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Kiss my ass: Draining swamps and pissing in the wind
Remember: Nature bats last
Kiss my ass

No, this is not a political discourse, other than to say that the current national administration is too far removed from reality to even understand that draining swamps is environmentally and socio-economically counterproductive. And to those offended by the mention of pissing, be reminded that wind and pissing are both natural events and that, of the two, pissing is by far the more innocuous and generally only offensive when misdirected relative to the wind. Most human endeavors are only offensive when misdirected relative to nature. 

While most of us understand that draining swamps and attempting to control nature in general are not good things, we, as a society, seem to be trending back to the old days of “conquering the frontiers” of nature. Drill baby drill. Deregulate industry. Dig that coal and eliminate environmental protections. It’s like a rebirth of Manifest Destiny except that it’s directed against nature instead of against other cultures and races. For that matter, we’re not far from a literal rebirth of Manifest Destiny — a term generally ascribed to newspaper editor John O’Grady, who used it in print in 1845, but most likely it was coined by journalist Jane Cazneau in an unsigned editorial that appeared that same year. It’s about half a step away from white nationalism. Will it again be considered a sin to fail to exploit every resource and save every soul?

Yet here we are, enlightened lovers of nature, fighting wildfires, prescribing other fires, blasting avalanches, developing critical habitats, damming rivers and seeding clouds. Seems like most of what we do goes against the flow of beautiful natural systems we moved here to enjoy.

Can you believe that experts are telling us that cloud seeding has no off-site impacts? Are these experts that short-sighted or merely assuming that everyone else is? Not long ago, it was assumed that individual wells couldn’t significantly affect major water tables. Now we’re practicing that same logic on the Earth’s skies. 

Our interactions with nature are epitomized by the national park system. Our public lands are our greatest treasures and, other than freedom, our best accomplishments. What’s freedom without a place to be free? Most of us surrounded by this magnificent beauty can’t help but develop proper respect for such majesty. But a disrespectful minority can create disproportionate problems. Our first mistake was calling them “parks,” which almost invites disrespect by promoting the concept of amusement parks as though they are only here for our entertainment and are somehow artificially thrilling but inherently safe. It should be the “Yellowstone National Blood and Guts Experience.” Maybe that would dissuade some of the selfies with buffalo and the “Hold the marshmallow with your fingertips so the bear doesn’t accidentally nip you” syndrome. 

And how about renaming to the “Grand Canyon National Death Zone.” Read the book “Death Below the Rim.” It’s amazing how many gruesome ways there are to die in this beautiful canyon. It’s mostly dehydration, photo-op falls and flash floods, but there are infinite creative combinations of these options mostly having to do with male “group think” mentalities. “Only six miles to the bottom? Heck, that’s nothin’. Grab a couple of Mountain Dews and let’s go!”  This book organizes deaths into various categories to verify this observation. Long story short, if you’re a single white male in your 20s, you’d better not get within a hundred miles of the Grand Canyon.

But the damage we do ourselves isn’t as bothersome as the disrespect to the land. The unguarded parks during the government shutdown demonstrated the unharnessed destruction our species is capable of. Too many of us couldn’t wait to rip ’er up with quads. Our public lands should be more about reverence than entertainment.

The point is that nature is not here for our amusement, convenience or abundant harvests. Nature does not exist only in relationship to humans. Many cultures have assigned various spirits or gods to different aspects of nature and have tried to live in ways pleasing to these gods in effort to be treated favorably by nature and avoid drawing its wrath. I enjoy such beliefs but think the truth is that nature does not know or care in the least that humans even exist. If nature was capable of feelings and did care, we would certainly be eliminated.

While still hearing echoes of avalanche blasting, my riverfront neighbors are already planning sandbagging efforts to again redirect this same H2O in more convenient directions. This strikes me as not only futile, but possibly insulting to the river. I know, the river doesn’t care, but who can help wanting to identify with a river? We are, after all, mostly water. The waters of our bodies have and will mingle with the waters of the river. Isn’t this connection enough to claim kinship? The river flows through us and we through it. The same is true of most flows of nature. We really can’t separate ourselves from nature and must live subject to its forces. We all share and exchange the same resources with all other living beings. Anyway, the river created and owns all flat land on the valley floor. It’s absurd to try to tell a river what to do.

Part of the thrill of living on the river is knowing that it could wipe us out whenever weather conditions dictate. No real adventures come without real risks. There’s no such thing as a civilized wilderness and there’s no tame wildlife. I like being part of something out of my control. 

The whole notion of conquering nature is a self-destructive concept. Any damage we do to the environment will cause ourselves exponentially more harm than it does to nature. Our strongest, most destructive and concerted efforts against the environment could only serve to make the earth uninhabitable for humans but would hardly be a bump in the road for the rest of nature. We will never conquer nature but can only defeat ourselves. Nature will always re-construct and fill in any gaps we create and will do so in the relative blink of the Earth’s eye. 

Even though this is still not a political discourse, it’s difficult to avoid politics when discussing the environment these days. Especially in these times of such extreme divisions, we must remind ourselves that one of the greatest attributes of civilized society and open-mindedness is the ability to validate opposing views. Once again, nature provides the solution to this conundrum. Maybe humans truly are the scourge of life on earth and need to be eliminated as quickly as possible. If this is the case, then Trump is the right man for the job.

To think that nature needs our help is laughable. To understand how completely we depend on nature is as deathly serious as human extinction.


Dropping out of high school to pursue the life of a cowboy in Texas, Jim Duke eventually earned a BS in zoology and an MS on mountain goat habitat in Alaska. He enjoys remote travels to exotic locations, including Patagonia, the Upper Amazon, Madagascar and mountain biking across Tibet. Largely unemployable, he works on an “as-tolerated” basis, mostly dealing with equines and compost. “Kiss My Ass” appears monthly in the RFWJ.