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Reflections on the human/environment relationship

The Spring U.S.-Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies in Water Exchange scholars took to the desert in May—exploring Moab, hiking in Arches National Park and camping at Bonderman Field Station at Rio Mesa. The students met with local experts to better understand water issues in the Colorado River Basin. They were also introduced to the writing of local authors, including Edward Abbey whose thoughts on water served as a focal point for their written reflections on the trip. Writing instruction is an important aspect of the Exchange experience and the field assignment evolved into a contest and an opportunity for friendly competition; a selected essay is published below along with photos from the trip.

by Muhammad Arfan, USPCASW Exchange Scholar, Spring 2019

"Who am I? 
Wow I am a man 
I am a small being
within the planet Earth.
Planet governed by man. 
small but a great destroyer."

These are words of the Heriberto Gonzalez, an activist of the “Justice for Farmworkers" campaign. When I apply these words to find out the relationship of the human being with nature, this poem explains well what human being is doing with natural resources and environment. Man's ambitious and “intelligent” interference with resource ruins natural resources day-by-day. I am trying to alter nature for my own ease rather than to adapt it. I am planning big and populated cities where no city should be.

No doubt history of the human being is a history of resisting, fighting, and adapting with the natural environment. But, unfortunately, the last two hundred years of human civilization collapse the natural ecology as desperately as, in history, we never found such a wicked example. Here the question comes how the human being becomes violent with nature abruptly? Why such violent trajectories are not found in history? Whether a man is ambitious or something pushing him to become ambitious?

It is not the man ambitiousness, actually, it is the economic system. This is the system which creates an unsustainable pattern of production and consumption. This is the system which establishes the injustice in the distribution of resources. This is the system which draws the national boundary on the planet and starts plundering the natural resources under nationalistic notion. This is the system that introduces the product to the market and ruins the soil and degrades the freshwater streams. It is the market who introduces synthetic fertilizer which destroys millions of acres of land. It is the market which divorced us from our ancestral farming knowledge. And we consider our self as the exception to nature.

The same is happening with the U.S. West generally, and Moab especially. Nowadays Moab is facing the same dichotomy between water scarcity and greed of more growth. The unplanned urban growth, altering the desert hydrology. Unfortunately, the local authority is still overlooking the fact that our water is finite. Water Management, Inc. estimates that a mid-market hotel uses an average of 100 gallons per day per room. Moab is struggling to become a viable town for locals as well as a future tourists.

For that sustainability, we need to understand what Wallace Stegner explains: “Our first and hardest adaptation was to learn all over again how to see. . . . You have to get over the color green; you have to quit associating beauty with gardens and lawns; you have to get used to an inhuman scale; you have to understand geological time.”(Stegner, Lemonade Springs, 52).