20 October 2011
I despise nature centers. They're UNnatural, filled with politically-correct hyperbole, and espouse philosophy about as far removed from "nature" as you can get. Bunch of nature fakers . . . or fakirs. If nature centers, "naturalist" programs, and the usual drivel of environmental education is our hope to re-connect with nature . . . then we're screwed.
Yet, people fall for this crap all the time. Teaching people to fall for this crap, what crap to dish out, and how to serve crap has become a role of many university degree programs. With BS in crap, you can now teach elementary students how to appreciate crap. And so the crap cycle goes . . .
People need to understand that nature is filled with resources that we need to survive. To ignore this fact is suicide. The trick is to manage and conserve these resources. That means things like clearcutting, burning, and shooting deer. Some dreamy pantheistic or Gaian mantra will not work. These cloud-sitting pseudo-religious ideas are parasitic on human welfare.
Erudite nature lovers sipping double lattes in L.L. Bean fleeces, Keene sandals, and Smartwool socks divorce themselves from the solution. Maybe it will make some people "feel" better, or "engaged", but success in our future has little to do with feelings of engagement and locally-produced white wine. Even Ned Ludd made more sense than this. Popular and pretty have little to do with ecological integrity and everything to do with fantasy and cultural separation from nature. It's anthropomorphic arrogance.
Now, certainly nature can inspire and motivate. Nature is marvelous in this way. But inspiration is found through the soul with an eye that can see. It cannot be found in a typical nature center program for dummies.
Certainly, there is a huge need for environmental education. But the lukewarm pansy messages of most nature centers are part of the problem, not the vision. Programs are based on what will collect dollars from eco-suckers, rather than addressing the need for shape-shifting some reality. It's a ruthless business, marketed under the guise of "green", pandering to the ignorant yens of Thoreau wannabes (thorough mini-minds). "Painting Fall Flowers with Mosquito Juice" or "Finding Your Buttcrack in the Forest" will not engage citizens in a pragmatic way that leads to natural resource sustainability. It will get in the way.
Current environmental education is producing environment idiots equivalent in naiveté to the Eloi of H.G. Wells.
The world of responsibly using and managing natural resources can be exciting (and remarkably rewarding), but it's not particularly glamorous in the fickle public eye. If you want to "get back to nature", spend a week in the forest with nothing but the hairs on your body. You'll brutally learn how important natural resource extraction can be, and how important efficient economy of scale must be when talking about billions of humans. Visit a small village in the Sahel and this will make much more sense.
That quaint little organic farmlet with five acres of independence, complete with manicured daisies and a "country fresh" sign in the front yard, is a selfish luxury available only to the economically privileged neo-hippie. It's a pathetically delusional practice of sustainability. Multiply that land use and productivity by a factor to include all 300+ million Americans, let alone the billions across the planet, and you rapidly run out of land.
Google "nature center" and begin to look through the programs they offer. "Nature" programs take an innate human desire to connect with something of the Earth and turn it into a pale Hollywood echo that scores high only on box office returns. Ka-ching for the nature center. There's very little fare about how human beings will survive only through the sustainable manipulation of their environment. Perversely, the people and professions that are involved with a sustainable future are typically vilified (a suicide syndrome).
But at the local nature center, you can learn about how to photograph a dew droplet on a deer turd.