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Returning the Land

I have been thinking a lot lately about land. It stems, partly, from a lifetime of environmentalism, and from the unavoidable fact that we have not stewarded it well in the last few hundred years.


I grew up in the Mountains of Colorado, in an area most people know for the couple notable things they pass along the highway on their way to the expensive resort towns. As the traffic got increasingly worse and more and more people came up to "my mountains," I became despondent over the damage that "they" were doing. And then John Fielder published his Colorado Then and Now photography book. In it he put pictures taken a hundred years apart side by side. I found solace in pictures of thriving mining towns that are now meadows again. I realized that while we do impact the earth, it is us humans who are fleeting. The fatalist in me appreciates that our exploitation of the environment and each other will only lead to the end of all of us.


Those of us of European descent have long believed we can own the land. That it can be "ours." That its resources are there for us to use up. Native Americans understand that land and nature is family. A family that European Americans abuse, control, and hoard. I wonder if "we" did give the land back to those who had it first, those who tended it lovingly, or those who played by our rules only to have us screw them over, what would happen? Would they bring the land back to life removing the pollution, dams, and other inhibitors? Would they build supportive communities that don't exploit each other? Or would they take what they have and perpetuate our destructive winner-take-all system? I hope for the first two. But is suppose the more likely outcome is we will eliminate ourselves. Then perhaps the hope is that another form of human will emerge, one that is less destructive. Either way, Mother Earth will be here, doing her thing with or without us.









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