Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Eaarth, part 1

What a strange feeling as I read the first half of Bill McKibben's book Eaarth! Not just that it's so dire, so full of unassailable arguments about the fate of the earth. His point is that humans have changed our environment unalterably. Nature is no longer in charge. There's too much carbon in the air and the seas to go back. The great features of our planet - the temperate forests of the US, the aboreal forests of Canada and Russia, the tropical forest of the Amazon, the polar ice caps, the seas themselves - have been or will be damaged forever. We live on a different planet now, and the biology, the ethology, the psychology of all of its inhabitants are mutating.

All of this is not the strange part, depressing as hell as it is, for it's something we already know, deep in our hearts. The weird part is to be reading the book in a place still largely unchanged.

For the most part, Maine's waters are still clean, air is pure, forests cover 95% of the land. The population is stable or even declining a bit. Wonderful experiments in farming and locavore eating are happening. The land trust movement boasts 100 organizations and incredible successes. We escaped almost entirely the heat and drought and storms and fires that most of the rest of the county suffered this summer. It feels like a cocoon here, or a enchanted island. I look out on the bay and I'm transported to another time.

There are stressors, of course. Southern Maine really should be called northern Massachusetts. We don't have much snow anymore, and the ski resorts suffer. Deer habitat is under attack; hunters and dollars now go to Canada, or Pennsylvania. Invasive species creep in. Lyme disease and West Nile increase. Lobsters behave erratically. But for the most part life here goes on as it has for centuries.

I'm very anxious to read the second half of Eaarth. McKibben promises ways to live, to cope, to enjoy. Good - it's fine to live in fantasy until the rest of the world comes knocking.

See you in couple of days for part 2.

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