I have friends that live in the next town over from mine here in southern Oregon. Theirs is a quaint semi-agricultural town of just over 6000 residents. Among other things, the town was known for growing some of the best pears in the country.
A few years ago, a fire that started in my town quickly spread to their town, the next one, and the one next to that. The following year water restrictions made it almost impossible to irrigate anything larger than a small hobby patch of land. Acres of pear trees are hoping for a new owner.
This article is not about my friends. It’s about making tough choices. They let their thriving garden go. But when the new water restrictions made it difficult for them to choose between bathing themselves or their handicapped mother who had temporarily moved in with them, the choices became next to impossible.
Where water and other resources are concerned, first-world nations are still learning what developing nations already know. In the last Gaia’s Voice issue, Gaia ended our session with some questions to consider (they are reprinted below). The first few are a matter of personal choice. They get harder from there. Fortunately, we don’t have to make these decisions today, but they are closer (to home) than we think.
1. Consider your ancestors. If possible, would you bring back the Lemurians, the Atlanteans, or the Ancient Egyptians? Why?
2. Consider the inevitable extinction of a species. Would you save the rabbit or the crocodile? Why?
3. Consider the severity of climate change and the lessening of resources. Would you feed a baby seal to a polar bear cub stranded on a shield of ice? Why or why not?
4. Consider a severe shortage of water. Would you allocate water to needed agriculture or to help extinguish a fire that will engulf a town and cut off its access to help? Why?
5. Consider hunger. Would you allocate food for starving, malnourished children in sub-Saharan Africa or to undernourished children in your own country? Why
6. Consider an extreme emergency. Would you share your hard-earned and saved resources with someone who did not bother to do the same? Why?
Your initial response might be, “Wait, I need more information” or “It’s not a real emergency yet, so my instinct hasn’t kicked in” or “It will probably never come to that” or “I hope I won’t be the one that has to decide.” Note that a decision to answer a question one way potentially betrays another.
The questions are straightforward but difficult. It is improbable that you will encounter all of them in this life, but challenging situations are a part of life, especially now. Consider them good practice. There are always alternatives, and some will surely present themselves. In the meantime, it is a good idea to learn to live with paradox*.
A good life is one that greets the new day, satisfies our hunger for individual presence, meaning, and purpose, sleeps well, and dreams brightly. We are not as far away from this as we are being told. Adaptation may be key.
*Paradox: a situation, person, or thing that combines seemingly absurd or contradictory features that when investigated or explained may prove to be well-founded or true. Despite careful consideration and sound reasoning, paradoxes lead to conclusions that seem senseless or logically unacceptable.