While driving through the countryside this week I met a goat.
It was a field of goats, actually, although most of the herd ignored me; only one made the effort to become acquainted. I spied the flock on my way to Tuttle’s Orchards, where I went in a search of great, white pumpkins.
My knowledge of goats is limited, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was a Boer Goat.
For those who live outside the Midwestern United States, harvest looms big in a state like Indiana. Farmers construct corn mazes, build pumpkin towers, and devise hay bale climbing frames; they preserve fresh produce, can jams and jellies, cook apple pies, and sell home grown corn, beans, squash, and tomatoes. Farms become playgrounds, where schools unload busloads of children, and where families converge to pick apples and buy fall pumpkins.
At harvest time, some farmers outdo themselves.
During my visit to Tuttle’s, I bought a bag of organic basil pasta, a jar of strawberry rhubarb jam, a loaf of home baked cinnamon bread, and five white pumpkins.
On my drive there, though, I was a bit nervous about the “low tire” indicator light that lit up a few days ago, which I hadn’t yet investigated. Abrupt 20 degree changes in air temperature make my tire indicator lights skittish, and I never know if the tires are low or just sensitive. When I first learned to drive (decades ago), “service” stations (aka gas stations) checked my tire pressure for me. Now, I must check the pressure myself or visit my Honda dealer (where they kindly add air if needed and turn off the indicator light free of charge).
How to read my car’s indicator symbols, check the tire pressure, and turn off indicator lights are only a few of the skills I am trying to develop now, skills that once were part of someone else’s area of expertise.
Once, businesses had secretarial assistants, and universities, like the one where I work, had administrative and teaching assistants. Now, in my position as a Senior Lecturer in English, I type my own letters (or emails), sort my own files (which is why my desk risks being hemmed in by heaps of old student folders), and build my courses on an ever changing electronic learning platform, meant to “enhance educational management and delivery.”
My life has grown increasingly complex, and I constantly seem to need new skills to deal with it.
This may be why I felt great joy driving through the countryside and meeting a goat.
I think this escalating complexity could also be one of the reasons why many people deny climate change and ignore environmental crises that must be addressed. Despite the “world’s leading climate scientists” confirmation “that climate change is running faster than we are – and we are running out of time”–people still try to deny its existence.
When we want to simplify life, it is easier to say, “The temperature is always going up and down” or “The climate changes ‘back and forth, back and forth’” than it is to examine the complex interplay between human induced deforestation, human produced carbon dioxide emissions, and rising temperatures melting glaciers that have protected life on our planet for millennia.
When we’re struggling to learn what we need to know to maintain our cars and keep our jobs, it is easier to ignore the downgrading of entire ecosystems around the globe than to take a serious look at how humankind’s removal of what scientists call “keystone species” have led to the collapse of once thriving ecosystems in our rivers, air, land, and seas. [See the documentary “The Serengeti Rules” for more on keystone species and on new hopes for reviving our natural world.]
Like it or not, though, we have to face climate change and today’s other environmental crises.
Our species’ actions have an out sized impact on the rest of the planet. We simply cannot stand by and let these actions destroy it.
Despite the complexities of modern life, we need to accept our responsibilities for climate change, degraded ecosystems, and disappearing species.
A drive in the country may reconnect us to this wonderful natural world of which we are a part.
Maybe we all need to slow down, take a drive, and meet a goat.