A year ago, I found myself lost in Redwood Canyon in Kings Canyon National Park and ever since, I have thought about returning to get lost in the forests. I had been driving around California, looking to waste time avoiding the virus that was ravaging the local cities, and I decided that this was the perfect time to revisit the wonderland that has filled my dreams for the last year. Winter was around the corner and snow would soon make travel in the High Sierras difficult. If there was any time, it was now.
Kings Canyon is a forgotten gem of a park, nestled between Yosemite and Sequoia. Containing both the second largest tree in the world, as well as the largest valley of old growth sequoias, it’s quite surprising to me that this park isn’t as popular as its other California brethren. Nonetheless, its smaller scale and popularity make it a prime spot to get away from the rest of society and escape into what California once was. Not long after arrival, I found myself standing alone in the General Grant Grove, an eerie feeling in and of itself.
Lately, I have been talking a lot about feelings of humility and the need for us as humans to take a step back from our self importance. This same line of thinking was exasperated this afternoon as I walked alone. I’m starting to feel like a broken record, but these thoughts constantly plague my mind, especially when I’m surrounded by such ancient beauty.
I decided to find some reprieve under the shade of one of these beauties to escape into my book but (almost comically) continued to be haunted by this line of thinking simply by my current choice of reading material. I was in the middle of “The Road to Wigan Pier” by Orwell, a fascinating look into the conditions of the industrial miners in early 20th Century Britain and a look into the periods opinions on the values of socialism.
Now how does this book connect to my feelings on human arrogance and resource depletion? Quite easily, in fact.
The book spends the majority of its pages focusing on the plight of the average industrial worker and the need for society to help them out. Page after page, Orwell demonizes the conditions that the workers face and explores the disparity between the realities of the working and upper classes. He (rightfully) points out inequities that are sure to lower the quality of life of millions of people as well as the dominance of the upper classes.
Nowhere throughout the writing though, does he give any thought to what harm industrialization does to the earth. His solution is to simply industrialize more! The more we industrialize, the closer we will be to a society of robots working and humans living out their dreams of pleasure in splendor.
“But Art, this book was written almost 100 years ago. We have evolved since then and society takes the effects of industrialized climate change seriously.”
As I left the forest and sat at an outlook I couldn’t convince myself that we did. Smoke from the forest fires that had been raging for months mixed with the clouds and wouldn’t let my mind veer from thinking about industrialization.
Since that book was written, everyones quality of life has increased 100 fold and its still not good enough. We still need more houses, more farms, more technology. As humans, as long as there is inequity in our society, our self importance disallows us from ever truly taking the earth into consideration.
But we can get cleaner energy. We can focus on renewables and in result the earth will be better off!
This ignores so much of the issue. The issue is the finality of resources and the unknown longterm consequences of harvesting them. The issue is the self importance (or arrogance) of humans acting as if the world was made for us. The issue is that if progress continues, even at a 1% annual pace, we will have to continually harvest more and more resources to make equity a reality because each year, the majority of people don’t have the things society has advanced and those things become needed in society. A perfect example is computers and cell phones. At one point they were only dreamed of, then they were a luxury, then they became a want, then a need, and now they need to be replaced frequently to keep up with the pace of innovation.
What is the difference between need and want? Where do we draw the line? When is enough enough?
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