An environmentalist…

A few months ago, I kicked around the idea of starting up a weekly limited feature focused on topics that some people might consider controversial, unpopular, or otherwise not appropriate for polite company. Nothing much came of the idea then, but it has stewed in my head ever since. This is the first of what I like to think will be a recurring series of Friday evening contemplations. If you’re easily offended, or for some reason have gotten the impression that your friends or family members have to agree with you on every conceivable topic, this might be a good time to look away. While it’s not my intention to be blatantly offensive, I only control the words I use, not how they’re received or interpreted.

In my own way, I’m an environmentalist. I’m not the kind of wackadoodle hippy that ties himself to the high branches of a tree to stop logging or only eats soy because cows fart too much. Still, I believe one of the greatest dangers facing the world today is the almost eight billion of us extracting resources from the planet at an unprecedented rate.

I enjoy nature so much that one of the key points in picking the house I currently live in wasn’t just the structure, but its location adjacent to protected state owned and conservation easement land as well as that the neighborhood covenants and restrictions placing strict limits on the amount of the “natural woodland” on each lot that can be removed for development. I lived in one of those clear cut subdivisions with nothing by lawn and pavement as far as the eye could see once and never will again. 

None of the above is probably controversial, but here’s where I’m going to lose my Republican friends: In addition to generally enjoying the outdoors, I believe global climate change is an existential threat to civilization. 

Like any other large problem we’ve ever faced, the fact is, we can fix this. The catch is, of course, it means that many things have to change – not the least of which is transitioning away from using fossil fuels. Those systems were built up over two centuries and (to agitate my environmentalist friends) I don’t expect we can reasonably expect to simply turn them off over two years or even twenty. The sooner we start implementing real solutions to mitigate climate change the better off we’re going to be – if only because the longer we wait to take it seriously, the larger will be the cost and greater the drag on the economy.

Getting a grip on climate change isn’t just for the benefit of people. If it were, I’d probably shrug it away, because people are the cause I’m least inclined to get behind. I mean have you met people? We’re collectively awful. If I’m inappropriately honest, I’m far more troubled by the impact of our continued behavior on the whales and the fishes and the turtles and the apes and the polar bears and the big cats and the birds and the whole host of small mammals whose habitat we’re systematically destroying, cutting up, and constricting. I’ll take my chances with a mass die off of people, but the animals never did anything to us.

I’m not optimistic that there’s the political or social will to get our arms around the sheer volume of things that need fixing. The more likely course of events in my mind is that the climate will continue to shift and at least some of us will find ourselves living in a world that’s much more violent, far less productive, and considerably less populated by creatures great and small.

The state of nature…

Weekends, especially those that are too snowy, cold, and unpleasant for much else, are good times to ponder. Some, I’m sure, are eager to fill in every moment of the empty hours with active distraction, but I’m happy to spend them reading and thinking over a good brew up.

I had some delightfully long stretches of time to do just that over the past weekend. There was a single thought, though, that kept coming back to me and that’s that whatever we think of as “peace” simply isn’t the natural state of the world.

Europe was lulled into thinking of the “long peace” stretching from the end of World War II to the kickoff of Russia’s most recent misguided adventure in Ukraine. That’s only possible when you forget that Russia has been waging a low-intensity war in Ukraine since 2007. The countries that used to be Yugoslavia fell into brutal genocidal war in the 1990s. Before that, when there was still an Iron Curtain, the whole continent held its breath and armed itself with increasingly powerful tools of war.

The Cold War itself raged, from one degree or another, across South America, Africa, and Asia for half a century. None of that even takes into account the “big wars” of the 20th century, the wars for empire in the Victorian Age, or Napoleon’s setting all of Europe on fire in his wars of expansion in the 19th century. The 18th century could hardly be called peaceful, having birthed revolutionary fervor in both the United States and France. You can carry this line of thought back through the long sweep of history until you run out of written records to consider.

It’s why I chuckle any time someone earnestly tells me that if only there was X, Y, or Z, the people of the world would all live together in peace and harmony. Maybe if they’re the last two people on earth. Maybe. But I see very little evidence to convince me that when societies, cultures, and civilizations bumping up against one another, “peace” isn’t simply a momentary rest between stretches of open, brutal war.

Irreplicable…

Over the weekend I saw three separate posts on Facebook saying some derivation of “They’ll replace you at work before your obituary is published, but you’re irreplicable at home.”

Based on my decidedly unscientific observation of human behavior, this has to be one of the greatest lies we tell ourselves. Not the part about being utterly replicable to your employer, of course. That bit is gospel truth. But being indispensable at home? Please. 

Looking around at the number of people who are regularly being cheated on, cheating on their significant other, getting divorced, meeting the 3rd “love of their life” in the last year, having kids they don’t see or support, barely functioning due to chemical dependency, or otherwise contributing nothing to their family or society at large, it seems to me that a fair number of us are every bit as dispensable at home we are to an employer. I suppose that’s the kind of thing we’re not supposed to say in polite company, though.

Look, I guess you’ve got to tell yourself whatever it takes to get through the night or to give some semblance of meaning in the face of a universe that truly does not give one shit… but realistically, we’re mostly just impressively complex electrochemical bio-machines designed to propagate our genes. Maybe it’s not as comforting, but it has the stench of honesty that I’ve increasingly come to appreciate.

Going soft…

I posted on Facebook last week about a couple of deer hanging around the front yard. Someone, several someone’s actually, provided the obvious recommendation for how to resolve that issue expeditiously.

Don’t get me wrong, I love deer bologna, jerky, and steak, but the truth is I’m not sure I’ve got the motivation any more to take the time and effort involved. Part of me gets more pleasure from watching them foraging in the yard than I’d ever get from their meat.

I’m not anti-hunting by any stretch. I like knowing I can field dress a deer and gut a fish of it comes to it. I like knowing I have the ability to put meat on the table. Maybe I’m getting soft-headed in my old age, but the idea of putting one in the crosshairs and pulling the trigger when I don’t have to doesn’t have the same appeal it may have done a couple of decades ago. Plus, sitting up a tree freezing my ass off has absolutely never held any charm at all for me.

That said, I’m glad there are still people out there doing it, because there are a couple of good sized bucks that like to crowd the road on my drive in to work. I’d much appreciate it if someone could put them down before one of them ends up in my grill instead of on it.

Clawed back from nature…

This won’t mean much to you, but since I’ve been working on it almost since I bought the house it’s one of those things that means a hell of a lot to me. You see, I’ve been trying to claw back about 500 square feet of back yard the pervious owner let go to the woods. Although 400 square feet is hardly worth a mention in man’s great efforts at deforestation, I’m taking it as a great achievement and point of personal pride.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time clearing brush and then deciding which trees and saplings to take to make that corner feel like part of the yard without clear cutting it. Although the heavy lifting was finished early this spring there were a few stray stumps that deviled my ability to bring in the heavy lawn care equipment.

Yesterday morning’s temperate conditions proved beautiful weather to hammer down the stumps with a maul and an ax – and marked the first time I could get the riding mower into that section to keep things cut down to a more yard-like style. It’s still filled with weeds and some of the native mountain laurel looks like it could develop into promising pieces. Considering where it started, I’m well pleased with where we stand now. After beating nature into submission with both blunt and sharpened steel, yesterday was the first time a cut and trim started to fall inside the realm of regular weekly lawn care instead of being a “special project.” Give it another two years of carefully tended growth and it should be a fine little plot of land.

Because virtually none of what takes place outside of my fence line ever feels like it’s ever completed work, I feel good about this small win.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. False enthusiasm. When someone departs the workplace, it’s traditional to say a few kind words on the occasion. That’s easier in some cases than others. The sticking point is, I have a hard time saying things I don’t mean, so if you were a royal pain in the ass in the time we worked together, don’t expect that I’m going to have glowing commendations just because it’s time for you to move on. That level of false enthusiasm isn’t my style. Sometimes the only positive thing you can say about someone is “he’s gone.”

2. Pollen. I know trees have to fornicate. It’s part of the circle of life or whatever. I just wish science could come up with a way for them to do it without the whole ugly mess getting in my eyes, clogging my nose, and wrecking my throat two or three months out of each year.

3. Time. My relationship with time could generously be described as “well ordered.” Others might call it slightly bent towards fanaticism. Still, with clocks and lists, I aggressively manage my waking hours in an effort to cram as much into them as possible. That’s why it caught me off guard when someone asked me if I had scheduled any time off for the holiday. I was perplexed, right up to the point where they helpfully pointed out that Sunday is Easter. It had totally slipped my mind… but as a holiday that doesn’t isn’t of the extra-day-off variety, I think I can be forgiven. The more concerning bit is that it’s Easter already and the year has given no indications of slowing down at all.

Home sweet home…

Jumped two deer on my walk down to dump my bucket of trimmings. Before 8:30 my totals were up to two deer, half a dozen squirrels, a woodpecker, several humming birds, and sundry others. Add in yesterday’s box turtle and I am reminded entirely why ended up here instead of back in a cookie cutter shoulder to shoulder subdivision.

Duck… duck…

One of the perks of working where I work is that the whole area is something of a wildlife refuge. Eagles, turtles, deer, all manner of animals are at home inside the fence. Of them all, perhaps the most obnoxious is the Canada geese that never seem to know what side of the road they want to be on. That’s bad, especially if their wanderings happen to intersect with a road you’re trying to use. It’s like the little hoodlums can sense when you’re in a hurry and take great pains to subvert your efforts.

When they’re on the wing Canada geese are majestic enough; flying in their “V” formation, honking like there’s no tomorrow. On the ground, there’s nothing majestic about them at all. They’re winged shitting machines with no regard for anything or anyone.

I bring that up because this morning the entire walkway from the parking lot to the front of the building was peppered with goose feces. Hundreds of piles of reeking, slimy, stepped in goose turds. That’s what greeted me on the way into the office this morning. If I’d have been caffeinated enough in that moment to realize the universe was sending me one giant, stinking warning sign about what the day was going to be like, I could have avoided great angst and gnashing of teeth today. I’m going to be taking that as a lesson learned.

Mooning…

Time was I’d drag myself out of bed at all sorts of wild hours just for the possibility of seeing something cool in the night sky. Tonight’s blood moon would definitely qualify as one of those things. Until I started checking out the times of best viewing and doing the math on how much cloud cover there was probably going to be here on the east coast at 3:07 AM EDT. Getting up in the middle of the night to watch something live streaming on my iPad just doesn’t have the same effect. Some things are meant to be done live, preferably with a steaming cup of coffee and a touch of Irish to help pass the time. Since tonight’s show looks like it will be clouded out, I’m going to have to take a pass and satisfy my curiosity with seeing the stream after the fact. It’s a little disappointing that I’ll be missing nature’s big show, but since there will be three more chances in the next year and a half, I’ll roll the dice on seeing the next eclipse, or the one after that, or the one after that. Surely the weather can’t conspire to block out all four of the harbingers of the end of days, right?

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Nature. I’ve never made any bones about not being a hippy tree hugger. I like the idea of the outdoors… as long as it’s neat, and orderly. Wandering around in the woods looking for a place to poop isn’t high on my list of things to do without a damned good reason. I like to think of it as the difference between enjoying an English garden and enjoying the rain forest. Both have their role to play in the great scheme of things, but I really only need to be involved with one of them. Being a practical man, I know that I need nature to cooperate with me from time to time, though. Basically, what I need it to do is stop throwing thunderstorms around every afternoon so I can get some stuff done outside. Stupid nature. Why can’t we control that foolishness yet?

2. Lunch. I use to enjoy a wide range of lunch options – assuming you consider a score of fast food joints and gas station sandwich shops different enough to count as “a range.” Part of my furlough survival plan was to reduce the cost of lunch by bring it from home. It doesn’t sound like much at first blush, but $200 odd bucks a month adds up respectably over a few months. Now that I’m bringing chow from home, I’m thoroughly bored with everything. I’m philosophically opposed to being one of those people that brings in home cooked leftovers to reheat for lunch (throwing good food in the microwave is pretty much on step above reheating it on the engine manifold – sure it’s warm, but it probably tastes like ass), the options do tend to dwindle. There are only so many ways to be creative with salads and sandwiches when you don’t run your own deli counter or just happen to keep a lot of exotic ingredients on hand. When this furlough is over, I may never touch finely sliced roast turkey breast again. Ever.

3. Shipping. I’ve never exactly been known for my patience and I’ve been spoiled by features like Amazon Prime that default all of my purchases to 2nd day delivery. For a few dollars more, I can arrange for an item to be at the house in less than 24 hours. That’s the kind of service that makes me happy. Then there are the surprising number of things I order online that don’t have an Amazon Prime-like option for rapid shipping. They want to take my money, wait two or three days, and then get around to shipping my item by standard mail so it will take an extra three or four days to arrive safely on my doorstep. Maybe it’s just me but a seven day interval between flash and bang feels a bit like an eternity. They say patience is a virtue. Apparently “they” are idiots.