Old dog, new stick

by Robert Nanninga

sually, this is the time where we make resolutions regarding the upcoming year. You know: stop smoking, lose weight, be nice to your boss, and finish writing The Great American Novel ­ all very pedestrian. These run-of-the-mill declarations are easy to make and even easier to break; one needs only to continue as usual. New Year's resolutions turn out to be little more than lip service and empty promises.

This year, the only resolution I made was not to make any resolutions, and as you can see, I have already failed. The problem with most resolutions is that they require some action, something the American couch potato abhors. Life is suppose to be easy. That was the promise of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Paul Muller, the Swiss chemist who won the Nobel Prize in medicine for his discovery of DDT. Ray Kroc of McDonalds fame promised us convenience above all else. It seems all these shortcuts to the good life come at the expense of the natural world.

Every step our culture takes toward easy street is another move towards imbalance and extinction. When I say "extinction," I do not mean the entire species of Homo sapiens. I just mean most of us. I'm sure the aborigines of the Australian outback, the pygmies of Central Africa, and the Kayapo Indians of Brazil will survive the collapse of the mother culture. These communities have survived this long without being swallowed whole by the concrete culture that has numbed the rest of us to the point of complete inertia.

The majority of Americans demand Big Macs on a regular basis, yet they have no relationship with the animal they are consuming. As far as they are concerned, cattle are a gift from God that is happily slaughtered and prepared by those willing to dirty their hands with death. Ronald McDonald is more than just a clown ­ he is the patron saint of senseless gluttony.

Our culture has also become one that requires constant entertaining. So, we sit in front of a glowing box as the dominant culture brainwashes us into believing that we can't live without the latest whatever. Instead of enjoying nature as the wise and wonderful teacher that it is, we feel the need to subdue it under the roar of Jet Ski's, all terrain vehicles, dirt bikes and other toys of mass destruction. It seems we are afraid to be left alone with our own thoughts, probably because we know the frightened child that hides there, cowering in the vastness of the universe.

At one point our ancestors decided that thriving in spite of nature was far superior than living in balance with it. Up to that point, mankind understood it's place in the chaotic order of things. Granted, they were forced to get by without plastic gadgets. But somehow, our forefathers managed to survive. The fact that we made it to this point of arrogance proves that we were doing something right.

I can picture the scene when it all changed. It was a fine spring day about 100,000 years ago. Some enterprising human was hanging out in what is now considered Iraq, when all of sudden it hit him: "Wow! I'm not working hard enough for my food! In fact, I'm not working at all. I have way to much free time, I am stuck with the burden of being able to go anywhere I want, whenever I want and eat what's at hand. This hunting and gathering thing has become way to tedious, it's time for a change. It's time for agriculture to destroy all that has come before me, and everything I have yet to comprehend."

If you have been reading my columns for any length of time you already know my position on over-population, over consumption, and all the other things I tend to go on about. I know my sermons on the systematic apathy of human beings is a dead horse (pardon the analogy) that I continue to beat. Well, I'm sorry, but these issues must be addressed on a regular basis. Here is a deal I would like to make with humanity in general: "Get your act to together, stop playing Russian roulette with the future, and I'll shut the hell up." But since that not going to happen any time soon, I will keep doing the Chicken Little thing, and when the sky collapses on our collective head I will have the bitter pleasure of saying "I told you so."

For a while I thought I was a sole voice in the cement wilderness. The good news is that I am not alone. Recently, I have received letters from readers who have had a lot to share. You know who you are, and I thank you all, not just for the kind words and support, but for the news clippings, reading suggestions, and column topics. It is clear to me this is a team effort and I am only the mouthpiece.

To that end, I suggest reading the works of Daniel Quinn. His two recent books have altered the way I look at the task before us. Read his novel Ishmael first ­ it is a primer. The lessons are vital to the healing of the planet, as it requires the reader to ponder his place in the animal kingdom. I find it impossible to truly represent the insights this story provides. However this is just the beginning. Read The Story Of B immediately after reading Ishmael. The Story of B is about what we never knew we never knew. Again, I can't explain the lessons. I can lead you to them. This mirror reflects the reader in ways that must be experienced first hand.

So, this old dog has been given a new stick to play with, a stick that is forcing me to play at much higher level. I now realize that, up until now, I have been chasing my tail in a parody of journalistic prose. Although I will continue to address what I consider to be the vital issues of our time, what will change is that I am going to expect more from my readers. I want feedback, people. I want to be part of a conversation, not an ongoing monologue. Since we are all in this together, we must all shoulder the responsibility of changing the hearts and minds of the sloppy, lazy, arrogant, inconsiderate, and greedy fools that share the planet with us. So roll up your sleeves, we have a lot of unwork to do.

Robert Nanninga is an independent video producer, actor, vegan, active member of the Green and environmental communities, and a board member of San Diego Earth Day.