Traveling is fun. I honestly believe that part of the fun, and part of the reason for going away in the first place is just for the act of coming back. You don’t really appreciate something until you don’t have it. Travel is probably more about coming back than anything else.
Kim wrote a lot about most of the things we did on our latest trek from Virginia to the Adirondacks, looking it full in the face. I’m going to look at the same trip, but from the corner of my eye, and see what else I can see.
This was my first trip to the Adirondacks in a few years, and the first ever with Kim. I was taking her back to see “the ancestral manse”, to borrow a line from Everett Ulysses McGill. Sometimes you go places where things have not seemed to change in the last 20 or 30 years, but the Adirondacks are a place where things have not changed for much, much longer than that.
The Adirondack park is the size of the state of Vermont. There is constant tension between preservation and “progress”, and this is one place where preservation usually wins. My parents moved to the Adirondacks when I was 8 or 9, so the natural world was an important part of growing up for me, and preserving pure, wild places in their natural state has always been an underlying assumption for me. I make my living in the technology and fad-obsessed electronic reality, but what really matters is something far more permanent.
Global warming, if it exists at all, is not caused by technology, it is caused by overpopulation and people who pride themselves in becoming less and less connected with the world around them. This is not something we can cure. It is a condition that people are born with, and fight to protect.
I’m not exactly a Greenpeace liberal wacko, but I do love the natural world, and despise irresponsible development. With the state of overpopulation, you can’t really avoid being irresponsible in other ways. Building cars that get 5 or 10 or even 100 miles per gallon more than current cars is not going to reverse the affects of overpopulation, only reducing population by 75% or more is going to allow us to get back in balance.
Anyway, not to get too preachy. Peak autumn colors came during our visit. Photos don’t really do it justice. It was gray and cloudy most of the time we were there, but the brilliant oranges and reds of the maples has a glow all its own.
The view from the house I grew up in was stunning, and again photos don’t capture it. The mountains and valleys and color and scale of things, even for the east can instill a sense of loyalty to this brand of beauty.
One one of our adventures we came across an injured coyote along side the road. His front leg was hurt, possibly hit by a car. We didn’t get a great shot of it, we were much closer to it than the picture suggests. This was taken between the towns of Lyon Mountain and Standish. The lines on the road suggest a level of civilization beyond the actual. There were a lot of turkey in the area too, so it wasn’t too surprising that we should see a coyote.
And then out where my parents live, there is always the danger of the neighbor’s cattle getting loose. Peaceful and road wary, they see if the grass really is greener over here and await the guy with the tractor and rope.
During the ride back to Virginia, we decided we wanted to stop in to Washington, DC to go to the Solar Decathalon, a competition to build self-contained housing units. Each team, mostly from universities, brought their entry onto the Mall in DC. You can see the route planned here by Google Maps. I’ve done this drive before, and I should have known, but the route through New Jersey and down I-95, at about 6 pm on a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend (Columbus Day) has to be one of the most miserable experiences anyone can have. The entire Garden State Parkway was bumper to bumper. We got a little respite in northern Maryland, but Baltimore was little better. This scene just brought back the thoughts of overpopulation and irresponsible entitlement. Saying nothing of the physical scars interstates leave on the land and water, a trip down this stretch of road is a study in excess, arrogance, and what some people are willing to accept as “normal”. Spending a couple hours in bumper to bumper machinery through an open wound in the landscape and considering it “acceptable” shows not that there is something wrong with a lot of individuals, but that there is something wrong with us all. If we stopped reproducing altogether, in 30 years the situation would right itself.
Anyway, in DC, the Solar Decathalon was another juxtaposition of too many people trying to come up with an inadequate solution. It is undoubtedly in the right direction, it just doesn’t stand a chance of solving the problem by itself.
This structure was from a university in Spain. It was one of the most sophisticated looking units. All of the entries to the competition had to be small enough to transport and assemble , and robust enough to work and sustain the kind of traffic that being on The Mall in DC would produce. There were a lot of entries, and the lines to get into some of them were very long.
I only actually went into the entry by Rice University. To me, their entry was depressing. It seemed to convey the idea that in the future these students envisioned, we would all be living in 30′ x 12′ boxes with no windows, stacked on and next to one another in a row-house-meets-high-rise sort of metallic slum. There is a time and place for efficiency, but is it really appropriate to pack human beings together like that?
People looking to the future seem to think that planning for ultra-high density living is the best alternative available. I hope mankind gets a lot smarter than we are now, and I hope I’m not around to see what will happen if we don’t.
The whole vacation was a study in the extremes of population density. Many people use the “sustainability” buzzword these days. The population growth rate is necessary to fulfill financial growth goals established by insatiable greed. More consumers, more labor. None of this is sustainable, starting with the number of people on Planet Earth. People talk about energy consumption and fish depletion and wrecking resources and the rape of the physical environment as if they are the problems that must be solved, but they are not the problems, they are just the symptoms of overpopulation. It would be political suicide for any politician to speak with common sense about sustainable population growth (which can only be negative). If we remove all of the natural processes that control human population, some synthetic means will at some point need to be implemented.
So, now I’m back home from vacation. Back to normal. Back to work. Less time to think about philosophical issues, and more about practical details of everyday life.