I make my way slowly through each issue of Orion magazine--taking two months to read the July/August issue. I have been reading one article by Derrick Jensen several times. It must be because this article begs to be memorized. The article is called "Against Forgetting: It's hard to fight for what you don't know you've lost." This is from Jensen's regular Orion column called "Upping the Stakes."
"Against Forgetting" is about a phenomenon called "declining baselines," which Derrick Jensen describes as the "process of becoming accustomed to and accepting as normal worsening conditions." In his article, the worsening conditions are the dwindling numbers of animals once common in nature. Jensen has many examples from the natural world--gray foxes, black bear, salmon, spiders, sowbugs, and hummingbirds whose numbers he has personally noticed diminishing over the past several years.
As these and other once-common animals become scarce, our relationship to those animals vanishes, our memory of them fades. Once we have forgotten what it was like to see the sky full of fireflies, butterflies, hummingbirds, or marbled murrelets, we lose interest in fighting for these living things. Life's not sooo bad without fireflies is it? Is an different without How many marbled murrelets do we really need? A forest of 100-year-old Douglas-firs is pretty impressive--does anyone really miss groves of old-growth trees?
This kind of thinking is dangerous. And here is what Derrick Jensen says to do about it:
"I want you to go outside. I want you to listen to the (disappearing frogs), to watch the (disappearing) fireflies. Even if you're in a city--especially if you are in a city--I want you to picture the land as it was before the land was built over. I want ou to feel how it was then, feel how it wants to be. I want you to begin keeping a claneder of who ou see and when: the first day each year you see buttercups, the first day forgs stargin singing, the last day you see robins in the fall, the first day for grasshoppers. In short, I want you to pay attention.
If you do this, your baseline will stop declining, because you'll have a record of what's being lost.
Do not go numb in the face of this data. Do not turn away. I want you to feel the pain...we should want this pain to stop not because we get used to it and it just doesn't bother us anymore, but because we stop the injustices and destruction that are causing the pain in the first place. I want us to feel how awful the destruction is, and then act from this feeling.
And I promise you two things. One: feeling this pain won't kill you. And two: not feeling this pain, continuing to go numb and avoid it, will."
To read more of Derrick Jensen's writing, please visit his website.
To get a copy of the July/August 2013 issue of Orion magazine, please click here.