Environmentalism for a New Millennium: The Challenge of Coevolution

By Leslie Paul Thiele | Go to book overview

Preface

Environmentalists are inevitably saddled with a sense of crisis. Urgency pervades their work. I consider myself to be an environmentalist—more committed than some who would make a similar declaration, certainly less active than others. Like most environmentalists, I worry that time is running out on our efforts to stem the degradation of our land, air, and water, the alteration of our atmosphere, and the destruction of other species. It is a painful, chronic worry.

During a recent excursion to southern Utah's portion of the Colorado River, however, all sense of urgency dissolved. With the midday sun beating down from a relentlessly blue sky, my raft drifted down the silt-saturated waters. Layer upon layer of sedimented rock loomed high on both sides of the river, exposing the agedness of the earth and, for one with better credentials in geology than I, offering a well-kept notebook of eons past. With a quick glance from the meandering craft, I could encompass millions of years of the earth's history. Countless wedges of petrified time lay one upon the other, mutely testifying to an inhuman patience.

If human beings were suddenly to vanish from the earth, I asked myself that afternoon, what would visitors to the planet observe were they to explore its rivers and valleys a few million years from now? How would the earth appear once it had spent an eon in the absence of the human species? All our artifacts would eventually be reabsorbed. Vast cities and suburbs, huge industrial complexes, millions of miles of

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