in order to grow economies.
Pre-industrial societies knew that nature was their home. Industrial society, quite to the contrary, sees nature as a repository of resources to be used for profit. Native Americans talked to nature. We talk about nature. This is a critical distinction. First People were a part of nature. We objectify it. We are products of Cartesianism and, thus, think that we are separate from nature (or, as Descartes would have called it, all of that “dead matter”) — distinct from our very home. We suck it dry, frack it, mine it, cut it down, pave it over and poison it — all in the name of progress. Civilization.
We love stuff and we love the Earth
It wouldn’t be rational to set our homes on fire, but that is what we are doing to our ultimate home, the Earth. And, we are doing it because we want “stuff.” And the problem is that manufacturing the amount of “stuff” that we want uses incredible amounts of natural resources.
It’s too easy to shuck this off and simply blame the corporatists. It’s not that simple. The fact of the matter is that the economy is supply-and-demand based. If we, as consumers, “demanded” less, supply (and all of the elements that accompany it, such as pollutants, resource depletion and carbon expenditure) would necessarily shrink. We give lip-service to loving nature. But, really, we love our “stuff.”
We are quickly approaching the day when we will have to make some hard decisions about which of those two lovers we choose.
So, really, how am I to presume?
— Sherry Ackerman, Transition Voice