Meditations (Politics): The Earth is Dying
The Earth is Dying
A falcon hovers over the field. Green hillsides, rounded peaks, and the dark wall of the canyon beyond town stand out in breathtaking relief in the late afternoon sun. As the falcon masterfully employs the wind to remain stationary while scanning the ground, golden light reflects off its white under-wings.
For a full minute the falcon holds its position. Then, it stops fluttering its wings for a few seconds, and doesn't move at all. Finally, with a grace beyond words, it drops to the ground, its immobile wings pinned back in a perfect 'V' as it silently plummets to the earth.
A Swainson's Hawk, looking like a lumbering giant next to the smaller, much more agile falcon, sweeps in on the wind. A few minutes later a Cooper's Hawk, a short-winged woodland variety, also flies over. Both travel in the same direction-west, toward the setting sun.
The warm sun sinks to the horizon, and it grows chilly in the breeze. The world returns in the din of the highway, but I am still far away, with the hawks over the hills.
Watching a solitary falcon hover over a field as the sun goes down is to witness one of the greatest spectacles in the natural world. I never took the falcons for granted, but after delighting in observing them within a mile of my home for nearly a decade, I did not think they would disappear in the space of a few months.
Now the falcons of Chico have become a casualty of man's war on nature. The habitat where they soared and hovered last year is now encroached by housing tracts going up as fast as the City Council can promote so-called development, some of it on city-owned land. The demise of the falcons marks the death of this town, one of the last livable cities in America.
Chico lies at the northern-most corner of the 500 kilometer-long bowl that shapes the Great Central Valley of California. To the east lies the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains--"The Range of Light" as John Muir called them. To the west lies the narrow Coastal Range, having just enough elevation to be snow-capped during the winter. To the north are the Trinity Alps, a craggy series of peaks that completes the semi-circle of mountains around this portion of the most productive agricultural valley in the world.
For decades Chico rightly prided itself on its beauty and quality of life, exemplified by a huge park that follows the course of the creek that runs through and beyond town, where the park fans out into a magnificent canyon held sacred by Native Americans. This has been a city of bike paths in a country obsessed by the automobile; a city with a thriving downtown in a country pockmarked by lifeless shopping malls.
But an explosion of reckless, negligent development in just the last few years, catering to an influx of people escaping California's metropolitan areas, has all but destroyed the unique atmosphere that was Chico. Greed, complacency, and self-absorption by long-time residents are allowing Chico to quickly turn into the same kind of place people have moved here to escape.
At a City Council meeting, one of the influential developers proposed erecting a wall alongside the smaller creek that runs through the fields where the falcons flew a year ago. With a straight face, he then described the view from the area as "drop dead beautiful."
Today, looking toward the canyon beyond town, over fields where the falcons no longer fly, you see a huge building project choking off the view of Upper Park. The pounding of nails reverberates through the canyon where last year a human sound was rarely heard.
The earth is dying, as anyone with eyes that can still see and ears that can still hear will witness. It isn't too late for fundamental changes inwardly and outwardly, but it's getting close.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.