Monday, November 01, 2010

Responsibility of Ownership

I've posted this more than once, but as the number of people following The Vanishing America Project continues to increase, I feel obligated to continue re-posting it...


As I sit pondering the current state of our economy and the upcoming elections, I find myself uncertain about the future of this great nation. I don’t know if our economy will recover and I don’t know if I can trust our elected officials to “do the right thing” . One thing I do know, however, is that we are the stewards of this planet, like it or not. And, as stewards, it is our responsibility to take care of the world in which we live.

People have often asked me if I’m an environmentalist. I’m not sure how to answer that. I love Nature. I love to see the massive forests, the wide-open plains, the tree-lined and snow-capped mountains, the swamps and wetlands, the sweeping deserts, and the diversity of the seashore. I love seeing such a vast array of wildlife in their natural habitats, from the tiniest shrew burrowing into the warm earth, and the herds of elk grazing the highlands, to the largest grizzly catching its lunch in a run of spawning salmon. And, I adore the idea of this land as it was two hundred years ago, teeming with uncountable forms of life.

But, that bountiful landscape is only a memory. When humans began to significantly populate this country, Nature was forced to take a back seat while we shaped the land into something more suitable to the way we wished to live. And, it will always be that way. As a very dear friend of mine noted, "Human beings have to come first. Otherwise, we'll become extinct." That may be an oversimplification, but I believe the intent is correct. We put ourselves at the top of the food chain in order to survive. But being at the top of the food chain comes with responsibility.

For, as long as we’re kings of this mountain, as long as we're in charge, we’re changing the face of our nation to meet our needs -- for good or bad, right or wrong. We continue to grow, and we have to continue to unabashedly accommodate that growth.

In my travels to big cities and small towns, I've talked with people from all walks of life, and have gotten opinions as varied as the species on this earth. But, regardless of who a person was, or where they lived, one common thread ran through the pattern: Management. More specifically, management of the natural environment. In essence, we can continue to grow as a nation, without destroying the planet or restricting our personal freedoms, by managing this land we call our own.

It's very difficult to do, but there has to be balance in order for both man and nature to thrive. And, since we’re the ones taking over, we must be the ones to take that responsibility. We must be the ones to manage the forests so they don’t go up in uncontrollable wildfires. We must be the ones to manage the herds and their range so they don’t overpopulate and destroy their lands and themselves. We must be the caretakers. Not zookeepers, but caretakers.

Long ago, we decided we wanted this country as our own. Now we must take Responsibility of Ownership.