And here’s another pebble: the “Anthropocene.” In her preface to her biography of Thoreau, Laura Dassow Walls succinctly explained it to me: an epoch in which human beings have become “a geological force changing the planet itself.” Scientists are now suggesting, or perhaps confirming, we have entered it.
Sure, we have.
Speaking of Thoreau, how would he have regarded an “Anthropocene”? In Walden, he wrote: “At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable.”
Methinks we abandoned that “requirement” some time ago, Henry. We’ve dammed the rivers. We’ve wiped out thousands, perhaps millions, of species. With atomic weapons, we’ve unlocked the secret of the stars. In the Pacific, we’ve produced a raft of garbage and errant plastic twice the area of Texas. Belts of national aeronautical and space administration junk gaily orbit our tiny planet. Global “cactus traffickers” are “cleaning out the deserts.” Now we’re goosing the weather of the entire planet. The weather!
Is there not a speck of mystery and the “unfathomable” left? Is there no aspect of the physical world, of nature, that has not escaped our clutches?