Nature delusion will empty Point Reyes

02/18/2016

The effort to eliminate the ranches on Point Reyes is an effort to expand the emptiness of a place that, like a black hole, sucks all matter and light into it, growing in power every time it consumes another star. Now a constellation of ranches is heading toward the void. 

In my last piece, I wrote that to know our own “nature,” we should look to the Port of Oakland and the Chevron refinery. We are not woodland creatures who might in a controlled set of circumstances “go feral”; rather, we are nodes at the end of global supply chains. Our nature is shipping, mining, power plants, financial indices. Our dull lead idol leafed in gold, the seashore, has nothing to do with our nature; it is an object of worship; it is sandboxes and lawns for the play of grownup children with tan skin and etiolated hearts.

In Golden Gate Park, an employee told me, they wanted to build a water treatment facility so that gray water could be used for gardening and maintenance. The opposition was hysterical. A building in our park?! Instead drinking water, the cleanest of any major city in the world, is spat out on the ground to preserve the integrity of so-called nature. Now this nothing, our nothing, will be a greater void, saving us from the sight of man and his work.

I left New York City because, on your walk from apartment to subway, you encounter suffering people—rich, poor, young, old—people with misery writ on their faces and flowing from a thousand causes. You have to see them and do nothing. So you learn to ignore it, then deny it. This reflexive denial of suffering is the discipline of city life. Yet here in the country, or this near approximation, are those deniers, people who burned empathy out of their lives for a specious sensuality. And they call their insatiate madness the love of nature.

Now they are shutting down the ranches just when our challenge is the harmonization of human productive activity with the land, water and air. These merciless men and women from over the hill want to remove all memory of humanity from their gaze. No people, no problems. It is the bleakest misanthropy. They who have taken so much in their lifetimes, denied the suffering of others so thoroughly, stepped over so many bodies on their way, finally can't stand the sight of common people working.

I think of the hikers who are gleefully imagining the new paths they will travel after agriculture on Point Reyes is annihilated. It reminds me of the opening of the Book of Job, which I will paraphrase: God encounters the Devil and asks him what he has been doing. The Devil replies, “Just walking around.”