It’s been a tough couple of months in the photo-blogging world for me. As an artist and writer, I have been thoroughly uninspired. While my travels to Costa Rica and California have contributed many new images to the portfolio and my work with snowy owls made for an exciting winter, I, nonetheless, have slipped into an artist’s funk. My many rants throughout the past twelve months clearly articulate the frustration I often feel. What was once a lonely pursuit, has now become a crowded field. Finding a bit of solitude in nature now seems as rare as the ivory-billed woodpecker. Maybe it’s just an April/May issue, but this season of renewal rarely leads to little more than disappointment.
May is the last full month of the school year. It is testing time, and student frustration is at its peak. My AP students mill about like zombies, often distant and detached. Wearing the stress like baggy clothes on a gaunt frame, the anxiety is palpable. Spring activities extract my young scientists from the lab, deprive them of learning opportunities and add more angst to a population whose being is defined by an ever present angst. Meanwhile, large numbers of students are preparing to leave the certainty of their high school life for an unstructured summer or post-secondary unknown. This is an interesting time to be the fly on the wall.
So this morning when students began to populate my room an hour prior to the start of the academic day, I was pleasantly surprised by a bit of discourse. A crowd gathered to make up exams, complete labs and study in the solitude of a familiar space. As I typed away on a lesson for the day, the conversation began... “When does consciousness begin in a fetus?” she asked. I took the bait like the Socratic teacher I pretend to be, and volleyed back, “When do you think?”
The discussion meandered about as others joined in or tuned-out in favor of their intended task. We discussed the essence of being and the intent of life, but this was not the burning question. She held it tight like something precious and finally offered her real thought with a bit of trepidation... “Is there any hope for humanity?” This one hits me like a ton bricks, as it is the one question that haunts me every day. It is the question that inspired my career and my avocation. I’m too honest to offer a comforting response, paused, and revealed the fear I have about our collective existence. “I’m not sure,” I say. “We are biological beings, programmed by our DNA to manipulate the environment and proliferate.” As I now write this, I realize that I did not paint a very pretty picture of humanity... so much for protecting the innocent. Yet, in my limited years on this planet that has witnessed 4.6 billion of them, I have watched the human population double, environments shrink and indigenous populations disappear. I care about these things, things that I could choose to ignore or define as irrelevant.
Yet, I believe there is a reason for hope. I have students who dream of a sustainable planet with a sustainable population. While some might claim them to be naive, nothing could be farther from the truth. There is a great awareness about our global predicament that includes anthropogenic climate change, diminishing resources and overpopulation. My generation feared a nuclear holocaust, they fear an ecological one. But unlike this GenXer who felt like the Boomers already did it and there’s nothing left to do, the Millennials are empowered by their social media and the ability to speak out. While courts equate money with speech, the influence of the big donor can be marginalized by many small voices sharing environmental realities throughout a web that is more democratic (with a small d), than is the traditional media of the big spenders. A few well organized Millennials working the web have the power to diminish the loud voice of denial that emanate from a wealthy few. As long as there are people who care to see and speak the truth, there will always by hope for humanity.
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