Mary Albott: Come on climate strikes, change our thinking
Recently, I re-read “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” the mid-70s nonfiction (basically) bestseller by Robert M. Pirsig.
I first read it at age 18 in 1977, during my freshman year in college. At that time, I did not have the life experience to nearly understand it. I’m glad, 42 years later, I took up the challenge again. And thinking of my younger years, I encourage young climate stickers to please read to the end of this article.
In his philosophical classic, Pirsig goes deep into rationality itself and, I believe, states something very pertinent to today.
“Were living in topsy-turvy times,” he wrote, “and I think that what causes this topsy-turvy feeling is inadequacy of old forms of thought to deal with new experiences.”
I remembered this point while reflecting on the Other Voices op-ed in the Dec, 5 issue of The Union written by Dick Scaroni and titled, “When nature and politics collide.” It’s about the huge corporate mining project the Trump Administration has approved to be constructed in Alaska’s pristine Bristol Bay watershed, home of tons of wildlife and the world’s largest spawning salmon population.
I wondered, how could this be happening in this day and age? We know better.
Pirsig though, always looking at the underlying form of things — and views “thoughts” i.e. rationality, as forms themselves — offers a reason along with an example. He wrote, “… if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory.”
So it is today. We are still, as a society, one stuck in culturally produced thought patterns that, as Pirsig notes, go back to the setting of this continent. Although we emphasize our first settlers guests for religious freedom, they also craved material success — homes, farms, businesses — which they could not achieve in their countries of origin. (I recall reading that Thomas Jefferson likely meant material success when he wrote into the Declaration of Independence, the right to pursue “happiness.”)
Alaska’s governor, Scaroni says, supports the mining project and was voted into office by Alaskans who “loved with their pocketbooks.” It seems an ingrained natural American response — not thought through at all, as it will certainly destroy a billion-dollar fishing industry (did they forget they benefit from that?) that feeds millions of people, as well as have multi-generational environmental impacts. Just another man-made earth ravaging environmental disaster done in the name of a few bucks, left to our grandchildren and their grandchildren, and their grandchildren … and beyond.
I have faith that today’s young people leading and participation climate strikes will become aware of — if not already — their culturally inherited thought patterns and change them. Apparently, the majority of Baby Boomers who protested in the ’60s and ’70s did not. As a result, as they “grew up” they sought positions of prestige in title and monetary gain in businesses and corporations, the usual “pocket book things.” Additionally, they filled government positions with the same mindset. (OK Nevada County Boomers, so that I don’t get completely trashed, this does not mean all of us.)
Today’s climate strikers, worldwide, do not seem to confuse copious consumerism and corporate titles with success. Instead, they have displayed a profound interest in doing good for the Earth and all of its beings.
In the 1970s, Pirsig believed that technology was splitting people apart. However, today one could argue that it bring people together. We can now talk almost immediately with people around the globe.
On the downside, today’s communication technology does pose a threat to our privacy. But it can also help save us. Why waste time commuting long distances to work daily in an exhaust-spewing or energy-draining machine, when you could instantly be there — seen or unseen — via technology? And, of course, there’s solar power for household energy. And, what if we quit eating inhumanely raised, factory-farmed pork and beef? You do know that pigs and cows poop, right? And, you know that does … it’s a huge contributor to global warming and destruction of the “worlds lungs,” the Amazon Rainforest.
We do know there are alternatives to our ongoing trajectory of destroying our planet, but our traditional American rationality has dug us into an even deeper and widening rut of environmental disaster after disaster, including those which are weather related. Altogether, it has become a true crisis threatening life itself.
Come on climate strikes. Change our thinking!
Mary Albott lives in Nevada County.
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