Outdoor Philosophy

Harnessing the power of adventure to inspire environmental action

25 June 2006

wonderful couple of days. great evening at neighbours’ yesterday. when we arrived at john and anne’s, just us and them. i was imagining a sit-down formal dinner. then another couple arrived, then a car-load, then another. cars kept arriving. soon the house was full of three generations, wandering inside and out, drinking beers, cokes and margheritas. i spoke with a geologist specialising in hazardous waste retraining as a nurse specialising in anaesthesia. (an anaesthetist with a geological time-frame, what a thought! let me put you to sleep for a hundred thousand years….). his view on global warming was a) climates have always been in flux and this is just another flux and b) in any case talking about global warming isn’t a good way to get people to act differently. it’s too big and distant. focussing on the geo-political situation and the desirability of energy independance would be much more effective. i spoke with a solar astrophysicist who’d been studying the sun’s output since 1970. we can’t blame the sun’s output for global warming anymore, he said. it’s now certain that the output has been constant for the last 30 odd years. and yes, i certainly believe global warming is happening. i spoke with anne who showed me her little black and white cat panda’s two kittens and told me a bear had eaten all their chickens bar one last night – and had a go at the hummingbird feeder. (bears? already? goodness!). best of all i spoke with heidi. small and slender, skin tight jeans, beautiful boots, pink and white shirt and white cowboy hat over a long pale plait, large blue eyes with a calm, grounded sort of look. heidi has a very large ranch in utah. in the summer she rides the ranch checking on cattle and fences, sleeping out for five or six nights at a time and then coming back for an occasional bath before setting out again. a real cowgirl (cowperson?!) – and a grandma! what an inspiration. (being a cowgirl is a long-standing fantasy of mine, tho its never sat entirely easily with being a vegetarian). we talked about arabs versus quarter horses (she uses quarter horses), how travelling in an rv cuts you off from so much of what you are travelling through, and how useful dogs are. “they make for lazy cowboys but take the pressure off the horses. they’re about 5% useful: most of the time the cattle are chasing the dogs rather than the other way around.” tom and rosalind told me later how heidi on form was an extraordinary dancer, known, amongst other things, for tap-dancing on tables and throwing truly wild parties which people would cross states to get to. and she invited me to come and visit! oh my. somehow i must find a way to make that happen.

tom and rosalind totally spoiled me – wonderful food! company! a bathroom! – and made me feel completely welcome. rosalind and i sat on the deck and chatted. an amazing and truly lovely person. tom i visited mesa verde. tiny stone dwellings built into overhanging cliffs, curved and striped in beautiful pinks and oranges and buffs. it took about 80 years to build and was only inhabited for about 100 years. nobody really knows why they left. chris thought it was a drought. tom had heard a theory that the children got rebellious and took to cannibalism! (but how would we know that?!). we sat on a rock with a view across the canyon to the spruce tree site. talking non-stop since santa fe, catching up on the last 12 years, friends, work, travel, family. then issues. the death penalty – tom very much opposed and worked for a while with the nun who made ‘dead man walking’ – politics, hilary clinton’s chances of presidency (slight). on global warming tom thinks that economics will drive a huge change in lifestyles in the next decade or so. oil will peak and become vastly more expensive, with all that entails. jobs will increasingly be outsourced internationally, leaving fewer jobs in the usa. and china will play a huge role. overall, the usa standard of living will drop – and people will live more efficiently, in terms of energy and other consumption, as a result. but no way, in his view, will this be lead by individuals taking the initiative and acting on ethical and environmental concerns.