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for people who care about the West

Taking the long view


I have generally found Peter Friederici’s writings erudite, colorful and informative. Now, having just read, and reread, his essay in the Nov. 28 issue, I add the adjective, confusing (“A Place Between,” HCN, 11/28/16).

He believes, as I do, that human activities are largely responsible for Earth’s current climate changes that continue to grow and result in more and more measurable impacts to our planet. But where he and I seem to part company is his distinction between “natural” events — he writes, “Nature has been an easy out” — and events, like climate change, that he sees as different (unnatural?) because Homo sapiens is the fundamental driver. He makes a distinction between “human and natural factors.”

I confess to being a geologist who takes the “long view” when it comes to events that have shaped our planet to date. Earth is about 4.5 billion years old; many changes have occurred along this life path to date. Homo sapiens is simply one of the most recent additions to this place in galactic space … an addition that seems destined to destroy itself in geologic short order.

This notion may sound heartless, defeatist and depressing to many people, but I expect that Homo sapiens will simply follow the path of so many of Earth’s earlier life forms and disappear from the scene. Planet Earth itself will continue on, presumably at least until its sun burns out.

In the interim, we humans can “get out into the mud” as Friederici writes, and try to heal some of the hurts we have caused to Earth with our reckless behavior. But as human population continues to increase, and our abuse of the conditions that make human life on Earth possible escalates, I suspect that getting into the mud will likely be an inadequate Band-Aid on a growing history of self-inflicted wounds. Our newly recognized president-elect and his cohort may even hasten the process.

Wendell A. Duffield
Whidbey Island, Washington