Connections, corrections, and everybody out of the damn pool

"It is not enough to understand the natural world; the point is to defend and preserve it." -- Edward Abbey

by Robert Nanninga


Robert Nanninga






like to think that, once upon a time, human beings actually understood the natural world with a knowledge not based in the language of science or commerce. Perhaps it would be better described as a "knowing." Knowledge sounds so empirical. Long before the industrial revolution, when people had a healthy respect for the environment, there was a beautiful balance within the chaos.

Then we invented cement. It is difficult to feel connected to the earth while walking on cement, or asphalt, pavement, bricks you name it. Try laying down in an empty parking lot (I stress the empty part), and star gazing. You won't feel anything. If you do, it'll probably be the cop inquiring about your bizarre behavior. Pavement blocks the rhythm. Next, go try it in a big open field. I suggest Doanes Meadow on Palomar mountain. Now that's connection.

Cut of from the earth's natural rhythms, humans have to rely on their own. Big mistake. By disconnecting from the natural rhythms we disconnect from the natural world. And it was from this position that anthropocentrism was born. Enter the era of the smart monkey. "Fast, furious and frantic" perfectly describes how industrial man went about make sense of "his" world. Mine. Mine. Mine.

I find it rather disturbing that we, as a species, are trying to find ways to live on other planets when we have yet to figure out how to live on this one. Smart monkey has never been a wise monkey. It's so hard to sow seeds in cement. But then again, how else would we be able to hurl ourselves across the region. God knows, we have so much to do.

Hoping not to sound too weird, I want to share a reality check exercise. Next time you are sitting in gridlock, try to picture a zebra or a polar bear driving the minivan next to you, instead of the soccer mom clutching the steering wheel. Try replacing the dude in the BMW with a baboon. For a more regional feel, try placing a gnatcatcher, complete with cell phone and a Starbucks double latte, in the drivers seat of that little red Miata. Absurd, isn't it? Yet there we sit, day after day after day.

"So," you ask, "If you have all the answers, how do I reconnect to the planet without sacrificing the comfort and convenience that I have come to expect?" You don't. This is where the correction comes in to play. Kind of like when pilots go off course. To right themselves, they have to make corrections.

Here in Southern California, we are off course only because we are actually on the wrong course. Granted, a shopping mall is never too far away. We can get ice cream in thirty-one flavors. And the Heart of Africa can be found just east of Escondido. Hey, we're living in paradise, aren't we? The path of self destruction might be enjoyable, but how long to you think the glamour can hold out? Understanding does have it's price, but then again so does ignorance.

Making connections doesn't have to be difficult. In fact, the less you do the more connected you become. As much as I respect the people at REI and Adventure 16, all that high-priced equipment just gets in the way of being with the environment. Instead of jogging on the beach, try sitting there for an hour alone. When you're out in Anza Borrego Desert, get out of your off-road vehicle and just be. Technology gets in the way of relating to the planet, regardless of what Madison Avenue would have you believe.

Technology also has a way of biting the hand that built it. Take the Children's Pool in La Jolla, for example. In 1931, some smart monkeys decided this section of coast needed to be improved with a breakwater. Creating beaches was now the work of man. So, for the next 68 years, humans had the run of a fabulous beach, affectionately named The Children's Pool. Who could find fault with that?

Well, obviously not the 200 or so seals who decided to that this was the perfect spot to establish a rookery. And why not? If it is good enough for the uprights, why not them? The problem is, some of smart monkeys don't want to share even a small portion of San Diego's coast line with our mammalian brothers. Bad Monkey!

I suggest we stop worrying about seal poop and start worrying about all the human excrement we are dumping in the ocean. And the best lesson we can teach our children is the one about sharing. Don't you think?

  Robert T. Nanninga is a Leucadia resident currently working on a degree in Environmental Communications at CSUSM. You can reach Robert by sending email to or by writing to the San Diego Earth Times.