Stuart Orzach: The long run
December 9, 2009
Steamboat Springs — I am sorry that the Steamboat Pilot & Today takes such an antiquated, anthropocentric and static view of nature ("Our View," Dec. 6).
We need to adapt to our natural environment, not tame it. Conquering the wilderness is so 18th century. The environment, of which we are an integral component, is dynamic. Natural processes often operate in time frames that we rarely heed, and that dwarf the human lifespan. They don't necessarily unfold in a neat linear fashion. There can be periods of apparent stability followed by unanticipated upheaval.
Is the forest unhealthy because of the beetle "epidemic," or did the beetles proliferate because the forest was unhealthy because of unsustainable human intervention?
Reality checks such as the proliferation of bark beetles, or the economic recession, cannot come too soon.
We are far better off operating in the environment that is the real world, rather than an alternate paradigm, of our choosing, that serves some people in the short term. Our politics are falling further behind our science.
We need to increase our awareness of the ecosystem that sustains us. That awareness should be our rudder as we navigate land-use decisions. Otherwise we are just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
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Our populace ostensibly loves the environment. Yet, our land-use decisions belie that. People are aware of what it takes to sustain the plants in their gardens, the crops in their fields, the local deer and elk herds, and their dog. Yet who is willing to confront the limits on the number of people you can jam into the ecological niche we inhabit before biological and social systems reach thresholds and break down?
The proponents of the Steamboat 700 annexation have done a great job of getting us to focus narrowly on the next 20 years. This is the blink of an eye in the timeline of human history. They paint an innocuous, even benevolent, picture with a few empirical studies. These are full of assumptions and projections that are not as reliable as some would have us believe.
Step back and look at what really matters in the long run.