During a road trip last month, I visited the Redwood National Park in Northern California. I’d been there once before—in 1976 with my parents and brother. There is a short walking trail to the designated “Big Tree” estimated at 1500 years old. Because it was off-season, there weren’t many other tourists in the park, which perhaps enabled MF and me to better experience the grandeur of the tree.
I was twelve years old the last time I was among those redwoods. These past 38 years for me are like two years for that ancient tree. Just two years. MF, speaking for Big Tree, says “there’s that little girl again” and my mind stops for a moment and I AM that little girl again with a visit to Disneyland a few days away and then my whole adult life ahead.
But the feeling didn’t last long. Even when right beside Big Tree, it was hard for me to get it before my mind was already back on the road, thinking about what’s next.
A week later, I was reading William Powers New Slow City and caught “By 9PM, dinosaurs are extinct and redwoods sprout.” He’s quoting a friend talking about David R. Brower’s history of earth if imagined over the six days of creation. 9PM is referring to the last day (and it isn’t until 11:57PM that humans appear). Similarly, Carl Sagan had given a breakdown of how the timeline of the Cosmos could be expressed in a 12-month calendar. Again, we humans are a tiny blip at the very very very end.
And in that tiny blip, it must be only the last 250 years or so that we’ve really fucked up the environment. When I hear that we are at a crossroads or tipping point with environmental issues, I think “haven’t there been lots of these points before that we ignored? What makes this more of a crossroads? What about the 60’s/70’s when the Western hippies went counter-culture? It’s almost 45 years since the first Earth Day!”
I guess to Big Tree, it’s the same crossroads.
So when I asked myself recently how climate change matters to me, I realized that even if I thought we’d set the planet and our descendants on an irreversible path going south, the suffering of beings right now caused by environment challenges is something I do strongly care about. Along with making time for activism, my simpler living plan is a micro-save-the-planet approach, acknowledging my own greed and ignorance and figuring out how much consumption is “enough” for me to be healthy and happy.
Both the birth of Big Tree and the future of this planet are Science Fiction to me. If I’m lucky, I’ve got about 30 human years left. 30 years to focus on What Is Important and not turn away. 30 years to try to be here now.
- Redwood National Park
- MF = manfriend
- New Slow City: Living Simply in the World’s Fastest City by William Powers
- Carl Sagan’s Cosmic Calendar (source: youtube) The life of the Cosmos in a 12-month calendar.
- Earth Day