I recently did some simple calculations, adding up the number of hours spent outside running and riding. It totals more than 7,000 hours, approximately 40,000 miles of running over a lifetime and just as many on the bike. 80,000 or so miles.
As an avid naturalist, I’ve also spent considerable time in the field birding and studying nature. That time is impossible to quantify. But given the fact that I’ve been birding since the age of 12, and pretty much lived outdoors whenever I could as a child, it’s been more than 100,000 hours outside in nature fishing, some hunting and a lot of plain appreciation.
My love of writing and painting completes the Anthropocene Triathlon for me. Converting my experiences into paintings and stories is a great love of mine. For more than forty years I’ve published articles in newspapers, magazines and online media. I’ve served as Editorial Writer at a major newspaper and published dozens of freelance articles in publications large and small. That includes a fun piece I did for Runner’s World years ago that led to a contract with a running race in Texas for whom I produced a poster won the RW Cream of the Crop Award for Best Designs.
Added up, all that writing amounts to more than 5,000 articles or about 4,000,000 words. I’ve also published two books now, The Genesis Fix, A Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age (2007) and The Right Kind of Pride, a Chronicle of Character, Caregiving and Community.
All this running, riding and writing has been conducted during a period now titled Anthropocene Era. Here is how it is defined: “relating to or denoting the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.”
As an environmental writer with a background in biology this phenomenon of the Anthropocene Era has been quite evident across a number of fronts. Back in the early 70s when I first began reading and writing seriously about environmental issues, environmental pollutions such as smog, acid rain, groundwater destruction, Superfund sites and health issues related to cancer agents were in the news every day. All thse issues were introduced into the environment by chemical or industrial means. Humans, in other words.
Some of this influence has been moderated thanks to human response to our own presence and harmful activities. Certain harmful chemical such as DDT were banned, allowing species of birds such as peregrine falcons, bald eagles and other creatures to rebound from near extinction. Without that action, these species would certainly have been lost.
So the Anthropocene Era is certainly real. That includes the massive influence of carbon emissions on the atmosphere. We’ve already taken steps to reduce use of accelerants and other substances that destory the ozone layer. The Montreal Protocol of 1997 took some products off the market that were causing the ozone layer to deplete. Human beings had singlehandedly created that problem. We got together, figured out what was causing the problem, and moderated the issue.
Of course, there were people who pooh-poohed the idea that humans were the cause of any of this. A certain worldview refuses to accept that human beings can affect anything at the planetary level. This neglects the absolute evidence that our chemical pollution and habitat destruction is responsible for the loss of thousands of species of creatures. There is a massive extinction going on just as they have occurred in the past. This time, however, nature is the agent but not the cause of this extinction.
Now we’re faced with the very real problem of global climate change. There are moneyed interests claiming there is no problem with global warming. They fund science to disclaim the relationship between human activity, especially carbon-based pollution, and the potential effect on overall climate.
As a person that spends considerable time outdoors, and who knows a few things about animals, plants and living things and the ecosystems on which they depend, I share concerns that human activity is responsible for this problem. I’ve seen firsthand the effects of chemical and environmental pollution on all sorts of creatures. I watched a great blue heron teeter and fall over from the effects of pesticides in its system. I’ve seen the gangrene-infested gizzards of ducks that ingested lead shot. I’ve watched fish float up on a river rife with suds, and seen cancerous boils on bass fished out of a polluted creek. I’ve seen monarch butterfly populations plummet due to destruction of habitat, loss of milkweed host plants and possible impacts from chemicals in their systems.
So I do not naively assume that human beings have no effect on the environment.
Because I’ve also run through cities thick with pollution. In China where environmental restrictions have not been as strict as here in America, people are forced to wear masks just to get to work. Health problems abound wherever anthropocentric pollution takes over. Does anyone recall how difficult it was for runners and cyclists to prepare in advance of the Beijing Olympics? There were absolute concerns for the health of endurance athletes. All that was the product of anthropocentric pollution. It did not happen naturally. It did not happen supernaturally. God was not involved. And God is not going to fix this thing. More likely God has shown a propensity in history to tell the human race; “You screwed this up. It’s your problem now, not mine.”
So prayers are not going to whisk away the carbon choking our atmosphere. What will fix the massive problem of anthropocentric global climate change is cooperation between nations and governments.
Yet America can’t even budge a set of stubborn politicians so selfishly absorbed in their own moneyed interests they refuse to acknowledge that climate change is a problem. Never mind the direct evidence of choking athletes in Beijing or other regions around the world. Never mind the potential desertification of the Great Plains as we already saw during the Dust Bowl, another product of human activity.
Never mind there are 7 billion people on the planet and we’re shooting up toward 9 billion. Climate change threatens to ruin millions of acres of currently fruitful agricultural zones. California is already parched and fighting over water rights.
Meanwhile, companies such as the Nestle Corporation have intimated that access to water is not a basic human right. So we’re faced with a world in which corporate profits and human greed are taking precedence over fair use of resources and basic human rights. That is the definition of the Anthropocene Era in a nutshell.
Those of us that have spent 80,000 miles and thousands of hours out in the field, on the roads, and under the sun understand the real risks of neglecting the facts before us. 97% of the world’s climate scientists agree on the fact that profound changes are taking place on our planet, and that human beings are a direct cause of these changes.
To me, it is the height of irresponsibility and selfish greed to ignore the recent and ancient history of human foible as a profound influence on this world. Both the environmental community and Christian apologists with an understanding for the call for stewardship of creation understand this.
But there are tons of people who interpret these signs instead as the inevitability of human sin rather than the opportunity to prevent it. In other words, they’ve given up. Quit the race just when it is beginning. They are failing the human race as a result. Throwing in the towel. They are admitting they are losers and that their worldview is defeatist and dependent on a bailout from God to solve human problems. Their only concern is that they remain flush with cash. Leave the rest of that shit for others to deal with.
Every time I run and ride and sit down to write I think about these things. This is the Anthropocene Triathlon for me. Every time I go birding and see cranes migrating through the skies and recognize their rebound as a species is the result of human efforts to protect habitat and fix the mistakes of the human race, I get the feeling there is hope.
I choose hope and collaboration. That’s the solution to the problems of the Anthropocene era, not self-centered greed and belief that money trumps all human compassion and environmental responsibility.