KAMLOOPS —There was a marmot on the road one day as my son and I were driving home from town.
It lay there in a small pool of blood, it’s little buck teeth sticking out, its eyes wide open, its body crushed. I pulled over, got out, took hold of it by a hind leg, and deposited it just off the shoulder in some weeds.
“I hate it when people just leave dead animals on the road,” I explained as I got back in the truck. “Sometimes they’re there for days. There’s no dignity in being squashed by every tire that comes along.”
By the next day, I knew, the carrion feeders would consume every part of Mr. Marmot, including his bones, and no one would be the wiser that he ever existed.
Life is like that. You spend all winter in a hole in the ground, and when spring comes along you make one bad choice and you’re roadkill.
Mr. Marmot, I’m quite sure, had no illusions about saving the environment, ending poverty or bringing about world peace. All he wanted was to eat grass and be left alone.
For some reason, we humans think we can make a difference, but can we really?
I admire people who think they can single-handedly save the world. The ones who think they’ve discovered some sort of insider information about how to achieve perfection.
You know the ones. They meditate. They recycle. They self-publish books with the word “spirituality” or “spiritual journey” in the title. They sit in coffee shops talking about taxes and the latest bombing and how somebody really ought to do something.
It takes a special kind of mindset to be so blissful and so worried at the same time, and to believe that if we sit in our silos and do the right things, everything will eventually be okay. We’ll find an alternative to fossil fuels. The rainforests will replenish. We’ll stop polluting the oceans and ruining the land we live on. Global warming will cease. War will end. The Sun will never burn out. Everybody will get along. The whales and wolves will live happily ever after.
I’m not one of those people. I don’t believe for a moment I can make a difference all on my own.
I recycle, I donate to charity, I’m careful not to litter, and I decry injustice on whatever soapboxes are available. But so what? I do it because it seems right, but the only people who have the power to make real change are named Donald Trump, and look how that’s going.
Yet every day, somebody is on the radio insisting we can make a difference. All we have to do is ride a bicycle to work, compost our left-over veggies, stop mowing our dandelions, quit washing our driveways with a garden hose and don’t forget to turn out the lights when we leave a room.
There’s no shortage of articles about 10 “simple” things we can do to save the world.
I’m convinced that every single thing we as individuals can do to save the world has now been written down. All we should have to do is copy-and-paste them together into one list and start doing all of them.
Yet 99 per cent of all species — five billion of them — that have ever lived are now extinct. The sea level is rising an eighth of an inch every year. The snows of Kilimanjaro have melted more than 80 percent since 1912. And ISIS isn’t listening to a thing we say.
People who keep track of such things publish annual reports on how many countries are currently involved in war. Actually, it’s easier to list those who aren’t. The total usually comes to around a dozen. There are wars going on in places we’ve never even heard of. When was the last time CNN reported on the war in Ingushetia?
I’m not a pessimist, at least not every day. I prefer to think of myself as a pragmatist. I’m not saying for a second we shouldn’t shop with re-usable grocery bags, use clothes lines instead of driers (OK, I’m not there yet), take shorter showers (tell that to our son), and get back to nature.
What I am saying is that we must have pretty big egos if we think we alone can get the job done, tweeting and Facebooking profound sayings and pictures and making ourselves feel good. It will all amount to a hill of beans without collective, massive action. Seriously, you and I can’t end climate change and terrorism; governments can.
Is this a plea to get involved?
I suppose it is. Because, in the end, we’re all just roadkill. The only way we can make a difference before the next truck comes along is to be part of something.