Monday, February 8, 2016

Play Now?

The back cover of 'National Geographic'--January 2016 edition.
WILD IN THE WILDERNESS?

Monday's my own little 'sabbath'--a day away from offices and operating systems, a day for reflection and rest.  I find myself sorting through the mail, looking through magazines at home, catching up on some reading.

And there's this.  January's edition of 'National Geographic'--which tantalizes with a cover story on 'The Power of [National] Parks' and includes compelling features on vultures and the 'melting Arctic.'

But. 

About the back cover.

Isn't this the narrative we've been telling ourselves (and selling ourselves) for decades now?  That the great frontier is there for the taking, for our taking?  That the whole dark continent is just a playground waiting for our big trucks and bike ramps?  That happiness is a day burning fossil fuels and discovering unseen territory?

You see this in advertising over and over and over again, over decades.  Working with images and music and a hundred worn-out story-lines.  Doing everything possible to convince us there's still a wild, wide frontier to be conquered.  There's still adventure to be seized.  There's still freedom for the brave and adventurous.  If we just buy that truck.

But isn't this the narrative (YES, THIS ONE, TOYOTA!) that needs re-visioning and re-writing?  Isn't this the very story that's robbing our kids and grand-kids of their beaches and watersheds and forest glens?  Stories matter?  You bet, stories matter.  Our American obsession with dominating the wilderness (or flipping 360s off bike ramps in the wild) is destroying the planet.  Our addiction to fossil fuels (to the point we associate fuel-guzzling trucks with holy men and shamans) is melting the Arctic.  (Sadly, the folks at NG didn't pick up on this painful irony.)

Toyota tells us, urges us, to PLAY NOW.  Don't ask messy questions about watersheds and fossil fuels.  PLAY NOW.  Don't read too many books about inconvenient truths.  PLAY NOW.  Don't rewrite and revision the American dream.  PLAY NOW.

Now there are surely all kinds of ways to enjoy the Sierra.  And all kinds of ways to revel in the mountains and dance on the hiking trails and listen for the birds' songs.  Can we at last agree that feeding the fossil fuel beast is not one of them?  No matter how cool it looks on the back of NG.  We need a better story.