There are hardly words to describe what's happened to our lands in the last eighteen months in the Columbus Hillside Preserve in Salt Lake City. A network of ridiculous and overbuilt trails have been stamped into this liminal landscape in addition to the existing and extensive trail network long in place. And now, this morning, I was walking out to the area where I have seen literally countless animals and in two years have never not seen at least one raptor on a visit, which have been daily for long stretches, and came upon one of those moments that toggle between the literal and the metaphoric. Too much shock for the body to adjust.
There was a change in the air this morning the moment I got on the trail. A lifelessness that I hadn't before experienced here. It was so overwhelming I put my binoculars in my pack because I had the feeling the wouldn't be needed. A road now has been plowed right through the middle of this little arm of wilderness that swings down out of the high Wasatch range into the city. It provided me with countless lessons. Seeing a ten foot wide road dug into the hillside was probably the single most breathtaking moment I've had since I heard that my grandfather had passed a couple years ago.
The turned up mud stuck to my shoes. There were no birds. The fox I'd seen last week of course is long gone. When will we stop? The answer of course is that we can't until we're forced to. And we will be forced to. The question I ask is this then, if history is a manifold of intertwining stories, and civilizations are subject to growth and decay just as any other adaptive complex system is, will some of us be able to survive? And how? I tend toward the pessimistic side of this spectrum. I see only this modern industrial civilization toeing too far out into the growth phase, becoming too specialized, become too intertwined so that the merest shock to the thing will collapse it. And that shock will come. It won't be a road plowed through this author's favorite bird watching territory. It won't be a ridiculous excuse for a president. It will be the last dying breath of the last predator on the earth. It will be the last flap of the last Monarch butterfly's wings as it struggles to make it up a Mexican volcano. It will be a glitch in the financial system. A mix of a one and a zero. Meaningless usually. We cannot continue like this. It can be different. We can slow down. We can not think nature can be managed any more than we can. We can stop growing. We can stop the cult of growth. There are many places in which to mount a defense against this shared insanity. Where will yours be? Where will mine be?