Elizabeth V. Forrester
Philosophy Professor, Sacramento City College
United States

Wild Things

“As we approach the end of 2015, the progress seems minuscule; it is quite disheartening—no, it is heartbreaking. But we will work unabashedly for the Summit on Global Climate Change in Paris.”

Dearest Future Friends and Family,

One of the most popular children’s books of my time was entitled, Where The Wild Things Are. It told the story of a mischievous little boy, Max, who when sent to bed without his supper, sailed off in his dreams to an enchanted forest. Although he reveled in the forest kingdom and danced and celebrated with the “wild things” that inhabited it, his purpose was solely to tame them, to keep them from roaring their terrible roars, and to become King of all the wild things.

Although this child’s tale of fiction offers a wise moral about self-control, its words and illustrations suggest a darker and less enlightened position commonly accepted in the late 20th and early 21st centuries: i.e., that that which is wild, free, and unspoiled must be brought into compliance with human demands. Nature, no matter how lovely or menacing, can be made to bend to human will and purposes.

I’m writing to you—whatever and whomever you turn out to be—burdened with sorrow, guilt, and remorse for the havoc that this attitude, applied in the West for centuries, has wrought. I realize that you can only imagine fresh flowing rivers, crystal clear skies, forests abundant with creatures of every ilk, and oceans teeming with life. In the course of my lifetime, from mid 20th Century to mid 21st Century, humankind managed to tame all the wild things—to pave over, saw down, dump into, use up, and otherwise despoil the earth.

Oh sure, some of us “saw the writing on the wall.” Some of us recognized the nonlinear increase in devastation that results from tinkering with complex systems that we do not understand. Some of us protested, picketed, and held conferences. Some of us organized communities around themes regarding the restoration of nature and creating resilient lives. I, myself, tried to spread the word of our great folly to students, colleagues and almost anyone I met. I joined a movement, started in England, called Transition Towns. We were dedicated to making a respectful, balanced, recuperative world through rethinking our relationships to the Land (in the large sense espoused by Aldo Leopold) and to each other. We were dedicated to you, the future of life.

As we approach the end of 2015, the progress in these efforts seems minuscule; it is quite disheartening—no, it is heartbreaking. But we will work unabashedly for the Summit on Global Climate Change coming up in Paris in a few months. We will insist—despite great opposition by capitalists, presidents, socialists, prime ministers, war-mongers, pseudo-scientists, un-teachable members of Congress, religious leaders, and other great Pooh-Bahs, that we change course. We will argue relentlessly that Nature is us: we are inextricably wrapped in it, molded by it, and beholden to it. We will warn and wish: “Mother forgive them, they know not what they do.”

We know that it is too late for prevention. But perhaps the damage can be mollified—perhaps this letter will reach someone, someone who can read it. And perhaps you will not have to set sail and dream yourself across endless seas to embrace the Wild Things.

With deepest apologies that we have behaved so badly for so long,
Beth Forrester, human being