A steady stream of motor homes and tractor trailers full of heavy equipment disturbs my morning walk up the trail along the Alaska Highway.
Now that summer is almost here the flow of traffic seems endless.
Visitors are travelling north in search of an experience that just might be “larger than life.”
And I suppose these 18-wheel caravans are also tied to the same notion — that our human experience can somehow be larger than life.
This, of course, is nonsense.
While romantic notions of northern life (or any life for that matter) can give the illusion we are detached or above the rest of life, this is simply not true.
Slick and trendy advertising campaigns effectively lull us into believing the world is not as it really is.
As I watch the smiling faces behind the windshields of these luxury coaches, I wonder if they are fully aware of the impact their travel has on this part of the world.
Walking the road this morning, watching this quickening river of traffic, it is hard for me to hold on to the reality that each vehicle pushing north is chipping away at the overall health of the planet.
In fact, each traveller is contributing ever so slightly to the destruction of the pristine north they have travelled so far to experience.
The reality of this is very odd indeed, and when I think it through it leaves me feeling strange.
Just now a lovely couple — I assume to be in their mid-70s — wheel by and with big smiles give me a very friendly wave of the hand.
It is easy for me to get into their mindset. The great joy and excitement of experiencing new country — wild country — from the comfort of a nine-metre state-of-the-art RV is so tempting.
Through the just-polished front glass the larger-than-life True North just keeps on coming.
You sit back, pump the lower lumbar support, up the volume on Frank Sinatra’s rendition of New York, New York, and sip down a dark-roasted espresso.
It doesn’t get any better.
Or does it?
I pull up from my walk, sit down in tall grass next to my puppy and reflect.
The changes we need to make in order to keep the planet healthy will come from a new generation of messengers.
Each period in history has always found its own voice.
What I also know it these messengers will be delivering old messages.
Most of the “good stuff” has already been thought out years if not centuries ago.
Jesus proposed “doing unto others… and thou shalt not kill.”
No one has improved on those notions.
If we had followed his words we would have avoided needless wars and untold community and personal calamity.
In the early 1950s, Aldo Leopold proposed a land ethic that said it all:
“All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. His instincts prompt him to compete for his place in that community, but his ethics prompt him also to co-operate (perhaps in order that there may be a place to compete for).
“The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.
“This sounds simple: do we not already sing our love for and obligation to the land of the free and the home of the brave?
“Yes, but just what and whom do we love? Certainly not the soil, which we are sending helter-skelter downriver.
“Certainly not the waters, which we assume have no function except to turn turbines, float barges, and carry off sewage.
“Certainly not the plants, of which we exterminate whole communities without batting an eye. Certainly not the animals, of which we have already extirpated many of the largest and most beautiful species.
“A land ethic of course cannot prevent the alteration, management, and use of these ‘resources,’ but it does affirm their right to continued existence, and, at least in spots, their continued existence in a natural state.
“In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.”
One of our newest messengers is Paul Hawken.
Hawken — the foremost authority on new environmental and social justice thinking — recently delivered a talk at the Unity Church in Boulder, Colorado.
He staggered his audience with the following:
During his PowerPoint presentation he flashed a page of about 20 environmental and social-justice organizations up on the screen for about a minute — long enough for the audience to read through the list.
He then loaded on another page and another and another.
Each page contained about 20 contemporary organizations that are currently promoting social justice, environmental sanity, sustainable development and community well-being.
In fact, he said, if he were to continue loading a new page every minute, 24-7, it would take just over 30 days to go through the entire list.
My puppy is getting restless.
It’s time for me to head back home.
But I am filled with optimism now.
The number of people and organizations working hard for the environment, delivering old messages in a new light, is certainly good news.
This allows me to smile and wave at the next batch of RVs coming up the road.
Help is on the way.