Ranger was pretty clear this morning on our first walk:
Ranger: “Get over it. You don’t live in Bhutan, you live in Florida. The temperature is in the mid-90’s, the traffic is terrible and getting worse, and your tomato plants are drying up even with getting water every day. So what are you doing to make your life better here? Railing about this silly self-serving state government won’t get you more of what you want. You need to be proactive about the stuff you really care about.”
Me: “I can rail if I want. I will continue to do so. I will not keep the peace in a situation that is so antithetical to everything I value. But you’re right in the sense that I do need to be proactive. Darryl and I have the house up for sale. We are looking for properties “Up North,” in Minnesota or Idaho. Is that proactive enough for you? We seriously considered buying a camper last week before we realized we had no vehicle capable of towing even the smallest camper. Then we shopped for — and bought — a sensible (and older) Honda Pilot that could do what is needed.”
Ranger: “Come on, now….. how about me?”
Me: “I assure you…. you’re with us no matter where we are! BUT, I also worked hard with a group to create a small card that will educate Floridians on the solar amendment mess. The power companies are obfuscating this issue to death….”
Ranger: “Yes, you are putting your money where your mouth is. I approve of a move to a place where the environment (rather than mankind’s insane use of it) can be experienced. Does this mean you’ve crossed Bhutan off your ‘gotta get back there’ list?”
Me: “No. I definitely want to go back, but realistically we’re not going to live there. It would be different if I were 25 years old, but I’m not. I need to ‘bloom where I’m planted.’ I’m planted here. My options are the USA or Canada. Those options we will explore. In the meantime we will value each day for what it is.”
We’ve been home long enough now that I can figure out how I feel about the Bhutan experience, right?
Wrong. Ranger and I have been talking for the last two weeks, trying to understand what has happened to me. Ranger? He’s just delighted to be home here with the two of us. But he looks at me carefully, and has a puzzled expression on his face. He’s worried that I don’t have it figured out.
I don’t. I keep asking myself: “What will they refuse to destroy?”
Will they refuse to destroy their remaining forests? 80% remain intact. But, will the gorgeous hardwoods be too tempting for poachers when they get the chance to harvest them?
When we talk with Darryl about this, we mention the extensive poaching of wild orchids in Bhutan, which has led to our friend Stig Dalstrom’s efforts to bring them back….. why would anything else be different? Somehow Darryl remains more hopeful.
Will they refuse to enjoy the oh-so-convenient plastic bottles that come with development? Not likely. We saw garbage thrown over the edge by road crews and tourists alike. I remember when I was a kid in Iowa…. people would drive along the roads and just thoughtlessly throw their empty containers out the window. Are we as Americans getting better in this area? Is it a matter of learning/appreciation?
Will they refuse the lure of TV and the internet? “Bollywood” shows from India are on many TV channels. TV was a relatively recent addition to life in Bhutan — becoming available in 1999 — so it’s still so new. Yet we saw receiver dishes on huts in the mountains, so it’s coming.
It comes down to a razor’s edge decision. I relate it to my own experience. I started to refuse meat only when I knew about the inhumane raising of animals — and when I felt I could exist more cheaply and in better health on beans. But had I not learned that, would I have given up meat? If the average Bhutanese doesn’t know about global warming, and how destruction of the forests affects climate, then what?
So the measure of our modern world will be in what we create to combat climate change, but more critically what we refuse to consume. That is the issue facing Bhutan…. and all of us.