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    Muir Woods and Mushroom Clouds

    Which aspects of our nature will prevail is uncertain, particularly when our visions and prospects are bound to one small part of the small planet Earth. But up there in the immensity of the Cosmos, an inescapable perspective awaits us. There are not yet any obvious signs of extraterrestrial intelligence and this makes us wonder whether civilizations like ours always rush implacably, headlong, toward self-destruction.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      -Carl Sagan, Cosmos

    What follows are several gritty photos taken on a walk in Muir Woods with two friends during a break in the first major downpour of the rainy season.  It took place last Sunday, away from the infernal noise of the city and the desultory crowds of people confined indoors and hollering like lunatics at football games on televisions.   The forest was socked-in with clouds and mist condensating on old-growth redwood trees dripping with water.  In the darkening solace of the forest I could not shake from my mind the terrible feeling that humanity is entirely and utterly fucked, and that all our individual dreams and common aspirations would soon come crashing down because we are incapable of curbing our consumption and waste, and because America seems hell-bent on drawing Russia into nuclear war.  I acknowledge that every generation since humanity’s inception has felt (in many case with greater justification) that they were living in the end-times, but when you walk through a primeval forest at a time when there are more people (7.1 billion) on Earth than ever people, more ecosystems in decline and species going extinct than ever before (discounting the destructive aftermath of massive impact craters eons ago), and when the United States and Russia are preparing to launch nuclear warheads against each other without significant outcry from their citizens – you begin to worry about the fate of humanity, yourself, and everyone and everything you love, including the forest itself, which has outlived all of us and is sacred (I wouldn’t have been surprised if during our walk diaphanous orbs floated unseen in the redwood canopies above our heads or if legendary spirits drifted across the forest floor just beyond our field of vision).

    My friend asked me what I would do in the event of a nuclear war.  I said it would depend on how many bombs would be dropped and where.  Modern thermonuclear weapons are exponentially more powerful than the atomic bombs that the United States deployed against Japan seventy years ago, and proportionally there would be far less survivors in the blast zone of an H-bomb compared to the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The outcome of an individual’s life after a nuclear war is dependent on a myriad of unknown factors and variables (the numerical amount and megatonnage of the bomb(s) dropped, the locations where the bombs would be dropped, the extent of the radioactive fallout, the length of the nuclear winter, the degree to which infrastructures, economies, and social and agricultural systems would collapse), so my simple answer to his question was that I would try to make peace with myself and lament the downfall of humanity.  I would regret the tragic failure of our species, which has come so far and exhibits so much promise, to live up to its responsibilities as stewards and caretakers of the natural world from which we have originated and evolved and that we rely upon for survival.   Assuming that Earth would be made uninhabitable in the aftermath, a nuclear holocaust would represent the suicidal climax of our cumulative insanity – an insanity that is demonstrated by our relentless consumption and myopic selfishness, by our inability to look ahead and empathize with other people and creatures – for we will have swallowed whole this planet that we are already sucking dry due to our avarice, hedonism, and insecurities.  Humans have demonstrated a suicidal propensity toward stockpiling nuclear arms and perpetrating irrecoverable environmental destruction.  With reckless abandon we are bringing the rest of the biosphere down with us in our careless descent to hell.  A nuclear holocaust would be a haunting manifestation of our role and legacy:  that in our insatiable lust to consume the all the natural world that we felt entitled to, not only will we have destroyed ourselves, but we will have made of this planet an uninhabitable wasteland upon which nothing alive shall ever exist.


              There is a direct connection between modern warfare and the health of the environment.  Exorbitant military spending and wars of aggression by imperial nations present a multifaceted assault on the environment.  Trillions of dollars are poured into the highly resource-intensive process of manufacturing and maintaining weapons as well as stationing and maintaining forces.  Thus, militaries across the globe are stripping the Earth of finite raw materials and fossil fuels to prepare for and conduct war.  Not only should these natural resources be used more intelligently and conservatively, but the vast sums of money spent by governments on militarism should be redirected into resolving the most intractable problems currently jeopardizing the overall health of humanity: poverty, disease, pollution, and other critical threats to the environment.  But beyond the monetary investment and natural resources extracted and burned to fuel the world’s military machines, the application of these weapons in theaters of war constitutes one of the greatest threats to Earth’s ecosystems.  War requires an almost incomphrensible quantity of gas-guzzling vechiles (tanks, jets, drones, aircraft carriers, support vechiles), and the environmental impact of constantly dropping bombs, firing missiles, and testing weapons results in a poisoning of the environment in conflict zones.  A nuclear war would make the present threats of rising sea levels and climate change look like a day in the park compared to the devastating impact a hydrogen bomb slugfest would have on planet Earth.  And if the megalomaniacs and pathological liars in power continue to drag humanity down this road of hatred, fear, and war, then a nuclear holocaust will be inevitable.


    On Olympic National Park and the Descent of Man

    We’re Johnny-come-latelies. We live in the cosmic boondocks. We emerged from microbes and muck. Apes are our cousins. Our thoughts and feelings are not fully under our own control. There may be much smarter and very different beings elsewhere. And on top of all this, we’re making a mess of our planet and becoming a danger to ourselves.

                                                                -Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space 

    The only Zen you find on tops of mountains is the Zen you bring there.

                                                                 -Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    Give me silence, water, hope
    Give me struggle, iron, volcanoes.

                                                                 -Pablo Neruda

    Hey, put the cellphone down for a while
    In the night there is something wild
    Can you hear it breathing?
    And hey, put the laptop down for a while
    In the night there is something wild
    I feel it, it's leaving me...

                                                                  -Arcade Fire, Deep Blue


                       Preface:  Due to a discombobulation in the time-space continuum I have not been writing, reading, nor drawing as much as I was in my prime.  I yearn for the days of yesteryear, when I would force myself out of bed at 4am (a time that separates the men from the boys), brew some coffee, sit down at my desk, and then write in the room I lived in in the country under the morning stars.  God was it beautiful.  I am determined to return to that physical and mental place in my life, and hopefully do much more to help those in need, but until then, my mornings shall remain as such:  roll out of bed at dawn, go to the bathroom, look in the mirror, slap myself in the face and say, “Let’s go,” then I’m out the door, flying away on my motorcycle. 

                The following slideshows present photographs taken in Olympic National Park (ONP) over a week in August, 2016.  Within the contiguous United States, ONP is the 6th largest National Park – after Death Valley, Yellowstone, Everglades, Grand Canyon, and Glacier.   Visiting in the summer is worth contending with the crowds, and they can be beaten or altogether avoided if you wake up early, hike beyond the one-mile Visitor Center parking lot loops (at Hurricane Ridge or Hoh Rain Forest, for instance), or visit the park on a weekday.  I did all of those things and within an hour of hiking away from the car and into the backcountry there were few people to be seen.  The entrance road on the north side of ONP originates from the town of Port Angeles and leads to the Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center, about a half-hour drive and 5,200 ft. increase in altitude from town.  The Visitors Center resembles an A-frame alpine chalet and offers spectacular views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which is the aquatic political border separating Washington from British Columbia, and the snow-capped peaks of the surrounding Olympic mountain range.  After driving to the Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center parking lot from Portland in my aunt’s car (a five-hour drive if you include a detour to get a better look at the incredible Mt. Rainer), I watched the Perseid Meteor Shower peak and then fell asleep in the car in the parking lot.  In the morning I drove along the seven-mile unpaved road (closed in the winter) to Obstruction Point, where the trailhead begins.

              The Olympic Wilderness is an immense landscape of ecological extremes and diverse micro-climates possessing such jaw-dropping beauty that the allusion to the mythological home of the Greek Gods is apt.  The Badger Valley Trail from Obstruction Point to Moose Lake (moose sightings: zero) starts at a trailhead that is surrounded by martian slopes of splintered shale and red tundra harboring endemic plants – geographically isolated flowers and succulents that took root and evolved in the Olympic Mountains after being ferried around the poles during the last ice age (1.8 million to 12,000 years ago and known as the Pleistocene Epoch, a fact that that will be discarded from by brain by the time I finish this sentence).  Patches of snow hug the sides of black basalt ridges and the gradual snowmelt feeds little indigo ponds that have pooled up on the mountainsides.  The trail straddles the spine of a mountain where elfinwood pygmy forests are sporadically perched on various promontories that slope down barren ridges of shattered rock transitioning into dense forest valleys further descending and bottoming out into subalpine meadows and turquoise lakes nourished by cascading streams from melted snowpack.  In the summer a galaxy of colorful wildflowers dot the many meadows humming with bees and other pollinators (butterflies galore) feasting off the nectar of the flowers, which are like dainty ballerinas curtseying toward the sun arching overhead before they close shut as the sun slips beyond the rim of the mountain and the gargantuan moon rises at dusk.   The storybook trail leads through beautiful pine forests of such undisrupted tranquility that had Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, or Snow While and the Seven Dwarves come walking down the path I would have casually stepped aside and made way for them to pass without blinking an eye because I would have thought: yes, naturally, they live around here, that makes sense. And then I would have proceeded with the hike.

              The hike from the Hoh Rainforest Visitor’s Center to Hoh Lake is fifteen miles long.  You can break this up into a two-night camping trip and walk away with having seen some of the most gorgeous serotinal flora and mountain ranges in North America.  One of my goals this trip was to see bears, and after having pitched my tent at Hoh Lake I went on a hike to find them.  Admittedly I was intermittently scared hiking alone on the ridges above the lake because I knew I was in bear country for their shit was everywhere (I would lean down to touch it to ascertain its warmth; I have never touched so much bear shit in my life) and, even though there are only black bears there, I didn’t want them to get the jump on me.  I walked for hours across pristine and sacred hills, ridges, and streams of hitherto unimaginable beauty (the descriptor words I wrote done in my notepad were: Edenic, Elysian, heavenly paradise, followed for some reason by the words Pokemon, pressure washer, weedwacker) but as I wandered around an unrecognizable mountainside far from my tent and the sun began to set I decided to call it a day and return to base camp.  On the way back I saw a bear foraging along a nearby slope.  I was happy because not only had I accomplished my goal, but I did so from a very safe distance.  I pulled out my camera and then there was another bear, this one about a hundred feet away – another safe accomplishment.  Then, I heard a rustling in the trees before me, and a black bear appeared about fifteen feet away.   Like the other two bears, he didn’t pay any attention to me and was strictly focused on what he had been doing the entire day: eating one berry after another.  I backed away as I watched him eat and felt an extreme degree of appreciation toward him.  Ever since this bear was a cub, all he wanted to do was eat berries all the live-long day and then go to sleep under the endless stars strewn about the night sky.  Of course intermittent mating, hibernation, aggression, territorial defense, and injuries were natural parts of his life, but for the most part he was harmless and he just wanted to eat berries all day every day.  I thought about him as a little cub growing up and playing in the mountains, and here he was now, asking simply to be left in peace so he could eat as many berries as possible for the rest of his life.  I imagined him continuing to eat berries until he becomes old and frail, and one day, perhaps under a night sky filled with the stars of cosmic galaxies and solar systems harboring other forms of life, the old bear, having lived his life, will slump down on the grass and breathe out the ectoplasm of his last bear breath beneath the stars, and everything he knew and understood would disappear into a dark and unknown realm of utter mystery and nonexistence. 

                  Instead of attempting to describe the fantastic beauty of the Hoh Rainforest and the mountains surrounding Hoh Lake, I will take the easy way out by drastically switching gears in order to generalize millions of individuals in urban populations and rail against the negative impacts that advanced and digital technology is having on modern man.  While the following commentary about the detrimental effects of phones and computers on the majority of people in the first-world is by no means novel, such thoughts did occupy a substantial portion of my thinking as I hike backed to the car on the final day of the trip.
               Computers, cell phones, and the internet are primary forces which are leading the devolution of mankind.  As of result of our addiction to these devices we have become more obsequious, complacent, absent- and narrow-minded, distracted, clumsy, sheltered, and apathetic. Our sense of gratification has shifted from accomplishing physical and tangible tasks to virtual ones and depends on the availability of a computer and the internet.  Our sense of purpose requires social media affirmation via Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube “likes” and views.  Our dopamine levels spike when we receive text messages in our phones and emails in our inbox.  We feel comforted when we see familiar contacts logged-on to internet chat forums or Skype.  We feel a sense of accomplishment and conquest after we have made an online purchase such as a movie, concert, or airplane ticket – purchases which are shared on social media in order to draw attention to something that we’ve done, are doing, or may do.  Social media posts are often mundane or inane, or are motivated not by a genuine desire to share unique experiences with family and friends but to make the members of your social media network (sometimes comprised largely of people whom you do not know nor are truly friends with) envious of your seemingly productive and fulfilling lifestyles.   In truth we are all too often not living productive and meaningful lives partially due to our time-consuming internet technology addiction, yet nonetheless attempt to present an illusion that our lives are grand and to persuade others of such by using the same time-consuming social media and internet technology platforms that have contributed to the problem of being unproductive and feeling unfulfilled in the first place.  
                  The digital technology addiction epidemic has afflicted hundreds of millions of individuals in society, and has shifted so much of our attention to the screenworld that we lack the time and interest to focus on our immediate physical surroundings or think about something without looking at a screen.  The negative effects of this over-dependency on digital technology are multi-faceted, complex, and profound.  Our efficiency and ostensible happiness has become dependent on the functionality of computers, mobile phones and the internet, and as a result of this dependency the schism between man and nature has rapidly expanded to unprecedented extents.  Once primates, it is as though we have been plucked from the wild and inserted into an air-conditioned world of florescent lights and liquid crystal displays, the pixels of which we gaze into with our monkey-eyes, lost in an epileptic hypnosis and mind-numbing cyber-trance.  We have evolved from ape-man to app-man, into anthropocentric philistines suckling our mobile phones like electronic nipples – compulsive and frenetic like pond-life paramecium under a microscope that can feel the deadly heat of the microscope light but lack the faculties and perspective to comprehend the reason for their demise, yet understand that it is coming for they know they are out of their element – drifting about aimlessly like globular amoebas or single-cell bacterial microbes in a petri dish.  An entire sub-species of incompetent microcephalic, cyborg imbeciles wandering around, plundering the environment and populating the planet, bitching and moaning pathetically about stupid-ass shit and at the expense of natural world – a bunch of crybabies in space.   Our addiction to digital technology and neglect of nature is leading to an increase in cognitive dissonance that is made evident in the following ways:  we cannot read, write, articulate, navigate, or think critically.  Less and less does our satisfaction derive from things like creating a piece of art, reading a book, spending time outdoors, or learning a new subject, skill, or trade, but is based on the materialistic consumption of products and outsourced services - our satisfaction is based on gluttony.  We are gorging ourselves to death, and the realization that happiness does not derive from excessive consumption is being outstripped by the destructive effects of this selfsame insane craze and the forces behind it.  By the time we realize that we were misguided (if we come to that realization at all) it will be too late, and after we have consumed all the earth beneath our very feet humanity itself will auto-cannibalize, and all that shall remain will be a lurid graveyard of fried circuit boards and dead iPhones.    


    Mollusk Graveyard

             Call me queer or old fashioned, but I am seldom happier than when crawling on my hands and knees on my favorite beach (its specific location shall remain a secret) along the Sonoma Coast collecting seashells and the calcified exoskeletons of bygone mollusks that I may or may not use in a sculpture one day.   I feel guilty doing this because not only should be at work assiduously addressing more pressing matters, but also because I am a grown man crawling on the beach like a little kid scrutinizing beautiful shells and the fragmented remnants of dead sea creatures.  At the very least I should be at home writing.  I wonder to myself when I will stop this behavior.  If I live long enough to be an old man, will I still be looking for shells on the beach (assuming the ecology of the seas remains stable) when I need a cane to walk?  I hope so, for between now and then I’d like to see some of these sculptures and other projects into fruition. But ultimately, even if it doesn’t work out, I’m grateful that I’ve had such an extraordinary run.  Thanks to all the flora and fauna that have and continue to enrich add meaning to our lives, and without which we'd all be dead, like these seashells and mollusks (scroll over to right or left click):





    The Fauna Exodus and Flora Holocaust in Stanislaus National Forest

            One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.  Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen.  An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of since are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who see the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.

                                                                                                                                                             -Aldo Leopold

           One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast, a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic.  Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure.  It is not enough to fight for the land, it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much, I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: you will outlive the bastards.

                                                                                                                                                              -Edward Abbey


                Over the Fourth of July holiday weekend my friend, his two friends (whom I now consider my friends), and I went car camping at River Ranch campground on the outskirts of the Stanislaus National Forest in California.  Although the camping itself was more like tailgating at a football game due to the surplus of amenities (cots, chairs, three coolers, a standup grill, cheerleaders) and beer, the experience was valuable for many reasons, one of which is that through visiting a new place one gains familiarity with the surrounding environment, thus determining where to go when returning in the future (assuming it is a place worth returning to).  Therefore, I now know that when I return to Stanislaus I shall venture far beyond the azure lakes that flank Route 108 and journey as far as time, resources, and energy permit into the Carson-Iceberg and Emigrant Wilderness.  But that remains the subject for another blog post.  Until then, what follows are pictures taken on the trip to Pinecrest and Beardsley Lake, as well to God’s Bath (aka God’s Glory Hole/God’s Bukkake). 

                Above the Central Valley and below the High Sierras of Tuolumne County lies a subalpine wonderland of rivers, canyons, forests, valleys, and lakes.  Drive east from Twain Harte on the winding State Route 108 toward the Sonora Pass and enter Stanislaus National Forest.  Just off the 108, Pinecrest Lake (elevation 5,600 ft.) is a popular summer holiday destination for hundreds of families who come from the out woodworks to enjoy the refreshing mountain air and water.   If you seek peace and quiet, you’ll have to venture up from the lakeshore into the rocky pine slopes above the drone of motorboats and cackling crowds who should not be blamed for visiting the same lake at the same time.  (California is the most populous state in the nation, and it’s wrong to scorn the similarly or like-minded minorities whom have successfully escaped their concrete and drywall cells and the technological torture of urban monotony to seek reprieve at a lake in the mountains, unless they came here to watch or participate in jet ski races, wet T-shirt contests, or hot dog eating competitions.)

               In the cliffs and forests above the lake you will come across myriad animals that have fled the lake seeking refugee from the people and sound pollution. (In addition to the boat motors, the lake dissonance is augmented by car speakers blasting music and robotic female voices providing GPS directions for departing visitors.)  The ospreys, flickers, and tanagers will nest farther from the lake as the human activity at the lake increases, but for how long they will able to continue their resettling and survival efforts is unknown, for the arboreal ecosystem upon which these birds rely is in a state of terminal downfall.  When you go to Stanislaus National Forest, you can see dead and dying trees everywhere. They are dying by the millions.  It is a frightening sight: desiccated pine trees, dried and brittle, ready to light-up like matchsticks, spreading across the forest like a rust-colored cancer.  The implications are grave, and the reasons (drought, deforestation, pollution, development) for this massive die-off should be thoroughly contemplated and reflected upon by all Californians who care to act if we are to arrest this descent into an environmental holocaust.   While walking through the forest above the lake, I wondered what it was like a there century ago, and what it will be like in a century from now.

                 In the streams trickling down the mountain ravines to Beardsley Lake in the summer live colonies of plants and insects such as spiders and ladybugs and water striders.  On the upstream hike to God’s Bath dozens of butterflies were observed marching on the sand and fluttering above the riverbank.  The lifespan of ladybugs and butterflies is less than a year, yet these insects have existed as respective species on Earth for over 50 million years.  While the lifespan of individual spiders and butterflies may be considered short, as a species they have collectively stood the test of time.  While there may be no purpose to life nor explanation for the existence of life, I tend to lean toward the school of thought which advocates that our species should follow in the path of the insects and try to make this game last as long as possible via achieving a homeostasis with the natural world.  The reason for this may be as simple as the deduction that by embracing a healthy and balanced lifestyle, the greater the chances that humans and our posterity will live longer and enjoy the universe.  But if we check out now that too is fine, for we’re not obligated to be here for any given length of time.  What is disturbing about the current mode of operations is that our species seems to be taking many other species out in our march toward the precipice.  The trees, insects, and birds (among myriad other creatures) have done nothing to deserve their participation in the diabolical demise of their habitat and the implosion of the natural world, but nonetheless have been thrust to edge of existence, threatened with extinction, and forcibly endowed with front-row seats to the grand finale of the greatest show on Earth.  They are the victims of a worldwide ecocide, and it is our responsibility to do more to prevent their annihilation, for we the cause of it, and by saving them we would be saving ourselves.  Indeed, saving them is the only way to save ourselves.

    Wind turbines and freeways west of Livermore. 



    Wildcat Canyon Park at Dusk and History Eclipsed

    If you are lonely when you’re alone, you are in bad company.   

                                                                                                     -Jean-Paul Sartre

    We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

                                                                                                     -Oscar Wilde


              Here are a few pictures taken on a solitaire sundown stroll through Wildcat Canyon Park near Berkeley, CA.   Despite the park’s proximity to the populous metropolitan hives and suburban hubs in the Bay Area, the only other animals I saw on this hike were cows, vultures, wild turkeys, and quail.   The park trails are lined by magenta thistle and the slopes of the chocolate hills are covered in tall grasses and dotted by yellow and red wildflowers.  Looking west from a hilltop one can see the distant Golden Gate Bridge which spans the mouth of the San Francisco Bay and connects that electric city to the North Bay where the prevailing rising landscape feature there is the formidable Mount Tamalpias.   Mount Tamalpias is situated on the Pacific Plate side of the San Andreas Fault, the tectonic boundary of which divides the Pacific and the North American continental plates, the latter of which Wildcat Canyon is located upon.  The North Bay is linked by the Richmond Bridge to the East Bay which, at dusk, is sprawled out before you like a giant circuit board glowing with artificial lights beaming beneath the setting sun.  The most noticeable manmade feature observable in the immediate East Bay is associated with the steam rising up from the cooling towers of the Chevron Richmond Refinery, which is probably located a little too close to the San Andreas Fault Line. 


             At the bottom of Wildcat Canyon lie freeways, streets, and parking lots overflowing with cars driven by people whom, like myself, are buzzing across the surface of Earth like frenzied and bloated microbes in a globulous petri dish that becomes ever more polluted and populated with each passing day.  The East Bay cities and towns have swallowed up much of the marshland of the bay, and obscene housing tracts are stacked throughout the hills and valleys.  Further east, in the dry hills of Contra Costa County, bulldozers are tearing apart the grasslands to make way for monstrous suburban housing developments and soulless strip malls, further guaranteeing an intensified stress on water resources in a state that has just experienced it’s most severe drought in 500 years.   These houses will be filled with people whom, not unlike myself, unnecessarily consume vast amounts of resources and energy for mindless purposes.  These houses will be tiled and carpeted, air-conditioned and insulated, furnished with smart refrigerators and freshwater toilets, and connected 24/7 to the worldwide web thereby in effect eliminating the need for residents to ever leave the comfort of their sterile homes to enjoy the natural world, which they may instead experience through virtual reality.  They will read few books and watch copious amounts television.  They will take fewer walks at dusk to view the bloodred sun and glorious bay, the lenticular clouds and evening stars, the ancient mountains and full moons tugging at the ocean – incredible geologic and astronomical events which eclipse our lives, civilization, and history itself.   We think we are unstoppable.  We take more than we need  (unlike all other animals which are born and die naked) and feel that we are entitled to it all, and because of this insatiable greed we are doomed.  And perhaps rightly so.  As much as I want us (me, my family, and posterity)  to stay, I look around and see the way we are mistreating this planet, at the way we disrespect all forms of life (ourselves included) inhabiting Earth, and I can't help but wonder: wouldn't the natural world be better off humans closed-up shop (shutting down the nuclear power plants, dismantling nuclear weapons) and died?  I don't want that happen, but sometimes I wonder...