That’s what pursuing restoration work feels like at times (not that I’m doing so very much of it, yet, but the whole pursuit!).
I was not in a good mood when I got home this evening:
This afternoon I reread an essay on another blog, on the topic of invasive plants, that – as much as I share many of the author’s same concerns – really, really got on my nerves in a few places. The concluding paragraphs in particular. (this deserves its own, longer post; I’ve been mulling it over for days, and it was all heavily on my mind this weekend while I was out freeing some small trees and shrubs from one of the local worst invasives)
Shortly thereafter, I read yet-another article in an ever-increasing litany of “ways in which everything is going to Hell in an unending stream of handbaskets” (asking myself, “Are you sure you want to click on that, you know things are bad!”). By “read,” I mean, “skimmed,” because it was quickly so numbing and awful that I couldn’t really take it in. Part of me felt this must surely be a joke piece, because it seemed so over the top. Part of me felt like I was actually reading the prologue to some science fiction novel, the kind of prologue that sets you up for how fucked the setting is for our protagonists by giving you short summaries of the shit that has gone down, as an easy way to emphasize just how much shit has gone down, without going into detail. It was that bad and I know it was just a few representative examples.
What broke me was at the end of the article:
The Endangered Species Coalition recently released a list of things people should take their children to go see outdoors, because if they wait too long, their kids might not get a chance to see them before they become extinct. The list includes monarch butterflies, polar bears, great white sharks, white bark pine trees and Snake River sockeye salmon.
It is not the first time I’ve read about how the monarch population is plummeting, but this time, it just hurt.
It didn’t really hit until I’d gotten home; my usual switch out of work clothes routine turned into “sobbing in front of the bedroom altar in my underwear” because I couldn’t hold it in any more, and all I could think is that all these efforts people are undertaking to slow down the damage, all the restoration work, all of it, are like grabbing what you can hold in your arms from a house on fire, because there is nothing else to do. It’s not that the fire department won’t get there in time, it’s that there IS no fire department. Save what you can, but you’re losing the house no matter what.
I know that often it takes very little effort to see ecosystems start to return to fuller functioning on their own – I’ve seen several news articles about local work that has very quickly seen the return of salmon – but there is so very much going wrong right now, and it hasn’t been slowed down very much.
I managed, amidst the sobbing, to say it felt like a fool’s errand I am on, this steady direction to keep pursuing landscape restoration.
He said to be a fool, then.
I cried harder.
Whenever my family went to Minnesota, we saw monarchs – eating milkweed, or leaving chrysalises on the cabin door, or flying around. I watched monarchs migrate the year I lived in West Texas. It was one of the few things I liked about the place, and wholly unexpected. It lasted days, a long unbroken line of butterflies, crossing open spaces and the highway I drove to work on and more fields, all the way down to Mexico.
And now it looks like they may be on the same kind of path the passenger pigeon was, from so prolific you can’t imagine them gone to –
I thought about the Life Cairn project. I thought about a project I read about years and years ago, where someone suggested honoring extinct species by having their images tattooed on them. I wondered how much bare skin I’d have left if I got one tiny heart per species, or a name in script, inked on me, even if I limited myself to those that have been wiped out in my lifetime (I am 39). I do not think there would be much bare area left.
Eventually I ran out of tears and went to bring in the mail.
I had one piece of junk mail about something I have already forgotten – and one postcard flyer inviting me to come to a local park’s grand reopening and salmon celebration, celebrating the restoration of this park. It lies along a small local creek, which joins up with the larger creek at the location where I was doing work this weekend. There was a photo of a salmon on the card.
Then I sat down to check my email, and I had a message from someone coordinating a salmon monitoring effort I’ve volunteered for, informing me that I’m on the schedule for next weekend. There was also an announcement that, over the weekend of monitoring just past, some of the volunteers saw 2 spawning coho – in the same creek holding the celebration this weekend.
I’ll miss the celebration, ’cause I’ll be out elsewhere in the watershed, but it’s lovely to see it’s happening, and that there is cause for some celebration.
(I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, as a Lokean, to be told by my god to be a Fool. It’s probably a rite of passage or something. This particular context may be a bit novel, however.)