The Sacrosanct Sycophant

All over the world, the situation is the same. You have little people standing up to big people in defense of things that have no way to defend themselves.

There are more places under attack than there are plausible defenders. Sure, there's that amorphous and indistinct patron saint of all things conservation: "Chouinard." But Chouinard, Tompkins, Weeden, and all the big land philanthropists are already doing the things we need them to. Just, somewhere else. The number of places in peril is exhaustive. The environmentalist philanthropic billionaire class cannot be the solution to the world's resource extraction issues. Because as big as they are, they, too, are small next to something else...

I recall driving through Kansas once and seeing a sign: "Please Don't Ruin Our Beautiful Land," and a picture of a windmill with a circle around it, and a slash through it. I had never thought of Kansas as beautiful before. But then, looking around, there it was: plain as day. Beauty as far as the eye could see. Endless waves of beauty.

And so, where do we stick the wind farm? Where do we get the metals and plastics for the solar panels? Which forest do we cut down for the catalogue, what ground do we dig up, what mountaintop do we remove, what fish population do we plunder, what grassland do we monoculture, what part of this globe do we give over to our addictions, to this thing called civilization?

A massive scaling back of resource extraction requires a massive reduction of resource use (dare I say a massive reduction of resource USERS?). It's not enough to call your congressmen, to sign the petition, to speak out on social media. It's not enough to protect every last acre of the great American West. If we don't also change our habits of consumption, the very habits and customs of first world existence, we threaten to dismantle some other great American West. Because it's ALL the great American West... or at least, it all was. The beauty does not conveniently start and stop at geopolitical boundaries, or line of sight. Every forest is the same teeming forest. Every desert is the same painted desert. Every ocean is the same profound and ponderous ocean. There is only one sky, one boundless and beauteous sky, and no matter where the emissions come from, they end up in the same domed sky.

The truly little people out there are those who would live in a way that might maintain some semblance of balance with the biomes and ecosystems that enshroud us in their intricate interdependence. No lights after dark, no vehicles, no devices, no internet, no THIS. No sprawling, cancerous, unchecked, indefatigable, too big to fail organism of consumption. A curious type of person, indeed. Some might call them antiquated, archaic. The hopelessly forlorn relics of a bygone era.

The truly big people they are up against are not the corporations, the oil companies, the commercial fisheries, and the loggers. The big people they are up against are us. We are the consumers who drive the machine, who propel the train toward the edge of the cliff, who live in a way so out of balance with the natural order that we cannot in good faith claim any sort of moral superiority over the forces we decry as evil.

In short, we are a different kind of evil... a quiet and sheepish and less glaring kind of evil. An evil that crouches in the quiet corners of our own hearts and minds and guides our actions, but somehow manages to escape all indictment and detection. An evil that pleads the fifth.

I have tried for years to put a name upon the kind of evil that we are. And I think I've finally got it.

We all play a role... some new archetype for the human species... something uniquely modern, 21st century, a product of the times in which we live.

Ours is the age of the #SacrosanctSycophant... The yes man that stands at arms reach, far beyond reproach. We are all so busy jockeying and vying for position in the twisted Monopoly game we've made of the world that when our time comes to scratch the old comfort and pleasure itch, we don't bat an eye to consume just a little bit more. After all, if it wasn't us, wouldn't it be someone else?

We couch our self-deceptions in self-gratifying labels: green, liberal, progressive, environmentalist, conservationist, tree-hugger, prius driver, whole foods shopper... but it's all a facade, because it all feeds into the very system that threatens the innate and inherent beauty of life as we know it on this planet. Our way of life is out of concert with the totems we worship and pledge to protect. The inconvenient truth is that, indeed, they are mutually exclusive.

The game itself is flawed. And although we all stand at the brink of the same precipice, nobody seems to have the courage to step backwards. There can be no backwards. No return to those primitive times. The only plausible way is forwards. The only thinkable alternative better technology, greener technology, more renewable technology. Technology, technology, technology. The answer is always smarter, always more stuff. Never wiser. Never backwards. Technology IS our god. It IS the human spirit. It IS beyond reproach. And at all costs, the game must go on.

All of our best efforts are not for nought. For the time being, that may postpone the inevitable long enough for us to wrap our minds around the central problem before it's too late. But in the end, I fear it is all too demure. Not nearly productive or revolutionary enough. The answer is not to adjust course. The answer is to get off the train.

The writing is on the wall. The answer is before us in plain sight. The only way forwards, now, is backwards. Meanwhile, each pat on the back is one iota of momentum forwards towards the abyss. Just one more step in the clear and certain direction of oblivion. One more promotion for the Sacrosanct Sycophant - who takes the money to the bank, and deposits it with a smile.