The Dangers of False Reverence: Destroying What We Think We Love

By Madronna Holden

Updated 5.21.2012

In Crossing the Next Meridian, Land, Water and the Future of the West, Charles Wilkinson notes two ideologies that resulted in the destruction of the salmon runs that once yielded 42 million pounds annually on the Columbia River alone.

The first is the sense of dominance that saw the land only as a resource for human exploitation. But the other is perhaps not so obvious.  It is a reverence for that which it destroys.

We don’t have to imagine the destructiveness of the first attitude:  we have history to inform us of it.  This attitude created a free for all in the Pacific Northwest in which, as Wilkinson puts it, the “fish hardly had a chance”.  This was expressed in the waste in the taking of salmon in the late 1800s, as in the case of the trap on Puget Sound that wiped out an entire run of sockeye salmon when tens of thousands of fish wedged themselves into that trap and suffocated before they could be released.

Wilkinson also notes that some pioneers, by contrast, held the salmon in reverence. But it was a strange reverence, an idealization that never really saw the salmon for what they were– or as anything that incited human responsibility. In their awe for the overwhelming abundance of the salmon runs, pioneers never saw their limits.  Unlike the indigenous system which set up seasonal harvest limits orchestrated by religious leaders, pioneer harvesters depleted that which they never thought would end.

Partly this was because they had no historical experience with the runs—but the destructiveness of their actions was also mingled with their idealization of Western lands as something larger than life.

I spoke with those who logged the old growth forests they found on arriving in Western Washington in the late 1800s– who had experienced the grace and power of those forests as they took them down with crosscut saws, leaving stumps twenty feet high– since mills couldn’t handle logs over five feet in diameter. As they grappled with those great trees body to body, they did not stop to think that the forest that defined their lives would ever be gone.

In their minds, the hugeness of the land bestowed it with a sense of eternity—a sense that it would endure no matter how humans behaved toward it.

After he had been a logger, one man I interviewed served as a fire lookout, living alone in a cabin on Mt. Rainier. In those days the animals were not afraid of humans–and just watching from his mountaintop as various animals came by, day after day, he felt a reverence for the natural world that was no longer entangled in struggling with something larger than life.

That was when he looked around and saw the old forests were going.   He was in a state of shock as a result.

When I interviewed him he was in his nineties and had spent several years tracking the changing weather patterns resulting from those missing trees.  He filled his notebooks, day after day, with his record of the lost forest, as if his faithfulness could redeem his former carelessness.

He wanted most of all for our generation to understand the mistakes made by his.

The pioneer west is not alone in expressing the dangers of such a reverence toward an idealized part of nature. The Ganges River in India is both one of the most revered and one of the most polluted rivers in the world.  In effect, this river is loved to death, as its idealization licenses some to overlook the fact that it has any limits—any needs of its own which might depend on human responsibility towards it.

The good news is that while political will in India has not taken up the cause of cleaning the sacred Ganges, this project has recently united Muslims and Hindus.

The idealization of women expresses a parallel dynamic of failed or too idealized reverence.  At the beginning of an abusive relationship, a man classically expresses intense reverence for the object of his desire.  Indeed, in modern Western culture, many relationships are characterized by a “romantic fallacy”—an idealized projection on the other that prevents each from seeing who they really are.

The romantic fallacy is exceedingly dangerous to the object of its projection.  For the Ganges, the salmon, the trees, the idealized woman, the object of such reverence loses subjective identity—the right to act on their own and have their  needs honored.  As Jean Kilbourne points out in her analysis of the idealized woman in modern advertising, that ideal portrays the woman as a kind of corpse.  The airbrushed presentations of her face are like mummified parodies of real life. Such an objectification of anything, she observes, is the first step toward licensing violence toward it.

Those who idealize another cast see them in terms of their own needs—and thus are all too liable to exact of them the kind of sacrifice Trask exacts of the indigenous elder who befriends him in Don Berry’s historical novel Trask, situated on the Oregon Coast.  In this novel, the pioneer protagonist kills the elder in the midst of his attempt to initiate himself in a spirit quest like that of traditional indigenous peoples.  In a profound metaphor for real history, the pioneer is literally out of his mind as he commits this murder, unaware that establishing his own “spiritual” connection to the land costs the life of another.  In his trance, he carries the dead body of the elder through the landscape in his personal search for a spiritual home.

The ambivalence of this murderous reverence—in which the land and its people become a sacrifice on the altar of human need– is expressed in this quote from the novel:

“Taking possession of the land is the first and final grasping of a man … toward immortality…As a child clutches blindly at his mother’s breast, so a man will strain to the land without understanding…

The thing that possesses a man to open a land is simple lust…A molding and carving and forging takes place between [man and land].. bitterly, happily, angrily, exultantly…  And in time there is no …clear edge of difference where … the land ends and the man begins.”

As this quote expresses, there is a profound human need to belong to something larger than oneself—something that begins before an individual’s birth and continues after death.  But such belonging cannot be had by seizing it:  “possession” and “land lust” are the contrary to belonging established in the mutual inter-working of the land and its human residents over time.

Moreover, we can never see a land so entwined in our own need for what it really is.  Idealization of the land, that is, inhibits true intimacy with it.

By contrast, indigenous reverence for their land rests on intimacy with it—on gratitude and humility for the daily gift of life the land provides. It is characterized by the reciprocity between a people and a land that is not larger than life, that is, but bound up in life itself.

In its link to daily life, such reverence motivates care for the land and for all life that shares it. This reverence is illustrated in the words of native naturalist Linda Hogan in Dwellings: “What does god look like? These fish, this water, this land.”

In such recognition of the divine in creation, there is quietude and fullness, as expressed by Rebecca Adamson, Founder of the First Nations Development Institute: “God is in the space and silence. That is where it is sacred. You look up on a starry night and you feel yourself unfold, and that silence is where God is.”

In her interview in  YES magazine (summer 2009), Adamson indicates an essential difference between opening to the silence of the divine in the stance above and the idealization in the pioneer perspective.  The indigenous perspective is based on fullness and gratefulness;  the pioneer perspective, like that of modern capitalism in general, is based on hunger and need:  on a “self-fulfilling scarcity”.

In the indigenous case, humans adapt to the fullness of natural life, in the pioneer case,  the land becomes a projection of human need.

Thus the latter sees the land as that which might redeem humans from their hunger for  belonging and security–even if they have to destroy it in order to possess it.

249 Responses

  1. The paradoxical irony of destroying what we most covet is reciprocal usury. Apparently, worship with the intent of posession and control results in a mechanism which ensures depravity. Alternatively, an appreciation of the inherent function, beauty, and freedom of resourceful nature or the female form is an approach which rarely results in negative repurcussions. Therefore, it is important to differentiate between what we worship for it’s inherent value and purpose and what we covet for its value to mankind.

    • Thoughtful distinction here, Jenna. It seems to me we might want to say that we can also see something as of great value to humankind without destroying it. It is objectifying it/ seeing it only for its usury value that is the problem. I’m not entirely clear what you mean by “reciprocal” usury. Do you mean that if we see a thing only in terms of its usury value, we get back the negative consequences of this because, according to the dynamic of natural reciprocity, you get treated in turn as you treat another?
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  2. Very interesting article, I am always sadly amazed at western culture. I do not really mean to always pick on the western culture way of life, but to me it seems so destructive. What I am amazed about is how western culture is probably the most advanced in the world when it comes to technical issues, but for some reason it is so short sited in looking at the big picture. As with the loggers and the fishermen in this story, it hard to believe they did not want to preserve such a beautiful thing such as the trees in the forests or salmon in the rivers. It is really as the title states, “Destroying What We Worship”. I would think it would be the other way around; we should preserve to cherish what we worship, because of being sacred and special, just like the Planet Earth.

    Thank you,

    Troy Jonas

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Troy. Your point about Western culture is summed up in a statement by Albert Einstein (you are in good company) who notes that we need to catch up to our technology with our ethics–and our wisdom as to how to use it. I appreciate your personal care in this respect. I look forward to the day when we truly cherish what is sacred and special to us, as you say–not the least of which is this planet which sustains our lives.

      • Hi Madronna,

        Thank you for response. I just wanted to tell you I have really enjoyed reading your articles you have posted here. Is this site also open to people who are not in your class? The reason I asked is that I would like to check from time to time even after this class is over see your articles, I have learned a lot from them.

        Thank you,

        Troy Jonas

        • Thanks for your question, Jonas. This site is my way of opening some of our class issues to a larger public forum. It would be a pleasure to have you continue to visit–and if you like, comment– on the essays here as time goes on. Please feel free to visit and spread the word about the ideas on this site.

  3. The time we are going through is a period of objectification. This important part of our worldview characterizes even our language. For example, animals are denoted as “it” in English, which was also the language of most pioneers. Surely, one can engage in long debates in order to discuss the correctness of such a denotation, but it is undeniable that our worldview and our way of thinking are reflected in our language. Sadly, that also women become victims of this cruel objectification. The way the talk, walk and look like has to comply with a sample, which used to come from an assembly line. The consequences are often fatal for women and men as well, but also for society as a whole. Unfortunately, many women had to pay this ideal with their life, because they tried to comply with the standards that society set, but they failed.

    • Thanks for your compassionate response, Nick. I appreciate your insight into objectification– and the way it harms both women and men (not to mention. our environment).

  4. I found it quite interesting that the former logger felt so compelled with grief after chopping down all those trees to start researching just what kind of consequences came along with the missing trees. I think it is amazing that he completely reversed his life because he could actually feel empathy for all those helpless trees. It’s too bad more people don’t have a conscience like this.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kelli. I spoke with many from early pioneer families who wished to share the knowledge of their mistakes at the end of their lives so that the next generation would not repeat them. This comment prompts me to add another part of this man’s story. After he had been a logger, he had served as a fire lookout, living alone on Mt. Rainier. In those days the animals were not afraid of humans–and just watching from his mountaintop as various animals came by, day after day, added a different dimension to his reverence for the natural world.

  5. Human desire or objectification prevails at the expense of everything that is in its path. This value is prominent in western culture however it is within the cultures around the world. If it were not so, then there would be no war, no genocide, and no holocausts. To love someone, something, or an ideal so strongly or what I would call obsession does not bring one closer to the object but further away. There is no connection between what is being admired and the admirer. And the object of admiration hates the admirer. In the case, of our environment, humans would be considered hypocrites. Changing our views from self centeredness to gratefulness for what the earth provides. This comes from listening to the elders who are wiser than ourselves and not just taking everything for granted as the pioneers did. We realize that there is a limit to everything and regeneration comes from taking care of what is already here. Gratitude and humility for God’s creation as this article states is what needs to be taught. And allowing ourselves to learn from the stories of the past so as to change our outlook instead of overlooking them as just a “myth”.

    • Thanks for adding this perspective to my words, Tina. “Changing our views from self-centeredness to gratefulness for what the earth provides” seems an important goal indeed.

  6. Great discussion! I’ve never really thought of it that way, and this posting changed that. It wouldn’t be hard to think of the forests as timeless (perhaps not in these present times as much as 100 years ago) particularly when the rate of change is slow enough that it’s not readily noticeable. It would be hard to claim that you love something that you are destroying nowadays, especially with the amount of evidence we have to the contrary. Who knows, maybe future generations will look back to our time and wonder how we couldn’t have known the damage we are causing with something we think is environmentally responsible…

    This pattern of loving and destroying seems to be a very common theme in our history: I remember hearing stories of civil war soldiers professing their love for both parts of the country even as they burned cities to the ground.

    • Thanks for your comment, Daniel. A pointed example of the civil war. My hope is that future generations will look back on us as the time that changed past foolishness around– or perhaps there will be no future generations to look back on us at all.

  7. Objectification, this topic is on my mind often. I was just having a conversation tonight about the female body and how it is objectified more as time goes on. I am only twenty-five and I see the difference in the past ten years. I see that the western world is so infatuated with a picture or thing. In the meantime we are losing what means the most, the simplicity in life. The salmon story keeps ringing true in many of our lessons. I also liked the man who was logging the trees daily and keeping record of the changes that occur when nature is disrupted. I feel that there is a limit somewhere, but I fear that time is going to be too late.

  8. I think our society has hit a point that we don’t often realize that we can’t just go buy more of something. ‘Things’ in our lives are so readily at our fingertips that we do not realize the work and materials that go into them. Like the man who was a logger and then a spotter, he saw only a portion of the process but once he was more he was shocked by the effects of it. Most everything we buy and see is manufactured away from us, we don’t see the materials, the factory, the people working, and we only see the final product. I think many people are surprised when they see deforestation or other environmental destruction, they use the end product of the actions but they did not see the process of production.
    Many years ago I read an article that talked about a survey conducted on kindergarteners, who were asked where milk and eggs come from. The majority of answers was ‘the store’ and when the children were asked where they came from before the store, they did not know. We love the beauty of forests and nature but we do not see the destruction caused by large scale production. We see the end product which makes us happy, but I think we do not realize or think about how it came to be.

    • An important point about how are choices are skewed when we only see a part of the process, Rebecca. That certainly inhibits us from having the information to make wise decisions. As you indicate, time to back in touch with the natural sources of our lives–and the ways in which the products we use each day have been manufactured.

  9. I think it is fair to state that the indigenous people in the western states also had times, probably in the distant past, when they depleted their natural resources because they did not yet understand the limits of the land. But the difference between these people and the pioneers is that the indigenous peoples learned from this mistake and took precautions to make sure that it never happened again. They learned the limits of the nature around them as well as the life cycles of plants and animals to decide what times of the year they should hunt and gather. The pioneers never really learned from their mistakes as they just relocated when they had depleted the resources in a particular location. It is refreshing, however, to hear of the logger that realized the harm he and others had done to the earth and tried to prevent it from occurring again.

    I found the comparison between the overuse of nature with the idealization of women very interesting. It is true that when women are seen as objects it can lead to violence. I have actually seen ads that go beyond the “mummified parody of real life” and have shown depictions of violence against women or deceased women to sell a product. This is objectification to the extreme and parallels the abuse of nature via a dominant as well as idealized worldview.

    • In my experience oral history encourages honesty– and sense of responsibility to coming generations. There is something about sitting person to person with members of the younger generation at the end of your life– and that something is what gave us culture and made us human in the first place.
      Jean Kilbourne’s film series, Still Killing Us Softly, has a number of precisely those images of deceased women used to sell products; her documentaries show the escalation of objectification to violence in precisely this manner. Thanks for your comment, Lauren.

  10. Fist of all I would like to comment on one of your examples. I really liked your idea on women expressing an idealization of a parallel dynamic. The romatic fallocy also brings up an important topic about not being able to see other for who they truely are.

    I also thought this article had an interesting twist about how the man was retracking the his and trying to make up for his carelessness actions. He realized his mistakes and was taking resposibility for them. This article can tie with what we read in ―Loving the Children of All Species for All Times by McDonough. In his reading he incorporates the idea that we must take responsibility from our actions. And how we need a “stategy of change to give our children a strategy of hope.” Like the man in this article, he wanted to set a good example for the future generation.

    • Hi Jena, thanks for your thoughtful response. It seems that many women have experienced this “romantic fallacy”. I think we very much need honest stories to guide us not just in living to the fullest– but in the practical choices linked to our very survival.

  11. When I read this, especially the short paragraph of “In the indigenous case, humans adapt to the fullness of natural life, in the pioneer case, the land becomes a projection of human need”, I felt sad because it remind me something.

    One is the effect of building a huge dam on a river near my grandmother’s home town. She did not live there, but her old friend were born and spent more almost 65 years in the town. In 1990s, the dam was started to build, and everyone had to move out from the town due to it would sink to the bottom of dam. People who lived all these years there were very sad and did not want to move, but it had already decided by government, so they all moved. Human can find new place to live and move even though they don’t want to, but many of animals were not transfer to other place at that time and lots of them were killed because of the construction and losing habitat because of that. It became a big issues on TV news and the newspapers for a while, but there were nothing had been changed and people started to foget about it.
    I remember that I felt very sad and got angry when I heard the news, even though I was a little kid, still I remember how I felt at that time.

    There’re lots of worldviews and beliefs based on Japanese indigenous people and old religous story of Buddhism and Shintoism in my country, but unfortunately it is also true that lots of people think and act like the “western pioneers” in our class materials have done.
    I felt sad when I read this kind of issues through our course, but also motivated to seek what I can do not to destroy what we love any further.

    • Hi Miki, thank you for your moving example of the results of this kind of “pioneer” attitudes on real people–and the places where they make their home. Thank you for your resolve at the end. It is a powerful one in the face of the challenges we face today.

  12. Like Rebecca Adamson, I have often looked at nature and felt myself unwind and believe that a higher power is at work. I am up in Lake Tahoe, CA visiting my father and when I look around at the mountains, their tops covered in snow, the beautiful red, orange, and yellow colors of the leaves changing, a meadow lying undisturbed, and the lake, so big and wide spread out before me, I am truly at peace. I have to wonder how many people ever find this peace? I know many search for it and some, never realizing what it is they are searching for. I have to wonder, is this what the journey of life is all about?

    • Seems to me that many of us look for this kind of peace/revitalization from nature, and find it even in the city in our small garden or green space, Jennifer. I also think that such exquisite beauty is a challenge for us to care for that which is such a gift for all of us!

  13. Your article made me think about how throughout US history and the move west how people fed on the idea that there was limitless wealth and land to be had in the west. I have read about pamphlets being written that told amazing and false stories that were sent to the east. People whole heartedly believed in the tales of endless wealth. It is a story of taking from the land and destroying things as pioneers moved across the land.

    I find it frightening that we are still holding on to the myth of endless bounty from the world. Now we look to the magic of technology to solve all our problems and extend that endless bounty. I think this is just another myth we have created to rationalize the using up and ravaging of the land.

    • I am thinking of a pamphlet that boasted there would soon be steamships at a place in the Black River (flows into the Chehalis near Oakville, WA) where you have to portage a canoe. But the emigrants weren’t looking for a real land that had a distinctive character– and limits to go with it. They were all too often, as you indicate, looking for “endless wealth”. And what they missed in the process perhaps we can find–perhaps we need to in order to leave a world of promise to our children and grandchildren.

  14. This article made me think of the many areas around Corvallis that are constantly being logged, especially around Alsea Mountain. The section where you talk about the man who tracked the weather patterns of Mt. Rainier makes me wonder if Alsea Mountain’s weather patterns have changed in the last decade as a result of all of the logging. Even though there’s still plenty of wildlife, in the area, there a chunks of bare hillside that that I’m sure have affected local ecosystem in some way or other. How can I find out this information?

    • I’m sorry to tell you I don’t know where to find this info, Randa. Would there be meteorological weather stats somewhere?
      I find those “chunks of bare hillside” distressing myself.

  15. I feel like if more people paid attention to their surroundings and how they themselves are affecting others and their environment, there wouldn’t be as much destruction as there exists today. Just as the old timer realized, too much tree harvesting ruins the lands and takes away from the future population. Just as over fishing, over hunting, putting up buildings instead of working and respecting the land, takes away from the gifts of the present as well as for the future generations. Another problem is that young people don’t have the same respect and don’t value the land as their ancestors because they don’t see or feel how important it is. Of course, this is where activism stems, one person sees their error and makes up for by educating others. I just wish more people would paying attention before the damage is done so there isn’t so much fixing to be done!

    • I am with you on that, Amy. You have described the way that oral tradition has worked to make us humans survivors over the lands hundred thousand years: learning from mistakes and that learning passed on to subsequent generations. In an era in which we are capable of so much technological change, we need the use of precautionary principle to let our learning catch up with our actions.

  16. I really liked the opening example of the taking of the salmon by the pioneers. I saw this as an early example of what we just learned about in lesson 8. The taking of all that salmon directly relates to our obsession with consumerism in our society today. I also think that it is important that the man who formerly logged the forests and then kept immaculate records in hopes to educate us today about the mistakes he and his fellow loggers made in the past.

    • Thanks for your comment, Alana. We need both our elders to tell us how to correct our mistakes–and ourselves to be committed to paying attention to them and to the results of our actions.

  17. Where is the line in the human psyche? The one that tells even a moral person to stop, use caution, use common sense. What is so hard for me to rationalize, it the distinct difference in people’s philosophies. I believe that the pioneers had a terribly ignorant view of the land. While there is no doubt they probably loved and reveled in the beauty of it, they were clueless as to stewardship of it. While I hate to make excuses for anyone, there is no question that a lack of knowledge or understanding leads to just such a dilemma. Ignorance begets ignorance, violence begets violence and dominance….well it is a vicious cycle. The problem here is that even when they started to know better they chose to look the other way, or walk away completly and continue upon the path of destruction. A path we continue on today, for this there is no excuse.

    • We are certainly a young nation, and due some self-reflection of the kind you do here, Stacie. I also hope we learn from our mistakes quickly.

    • Important question you bring to mind as you begin this comment, Stacie. You are right about the vicious cycle instituted by the relationship between dominance and ignorance. Each makes the other keep growing… so it is indeed a path we have no excuse to continue.

  18. When I think of destroying what we love I think of Yellowstone National Park. I grew up in Wyoming and often went to Yellowstone Park. In 1988 I remember many fires breaking out there and the Forest Service decided to stick with their policy of letting the fires burn. On one hand they were trying to do what they thought was natural and good, but on the other hand they almost let the entire park burn down. Another observation that I have about areas such as National Parks, landmarks, historical sites, they are often designated special because they are popular but the popularity which attracts people also destroys them. I suppose I am trying to rationalize destroying what we love and the best thing I can think of is that it is ironic that it often takes destroying something to see how much we love it.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts here, Brandon. I also think it is ironic (and has many tragic consequences) when we need to see something destroyed in order to gain awareness of how we value it. It is time to change that with things like the precautionary principle if we hope to leave a vital earth to those who follow us.

  19. “Destroy it in order to poses it” All or nothing. Some indigenous people believe eating an animal allows the person to have their power. The leopard runs fast for a reason. The birds fly to escape predators. Sometimes what we think we want isn’t what we will actually get.
    This could also be compared with the essay “On Knowing What You Want”

  20. It has never occurred to me before that there are different ways to have reverence for nature; but it makes sense that indigenous reverence for nature rests on intimacy with it while, in contrast, Western reverence for nature rests on idealization of the land. The two have very different implications, and yet few people probably even recognize the difference. Reverence is reverence, right? As apparent in this article, that is hardly the case. Idealization of the land gives false assumptions that nature is an endless “projection of human need.” It says it’s okay to destroy it if it means humans can posses it, and lacks the indigenous view based on richness and appreciation. Indeed, this sets us up for a paradoxical irony in which we end up destroying what we love. Clearly, it is important to make known the difference between the types of reverence so we no longer find ourselves in the position of literally “loving our land to death.”

    • I appreciate your articulate expression of the central points about the different forms of “reverence”, Kirsten. Very astute. Loving nature in the same way that a abusive man “loves” (this is characteristically very intense and possessive and seemingly “romantic”) his wife is something we need to steer clear of.

  21. I feel strongly that a lot of our need to possess is related to our lack of community today. We are so isolated in our homes, our cars, our cubicles. When life revolves around the self we can never see the “other’ for what it truely is and does. Everything from land to humans, women in particular, are viewed in surface terms only. “What can you do for me?” Neither are seen for their own spirit, goals, purpose, and larger scheme in the universe. They are adored (to death) through hazy eyes, but not truely loved. I think I heard once, that what we can not (or do not) intimately connect to in the world, we will ultimitely not care for. We have lost the intimacy with the land, and with each other.

    On a side note, I thought of one of our readings about people romanticizing rural areas in a search for “home”, happiness, etc. I agree that the destruction of the forests, the oceans, the rivers, and the wildlife is a sad state indeed, but I also see that the awe and compassion for the “wild” areas could be applied to our own “backyards” as well. We destroy what we love everyday in our own towns and cities. Chemicals that flow through drain pipes, litter, smog and smoke, cigarettes thrown out of car windows, and so much more. Honnor and reverence is a good idea all across the planet, even in our cities that are not as pretty. All are connected…

  22. It is sad how the pollution that made by human affects the nature in negative ways. One example is The Ganges River in India which is very revered, as it mentioned in the article, and it is polluted. We have to conserve the beautiful nature that is available for us to enjoy it and benefit from it.

  23. Possessing and consuming the land in our desire to conquer it happens everywhere, not just in the forests. For example, my mother and I both have rose gardens. Growing up I was taught that in order for the rose to be beautiful it must be perfect. In order to obtain that perfection one must prune at this specific point and in this specific manner. When I started growing my own roses I decided only to trim out the dead and damaged wood and let the rose grow in whatever shape came naturally to it. Summer after summer my roses have bloomed consistently with no major outbreaks of disease. My mother’s roses are still pruned and trimmed and while the blooms she gets are beautiful, she fights disease and pests all summer. I came to the realization that I can enjoy what nature has to share without demanding it take the shape I desire.

  24. I think that the reason that this “dangerous reverence” is possible is due to a lack of long-term thinking. It seems that many people in the world, and particularly the ones who “settled” (read: invaded) this land have a distinct inability to think very far into the future. The indigenous cultures expect people to always think “seven generations” ahead. Doing this encourages life giving practices and discourages life killing practices. We all know that native people lived on this land for thousands of years without decimating all of the buffalo, salmon, trees, etc. We all know that it’s taken less than 200-years for the invaders to decimate these things.

    I too have spoken with loggers and know that one of the reasons they love their job so much is because they get to be out in nature all day. It is extremely unfortunate that there is an inability to put together the fact that they are destroying what they love!

    • You have a great point about long term perspectives encouraging life enhancing rather than life destroying practices, Dazzia. I only hope that those like the loggers you and I spoke with understand the consequences of their work before it is too late. Part of this is that we must also provide realistic economic alternatives that are life enhancing. Thanks for your comment.

  25. The sentence in this article “…the hugeness of the land bestowed it with a sense of eternity – a sense that it would endure no matter how humans behaved toward it” is referring to loggers in the 1800s, but I think it can easily be applied to the matter of science and technology in the modern world. Science is like an eternal search for understanding – when we find the “solution” to one problem, it leads us into the next because there will always be the question of “why” something is the way it is. The same applies to technology, and as long as there are consumers and money to be made companies will continue to put out goods designed to make our lives “easier,” or more entertaining. If we don’t take a minute to look at the effects of each new product – the resources used to manufacture, package, ship, dispose –we are going to be sitting in a pile of rubbish wondering where we went wrong. We are so dependent on science and technology now it seems as though it should be able to solve all our problems. We have an attitude that they (scientists) will figure out a way to solve our environmental crisis, but in the meantime let’s take advantage of these brilliant new consumer goods. The more we consume, the deeper we dig our hole and the more impossible it is becoming to climb our way back out. Maybe science is eternal, and there is no limit to inventions of the human mind – but the bigger picture is the limited resources we are sacrificing to test that theory.

  26. As an indigenous person I can attest to the fact that possessing the land is not nearly enough for a place to be our home. We also need to have an attitude of gratitude and humility for the daily gift of life the land provides. I have always believed in the reciprocity between myself and the land. This “home” can be portable. It doesn’t have to be the land one is born into. But, we have to have a community of belonging.

    However, I do not agree when you say that “idealization of the land inhibits our intimacy with it.” Rther, I would say that a disrespect for the land inhibits our intimacy with it. If we do not care about the others and the land, we are less likely to understand the land for what it is and even less likely to protect and appreciate it.

    • Thanks for sharing this perspective about what else it takes to be at home on the land besides having a piece of paper that gives you rights to it, Jeff. Your point is well taken that disrespecting the land inhibits our intimacy with it. I also think that idealization of the as distinct from respecting for what it is– making it an unreal projection of something in our own minds, in parallel with the idealization of native peoples as exotic and perfect, demeans our relationship with it– since it is not a relationship with a real land, but something we are just projecting onto it.
      I wonder if I am being clear about this particular notion of idealization.

  27. I was having trouble understanding the reverence you spoke of until you tied it to an abusive relationship. After that, it was easy to see what you and Wilkinson meant by reverence. I can understand all too well seeing all the glory of something, but not really looking at it to see its wholeness. There are limits to many things that are disguised by out powerful minds and it is important to be aware of them in all aspects of life.

    • Very true, Ashley: if we only wish to possess something as a trophy, our “reverence” has a definite destructive side. Sort of like “trophy” hunting or fishing. In the end, what we catch is only a way to bolster our own ego.

  28. The article is enlightening and shows how we really have something to learn from traditional cultures at this point in time. Our environmental practices might be improved if we were to see ourselves as living a subsistence life dependent on natural resources- all of them interrelated, some of them in short supply, some of them threatened by our manufacturing and use of chemicals and by the pollution and garbage we pile up, bury in our oceans, and send into the sky. We are dependent on the physical energy and nourishment the earth has to offer.
    There has never been a culture that lasted for long while ignoring its land, extracting so much from the land’s capacity to nourish that it could not regain its own balance and regenerate itself. Everything comes from the land and goes back to it, including the salmon and the trees, so the land must come first. Sustainable traditional cultures were too small and too mobile to consume all of their resources. Nevertheless, they sure paid closer attention to their resources than we have learned to do so far.

    • Hi Kimberly, thanks for your comment. I would like to know more about what you mean by “mobile” indigenous populations: since indigenous Northwesterners saw pioneers as the mobile ones. I think we must consider choices here: for instance, Jim Lichatowich (Salmon without Rivers) indicated that the indigenous peoples of the Columbia River basin might have depleted salmon runs with their population and technology, but specifically CHOSE not to.
      I am not quite sure how your comments relates to the idea of a “dangerous reverence”– what was the problem with the way of looking at the land expressed here?

  29. I feel like the reverence you spoke of in this article can be tied to many other aspects of human life, which I thought you did a great job of showing by providing the examples of the salmon, and even abusive relationships.
    It also intrigued me that the old logger was able to become so in touch with his surroundings that he felt remorse for the mistakes he had made in the past, I hope that the generations to come learn the lesson his story provides for us. I have had the pleasure of being able to stay in a lookout tower for a couple of days, and it is very easy to fall into sync with the beautiful nature that surrounds you.

  30. This article presented some interesting thoughts on reverence of land. The view of some early pioneers with the land as a limitless supply of resources to exploit was particularly important. I can only imagine what it would have been like to be an early settler looking out at a river holding more fish than you had seen in or heard of in your lifetime. I’m sure it would have been easy to be drawn into a land lust mentality. At that point in time, I can see how it would have been easy to assume that the land would always be bountiful and keep up with the harvesting. The ultimate sadness is that we have not learned from their mistakes. We continue to ravage the environment, plundering it of more than it can sustain. The Amazon rainforest is a perfect example of limitless view. It covers millions and millions of acres, and is losing them daily. Yet, it is so vast it is hard to imagine that it could ever actually disappear, but it will if we continue. Instituting cultural change is extremely difficult. However, this is the only way will we defeat our mistakes of the past. Changing our views and attitudes towards the land, and giving back to it, are the only ways to begin to heal the wound we’ve created.

    • I think there is a difference between being drawn to a land and being drawn to its abundant resources, Clayton. You can like the gold in California and aim to destroy the land making money on it. Intersting how the land might seem limitless (like the Amazon) until you are a people who live in intimacy with it.

  31. Pioneers and other groups of the time looked at the land as a never ending group of resources. They degredaded the land without knowing they were doing it. They took and took until most resources were gone, only to move to another place to do it all over again. Canneries in the 1800’s are a good example. After they had depleted a salmon run in one area, they went to the next, and then the next. We have many things to learn from the indigenous people. Many of the things that we need to learn are just learned too late. The pioneers had no reverence for the land. They felt no reciprocity for the land. If the pioneers and given the land back what it had taken, we would not have the environmental disaster that we have now. We have to pay for our forefathers mistakes. Maybe that is the way it was supposed to be. But, we have the task of not leaving the same thing for our future generations. If we do, there may not be anything left. We should never possess the land, but we should share our lives with it.

    • I guess it might be easy to overlook how one is degrading the land when one holds firm to the vision that one is instiling it in “progress”, Scott. And to degrade something so lovely without even knowing it is a sad thing indeed, Scott. Moving on through the land depleting it is hardly the legacy that many of us would want to leave.

  32. I have had a real problem making myself do the second assignment. The worst for me are the feelings these stories invoke. They make me so sad it is hard for me to make myself sit down and do the assignment knowing I will spend the next to days severely depressed and crying. I can well imagine how the pioneers felt when they saw what was the equivalent to virgin land. The majesty, the glory, seeing the face of God in the Garden of Eden. How easy would it be for a race of people who had the heritage of ownership being your only protection in the world, to want to possess all that they saw before them. Our bible teaches us that through original sin we can never return to Eden, but they did. Had they been redeemed to return to the land of endless bounty? Yes, I can easily see why they believed the way they did. As your article says we are all trying desperately to connect to something, to worship, as we were designed to, and if we can’t find God in our hearts we will worship the next thing that gives up happiness. Unfortunately that seems to be possession. If it isn’t already too late, stories like these and of the elders in some of our other stories need to be taught to the young of all races now and kept safe for the generations of tomorrow. The only way to learn respect, is to see it in practice. If I show respect, maybe someone around me will too, then someone will learn from them. But we need this done on a much larger scale if we are to save our planet.

    • I am sorry you are having this problem, Cendi. Thank for perservering in the face of it. Hopefully, that will lead to perspective which will give you a different perspective–though not, of course, without grief- that is real and legitimate for you. Indeed, you seem to have travel through this (or let it travel through you) without getting mired in it, as you move into speaking of the things you value at the end of this comment: like our elders, their stories-and respect for them both.

  33. I’m not sure I believe that its humans need for belonging and security that destroys the environment. I think its more ignorance and greed. We don’t fully understand nature’s complex workings, so we take what we want without any regard of how that will affect the world in general. The thought of all those salmon dying because of human greed makes me sick. Really whenever I hear of any animal hurting, suffering, or dying because of human ignorance it just infuriates me. We should be taking care of our fellow animals, they’re living creatures too and unable to speak up for themselves.

    • The salmon deserve humans to speak for them, becoming the “voice for the voiceless” and Grandma Aggie, chair of the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers who travel the globe supporting environmental and social justice put it.
      I agree with you about greed and ignorance (much of it self-imposed): I think we could add arrogance and exclusion of some by others to this list as well. And what I want to get at here is what underlies such neediness. There are many indigenous stories that chalk this up to our lack of belonging. Would these men have treated the salmon so if they felt a sense of belonging to the land their place within a system that saw the salmon as kin?

  34. To claim something, to be the one to name it. To be able to understand it, mark it as our own. Men and woman have fought wars over such a right. To claim a land as your own. While most see this as particularly a trait of Western culture, I think it has been a trait of most civilizations. We have looked at cultures who dont ravage and control and claim the land as inferior, savage, primitive.

    When instead, it is actually the opposite, we are the youngsters, the primitive cultures who havent reached maturity to better take care of the land we live on. We are the rowdy teenagers who are trashing our rooms, so to speak. The problem is, there are more, much more of us around now, and we arent maturing quick enough.

    Hopefully, we will learn our lessons before it is too late, before our teenager antics ruin the lands around us completly.

    • Great point about the “youngsters” in human cultures, Sam. It just takes adding up the numbers of those who have sustained themselves on the land for ten thousands years compared to our trashing it as “rowdy teenagers” in the last two hundred. I also think it is imperative that we mature very quickly. If we don’t accept such behavior from teenagers, why should we accept it from supposed adults with so much technological power?

  35. If society continues to look at land and all of nature as a possession it will never be able to understand what the earth really is. It is not something that is hear for us to take and use as we like. Even in biblical terms that so many pioneers used to believe in their cause, what they did not see or interpret is that the earth is also something we must respect. It is its own entity and for it to work to humanities advantage we must work to preserve its strength and beauty. It is not everlasting, as we are not everlasting. It is important for people to really see that nature preserves and land use policy’s are only so good. When a new politician or president gets elected things are up for change. We can loose wildlife and land in moments. Just like the Obama administration assumes it can stop whaling by legalizing it and coming to an agreement while nations around the world poach almost extinct creatures for profit. Respect is key and if the president had real understanding, as indigenous tribes of the past and present do, he would understand that profit gained from killing these creatures is wrong no matter how you look at it.

    • I absolutely agree with you that we cannot ever understand or respect that which we see merely as an “object”–and the propensity to see other lives– of any species– in this way has often led to tragedy for them and shrunken ways of being for ourselves.
      And I agree that legalizing whaling is a peculiar way to stop it– just as carbon trading is a strange way to protect us against global warming. I don’t think this is putting the profit motive in the right place.

  36. Well, I was wondering if the pollution of the river ganges (which I have visited) is truly the result of an idealization or type of reverence that asks the land to fulfill a certain need? I suppose it is. The indian people thought, like the foresters, that the river was so big and so powerful that it could not be polluted or destroyed. Instead of seeing God in the river, they see the river as a god? Still, I wonder if a Hindu would agree with that, or feel that it is a fair comparison. Hindus seem to have a deep reverence for nature, and a philosophy that understands the connectedness of all things…So what went wrong? Part of me wonders if it was industry, and not India that destroyed the ganges. By that I mean, maybe it was the imbalance from other parts of the world, and India’s quick development, that is the most responsible for the pollution.

    • Thanks for your comment, Michele. I do want to be clear: Gupta has stressed (as I say here) that this idealization of river as something we don’t need to take care of is not true to the heart of Hinduism. Good point about industry: the hard question that Gupta asks is how those who find their river sacred would allow such polluting industry. She finds a parallel in the idea of transcendence in Western society that says we don’t have to worry about what we do in this world, since it is not the real one. I think this is a mistaken and destructive idea of transcendence.
      That this is an issue both in East Indian society and in our own says something about the dangers of this type of transcendence.

  37. After reading this article, it made me realize how much we have we truly have destroyed and depleted what we love. Like in this reading, we almost completely took out the salmon, by creating a very unfair trap, which thousands of fish were killed for no reason at all. They died before they could be eaten and provide a much needed meal, but instead we get greedy and try to get as much as possible. This is very similar to how many of our ancestors in America came to America, and completely wiped out the Buffalo. A once plentiful species, that provided more than enough food for many ingeniousness peoples, was completely taken out by white men who felt the need to kill for sport, and to take only parts of the animals. These animals which provided much needed meals for many families were left to rot.

    We not only feel the need to eat too much of our animals, but we overuse many things in this country, one of them being oil. We are all aware of the devastating effects that our overuse of oil in this country, and instead of placing barriers on our use, giving each person a quota to use, we allow our population to continue to overuse.

  38. There definitely seems to be a lust for land and a strange sense of conquering nature in the heart of man. There’s a bizarre reverence and awe, and fear I think, that leads man to seek domination over his environment. This article reminds me of the problems that plague man in his relationship to the land, and the complexity of emotions related to nature and man’s relationship to it. To own the land is not enough, it has to be utterly ruled over and reshaped in the image he chooses. The ability to control the look of the land and impose his will on it fulfills both his deep sense of alienation from the land and his powerlessness being within its grasp. I found it interesting that the loggers of past generations claimed that they thought nature was endless and that they could do whatever they wanted to and the land would recover. This is very hard for me to believe. No matter whether it was 100 years ago, people still understood the concept of finite and infinite. While there were a lot of trees, I have difficulty believing these men didn’t realize the tremendous damage they were doing. I think the primary point is that they just didn’t care at the time, but after realizing what they had done, they repented and try to plead ignorance. So now, our generation is supposed to forgive their terrible choices and somehow make up for them. However, those trees were thousands of years old and there is no way we can do anything to bring them back. While I realize the impressiveness and seemingly endlessness of nature was overwhelming to those men, I’m sure they know perfectly well what they were doing and just figured that somehow future generations would make do with whatever they inherited. I do not exonerate them from their decisions, and I would certainly make to attempt to relieve them of their feelings of guilt. All we can do now, is make sure that type of behavior is not allowed, and give the Earth time to heal from this damage.

    • Thoughtful take on this complex issue, Joshua. And after interviewing some of these men–remember they lived in the days when one took down a tree with a hand saw and could virtually walk across the streams on tbe backs of running salmon– they did seem to think these resources were endless.
      There is of course the other aspect of this you bring up–of those who just didn’t think about it one way or another– and there were certainly plenty of those as well– just like the BP reps who paid off others so they wouldn’t have to think about it (accident prevention in their oil drilling application).

  39. I’ve never thought of this before, but I have seen this in my life as well. When you love something so much all you want to do is be near it, have it, and indulge yourself in it. This is not healthy or good for any member. If we could only appreciate the existence value of what we love, the connection would be so much greater. This goes for all aspects of life.

    • Indeed: especially a problem when we are attached in such a way to another person–or something else living we think we have a right to have or own. Thanks for your comment, Megan.

    • I think you make a good point about appreciation and love. There needs to be more appreciating of the things we love, instead of overindulging in what makes us happy and in love.

    • I too have done this. Where when you love something so much all you want to do is be with it basically to the point where you consume it. This is extremely unhealthy though and like you say “If we could only appreciate the existence..” It is this appreciation that is really lacking, an appreciation that needs to be acted out in respect.

  40. The discussion of the idealization of both women and the natural world, and how it licenses violence toward both through objectification, really got me thinking about how we look at things the way we do. As stated in the essay, “there is a profound human need to belong to something larger than oneself,” but this sense of belonging cannot be achieved by “seizing it.” Unfortunately, the dominant worldview in Western society is one that prioritizes power through possession, subduing others (human and/or non-human) to one’s own will or desires, which serves to exacerbate the harm caused by idealization. Promoting a more holistic approach towards each other and our surroundings appears to be one solution we can pursue in tackling this problem, but we must share this worldview on much grander scale than is currently the case.

    • Thoughtful points, Crystal. Power through possession is part of what I term the “dominator paradox”: it directs itself to amassing power, but only winds up being self-destructive. If you love something, you will only lose it (or destroy it) by trying to possess it, thus making an object out of it.
      The different world has been part of who we are for so many human generations, perhaps it is not so daunting that we might take up this perspective with relationship to our world once again– though it WILL mean some daunting changes in our current everyday lives.

  41. I liked the discussion about how trees can be timeless. It only makes sense that they are, however i never really looked at them that way. Trees like the redwoods probably known so many secrets and have so many memories and thats why they are so huge! The link between loving something and destroying it seems to be a prevalent duo in our recent history, and if we do not do anything to fix it, then there will not be future generations to enjoy it.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jessica. I think we need to evaluate what love really means–I think respect must be a part of this. And I don’t possessing something to fill a hole in ourselves is treating it with respect. Lovely point about the trees.

  42. It is odd how pioneer, or Western, point of view shows the land is a projection of human need, yet humans DO need the land and we are just destroying it because of this idea that nature is limitless and is bigger than life. Just like the example with pioneers and taking huge amounts of salmon from the river, now the salmon are in much fewer numbers and we can no longer use that as a large source of food because of destructive methods of fishing.

    The thing I found most interesting was the mention of a logger, who with age realized his mistake that he was destroying thousands of years of history for nothing, and then set out to make amends with himself by documenting the impact we have on the forests. It is things like this that make the need more dire for us to notice what we are actually doing to the earth with destructive methods of resource collection and that the earth is no just there for us to use carelessly.

    • You make an important point, Kyle. We do need the land to sustain us, but when we try to possess it as we do, we actually work against fulfilling that need. It is my sense (as your comment indicates) that many of the things we get wrong begin with perfectly legitimate impulses (knowing we need the land) that go awry.
      We need more critical consciousness about our own thinking and our resource use both. Thanks for your comment.

  43. I enjoyed the brilliant contrast this essay brings forth. This seems to describe what we normally attribute to global destruction of our environment by the raping of all its resources. This also seems to provide a prime example of the difference in dualistic and interdependent worldviews. The concept of a “lust” for one thing or another cannot function in a reciprocal way when the only motivation is taking what is desired. Dividing ourselves from our natural environment lets us only see the benefit to us alone which is magnified based upon how much benefit we think could exist.

    I wondered if this essay could also be used to describe the difference in linear and cyclical thoughts of time. With the linear perspective of time perhaps only the thought of production from the point of discovery on rather than restoration was considered. This coupled with a short perspective and a seemingly endless resource lead to the eventual environmental destruction. It is a bit difficult to explain how the thought of linear time explains why the effects weren’t noticed until it was too late, but I question if the more cyclical thought process would have brought about an understanding of the need for replenishment of what was being taken.

    • Thanks for the kind feedback, Mathew. A very interesting integration of ideas here: since all the aspects of worldviews tend to be linked, it is no surprise that linear time is tied into this objectified view of “reverence” (which is at base, lust). Good connection! Both the possession of what we supposedly love and the taking inherent in a view of time that moves forever forward without consequence or “restoration”, as you point out are facets of the same attitude.

  44. Like Mathew, I saw the two perspectives discussed in this article as examples of a dualistic worldview. Nature is either seen as a collection of extractable resources or idealized as an eternal provider (a sort of mother-figure). Attempts to idealize nature inevitably lead to unsustainable practices, because they do not allow particular situations to be analyzed on their own merits. Every issue is squeezed into the existing formula, which prevents a balanced approach to development that could allow the extraction of resources while protecting the ecosystems that create them.
    On a related note, I like how this class integrates a wide range of concepts into the environmental discussion. I find lots of ideas I’ve come across before applied in new ways. For example, in my english classes, I’ve learned about the theoretical approach of deconstruction. Deconstruction basically takes a text and identifies a set of oppositions, like “us” vs. “them,” then shows how the dividing line between these concepts breaks down and how each concept depends upon the other to give it meaning. It takes a conceptual pairing out of the hierarchical, dualistic understanding of the terms and shows how they are similar and mutually dependent. The attempts we’ve been reading about to create a new, mutually beneficial relationship between humans and the environment are doing this as well.

    • Thanks for your comment, Tivey. What I like about philosophy and feel necessary in looking at environmental values is a holistic approach. I appreciate your own cross-disciplinary perspective here.

  45. Everytime I hear stories about fish and dolphins dying from being caught in nets that have been left around or the story in the article about the salmon getting stuck, it makes me wonder just how unsmart we have become. We keep learning more and more about everything and yet we keep making these simple mistakes. Cutting down those trees mentioned and leaving 20 feet of stump, it is a waste of the trees. They have been there for hundreds of years just to be cut down to 20 feet of stump. We truely need to just sit back for a couple of days and have everyone go hike out in nature or something to get people to see the beauty we are destroying. What will we do when we have ruined the whole earth? There is no where else for us to go!

    • Indeed, Briana, there is no place else for us to go if we use up the earth that sustains us. We need to start thinking of the simple things you mention.

    • I truly believe that if we don’t start learning these lessons, we will destroy this planet. It might not happen in our lifetime, but our great grandchildren will be forced to live with the consequences of our repeated mistakes. People seem oblivious to the fact that our natural resouces have a shelf life. If we don’t care for these resources properly, they will be depleted and then where will that leave us?

      • Unfortunately, I think you are right, Jamie. Once we run out of nature, we won’t have anything left to live on. But this crisis also provides an opportunity for us to work together to change things in both the social and environmental arenas.

  46. This is an interesting article and what stood out to me the most was the fire lookout/ex logger’s idea of tracking the changes in weather resulting from the missing trees. And indeed very helpful and brilliant for him to have recorded the changes from day to day so our generation can understand and learn from the mistakes their generation made, in order not to experience what they did. It must be hard to see the forest that defined their lives vanish due to their actions. And this applies to life in general that we face consequences for or due to our actions.

    • Thanks for your compassionate and thoughtful comment with respect to this ex-logger, Member. There is much that we do with our actions that is unintentional–and when we do create destructive consequences, it is both courageous and wise to remedy these as we can and pass on the knowledge of our mistakes so that they are not repeated. This is the wisdom of oral tradition–and why and how staying on a bit of land over time can lead to the knowledge of how to treat it well.

    • I agree with you. What that ex-logger is doing is something that many of don’t have the chance of doing. To fix the mistakes we have already done. His hope that we learn from his mistake will be taken up and we will learn from him. Either from his notes or through history.

  47. The strange sort-of backward reverence idea was really interesting to me. The pioneers saw only abundance in regards to the salmon, much the same as we today see clean air and clean water. We tend to take these things for granted and assume they will always be there, which is not the case.

    The arrogance of the settlers to think they know more about the land and harvesting salmon than the indigenous people is extremely frustrating to me. Why can’t we see the mistakes we have made and learn from them? Are we really doomed to just keep repeating the mistakes of the past over and over again until we have destroyed the land we inhabit? I wish people would open their eyes and pay attention to what is happening all over the world and do something about it.

    I know I get a little passionate and carried away when talking about preservation and conservation issues, but they are too important to ignore anymore.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jamie–and for sharing your personal engagement on this issue. You might like the current quote of the week with respect to the global agreement reached yesterday with respect to biodiversity conservation.

  48. The idea of respect and sacredness as, not idealization, but as a reverence for life itself, which leads to responsibility toward that life, is imparted very well in this article. I have been to the river Ganges, and yes, she is worshipped to death and polluted every day. Varanasi is a beautiful city, but the environmental degradation is also very sad.

    • Key distinction between respect and idealization, Michele. Thanks for the comment– you have obviously visited this city.

    • It is such a horrific thought of what we are doing to the river Ganges. I think the first step would be to educate and have people be aware of what we’re doing. Once we’re out of ignorance there are no excuses left.

  49. Quote – “In their minds, the hugeness of the land bestowed it with a sense of eternity—a sense that it would endure no matter how humans behaved toward it.”

    It’s crazy to think that now-a-days when you look out to see a forest it’s all second growth (though this may not apply to everyone, I’m sure it does to most). I’ve read stories similar to this one where there seemed to be more resources than ever possible to run out such as buffalo. A particular story that comes to mind is where someone mentioned that the sky would darken with how many birds would be migrating and the darkness wouldn’t let up for a couple of days. Now it’s crazy just to see just a couple hundred of birds in the sky together (at least to me). Another one was how when salmon were swimming back upstream you were barely able to make out the water (even further would joke that you were able to walk on the fish). Of course these are just stories that I’ve heard. I couldn’t possibly imagine it
    being true myself for I do not see these kinds of things today.

    Quote – “Such an objectification of anything, she observes, is the first step toward licensing violence toward it.”

    I really like this quote because it shares with us the paradoxical relationship with have with our psychology and our way of doing science. A lot of pressure is put on scientists to be as objective as possible to avoid dogmatic-viewed results in their research. Value-laden research (as described by Elizabeth Anderson: can be argued to be unavoidable due to problems such as this as well as the fact that we base our theories on value-interpreted experiences. Like most things, it seems that moderation is the cure-all for problems that we come up with such as this. Easier said than done, of course.

    • One place you might have you read such quotes from early immigrants to what is now the US, Alexander, is on this site. There are also some such quotes in lesson one of your class notes for PHL 443.
      You have an important point about the impossibility of value-free research– I think the distinction is not between value free and value laden research– but whether or not values expressed in research are conscious or unconscious (or ignored or denied).
      Thanks for the thoughtful perspective.

  50. This was a very good article to read. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I believe that the logger who is a fire look out now living alone on that mountain spoke volumes to me. The way he has dedicated this life to giving back to the forest that he destroyed, the way he is now the guardian of what he tore down as a youngster is great. I feel that he has done a great job in owning up to the mistake he did and actually realize what the mistake was that he did. Many of us do no see what mistake that we all make, and for him to be able to recognize is and actually do something about it in the end is good.
    Lastly, the last part of the article was important to me also. The way the indigenous people see the land as we adapt to it, instead of we making the land land adapt to us. I found this a good way to look at things. The force of Nature is so big, that when we attempt to change more move it, we are also taking 2 steps back. However, if we adapt to that Nature does, we do fine. For example, when it rains we adapt to it with umbrellas and water proof clothing. However, if we change nature, like move tons and tons of land to make way for buildings and stuff, we put ourselves in danger in case a river overflows and floods the land.
    We all take care of the things we love: cars, children, dogs. But we have to take care of our health and well being also, and this can be started with the land we live on.

    • I am glad you related to this, Will. Thanks for your own thoughtful comment. Great perspective about the logger who turned his mistakes to something good. For me, this is what human culture is all about– learning from the past so that succeeding generations don’t have to make the same mistakes all over again.
      We do indeed place ourselves in jeopardy in the attempt to force nature to adapt to us.
      Great point about taking care of the things we love.

  51. I have also talked to people who have been fire lookouts for many years, and have heard similar stories of tracking the changes of the forest. They spend an incredible amount of time alone on top of a butte, peak, or mountain learning the land from the ultimate bird’s eye view. This enables them to notice the small changes in the landscape and environment that they work to protect.
    Also in reading this article, I immediately thought of the old growth stand of Mountain Hemlocks on Mt. Bachelor. The only reason there is the beautiful monoculture of these magnificent trees is because in the logging boom in the 50’s, they floated the trees down the Deschutes River into town where the mill was. This technique worked on almost all the old growth trees in the forest except for these hemlocks. As it turns out, the Mountain Hemlock retains large amounts of water and sugars that aid in their ability to survive the harsh, snowy climates of the region. This water makes the trees so heavy that when they tried to log them and float them down river into town, they sunk. Of course during this time there wasn’t the means to practically harvest these trees any other way, so they survived the loggers and have since been protected in the National Forest.
    It’s sad to think this is the only reason the Mountain Hemlocks survived…

    • It is sad to think that these trees did not survive through any choice of humans, Kara. On the other hand, I like the story that tells why they are still here– and have become protected now.
      Your experience with lookouts indicates that way in which intimacy with nature– the time and space to witness it and be totally present to it– shifts our relationship to it.
      Even if we can’t all spend time as a fire lookout, it would be nice if we could dedicate some times in our lives to just being with our world and looking around in this way.

  52. This article made me think about how throughout US history people fed on the idea that there was limitless wealth and land to be had in the west. I have read about pamphlets being written that told amazing and false stories that were sent to the east. People whole heartedly believed in the tales of endless wealth. It is a story of taking from the land and destroying things as pioneers moved across the land.

    I find it frightening that we are still holding on to the myth of endless bounty from the world. Now we look to the magic of technology to solve all our problems and extend that endless bounty. I think this is just another myth we have created to rationalize the using up and ravaging of the land.

    • Thanks for your comment; you rightly point out that the idea that we can continue to take more and more from natural systems without replenishing them is a destructive one indeed.

  53. It is hard to believe that this land at one time in history was without highway, factories,, car, or buildings. That everything was left wild and untamed when the first settlers came through. When they arrived, however, they started cutting down the trees and treating the wildlife including the salmon as if they were limitless. They didn’t understand or forsee that their action would lead to eventual destruction of wildlife and the environment. In modern times, it seems that we really haven’t learned or done any better. We continue to cut down trees and treat everything we see as a commodity to be bought and sold. We run our cars which create carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere instead of just loving and appreactiate what the abudance that our planet will offer us if we only respect and leave it undisturbed. I live over here in Newport where they put in the new community college a couple of years ago. My son tells, at the age of 10 years, that he was against them building a college in Mike Miller Park here. I asked him why he felt that way. He said, “because they are cutting down too many trees and destroying the beauty of that land that was once undisturbed”. On some level, I could understand his viewpoint and was surprised to hear such a comment from my 10 year old son.

    • Yours is an experience that many of us share today, Elizabeth– or watching places for which we care (like the park your son referred to) disappear.
      Can you see the role that idealization plays in this?
      Your son’s response reminds me of another student who told me she was driving along the coast by Reedsport by the paper processing facility there when her four year old daughter exclaimed, “What is that SMELL?”
      She explained to her daughter how they were making the paper that all of us use in our daily lives.
      Her daughter replied, “We don’t need paper that bad!”

  54. My daughter woke up this morning and told me the dream she had in which the world was literally falling apart and she fell through a fathomless hole in which there was no end. Dreams can be vivid and strong insight into how we are feeling however, I also realize that we are living on a planet in which it is vulnerable to the effects of what humanity has done to it. Growing up, I would always imagine as we were driving down the highway, of how the world looked before the roads existed. We see what is here today and i wonder how much less our children will see in the future. i believe that the impact that humans are placing on the earth is causing repercussions that have not come into existenc as of yet. As the ninety year old in your essay wrote down all the changes of his time, I fear to know what will written down in the years to come.

    • Hi Tiny, I think that their is much wisdom in such dreams of children– certainly they pick up the fears as well as the possibilities in the air of their families and communities. It is very sad that children may dream grief rather than joy and possibility in their futures. I hope we can change that!

  55. I find it difficult to use the word “reverence” when referring to many of the examples listed above. I guess it’s a personal bias; for me, reverence contains some level of respect, which I do not believe male abusers are ever truly capable of feeling for the women that they abuse. I also feel that, again, while pioneer fishers were definitely overcome by idealization and awe, which can be a part of revering an entity, their actions and the concept of idealizing their prey makes respect impossible. I believe that anything truly revered should not be able to “[lose] subjective identity” in the face of those who revere it. In order to respect something or someone, we must view that entity as having inherent value and autonomy.

    • Thoughtful point, Lauren. There is irony in my use of this term–and I hope this essay indicates that irony in the way some folks think they revere something at the same time that they are destroying it.

  56. I wonder if our own insecurity turns our reverence into something we cannot control. By that I mean, does an abusive man, deep down inside, feel intimidated by the power he imagines his partner has or will have over him as he his feelings for her become stronger? Does his own lack of self worth convince him that the threat must be dominated with physical abuse? In no way am I siding with him… please don’t misunderstand. I am only wondering if when we are faced with something we deem insurmountable, some humans find some way to attack it and conquer it. If they cannot succeed, some resort to violence.

    • I think you have something here about insecurity, Sheryl. Notice our quote of the week on the dangers of a lack of belonging– something much native folklore remarked on with respect to pioneers, by the way. Not perhaps linked to false reverence–but to destructive actions that come as a result of colonialism.
      Thanks for your response and clarification: I don’t think trying to understand an individual’s action is “siding with” an abuser. I read a stat some years back that indicated that one hundred per cent of those who abused others had been abused themselves as children. On the other hand, the reverse is not true: only about a quarter of those who are abused (if I am remembering correctly–at any event, less than the majority) go on to abuse others. Instead, they learn from their experience what they do not wish to perpetrate on others. My point is that we are creatures of choice, no matter what our insecurities might be.

    • Sheryl, I agree with you on the insecurity aspect of abuse. One who is insecure can gain some sense of control over their own insecurities by foisting the feelings off onto someone else, by making them feel insecure through abuse or bullying ( often a precursor to physical abuse). It is somewhat reassuring, the point that Prof Holden brings up: many abused children do not themselves go on to be abusers. The cycle CAN be broken.

  57. This was a good article. I have read a lot about the Pacific Northwest since I live and grew up here. I have always wondered how much damage was done to the environment before 1970. I know that one of the rivers near me had the extinction of sockeye salmon in 1919. The river that runs through my town had to have salmon in it at one time. They claim it is a steelhead stream. I remember as a little kid the flooding over of Celilo Falls was a big controversy. I still wonder what Southeast Washington looked like 200 years ago, without farming and logging. What have we done?

    • You have some personal experiences to tie in here, Bob. Do you see all this destruction related to an idealism or romanticism that saw the land as invulnerable, so we did not have to consider its limits?

      • I really think it was people who thought they were doing the right thing. Yes, most of it was for themselves or spurred on by the government or politics. It can also be related to romanticism and the so called “American Dream”, from a western standpoint. It is just to bad they didn’t have an “American Dream” from a Native American standpoint.

        • Thoughtful point about the American Dream. I think the irony may be that that there is some evidence that that “dream” was in fact partly taught to the first pioneers by native example–and not entirely recognized as such. That is, there was a kind of democracy pioneers found here–and equality between men and women- that pioneers had never seen before, though some had envisioned it in, for instance, the French Revolution.
          But the tragedy was that they often worked to obliterate the very societies that provided them with the example of their own “dream”.
          This dream of democracy, by the way, is very different from the dream of wealth–though it entails a physical security as well. I cannot imagine how secure indigenous societies that kept the memories of their ancestors for hundreds of generations might feel–if an individual died, there was never any sense that the society might fail–or fail to remember him or her.

        • Isn’t the “American Dream” to utilize every resource we have to our liking? Why don’t we take a more native standpoint on issues such as this?

  58. In the United States, land ownership is viewed as a ‘right’ and has become an obsession. People believe that unless they’ve bought a house and property they haven’t succeeded. There is an intense desire to ‘own’ the land, yet there is a lack of responsibility toward the land. The mentality tends toward the land as an object with the thought of ‘it’s mine and I can do with it as I choose’. There is no accountability for a person’s actions.

    While I don’t imagine that land ownership will change anytime soon, responsibility by people for the land they occupy can improve. We must foster a greater understanding of people’s personal actions to the surrounding community and remove the possessive nature of people’s interaction with the land. So while people will still be ‘land owners’ in the legal sense, they can learn to work with the land rather than dominate their ‘possession’.

    • Rory,
      The “it’s mine, I can do with it what I want” is a very common view here in the US. I believe that is something that is ingrained in us as one of those rights of being a US citizen. I don’t agree with it, mind you. I hope that our younger generation is brought up with a much different view, a lot of it not only has to do with respecting the land but with respecting others too.

  59. The essay and story of the pioneers that was interviewed reminded me of Walter Fry, Sequoia’s first civilian superintendent. He spent weeks helping to cut down a Giant Sequoia in the Converse Basin Grove. The grove was 3,000 acres; the largest on the planet at the time. One evening, out of boredom, he counted the rings of the stump and found over 3,000. He realized what he did, quit the next day and came to work for park; eventually becoming the superintendent. While he may have felt redeemed, it didn’t help that grove as it was completely clear cut by the early 1920’s. But as the saying goes, “you don’t know what you’ve got until its’ gone.”

    I do wonder about the idea of possession. Don’t you think in some ways that with possession there would be more care. I’ve often heard people say, it’s not mine, why should I care? If you felt a sense of ownership or felt that you had a stake in the place, then perhaps you would take better care of it?

    • I had heard this story about Fry, Dawn. I understand he never said a word about this incident after he figured out that he had helped cut down the oldest tree in the US. The idea of possession makes for an interesting contrast: your example indicates how little we care for a “commons” that is not ours— ownership is important– but in the sense of belonging rather than license among many indigenous peoples. This is treated in the essay here that contrasts the indigenous sense of belonging to the land versus the sense of have the land belong to us– attached is an important issue related to responsibility.

    • I think a sense of ownership could invoke a sense of care, but in a society that tends to buy an abundance of things unnecessarily to get rid of and replace in the near future, and move on from one place to another, they are blinded by things of ‘more value’ to replace inferior goods. I think many people who have less in both a materialistic and economic sense, tend to take care of what they have. People who can replace things and move on tend to lose that sense of stewardship.

    • I can’t imagine the guilt that Fry must have felt when he realized what he had done in cutting down the tree. Or maybe disgust with himself or regret at his decision. It’s frustrating sometimes to see how people from a couple generations ago treated the land, as if it were a never-ending commodity. For some reason your comment about the clear cutting reminded me of what ornithologists (at least some of them) used to do. When a bird was going extinct (like the ivory billed woodpecker was in the 1930s-40s) ornithologists rushed to kill one to add it to their specimen collection before they were gone. It blows my mind that they could have thought like that.

  60. In this essay, I found the roots of the worldview of “domination that saw the land only as a resource for human exploitation” expressed at the end of the essay as hunger and need. I’ve always had curiosity in understanding the ‘roots of evil’ -as I’ve expressed them before- or better said the cultural evolution of certain ways of thinking. In this case, I see the displacement of humble people’s in Europe as something that created this ideology.
    Of course, this need sparked reverence in desperate people’s far away from their homeland. My
    Scottish ancestor’s on both my mother’s side were displaced ancient ones or Celts then marginalized in the United States and used as forced mining labor. They had both a need to eat and survive, and almost more importantly to find a connection to the land they were living. Many of these Scottish outcasts had a mutual respect with the local indigenous populations.
    On Trask’s idea about “taking possession of the land”: although a baby may “blindly” grasp a “mother’s breast” for nourishment, a mother’s child learns to respect and not dominate she who provides that nourishment. While a baby instinctively knows how to drink his mother’s milk, he also listens to her heartbeat, and feels the love and warmth he is dependent on for survival. It’s disheartening that later an adult may lose this connection, and seek dominance of other persons, women, or nature, forgetting the key role of nurturing, loving, and caring for survival and well being.

    • Hunger and need ” self-fulfilling scarcity”– the latter is very important, since I wish to honor human needs, but not the idea of scarcity. Can you see the difference between honoring our needs and being driven by the sense that we will never have enough? Does this apply to your sense of the problems created by forcing “humble” people off their lands in Europe? I interviewed those whose families were forced from their land in this way in Britain and heartily supported native peoples whom they did not want to suffer the same fate. Their authentic reverence for the land was very difference from the distorted sense of grasping need I am referring to in this essay.
      Nice analysis extending the analogy of feeding at the mother’s breast– feeling her heartbeat. Have you ever experienced the amazing gaze between mother and baby during breastfeeding. This is very different from one who tear the breast apart trying to get at what they feel they deserve. Thanks for your comment.

  61. I thought the idea that a reverence for something could have contributed to it’s destruction was interesting and I couldn’t quite see how that could be true but reading further it started to make sense. If pioneers saw a resource such as timber or salmon in such abundance I suppose that they would have very little concern in limiting their harvest. It is not an idea that I could ever accept because I don’t think I would ever look at a resource, even a newly discovered one, and assume that it was unlimited in supply. The other day I was even worried about whether or not we would ever run out of salt. Is that a renewable resource? We seem to harvest a LOT of it from the oceans each year…

    • I don’t anything about the supply of salt, Sarah. But everything in the natural world has its limits.
      Looking at supplies of things as unlimited is part of the problem with such supposed “reverence”– another part is the romanticization of resources that means we don’t have to consider the consequences of our actions on them– as in the case of the River Ganges.
      Thanks for your comment.

  62. This makes me wonder what the whites were like before they came to the US.
    Did they not dominate and attempt to own and control everything in Europe?
    Also, is it only western culture who abuse women? I know the answer to that and its no.
    What are the trees like in other countires that don’t have many westerners? Is there still old growth?
    Many people can learn from their mistakes but I think it would be just as helpful if we could learn from history and other people’s mistakes. Maybe then we wouldn’t repeat them.

  63. This is an interesting correlation – I think it works well to explain our Western attitudes toward the land. The idea that we can never have enough permeates practically every aspect of our culture. Cultivating an attitude of gratefulness helps keep us aware of the abundance in our lives.

  64. I have never thought of reverence this way, but it makes absolute sense. It comes from a lack of understanding of the natural world. Being in such awe and believing resources will never cease to exist is plain ignorance. But ignorance in a slightly beautiful way of seeing and being overwhelmed with the majesty of nature. I really liked that idealization of something hinders the ability to be intimate with it. It can be applied to all aspects of life and relations.

    • I really like the idea that ignorance is in a sense a feeling of being overwhelmed by the majesty of nature. I had never considered that ignorance could be good. There is so much emphasis on knowing all the answers these days that the beauty of naivete is lost.

    • Thoughtful response, Anna. I think those who are truly intimate with the natural world do not suffer from romanticizing it.

  65. I think the idealization of Western lands by settlers is in interesting idea. This land was seen to be larger than life and teeming with abundance. People never considered that the West, like all other places, has limits. This idea sheds light on some of the questionable resource use practices that occurred when the West was settled.

    • Thanks for your feedback, Melissa. It seems that we can only romanticize those lands with which we are not truly intimate.

    • Melissa, I agree with the fact that Western settlers saw this land as something vast and open and would not run out of resources. What is interesting about this is that people now realize that this is not the case, yet we still overuse the limited supply of resources we have been given.

      • Indeed, seems we like the convenience (and profit to some) of using things up willy nilly- hard to change a course like this once we set out on it. But I think it not only can but is being done.
        Thanks for your comment.

  66. This was a very interesting article. I am sadly amazed at Western culture. It seems like we have ‘picked’ on Western culture a lot in this class, but it is true that the culture seems to be very distructive to nature. I know there are other cultures that are destructive to nature too, but if it were a competition, the Western culture would be winning in terms of destroying nature. It is sad.
    This makes me wonder what White Americans were like before they entered the United States. Have they always been so controlling and destructive?

    • An important question, Courtney, with a complex answer: but the short version is that ours is not the only culture that is so destructive– it comes with the territory for cultures involved in colonialism.
      And interestingly, some of us anyway learned something from native peoples that seems to have leavened our destructiveness– or at least given us the potential to do so. Now all we have to do is bring such values (of caring, for instance) front and center.

    • I think it is largely because of religious belief that many of the dominant ideals come out on top– many people believe that God put everything on the Earth at the disposal of man and we can take whatever we want until we are fulfilled. This is paradoxical though because gluttony is a deadly sin as well as the basic fact that why would God want us to destroy his wonderful other creations?

      • Thoughtful comment, Samantha. I myself wonder which came first–the dominating religious ideas or the dominating culture: historically, when many world religions became institutionalized into dominating cultures they took on these problems.

  67. In regards to the part about the old logger, I find it interesting that after spending time in the wild with the animals and nature he was able to have a respect and even reverence for them. I think it is the emotional disconnect that prevents us from really reaching our roots with the wild. By not having to see what the logging and other destructive measures destroy and kill, we do not need to mourn for the dead animals and life. We simply turn our heads away and keep our emotions uninvolved. I disagree with this and feel deeply touched when I think about the destruction. It is overwhelming to think of it all at once so I too must keep somewhat of a disconnect to keep the harsh reality away.

    • I find the story of this old logger very touching, Samantha. I absolutely agree with you about the need to experience directly the results of our actions–and those whom they touch.

    • I think that’s true about an emotional disconnect- that makes a lot of sense. This old logger was able to really attach himself to the land and see what consequences his actions might have. This is very touching and it shows that the more ties and longer someone is on the land, the better the chance of taking care of that land. This ties in to our idea of home we discussed in our lecture.

  68. The irony that we often destroy what we hold precious and strive to attain is very unfortunate. Of course this is an age old dilemma of mankind, it reminds me of a child grasping a baby bird too tight or the little girl that wants “the fishy” in Finding Nemo. People always want want want and in their hurry and selfishness the thing they want gets destroyed. Hopefully with the growing of environmental awareness we can stop destroying somethings before they wont replenish themselves and be able to treasure the grandeur of some old trees and large salmon runs in the future.

    • Some connections to ponder here, Carly, in the child grasping the baby bird too tight. Hopefully indeed, we will very soon stop destroying what we love because we have idealized it out of any real existence (or vulnerability). It would also be interesting to ponder the connection between idealization and greed or as you put it, “grasping”.

      • Speaking of our growing environmental awareness and our tendency to destroy what we love, I wonder if this process of idealizing nature can work in reverse to actually improve things. When we viewed natural resources as limitless and eternal, we over-exploited some resources. Can the new philosophy of the environmental movement, which views resources as limited and finite and precious, lead to a gradual restoration of natural bounty?

        • I think the problem with idealizing something is that one thereby fails to see it as it is– and there is too much grasping that goes with this concept. If we truly think something is precious (as you thoughtfully indicate), we should allow it to live freely and accept it for what it is.
          Perhaps the question that arises here is how to value something precious without idealizing it in a destructive way. Thanks for your comment.

  69. The parallel between idealization objects of desire (such as old-growth timber) and objectification of women is profound. It really is true that when we put nature- or women- on a pedestal, we fail to see them for who they truly are.

    • Sometimes it is not just putting an object on a pedestal that causes us to not see the object as it really is. We sometimes like to envision our own hopes and joys with that particular object and tend to over look the bad parts of the dreams. The example of a woman that stays in an abusive relationship is a great example of this case. The hopes that the pioneers would be fair to the Indians and share the land was probably another case when the pioneers first arrived. The Indians saw the new people as a great new set of people that they can share their joy and home with the pioneers. They failed to see that the pioneer’s greed would get in the way of any sort of fellowship.

      • Thoughtful analysis, although from all the satire I have seen on early pioneers, I don’t think indigenous peoples were always quite so naive– although perhaps on two serious counts. Using their own perspective, they assumed that whites would keep their word; and they also assume they would treat their children properly. I don’t know if these are “hopes” so much as worldview assumptions. But this point is worth considering. Thanks for bringing it up.

    • Good point, Amy. I think many women can resonate with this since they have experienced it personally.

  70. The contrast between the indigenous view of the land and the view held by the pioneers is quite stark. The idea that the pioneers saw so much land and it seemed so great to them they didn’t really think about imposing limits on it is interesting. It makes sense that they saw it as overwhelmingly abundant and large so why would they need to conserve? And, as in our discussion, the land wasn’t home to them- they were new on the land so the idea of taking care of their home wasn’t something they were necessarily inclined to do.

  71. Idealization is a dangerous thing. It leads to destruction, ALWAYS. Whether it is destruction of an object, a land, or of someones psych it will always occur.

    Idealization is often caused by ignorance and an inability or unwillingness to see ahead. How can one logically look at a gaint tree know that it took hundreds of years to grow and think that if they kept cutting them down that they would always be there? The Salmon are a little different one could look at them and think that they would never run out for they did not understand where they were coming from. If they had listened to the natives they would have known but they were to busy thinking that they were better then the “savages”.

    • I agree that idealization is dangerous, Tamara–and always so– whether resulting in destruction of trees or persons. I think the key to the question of how we miss certain things is that we are not seeing them at all: we are instead seeing what is in our own mind.

  72. I found this article to ring true to past experiences. It seems impossible to love something too much, but when the love becomes more about fulfilling the desire of the lover than about giving respect to the loved, the limitations that the loved (like the land) possess become invisible. I find that the parallels between objectification and abuse of women and the abuse and misuse of the land is very relevant. Both are cases of idealized possession, which result in damage to the “object” that is viewed as possible of possession. I believe this problem stems from selfishness and ignorance. One that is focused inward never looks out to view the consequences of his or her actions. It is definitely unfortunate, but I do not think that those of us who are aware of the “outer” consequences can judge too harshly. Instead, I believe we must spread knowledge out of compassion like the elder above did with his journaled records of climate change.

    • I like your description of when a certain kind of love becomes “too much”, Amber. Possession and love are not the same thing, no matter how much the owner lauds what they possess. I agree with you on the ineffectuality of guilt–must better to share information that motivates responsibility. That does not mean, of course, that those that are truly responsible for certain atrocities– like the DuPont that worked to protect corporate assets for decades by suppressing the health effects of their products on their workers should not be culpable for such acts.

  73. The reverence for land that also kills it is something that I see today when I go especially to places like Yosemite where people who love the land don’t know how to love it appropriately, and more importantly don’t know that they are not loving it in a respectful way. The Leave No Trace ethic is a great idea, but something that’s not always done to the best of our abilities. The take only pictures, leave only footprints, can still leave quite large footprints when people don’t tread smartly.

  74. Interesting and powerful message that the hunger for other needs can lead to the destruction of a currently satisfied need. I like the example of the logger who later realizes that his previous needs of providing via chopping down the forest were met at the expense of his future needs to live within the forest. By the time the logger realizes that he has wasted the resources it is far too late to fix what has been depleted. I think we often as humans do this in many regards. We are always thinking that the grass is greener on the other side and then when we get to the other side we realize that the grass was greener from where we came. We should be happy with the resources that we have and not take them for granted because someday we may not have the forests to go camping in and/or the wild game to hunt.

    • Thanks for the perspective, Jon. I hadn’t thought of this as a case of displaced needs, but of course, that is true. One of the reasons why the needs advertising creates are so dangerous: we must understand our own needs in order to make clear decisions.
      And gratefulness is certainly a value with which to address greed of all types.

  75. The examples listed in this essay of loggers cutting down old growth forests and fisheries killing too much salmon without a notion of reciprocity or responsibility makes me wonder about the consistent examples where this sort of destruction has occurred over and over again in our worlds history. One of the greatest resources that America had to offer the British when they began to “settle” this land was our eastern forests. Britain had long since decimated their forests and were in dire need of timber. The waters off our Atlantic Coast were once so prevalent with cod and bass that advertisements were made describing an easy life and endless opportunity for wealth. Of course, these waters were decimated by the numbers of fishing vessels and “modern methods” that they no longer can sustain the numbers of available fish that they historically did. Like the examples from the essay, these were instances where people saw great promise in the opportunities afforded by nature, but did not see their responsibility in maintaining these resources for future generations.

    • Thanks for offering these tragic parallel examples, Dale. It seems to be part of the “use it up and move on” strategy of Western industrialism. If we hadn’t any place to move on to and use up, perhaps we would learn the lessons of our past better. We do only have single planet and are coming to the end of the era of resource bounty soon enough.

  76. I liked Rebecca Adamsons insight ” God is in the space and silence.” It reminds me of Psalms 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” When we stop in the midst of the whirlwind that life becomes around us, it is easier to realize there is a bigger reason for our existence. Reverence enables us to stay balanced between need and want.

    • And truly understanding that same difference between want and need in ourselves is a good remedy against the idealism that only projects our own desires on any part of our world (and our concept of God as well). Thanks for your comment.

  77. “…an idealized projection on the other that prevents each from seeing who they really are.” What a thoughtful and insightful quote. We live life within a projection of what we think is reality. We objectify everything, including ourselves, in order to attempt an understanding of the other. In fact, what we are doing is setting ourselves up to live in a fantasy world of our own design. It is far removed from the reality of actually “what is”. Instead we see “what we want.”

    This psychological and philosophical idea reminds me of the book Lord of the Flies. The archetypal characters in the book each have a resounding affect on one another. They also reflect different worldviews that either have intimate reverence for life, or a need to “love something to death.”

    Further along in the essay, I am reminded of when I was younger and my mother would take me to church. In that fabricated building, I could never find God. I always thought to myself that the dead trees used to build the structure were an example of how irreverent religion was towards the Earth. As a child, and even now as an adult, I wanted to run to the forest where the cathedrals were living and where mutual reverence for all life could be shared with other living beings.

    Personally, I think we as a culture are deeply in need of this worldview in all aspects of our daily lives if we are to survive.

    • Thanks for another thoughtful comment, Dwayne. I think there is a way to build churches in a way that honors the sacred (including the profound natural lives of the trees used to do so.) I am thinking of the houses of the Skagit (on Puget Sound), for instance, whose houseposts were inherited in families, considered sacred and stood for generations. I have sometimes wondered how much more powerful the sense of the sacred in a building might be if we honored the personal stories that the trees that built it brought with them.
      Having said that, I also think we can find ample churches in ancient forests: as indicated by Nina Baumgartner’s quote about the natural elements “praising god” (left sidebar).

      • Oh yes, I wholeheartedly agree with Nina’s words. When walking through the forest, I tend to stop and listen. What I hear is the a choral voice rising above the canopy to the sky. This voice is a thousand birds, insects, leaves, furry critters and the wind singing a gentle song of praise. Praise for the simple fact of being alive. It is also a rewarding and humbling experience to have a ground squirrel or blue jay stop to have a conversation with you. Those are moments I live for!

        • It does seem that being present to our world yields immense gifts it is a shame that any of us ignore or pass up. Perhaps attending to such voices would also encourage our responsibility to the living world that sustains us.

  78. I understand that indigenous people learned their reverence for the land through having to live with and learn from the mistakes their ancestors had made. What I do not understand is how it is that the Euroamerican settlers (from the Pilgrims through today) failed to remember the teachings of the mistakes of their ancestors. What was so different in the experiences of native peoples that encouraged them to remember past tribulations while the ancestors of those of us from Western cultures failed to pass on these important lessons? Certainly they witnessed the destruction of the great forests of Europe, they were aware of the disease and filth of “civilized” cities where people threw their excrement into the streets, and a multitude of other atrocities from which they (we) should have learned lessons. Why are there oral histories of great adventures, battles won and lost against other civilizations, but no stories warning against the perils of misusing and ravaging the land? And even if the Pioneers had forgotten the lessons of the “Great Western Civilizations,” how did they not see what had become of the American East as a warning? I find it all too convenient, but perhaps it was some kind of collective story telling, this Manifest Destiny, that led to our mass forgetfulness.

    • Part of the answer to the puzzle you pose about the emigrants not learning from the mistakes of their ancestors goes back, I think, to the issue of devaluation of the past in general. This is directly related to the elevation of “progress” in the worldview that justifies colonialism. If we say others are “backward”, then we ourselves must be ever pushing forward: pointedly the same standard we apply to others (lack of respect for their ancestry/history) eventually comes back to us in devaluation of our own history and ancestry. Certainly, we do not have the techniques for passing on of stories in community in ways that encourages learning from the past.
      There is much that some pioneer family members might have taught us from their own mistakes (and some pioneers tried to do: see essay on “dead bodies all the way down” here. Native people sometimes told me to “go to your own ancestors as well”. Partly this was out of empathy for those elders neglected in our society– but part of it was also, I think, a strategy that understood if we looked to our own past, we might honor the past of others as well.
      There is no doubt that the idea of Manifest Destiny, as you propose, is “tied to our forgetfulness”– if we believe we are on the side of fated progress, what need do we have to bother with our past? And part of this narrative is that all societies but our own are backward and doomed to “fade away” at the hand of fate. All too convenient indeed, for this narrative overlooks any responsibility we ourselves might have for their supposedly “evident” demise.

  79. This article ties many things together for me. The fact that we, as human beings, are defined by the need to belong to something and the great lengths we will go to achieve that belonging; even if it means suffocating or killing something else. Discussed, is how the pioneers saw the land as larger than life with infinite amounts of resources. Americans and many other countries still view the land in this way. The pioneers did so because they had no historical experience of the land and its resources, but we do. So what’s our excuse? As Charles Wilkinson discusses his interview with and old logger who now lives away from society, the logger describes how he felt a reverence for the natural world that was no longer that of a larger than life resource after being secluded and watching and listening to nature day after day. If anything, this story should show us that all we must do in order to be a part of something is be quiet, listen, and open our eyes. By doing this we will learn how much the land really sustains our individual lives. But like the logger, by the time we actually come to our senses and stop trying to take possession of this and just listen, it is too late; the resources are gone. Unlike the pioneers, we have no excuse for our continued actions against the land and we are not ignorant. We must learn from previous generations and act accordingly. I agree that we also must teach future generations and prepare them for their relationship with the natural world.
    I also love how this article relates the idea of romantic fallacies of nature to those of the idealization of women. Everything in life is based on the same blue prints, and those blue prints are simply applied to different situations. Between one situation or another, you would think we as humans would be able to apply the same basic solution to the same basic problem, but we have yet to do so. What’s the deal?

  80. The analogy made in this essay between abusive relationships and our modern relationship with the land was amazing to me. The last line where you are referring to the land, “thus the latter sees the land as that which might redeem humans from their hunger for belonging and security–even if they have to destroy it in order to possess it.” Brings the essay full circle because regarding abuse of a person, land, or a position of power, it seems that somehow we have created a society in which it is believed that outward actions of might and authority are the appropriate reactions to being denied what we want. The idea of “if I can’t have you then no-one can” is born out of insecurity and rejection and I think that this sentiment resonates for relationships, including how some view the earth.

    • I too am constantly amazed at the steps that we, as human beings, will take to be in control and maintain a position of power. Things come to mind like the cover up over the friendly fire death of Corporal Pat Tillman or the damning of Glen Canyon. It is crazy what steps people will take to get power and then maintain that power.

  81. This is a real thoughtful essay. It’s not one that can be quickly summed up and does need to be pondered and slowly absorbed. The dangers of ‘romanticizing’ or ‘idealizing’ has a legacy in our society, witnessed, as she described, with the image of women/abusive relationships, as one example of many, many parallels. The idea of the infinite in the finite. Simply not seeing things as they are, but how one wants them to be seen. Living with regret…fighting the tsumani of ignorance…already I feel the layers in this essay disappearing as I try to pin them all down.

    • Hi there again,
      What gets me the most about ignorance is the human nature of knowing what is good but applying NIMBY. It feels that mortality, ethics should kick in and make us do things right but it never does. Even if some feel religion can help in making this happen, we find ways to manipulate its meaning to our greed. The tsunami of ignorance feels like an overwhelming trend that will consume others and keep growing if major initiatives are not taken to not only make awareness but enforce it as well.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful list of issues to ponder, Amy. Perhaps the main point in this “disappearing” complexity is that we cannot truly see others without being self-aware as well– or else we face all those things such as projection, idealization, etc.

  82. Most people feel that we do not need to revere our natural resources because the resources would constantly keep replenishing itself. With such mentality people keep over using and abusing salmon, water, land and the minerals it holds but what people don’t realize is that the human population is growing and consuming resources faster than earth can replenish. We could learn a lot from the pioneers doings and how different American resources are today, compared to the beginning of American westernization.

  83. The example dealing with Pioneer’s and Salmon back in the day is exactly the same way modern society acts when it comes to every natural resource. They will use as much of a natural resource as they possibly can and then wonder where it all went. Indigenous people understand the need to leave some resources behind for nature to run its natural course. If we were brought up with the ability to see our limit on natural resources like indigenous people our earth would be much healthier. Hopefully more people will come together and demand more sustainable practices from the masses to save earths now fragile environment.

  84. There is a problem with having reverence in something if we act on it without a deep understanding of what the object truly is. Reverence of huge fish populations, and old growth trees caused people to harvest to the point of damage. Would this still happen if people had respect and knowledge of their hungry consequences? By doing the right thing people should understand the object in reverence. People should take the time to develop an appreciation for the object. Then by gaining an understanding of the object in reverence, a person would be better suited to manage it. People have a responsibility to do the right thing, and should be fully aware that exhausting resources is a bad thing.

    • You’re point is exactly correct, people do have a responsibility to do that right thing. The problem today is definition. Each person defines the ‘right thing’ differently. The poor family living in the Amazon may log the rainforest feeling keeping his family warm is the right thing. This is the challenge we face today, how do we convince someone to change their view of ‘right’?

      • In the case of the family in the rainforest, Trent, we might note that such forests are logged not for firewood, but to clear for cattle ranching and oil drilling– in this case, the culprit is not the images of right or wrong, but the profit motive. Chevron just lost a huge suit to Amazon natives for fouling their traditional area of the rainforest.
        As noted in the “Indigenous Peoples” essay here, pressures of colonialism are a violent impediment to allowing indigenous and poor families to sustain themselves and the land in traditional ways. In this case (as in a recent interview with women from Haiti, the women know what is right and clearly articulate it, but feel themselves forced into a different decision. This is why I think that development that alleviates poverty at the same time that it empowers local populations (as in World Wildlife Fund initiatives) is very important to both justice and the environment.

  85. What like most about this article is show it drew parallels between the land, spirit, and “romantic” love. The parallel does seem to be coming from a sense of concern for oneself. The pioneers seemed to take from the land what they wanted not knowing that it had an effect on it. They seemed to believe that they were so small in comparison to the land that it not matter how it was treated. The land then got miss used. The spiritual connection was something to greater than what oneself so it too had to be taken by force in the novel story. The romantic love relationship is one that also gets neglected because it too can be seen as greater than oneself. The problem is that thinking that taking more than one puts in always results in a depletion of supply.

    What I am curious about is how this mind set start. The Idea that there is “no impact great enough that could negatively hurt something that I care about” seems odd to me. Maybe hindsight is 20/20 but a system that is based on just taking without giving just sounds like it is going to fail

    • It is a peculiar mindset indeed–and I cannot say how it gets started. As you point out, it is not great in the arena of logic. I think a cue to this illogic is that romantic love does not see the other as he or she is but how we want he or she to be.

  86. Reading of this reverence of nature, and forests in particular, made me remember the saying that, “if a tree falls in the forest and no one’s around, does it make a sound?” Well we all know that of course it does, and furthermore, it’s not really that no one is around. If the tree is surrounded by other trees, there are numerous spirits there. This also reminded me of hiking around Marys Peak in the Siuslaw National Forest this Summer with my children. What I was most revered in while being there was how loud the forest was. I kept stopping my children to get them to be quiet and listen. Wind seemed to be much louder than it should be because of the dense forest, but when they were very quiet they could hear running water that would end up being fairly far off in the distance. This sound travelled and reverberated throughout the forest, which made me consider just how loud we were in fact being. I felt that we should be quiet out of respect for the forest. Here we were, traipsing through their home being noisy. I only hope my children understood the lesson of awe and wonderment I was trying to show them just by being quiet and listening to the world around them. I know I felt the connection to something bigger than myself that we humans definitely do feel the pull of.

    I didn’t, however, want to disrespect it by either making it mine or not listening. So many people today take so many things for granted. We consume, consume, and never stop to think, “When does it end?” We see no end, because we see so much. We’re inundated with images of more, better, faster, that no one stops to think about what happened to last month’s more, better and faster. That is a lesson that awaits my children.

    • Thanks for sharing your own touching reverence for our local mountain. How would you distinguish your own sense of reverence from the “dangerous reverence” dynamic outlined in this essay–how is it linked, for instance, to the attitude of consumption you express in your last paragraph here.

      • I think it has a lot to do with respect for it and then seeking out a sustainable life as a part of it. For example, there are many things we have today that we don’t really ‘need’. We don’t need them to survive, but we want them. Why do we want them? Well we were told we want them and that our friends will want them, so pressure is exerted to consume. This perpetuates an endless cycle of disposable goods. Disposable shouldn’t even be considered. Nothing should be disposed of, but recycled. Nothing should be created unless it can be re-created. Not thinking in such a manner leads to the “dangerous reverence”. If we mine for the rare earth metals to create our ‘smart phones’ we think, oh that’s great, but when you have one of something you get pressured into thinking well why not have two? Thus feeding that insatiable hunger for more, the fullness that will never be felt.

        My own reverence is just in nature as how it is. I don’t feel compelled to change it all. I don’t think it’s nice but could look better, I think it looks fantastic. Life and nature is such an amazing miracle. My reverence wants me to freeze time, be still, have that moment and never let go.

  87. People seek immortality than by possessing that which is infinite? There can be little doubt that we are “loving” our national parks and wildlands to death. This essay reminds me of the Yellowstone controversy several years ago about the government trying to place limits on snow mobils in the park. The public wants to use the land and dominate it, wtihout any regard to what it requires and what all the other wild inhabitants require. These people will state with a straight face that they love the park and the land. It reminds me of park usage in FLorida. where bicyclists demand paved trails, and then you see them riding thier bikes as fast as they can, with iPods stuck in their ears, obviously not appreciating the beauty and the birdsong all around them. Reverence means treating the earth, its inhabitants and everything associated with them with respect. BIrd song is not just a unique vocal sound made by birds – it is the sound of communication between male and female, chicks and parents, territorial defenders. A bee is an essential pollinator, not a stinging bug. Dirt is the medium that supports and nourishes the plants that give us air to breathe and food to eat, not something full of germs and to be avoided. We forget that we are wedded to the earth – in fact, many never learn it. That message is reflected by the logger who things the forest is infinite, and then wakes up to find no trees. What is different is this was a person utterly immersed in and dependent on nature. When you realize the ignorance of so many people today is hundredfold that, the uphill challenge of changing out society is quite daunting. “You never know what you had until it is gone” rings as true today as it ever did.

  88. I really found the analogy of likening our current treatment of our environment to that of an abusive relationship. Or even infatuation (lust) in general. Driven by the need to “own” the object you loose site that its alive, has feelings and a soul. This disconnect is very prevalent in our society today, in my opinion. The past values of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents have trickled down through the generations and numbed many to the fact that the earth is brimming with life, and that we each play a role in sustaining a part of it. I wonder how the beauty of the teeming world around pioneers was lost on many of them. How can you not appreciate a landscape that is alive, bountiful and full of energy? Why would you want to control that instead of being a part of it? I don’t see how you cannot get more joy out of working with and being a part of earth rather than working yourself to death trying to bend it to your will.

  89. I would give anything to be able to go back and see this land before it was over run with humans, back when even though Native Americans were here, there was a love and respect for it. The size of the trees, the natural majesty of it. It must of been crushing for that old man to realize that he had been part of it’s destruction. He hurt enough that he spent his life trying to make up for what had been done but there truly was and never will be anyway to fix it. We can’t go back. There are so few old growth forests left and the few there are we are trying to cut down. Every time I read an article about these magical places being destroyed it feels like being stabbed. As if we haven’t already taken enough. It sadly seems so much of human nature to never be satisfied that even in our greed we will destroy ourselves.

    • There is much grief to this, which makes caring for what is left all the more precious!
      And I wouldn’t label this destructive impulse “human nature”, since there are so many cultures of which it is not a part–and some individuals among all cultures who hold to a different value system and behavior.

  90. When one is first exposed to the largeness of a forest or a desert it is easy to understand the logger/pioneer mindset. The entire system just seems so immense and vast and the thought of us mere humans destroying it seems unfathomable. The realtiy is much different and as the essay mentions, without witnessing the long term cummulative effects of our activities on these systems it is difficult to understand. Most have come to understand the true importance of charismatic species such as Giant sequoia, Grizzly bear, Elk, and Bison but the true workhorses of ecology and the interwoven fabric of the natural world such as the bacteria, fungi, and arthropods are rarely noticed and even less considered. If we gain a full apreciation for all aspects of the land, we can then begin to show it reverence.

    • Good balance about our need to understand not only the “charismatic species” but ecological “workhorses”, Paul. Obviously we cannot care for the land until and unless we become intimate with it–and this takes time and attention, as well as seeing the land and the land’s lives on their own terms rather than ours. Thanks for your comment.

    • You make some great points, Paul. Nature is vast and can be overwhelming to many who first witness it, but I do think that through education and involvement we can empower people to want to protect our resources, even if they do not understand how limited these resources are. I personally do not think that people need to dissect and analyze all aspects of resource management in order to want to be involved and protect the things they observe and interact with. If we can empower people to conserve resources and to get involved in preservation activities, I think we can make a real difference.

      • I agree that empowering people — with respect to enacting their own values, for instance– is an important way of making a “real difference”. Thanks for joining those who are supporting making this difference.

    • The little detail you added at the end about enjoying and appreciating ALL aspects of the land is I think the most important part in countering the “land without limits” issue. You’re right, land– vast expanses of it– may seem too big for humans to even put a dent in it, but as we read we definitely can. It’s key to understand the details so as not to misinterpret the whole.

      • Good perspective, Joce and Paul. It is important not to take this as a way to avoid the responsibility for our own actions (as in, the rationale that “we can do anything because nature is too vast for us to effect it.”

  91. I wish I could say that people have changed from the 1800’s in thinking that our resources will not be depleted and will not last forever, but unfortunately many people today still harbor this notion of our natural resources. We also do not understand how destructive our actions can be and just like in the essay, only truly appreciate our destructive ways when we are older and have seen the devastation firsthand over the course of many years. I would hope that people were becoming more aware of our limited resources and to strive to effectively manage these resources, but this does not seem to be the case. Instead, we keep repeating the mistakes of the past and are dooming future generations in the process.

    • True that many of us are behaving foolishly in ignoring the mistakes of the past– as well as the future results of our actions. And yet there are many that care for the land that sustains us in profound ways.
      What we need to figure out is what motivates one kind of action rather than the other.
      Any ideas?

    • I completely agree, we keep making the same mistakes and forgetting about them all over again. We have made many mistakes regarding nature and never really seem to take them to heart and realize how big of an impact eliminating just one species can have on our Eco systems. The same can be said for trees and forests all around. I don’t believe this is just a Western cultural things either. We see depleting rain forests as well.

      • We see depletion of ecosystems wherever human populations make poor choices–and there are many reasons why this happens, including economic pressures of larger nations and global corporations on smaller nations. In this respect, it is our job both to enact a different economic model and to help restore the power of self-determination to other nations– or at least not to undermine it with our actions.

  92. This is intense. Like you said, the first ideology is an obvious reason people would imagine is a way of thinking behind natural destruction. A sense of dominance, like you said, is also a sense of selfishness and lack of care for whatever it is that someone is trying to take over and destroy. But the second ideology seems a little abstract, though I think I’m beginning to grasp it. Not all people have been responsible for destruction of the natural world, in this case, salmon populations, have a solid idea of where life ends– or their limitations. It seemed to me like ignorance, more than anything, was at play, and it was too late for the situation to be saved once the deeds were done. I suppose based on the perceived vastness of the natural world (though losing vastness everyday, of course) it’s not unheard of to miscalculate or misjudge actions toward it. But, in this situation and basically all others, I hardly think ignorance stands as a decent excuse for destruction.

    • Thanks for grappling with this challenging topic, Joce. It can seem counter-intuitive that reverencing something in some way can result in so much destruction.
      But the point is that this kind of reverence is not reverence for nature (or for women) as they are– but as they fulfill the needs of others and thus seeing them in an idealized fashion goes along with treated them in a usury fashion. I don’t know about you, but I would rather be seen for who I am (taking the example of the idealized woman) than for an idealization of how I might fulfill someone else’s needs. One problem such idealization leads to in human relationships is domestic violence when the idealized woman fails to fulfill this impossible role.
      Does that make sense to you?

    • “Unlike the indigenous system which set up seasonal harvest limits orchestrated by religious leaders, pioneer harvesters depleted that which they never thought would end.”
      There is so much to learn from the people that have been cast aside in our modern society. How much different do you think the world would be if these people were respected for their wisdom of the land and of the life they knew so much about?
      Ignorance and greed are such catalysts for destruction and dominance, especially when a society cannot see the larger picture due to the idealization of a vast yet fragile land.

  93. It is interesting how you relate the idealization of the land with the idealization of women. I would have never thought of such a connection but I can see now how it can be linked. The land seems so vast and strong that it is difficult to see how one cultures’ actions can cause such harm. Similarly, (though more difficult to place into words) a woman can be idealized as a mysterious ideal placed on a pedestal, yet when a woman does not meet this ideal (unrealistically set by the media) she is cast aside or blaimed for the imperfections. This is the message I received, let me know if I am completely off base.

    • You are right on base, Jessica! In both cases, the danger lies in the fact that we project our needs and desires on the other (land or woman) rather than seeing her for what she is.

  94. It’s an interesting idea that our intense admiration for something could actually be a factor in its destruction. It’s a wonderful thing to appreciate the beauty and power that surrounds us, and it’s a wonderful thing to use the bountiful resources available, but, as this article demonstrates, those things can be taken too far and lead to a feeling that something is infinite and indestructible when it really isn’t.
    As this essay points out, I think the key to balancing our awe with practicality is intimacy. When we take the time and make the effort to really know something we learn from it and we learn about it. We gain a knowledge of its limits, of the consequences of our actions, and of what kind of balance needs to be struck to allow everything to continue working and living in harmony.
    I think that as we seek out and apply truth in all aspects of our lives, we will have the knowledge and the wisdom required to live happily and in harmony with the earth and with each other. Both reverence and practicality are required to seek and apply truth, and while it can be difficult to find the balance, it is worth the effort to know that we are living our lives responsibly and in accordance with what we know is right.

    • The main issue here is that it is not so much an “intense admiration” for something as it is but how we project our own needs and desires on it that is the issue.
      Taking the “admiration” too far is exemplified by idealization in feeling that natural resources may be “infinite and indestructible”–and that, as you indicate, becomes both ironic and tragic when it leads to the destruction of the supposedly “infinite” resource. In this case, as well, ideal assumptions about a resource (or a romanticized idea of a person) are very different that the real knowledge that love consists of– which you portray as mutual learning in your last comment.
      Thanks for your thoughtful response.

    • I agree with you Samantha. If we take the time and effort to create and learn about harmony and peace within the earth and it’s resources we will be better off because it will be able to understand the negative effects that we are contributing to.

  95. Humans have a desire to tear apart the world with little grievances. It seems hard to think that our supply of salmon, deer, trees, water, etc could ever run out when they are so abundant. I really think we need to think about nature as a reciprical system. Give and take. I think it is incredible that we are now trying to right the wrongs done so long ago but it is still too late for some things. I wonder how long it will take for every living person to realize things need to change and actually do something about it?

    • Your point about the danger of “little grievances” gives us much to ponder, Denise.
      It does seem imperative that we wake up to things like climate change quickly as a society. I don’t know how long it will take for “every person” to come to such realizations. I can only hope that you and I can spread awareness as we come to it– in both our consciousness and our actions.

    • I am glad for people who wrote down what they saw happening as a result of what humans did like that one man in lived on Mt. Rainier as fire look out person after many years of logging because he was willing to let future generations know what not to do.

      • This gentle and generous man was indeed keeping a record for future generations– this gives us all the more reason to honor oral traditions and the lessons of history our written history may too easily overlook.

  96. We really do destroy what we love. When settlers first moved here they loved the open spaces, acres of trees and wildlife and everything else that the PNW had to offer. Over the years we have polluted and destroyed so much of it. After reading this essay, I am very glad that we created thing like the EPA, Wild life conserves, National Park reserves so that we can at least protect parts of what we love most about where we live. I’m also very appreciative that there are laws now that require companies to re-plant trees in places where they have been taken down. My hope for the future are that essays like this one, word of mouth, education in school and media can help others realize how important the nature around us is to our lives.

    • Thanks for sharing your vision with respect to the preciousness of what we need to protect–and the vision of how to protect this in the future. I am glad you seem to have elected to join the “word of mouth” that helps spread education on these matters!

  97. This story had me thinking of how the loggers today in clatsop and Columbia County have logged the forests. They took out all the trees that would be used for wildlife habitat and when it all comes back, I wonder if any of the wildlife will return to what was once their home? We take nature for granted to the point of extinction without thinking of the consequences and we pay for it in the long run.

    • I am heartened by the fact that some small logging operations are modeling a different approach with sustainable logging now.
      And you are right, we have much to heal concerning our past actions.

  98. “As this quote expresses, there is a profound human need to belong to something larger than oneself—something that begins before an individual’s birth and continues after death.”

    This is a profound statement. The way I interpret it-it encompasses our need of community, but because the pioneers, in their isolation, projected that need onto something tangible, something own-able. And in the scope of their little world, there seemed to be plenty. That reverence described fueled a false sense of abundance without consequence. In today’s world, we have become further detached from nature and community alike. We have also become detached from patience and the difference between want and need. We look at objects to bridge this detachment. This separation makes it easy to objectify anything we can touch. This type of abstract thinking separates all the parts from the whole and we can no longer see the forest for the trees.

    • You bring up an important connection between our detachment from nature and community–and our personal emptiness. Objectifying something is the opposite of connecting with its uniqueness and life–and idealization is also a form of objectification.
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  99. Why must we “own” so much? Why do we as humans feel this uncontrollable urge to control our surroundings? The things we posses(nature) and the things we control didn’t even belong to us in the first place. I don’t think that nature would control us if she had the chance. I view nature as a woman who is trying to get our attention and we keep plucking and pulling at her, completely ignoring her cries.

    • In a way I agree but I also must argue that I think Mother Nature gets her revenge on us in the form of natural disasters. Earthquakes and hurricanes, tsunamis and tornados are all destructive forces of nature that tear down our skyscrapers and remind us that nature can be vicious, I look at these disasters as reminders to respect our earth because it can destroy us whenever it wants to.

    • Indeed, the urge to own and control are intertwined in much of the destruction humans perpetrate on the natural world. The increasingly unstable weather we are experiencing these days is an example of the earth “trying to get our attention”, as you put it–and trying to show us the consequences of our actions.

  100. The story of the man that lived on his own up in the depths of Mt. Rainier makes me think that he was trying to pay penance for his and his “brothers” past sins committed on the earth’s soil. Almost as if he was punishing himself for what they did and trying to repay the earth as best he could, the spreading the word of his generations past mistakes seems to go along with this as well.

    • Thoughtful response, Kelsey. Can you see a distinction here between this man’s “punishing himself” and undergoing a form of retribution for taking down the trees? I would like to see us emphasize making things right rather than punishing anyone (ourselves included).

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