Trivial

November 24, 2019

BW photograph of the snow-covered mountains outside of Livingston, Montana.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This morning on NPR’s On Being, author Marilynne Robinson made the comment that “…human beings are a fairly trivial presence in the environment…”  This is a point that is both well-taken and one that needs to be taken in the context in which she said it:  she was describing her growing up in Idaho near the Rocky Mountains.  (The above photograph was not made in Idaho, but Montana.)  In such a setting, human beings really are relatively few and far between and physically quite small when compared to the geography and space of the place.  Physicist Marcelo Gleiser is also a guest, and that interview is well worth a listen.

As an aside, it is quite important to take quotes in the context in which they are made.  Otherwise, it is very easy to misinterpret their meaning, or to, in fact, provide meaning that was not intended by the speaker.

BW photograph of a highway system looking down from a high window.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

For example, I am going to put that quote into a different, much broader, context.  We know that, in the aggregate, the density of humans and their impact on the environment are anything but trivial.

BW photograph of left behind shoes among leaves on the ground.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

I do very much agree with what Ms. Robinson said.  There are places in the world that are vast and magical, places that dwarf the human presence, especially when one is a child.  Were they to remain so.  Think about this:  compare the scale of a human to that of Mount Everest, which at 29,029 feet is the highest point on earth.  Then, think about this.

Broadening the perspective:  according to NOAA, October 2019 is the second hottest October on record-2019 is also the second hottest year on record.  So, there is that.

Finally, the “few and far between” descriptor (which is mine) above also needs to be placed within the global context of the number of people on the planet.

None of the above is trivial.

Take care.