Random Thoughts: August 31, 2011

The Environmentalism of Losing My Peace
by Jasmine Sailing

This morning I learned the old elm in the alley is going to come down. The next door neighbor asked if it was okay (we would need a surveyor to figure out which of us is responsible for the tree, itís on both of our properties) and said the restaurant owner two doors down is paying for the removal.

One stated reason is correct: itís completely tangled up with power lines. Itís in a bad place. Thereís no room for it between the alley, the neighborís garage, and the power lines, and it constantly gets broken by trucks passing through the alley. Whoever let it establish there was being lazy and careless. The other reason was wrong, barely, because it cited the wrong pest problem. Weíve had elm leaf beetles plaguing all of the big old elms around here for years now. The beetles (and their larvae) donít directly kill the trees, they make them ratty and less healthy. Itís more of a slow decline of health, and the trees are old and brittle overall so Iíve always known they would need to come down eventually. Before they finish falling down.

The more honestly feeling part of me would like to see that tree rip through the power lines and drop big branches through the neighborís garage. The pragmatic side of me knows thatís not how itís going to pan out. If the tree is coming down without an argument of whose tree it is, and someone who can afford the removal is paying for it, itís for the best. I said okay.

Then I started crying and didnít really want to think about it anymore. (Though here I am thinking about it more... not thinking is easier said than done... for some people...)

Itís always sad when big old trees come down. Thereís so much more to their lives than ours, theyíve ďseenĒ (experienced) far more than we have. I donít need to take acid to be completely awed by them.

The main reason for this is the time I spent living in the mountains as a teenager. I was, to put it mildly, alienated. To put it less mildly, I didnít get along, didnít like people, spent a little time in a mental hospital (age 13) for suicidal ideation (I thought my reality was that I would rather be dead than deal with people... I was wrong, simply because Iím too stubborn to die that easily).

There was exactly one thing that made me feel okay: sitting outside in the silence, admiring the non-human life around me, feeling the powerful presence of the old gymnosperms (conifers) that had been on that mountain so much longer than anyone else. It was peaceful out there. It gave me some respite. Maybe I wouldnít have been stubborn enough to be half-assed about my suicidal ideation (or maybe I wouldíve become a lot more deranged) without that peace and solitude.

Sometimes I sat outside wondering what tree minds are like, and what it would be like to talk to them. Sadly, they never turned out to be Lord of the Rings Ents (perhaps some were Huorns?) and they never struck up conversations with me or responded to my attempts to converse with them. Ah well. In the imaginative games I played and the fantasies I lived in my spare time out there, they were my allies. Or I was their ally. Itís good to have friends, right?

Back then, the mountain we had moved onto was very undeveloped. It was easy to be alone and enjoy the silence. Itís not like that anymore. First there were more houses, then condos, now the base of the mountain at the highway is a strip mall. Itís a terribly depressing sight. The development caused something in my mind to snap a long time ago.

Ever since environmentalism became trendy, itís been easy to be mistaken for the trendy kind of environmentalist. I havenít really minded (except when theyíre too snooty and expect everyone to have mounds of money for doing all of the same things they can afford... those ones probably buy biodegradable shopping bags and shoes and forget that the most important parts of the 3 Rs are the Reduce and Reuse parts) because at least theyíre trying, even if it is because itís the cool thing to do right now. It doesnít bother me like when PC was the trend of the moment (doing that just to be cool was... rather uncool and pointless, IMO... why not simply appreciate diversity?).

The kind of environmentalist I am is the kind who watched people encroach upon the only things that kept me reasonably sane, and who feels a bit of a grudge about it. The type who dislikes overpopulation and overconstruction, and doesnít really believe we need to figure out how to safely put peoplesí needs and desires first when learning to live with nature.

I wonít deny that this probably means Iím a psychotic kind of environmentalist. Iím not even above thinking ďwell, we had it comingĒ when natural disasters (or wild animals, or falling trees) kill people. Though Iím not gleeful about it, either (I am perfectly capable of empathising). And I donít think Iím an exception who doesnít have it coming. If people want to figure out how to be less cancerous because itís the trendy thing to do, well, then at least there is that and that is better than nothing.

Yesterday on Twitter I was mistaken for the trendy kind of environmentalist as usual. By someone who canít picture (this would be a right-winger rather than a trendy treehugger) a simple parallel between frying ants with a magnifying glass and Obama frying ďthe little peopleĒ with laser eyes (despite having been the one to nearly initiate the parallel, I simply completed it), likely because he doesnít have the imagination to picture anything beyond the fun he had torturing insects as a kid. Did I clear it up? No, I never do. Except here, but who is going to look here? In dealing with annoying kooks itís my tendency to be an annoying kook right back at them. There always comes that moment when I know that rationale wonít prevail and I might as well have a little fun.

Despite being an admitted kook torturer now, I wasnít an insect torturer when I was a little kid. I had pet grasshoppers, and never got over the image of my step-brother pulling oneís head off. He told me they keep hopping around for a while. Sure enough, they do. Fortunately my step-brother has exhibited plenty of thought and imagination, and that was simply one of those regrettable curious sadisms of childhood.

These days Iím a city person who needs to deal with people more than I care to. Fences do indeed make great neighbors! The grasshoppers are still cute and fine with me, even though I love my plants very dearly. Iím sad about the elm coming down, and I will mourn it as an old life that deserves respect.

I like buying annual passes to National Parks and State Parks, both to support their existence and because I still need somewhere to escape to OFTEN (wildernesses are great, too) so I can continue to not go completely insane. I always have annual Botanic Gardens passes, too, that can be a nice respite in the midst of the crowded noisy city. Itís a given that I will greatly dislike people even more if they take all of that away from me too.

Today Iím huddled inside, though I need to head out into the chaos later... so the laser-eyed Obama in my mind has evolved into the Godzilla-sized Overlord Obama, tearing down buildings and focusing his eyes on all of those little city people. *Fry*

Hey, maybe I would even vote for him if that was reality.

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