Reality Blind - Vol. 1

People on charter fishing trips were very happy with the small assortment of snappers and sheepshead they caught in 2007, while on the exact same pier in Florida in 1958 their grandparents caught dozens of goliath groupers bigger than a man. The people in 2007 felt the same rush, enjoyment and wonder at the oceans’ bounty, because this was their own baseline. It ’ s another unfortunate side effect of “ living in the now. ” Even when beholding the wonders of nature, the shifting baseline effect blinds us to what isn ’ t there, even if it is very recently gone. Each human sets their “ baseline ” of wonder and expectations based on what they experience as a child. Thus, old people tell, what sound like outlandish, stories about how much wildlife there used to be, how big were the fish they caught, and describe nature in a way which sounds to children like senile hyperbole. Young people first exposed to diving or to walking in the woods are enraptured by what is still there, while the grandfather beside them is filled with a deep and poignant sadness about what isn ’ t. The tragedy is that it ’ s too late for the grandfather to change what has happened, and the child sees no reason to. So as the natural world is increasingly impoverished, we typically notice only the losses that occurred in our own lives and consider the tales of our elders to be exaggerated stories. This sounds like just an aspect of nostalgia, but it's a real problem, because not only do most of us not really know what the world used to be like, but we can't track it scientifically without some original baseline. Reading books and scientific journals helps, but again, this activates our slow, neocortical thinking, not the emotional, fast acting behavioral responses. Our feelings about nature cannot help but be tethered mainly to our own life experiences. TaaL: Very few systems move and change on the time scale of typical human attention spans. When walking in nature, humans tend to miss both the fast and the slow, thereby missing the growth of flowers and trees, the interactions of insects, the dance of fungal spores and blooms, the ebb and flow of population sizes as species dance with one another. Much less do they see the advance and retreat of forests, shorelines, reefs, deserts, and ecosystems. Yet these are the changes which shape human destinies. Seek the stories of your elders, young humans; listen to their stories of times not long gone and believe them. Learn of archaeology and paleontology, not as obscure trivia but as important grounding for your current reality. You have not been born into normal times, but into a period of lightning change in which what appears to be “ normal ” is anything but. Teach this to those younger than yourselves, lest what you have lost, and stand to someday regain, be forgotten. For abnormal times, almost by


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