Rabbitbrush Rambler: Put Mother Earth on your gift list

Mother Earth needs the gift of our care. Living in rural San Luis Valley, we may feel lucky that it is spared some of the changes that have afflicted our planet where population is much higher. But imagine for a minute how pristine the Valley was before any settlement began here and how it too has changed.

Only 200 years ago no humans at all lived here, although nomadic people paid temporary visits from time to time. They left a few trails, poles used for shelters, traps for game, stone hearths, and artwork on cliffs, but such activities were so scarce that the nomads hardly needed to be reminded to “Leave no trace.”

For the most part, the land and its natural resources here were unchanged until settlers arrived around the middle of the 1800s, bringing livestock, plows, ditches to distribute water, abodes, and multiplying numbers of human beings. Then, between mining and the Homestead Act, change really began in earnest.  Imagine what humans did here in just a few generations while drilling for minerals, pumping water, and plowing ground, even before the railroad arrived, followed before long by motorized vehicles.     

Look at Denver and other urban areas. Denver’s first citizens arrived at Cherry Creek in 1859, and today the number in the Denver metro area is 3,000,000 and is growing by about 100,000 a year. Imagine what that means for this State of Colorado, with agricultural water flowing to the metro area and outdoor recreation flowing to the other areas.

We might be lulled by the fact that population in the San Luis Valley has not changed as rapidly as in other locations, but we dump chemicals to make some crops grow and dump others to kill wildlife and plants. We welcomed the rails and asphalt and concrete, replaced native vegetation with buildings, and planted utility poles instead of trees, and lost a lot of the beauty that Zebulon Pike called a “terrestrial paradise” in 1807.

All in all, we humans have managed to wreck Planet Earth from sea to shining sea and what is in the oceans besides, instead of using our intelligence to save and improve what is left. Elon Musk may think we can solve our problems by colonizing Mars, but from what I have read about conditions there, an artificially sustained existence on Mars is not my idea of human life.

Planet Earth always has had many natural changes, and they will continue in our own Valley and the surrounding mountain ranges. Mountains pushed up and violent volcanoes erupted. The deep rift underlying this Valley broke open, avalanches and sedimentation filled it. Natural processes still hold surprises that humans cannot control.

Megafauna came and went. Life forms themselves changed. Now some of them are becoming extinct at a record-breaking pace, while humans have exploded at a record-breaking pace to seven billion.

Our nation is the only one that does not participate in the international climate accord. What an embarrassment! Thank goodness our scientists and conservation organizations are cooperating with the activities that the other countries are developing.

We need to give Planet Earth the gift of our care by conserving what is left and restoring whatever we still can. I can think of no better gift than supporting efforts such as protecting public lands from more further human encroachments, creating conservation easements, supporting programs like the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project and the SLV Ecosystem Council, and preventing further damage from reckless recreational activities.  

Please put Mother Earth on your Christmas gift list.