Velcro pants and legs. Booster rockets and spacecraft. Humans and nature. What do these three pairs have in common? They’re all things that get detached from one another. That’s right, we modern humans seem hellbent on detaching ourselves from nature, despite the obvious fact that we evolved to spend our days and nights in natural habitats. The more we wall ourselves off from nature, the more likely we are to continue on the path of climate chaos and extinction. Join Asher, Rob, and Jason on their search for how to reconnect with nature. Along the way, they share plenty of useful ideas (even if they do get sidetracked by a few less-than-useful ideas, like enticing a mountain lion to attack you and huffing turpentine). Kathleen Dean Moore visits to share wisdom from her book Earth’s Wild Music and her work in environmental philosophy. For episode notes and more information, please visit our website.

Transcript

Asher Miller
Hi, I’m Asher Miller.

Jason Bradford
I’m Jason Bradford.

Rob Dietz
… and I’m Rob Dietz. Welcome to Crazy Town where we enjoy the day because there aren’t many left. The topic of today’s episode is humanity’s detachment from nature. And please stay tuned for an interview with Kathleen Dean Moore. Jason, Asher, I want to tell you guys a little camping story. Is that alright?

Jason Bradford
Fun!

Asher Miller
Is this like one of those scary ones you tell around the campfire?

Rob Dietz
A little bit, yeah, yeah. Let’s see how it goes. This took place in Northern California at Castle Crags State Park. Have you ever been there?

Jason Bradford
Ahh… With you?

Rob Dietz
Oh, yeah, that’s right. We went there one time to get – well this is not that time.

Asher Miller
Good memory, Rob.

Rob Dietz
This is another time. Beautiful place, right? These spires rise up 1000 feet, and really neat place for rock climbers, and the Pacific Crest Trail runs right through there. There is water and forest. Yeah, all this great stuff. Well, so one day, I was traveling south trying to get down to the Bay Area and decided to stop there and camp. And I was with this friend of mine, and we actually got there kind of late. Like 8pm. It was getting dark. And so we set up our tent and while we’re setting it up, this doe comes wandering in to camp. Like 10 feet from me and . . .

Asher Miller
No mom with it?

Rob Dietz
No, it’s a doe. That is a mom.

Asher Miller
Oh, yeah.

Rob Dietz
Not a fawn, a doe.

Asher Miller
Yeah, well this is how well I’m tied into nature.

Rob Dietz
Yeah, it’s how well versed we are in nature. So, I’m kind of like a dog when this happens. I just start chasing it because I can’t just sit there and . . .

Asher Miller
So, a dick is what you’re saying?

Rob Dietz
I said a dog. Okay? Dog. So I chase it. And it runs like about 10 feet away and then just stops because it knows I’m absolutely zero threat and it’s just like browsing on the grass that’s in this draw that kind of comes down.

Jason Bradford
It grazes on grass.

Rob Dietz
Yes. Isn’t that amazing? So, I ignore it go back, finish setting up the tent. And me and my friend sat out at the picnic table and talked about whatever you talk about as the light goes away, and whatever. We ran out of subjects and went to bed. Okay, so we go down to sleep in this tent. And my friend is like this notoriously deep sleeper. She just doesn’t wake up when you’re camping. I’m kind of a light sleeper. So, middle of the night, I can’t say exactly what time, I hear the worst scream I’ve ever heard in my life. And I just like, sat bolt upright in bed like, “What the fuck was that?!” And in my mind, I was like, I think a deer just died.

Jason Bradford
Really?

Rob Dietz
And I’ve never heard a deer scream. But it was like in my mind, if it did, that’s what it would sound like. And so I’m like sitting there, my heart is racing and I turn my head so I can listen. I want to hear what’s going on out there. And I start hearing this dragging noise and it’s coming toward the tent. I hear it’s like scraping on the ground like . . .

Asher Miller
Towards you?

Rob Dietz
And so I had this little camping knife. Like maybe a four or five inch blade. I pull that out and I’m like, okay, we’re gonna start wrestling here and I’m thinking it’s a cougar. Like a mountain lion is dragging a deer that it just killed towards my tent. And part of me, I wanted to go out and see it because I’ve always wanted to see one in the wild. But you know, I wasn’t sure that’s what it was. And I thought if that is what it is, it’s probably stupid to get out.

Asher Miller
Like it’s not going to let you pet it or anything.

Rob Dietz
Yeah, yeah, like while it’s dragging the thing it just killed. So instead, I decided to make a noise to let it know I was there. Right? And so you want to hear the amazing mountain lion scaring noise I made?

Asher Miller
The big sobs that you had?

Rob Dietz
It goes like this. It goes: “Wshhhh.” That was the noise. I don’t know why. . .

Asher Miller
You thought that was going to scare it off? Like, “Shh, we’re in the library.”

Rob Dietz
Well, that’s the noise that birdwatchers use. Like when they want to sort of get a response or get the birds moving in the tree or get it to vocalize. They’ll make this, “Wshhh” noise. So I tried that on the mountain lion, and the dragging stopped when I made that noise. And then I heard the growl. That clearly was, yes, that is a mountain lion like it did the –

Jason Bradford
Like a commercial for the Mercury or something like that? A car commercial from the 80’s? I’m trying to bring you back to –

Rob Dietz
Yeah, yeah bring us out of nature with TV commercial. So it made that growly noise and so I just sat there for a while. And finally, my friend, she sat up right. And I’m like, “Did you hear that noise? I think a deer just got killed by a mountain lion!” She just goes, “huh?” and just like falls back over to sleep. Meanwhile, I’m like, adrenaline spiked here. And it took me hours to get back to sleep. And what I wanted to tell you, besides the fun of the story, I want to tell you about the mindset that occurred after that.

Rob Dietz
First of all, was this true?

Rob Dietz
Oh, yeah. I guess I didn’t finish. Yeah, in the morning. I thought, “Oh, let me go look for some blood or something.” And then, like, 20 feet away is this deer carcass.

Asher Miller
It was left behind?

Rob Dietz
Oh yeah, it’s got puncture. . .

Asher Miller
Maybe you did scare it off.

Rob Dietz
I’m sure I did. So, for any of you who experience a mountain lion that’s threatening you, just make that noise.

Asher Miller
Good advice. Rob.

Rob Dietz
There is another story of a woman who had a mountain lion encounter, and she took out her phone and played some Metallica and that scared it away.

Jason Bradford
Oh, that’s awesome.

Unknown Speaker
She should have done Barry Manilow. It would run away for good.

Rob Dietz
But it had puncture wounds and its flanks and in its neck was broken. So I think what happened is a mountain lion ambushed it from behind, grabbed it, bit its neck, and broke it.

Jason Bradford
You think it’s the same doe you saw earlier?

Rob Dietz
I think so, yeah. See, I should have chased it away a little harder.

Jason Bradford
Yeah. . .

Rob Dietz
If you’re rooting for the doe . . . I mean, if you’re rooting for the mountain lion . . .

Asher Miller
Well the mountain lion got screwed by you because it didn’t even get the kill.

Rob Dietz
Well, I was wondering, you know, mountain lions are really secretive. I was wondering if it was just hanging around watching anymore? Like, hey, guys messing with my kill. Now I’m gonna kill him too. But yeah, it put me in this pretty weird mindset for quite a while. At first, there was a lot of fear. Like I had this vision of mountain lions in my head all the time. I do a lot of solo bike riding and hiking and stuff, and just jogging in the in the woods. And, and I was often fixated on mountain lions while I was doing that, and it was kind of weird. But the part that really interested me is that shifted over time away from fear and more towards awe. And I kind of had this feeling like, I had this chance at a connection with this mountain lion and with the deer and all that. . . and kind of have this desire to expand on that connection. Like, I’d love to figure out some way to follow mountain lion tracks or figure out if you could . . .

Asher Miller
So I think you should just go out into the woods, slather yourself with deer blood or something like that. And then you’ll get your way, right?

Rob Dietz
Maybe put a deer hide over my head and like walk around out there. But no, I guess it made me realize there’s this big world of connection to nature. You know, I always felt some kind of kinship with nature. But it’s clear that I was missing something there. That I didn’t have anywhere near the depth of connection I thought I had. And, that’s kind of what led into what we’re talking about today, the hidden driver that’s led us into crazy town of the way that humanity is in this race. This rapid acceleration to wall itself off from nature.

Asher Miller
Yeah, how far we’ve come in a pretty short time. I mean, if you think about it, for 99.99, whatever percent of our time as a species on this planet, we were not walled off from nature. Right? We were at the whim of nature. In fact, probably prey for other species. And it’s our experience. I think, evolutionarily speaking, comes from being deeply embedded in nature. That’s like a big part of us. And so it’s actually a relatively recent phenomenon that some of us . . . I mean, I would say, many of our listeners, people that that are in kind of the world that we inhabit, are so disconnected from nature, but it hasn’t been that way for –

Jason Bradford
Yeah, not for that long

Rob Dietz
It’s really only the last few 1000 years that we’ve taken to altering the crap out of ecosystems, building these urban places, killing off biodiversity, less and less time outdoors, and all that, right?

Jason Bradford
I even remember this experience. I was in a national park in Switzerland, and I remember going to this sort of park kiosk. And it was a list of the years that they last saw some major animals. And I was like, “Oh my gosh.” So, there’s some parts of the world where killing off the megafauna happened sooner than others. And in some places where it’s documented better than others. But I even remember though, you know, a lot of this was in the 1800’s and early 20th centuries, when a lot of these animals were last seen. But I remember also being in graduate school, and realizing that – I was doing a lot of trips into Latin America looking at forest ecology and exploration – and realizing that, oh, it’s really only since the 1950’s that there became this rapid switch from most of the landscape was still wilderness to now there’s these patches still remaining of wilderness. Yeah, it’s switched from a world really still dominated at least territorially by forests that have never been logged, to now, oh, you have to travel out of the city down this big highway, through agricultural hinterlands to find the remaining wild places. And that switch really only happened in the latter half of the 20th century for much of the world.

Asher Miller
Yeah, and that’s exponential growth for you. Right? And that it would happen so rapidly, so quickly, and so much could be gone so fast. Because there’s so many more of us consuming so much more stuff. And we’ve sort of created this globalized economic system that really, has become very efficient at harvesting nature. But also, if you think about, like the American psyche, in some ways, European settlers coming here saw an almost an infinite bounty, right. And notice, there wasn’t a sense that, you know, in fact, nature was scary. And for much of our history, nature has been scary,

Jason Bradford
When the perspective of those who are living outside of nature in a sense of almost like a domesticated environment with farms and towns. But like you were pointing out, for most people, if they’re hunter gatherers, that was it.

Asher Miller
Yeah, there’s nothing else.

Jason Bradford
They’re not trying to escape from that or be afraid of it. It’s more like, I’m going to hunt that deer.

Rob Dietz
And let’s look at the relationships over this sort of deep history, like hunter gatherers, foragers. You are tied to your landscape. I mean, you may be mobile and sort of migrating across a large swath to follow the food or follow the seasons, or whatever you need to do to survive. But everything that you do, every day, you are really embedded in relationship with nature. And then, you know, we come along and figure out how to grow crops, cereal grains, and we domesticate landscapes to be able to get food. So that’s a very different relationship with nature. Maybe, Jason, you’re the farmer, you can talk about that.

Jason Bradford
Yeah. Well, what’s interesting is, you know, we’re also finding a number in these forest studies. And even in this area we live now the Willamette valley. What ecologists have discovered is that at the same time, people were embedded in nature and embedded in the landscape of forest and meadows, they also modified it with fire with selecting certain plants. And so there is tropical forests, for example, where they may cut the forest down, do some sort of planting for a while, but then what they do is they plant long life trees that in 20 years, they can come back to and harvest the fruit from. So fascinating, actually, somewhat modifying the landscape, becoming a little bit of an engineer here in this landscape, but so deeply connected at the same time.

Rob Dietz
Yeah, you bring up that point of like, engineer, and I think that’s where some of the mindset of trying to control nature comes into play. Especially, like think about water engineering projects, like in the Nile Delta.

Jason Bradford
Well, we took it to another level, off course, with agriculture, where you simplify the landscape, instead of creating this diverse landscape you’re managing with fire. It’s sort of soft management, in a sense, where processes are happening, you’re not controlling it directly, but you’re kind of indirectly with tools. But then with agriculture, you’re saying, “No, I want this to grow, and not everything else. And it needs more water to get better yield, so I’m going to divert a river.” We have canals. So we did a huge amount of that. And especially in dry climates, like the Middle East, like the Nile Delta. And in dry climates, when you irrigate, you end up salinating. And so a lot of the civilizations that collapsed early on, the first agricultural civilizations collapsed, because they basically destroyed their soils while they were trying to grow their food.

Asher Miller
Yeah, to me, I think it’s important to just recognize that there have been these transitions over time, and agriculture has been with us for 10,000 years, or whatever. And our relationship to nature change pretty dramatically. And I would say probably for much of our history there was an effort to try to control the environment on some level in order to survive. In fact, we’ve seen the extinction of some megafauna as a result of human indigenous cultures. You know, sometimes we tend to revere, kind of romanticize a little bit indigenous cultures. But there have been situations in the historical record where we’ve actually rendered some species extinct because of our relationship with nature. But I think, even in agriculture, and even up until this last century or so – and I’m talking again, in our context. Because for many people around the world, they still remain in a different context. But in our context, even until fairly recently, we had a sense of seasons, time was really connected with the daily cycle of the sun. You know, it was like not until railroads that we actually had uniform time that people followed. And now we’ve created these artificial environments with electricity and lights, and you’re taking it to a level now that is so disconnected from nature.

Rob Dietz
Oh, I mean, just think about how you live day to day inside of four walls. Think about modern infrastructure. Yeah, you talk about water engineering projects, Jason. with a canal, well think about a giant hydroelectric dam, or something like that. Think about how we’re embracing the information age and technology and how if you want, you can kind of live your life Ready Player One style, you know where you’re in your virtual reality boss or whatever it is, and in a suit –

Jason Bradford
Even while farming you can probably be in these new tractors and they’ve got like a future reality sort of scheme going on – auto driving for you.

Rob Dietz
Can we have a fundraiser, Asher, so that we can get Jason a virtual reality farming gig?

Jason Bradford
A million bucks you could set me up.

Asher Miller
Yeah, that’s not too much.

Rob Dietz
Well, I was thinking – I liked what you said, Asher, about how it’s transitions and they’re really important to think about. I was thinking about what’s some kind of example that would look at these transitions in our relationship with nature and for whatever reason, I came up with the idea of chicken.

Jason Bradford
That’s a great example. I’m following you in my head right now.

Rob Dietz
Okay, well see what you think. So, in forager times, hunter-gatherer, you’d be out on the prairie and you would hunt a prairie chicken, and you would have to, you know, whatever, figure out how to do that, what do you use, how to stalk it, and then how to prep it and you eat it.

Jason Bradford
Well the chicken we eat commercially now actually comes from like Indonesia, South India.

Rob Dietz
Yeah, like of guinea fowl, some kind of chicken-like bird.

Jason Bradford
Yes. Wild bird.

Rob Dietz
Some that you hunt, and think of the things you have to know about your habitat and its habitat and all that. So compare that, you go through the transition to farming where maybe you’ve got a flock of chickens, and you’re going to have one for dinner. You know, you got to raise that chicken, so you still have to know something about it.

Asher Miller
But you know where it is.

Jason Bradford
There’s somewhat free range a little bit, they got a yard. You know, they’re kind of having chicken habitats that they can . . .

Asher Miller
But you control that habitat.

Jason Bradford
Yeah, you control that.

Rob Dietz
And think about how much more of a intimate relationship the hunter-gatherer has to his or her habitat than the farmer might have to this chicken habitat. Now, think about your in your humvee –

Asher Miller
Oh, I know my chicken environment really well. It’s KFC, right?

Rob Dietz
Right. Well, you’re in your humvee, you’re driving through the drive thru, and you order a of bucket of chicken like substance. How much connection with nature do you have at that point?

Jason Bradford
Yeah, and that was raised indoors. Like your chicken has been in a full urban environment.

Rob Dietz
Your chicken is not even a natural substance.

Jason Bradford
No, your chicken has not even been outside.

Rob Dietz
The acceleration of the walling off from nature of chickens. It’s a beakless, footless – Yeah, and you can even go like to McDonald’s and get your chicken nuggets where they come with a plastic hamburglar that later gets stuck in some porpoises blowhole, because –

Asher Miller
And that chicken nugget is made from the parts of like 6000 different chickens, right?

Jason Bradford
Yeah. Okay, that’s depressing.

Rob Dietz
It is a little depressing, but you can see the levels of relationship with nature dwindling. Like we’re getting more and more disconnected. It’s almost like humanity seems to be in a race to do this and do it faster and faster.

Asher Miller
I think I’m gonna sound like an old man now. But it does feel like it’s gotten faster and faster. And it’s so sad for me to think that there are – this where I sound like an old man. Not only does it seem like younger generations are more disconnected from nature than maybe we were as kids. And of course, the circumstances that we grew up in determine our access to nature, right? So I think all of us in our childhoods had some access to – if we’re living in suburbia – some access to nature, you know, when we were younger, so we could go out. I remember when I moved to the United States, I was living in a town in in Massachusetts, and there was an acre of land behind my house.

Jason Bradford
Yeah, huge.

Asher Miller
There were trees there. We would sled through those trees, and we would bike through there and we’d go fishing sometimes, you know. And my kids, part of the reason we chose to move to Oregon was to live in a place where we’re fortunate enough to be able to do this, where our kids can actually be outside. My youngest son is walking on a path, when school was actually allowing the kids to go there, walking on a path through the trees to get to school. But so many kids these days don’t have really that relationship with nature, and there are millions, hundreds of millions of people who live in urban environments now that not only have no interaction with nature at all, except maybe a tree at a park, they don’t even see the stars at night. You know?

Rob Dietz
Wait, what are stars?

Asher Miller
Exactly.

Jason Bradford
They’re like our Sun but far away.

Rob Dietz
Oh, okay, thank you.

Jason Bradford
I had the same kind of situation where I grew up in suburbia, and I would find these places and I look back now and they’re kind of pathetic, degraded habit.

Rob Dietz
Like a stormwater ditch or –

Jason Bradford
Well, I had BMX bike. And we would find these places where you can get through some things into the landfill. You get through some fence, and then you could drive because it’s in California. So the creeks would be all dried out. You could ride your bike down one side and up the other. We made tracks all the time.

Rob Dietz
So you had a half pipe for your bike.

Jason Bradford
Yeah, we had half pipes. But then of course, there’s like the shrubs and trees and you just sort of enjoy it. And yeah, it was full trash. It was like washing machines and it was just disgusting.

Jason Bradford
Sounds great, man. You’re really selling it.

Jason Bradford
But no, that was interesting. I really like appreciated just even having that little bit of an escape and having the shade, and this kind of wildness.

Rob Dietz
I’m the same. I mean, we used to go for picnic lunches in the summer when we were little kids and find a creek and –

Asher Miller
Was that Stone Mountain so you could sit and sit bask in the glory of the Confederate assholes.

Rob Dietz
No, I mean, I did grow up in Stone Mountain, Georgia and around there, but we found some creeks  with fish and with snakes. And you know, we would we would wander around and follow the creek upstream as far as we could and stuff like that. But so I mean, I have a nostagia for that. And same as what you said Asher, I think Jason. You saying we want to live in a place like this because of the experiences we had as children. And something that came to mind, similar from my reading – You know, me I can’t handle adult level material. It’s –

Asher Miller
Too difficult language wise?

Rob Dietz
And too much time commitment. So I like reading kids books.

Asher Miller
Just the ones with pictures or . . . ?

Rob Dietz
Well, no, I had this kick for a while of going through the ones that won Newbery Awards

Rob Dietz
Oh, those are great, great books.

Rob Dietz
But I realized there was this weird little blip in the late 50’s, early 60’s, of books that had this huge nostalgia for nature. A book, “My Side of the Mountain” by Jean Craighead George and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’Dell, and “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls. Have you guys read any of those?

Jason Bradford
I read “Where the Red Fern Grows” Okay, I cried.

Rob Dietz
Yeah, they’re good books. And they’re all centered around like 10, 11, 12, 13 year olds nature experience. “Where the Red Fern Grows” has a lot to do with dogs as well.

Jason Bradford
Yeah. . .

Rob Dietz
You’re going to be okay.

Asher Miller
Don’t start crying.

Rob Dietz
But there’s some kind of nostalgia thing going on at that point too, for I think the way that kids weren’t in nature nearly the way that they used to be.

Asher Miller
Yeah, well, what’s it like now? They don’t even know what to be nostalgic for.

Jason Bradford
Oh, well, I mean, this whole notion – Well, I was talking about earlier about how 1950 say, Latin America versus 2020 is totally different in terms of how much forest is left. It’s gone from 90% for us to 10% forest, let’s say. I think that’s what’s also happening from generation to generation. There’s less nature available. So like we had these dregs in our backyards. And and that was —

Rob Dietz
Hey, you had the dregs. All right? I had an actual creek with water in it.

Jason Bradford
Well, I had water in the winter, but this is California. I’m sorry. You couldn’t ride your bike up and down.

Rob Dietz
That’s true. You had a far better BMX experience than I did.

Jason Bradford
But there’s this, this notion from a guy Daniel Pauly, about the shifting baseline. The idea that what we consider to be, you know, normal and abundant, let’s say, is what we experienced as a child. And then as an adult, we’re like, “Oh, man, it’s gone downhill from here.” But if you ask someone from 100 years ago, what their baseline was

Rob Dietz
Yeah, they would think we were paupers . . .

Jason Bradford
Yeah, it was like, “Oh, you can step across the creek just walking on giant salmon backs,” you know? And now it’s like, “Oh, I see a minnow. Ah!”

Rob Dietz
It’s really interesting, that idea. I remember reading about the shifting baseline. And I think Daniel Pauly was a fish biologist. And basically, he was lamenting the way that the oceans are being fished out. And you bring it up sort of like with a broader perspective on nature. I was thinking about it from the shifting baseline of technology. And in researching this topic, there’s a pretty well known book by a guy named Richard Louv. He wrote the book, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder.” And he was writing in there, kind of about this technological issue. And I want to I want to share a quote with you guys from it. He says, “Americans around my age, baby boomers or older enjoy the kind of free natural play that seems in the era of kid pagers, instant messaging, and Nintendo, like a quaint artifact.

Asher Miller
Kid pages? Ha, talk about quaint.

Rob Dietz
Yeah, so he wrote this in like, probably early 2000s’.

Jason Bradford
I got virtual reality games now, buddy boy.

Rob Dietz
I know, you think about like social media, like every kid’s got a smartphone that’s more powerful than anything that anybody had –

Asher Miller
Geez, pagers.

Rob Dietz
Like, think about that shifting base. Not only do we have the nature shifting baseline, we have the technology shifting baseline where kids are more and more embedded in this, I don’t know what you call it, techno-sphere?

Asher Miller
Well, I mean, think about that’s where again, bringing it back to exponential growth -Moore’s Law. Right? Around the processing speed of chips, you know, doubling every 18 months, or whatever it is. Like, we’ve seen this acceleration in that kind of technology. And it is dramatic. You know, it’s it really is dramatic within the lifetime of our kids, let alone our lifetimes. And it does feel like it’s accelerating. And it is eroding, in a sense, connection to nature, amongst other things. Connection to humans even . . .

Rob Dietz
Yeah. Well, if we’re stuck in technology, and we’re walling ourselves off from nature, and that’s accelerating, I think we’re even seeing it in the way we protect, maybe our most pristine natural areas. You guys already know this about me, I’m a National Parks geek. Maybe even more so than an 80’s.

Asher Miller
You have a badge, right? You have a National Parks geek badge.

Rob Dietz
Yeah, it’s – well, it’s actually a tattoo.

Jason Bradford
You have this art in your house of like all the National Park art.

Rob Dietz
Yeah, I mean, I don’t know. I think we went to the Grand Canyon when I was 12, and it blew me away, as well it should.

Asher Miller
Did you do it like in “Vacation?” In the film? Do you remember that? Did you guys spend all the time driving there, and then you just stood there for 30 seconds, took a photo and got out.

Rob Dietz
It’s not that far from that. I was the only one of my family they wanted to go down in there and see the river, and so . . . But you know, more time in the gift shop than in the canyon. Sad, sad. But no, the the National Parks. . . You know, Ken Burns did a documentary on how it is America’s best idea. And I agree, it’s an amazing idea to set aside land and say, we’re not going to mow this down, we’re not going to take timber out of it, we’re not going to mess with it. At the same time, you think about what we’re doing. We wall off these places, and say, “That’s the nature over there! Go there and see that.” I even was looking at our newest National Parks. There’s been quite a few that have been added since 2000, the Cuyahoga Valley, Congaree in South Carolina. There’s three of them that are interesting to me: The Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, the Indiana Dunes in Indiana, and White Sands in New Mexico. They’re all sand.

Asher Miller
That’s what we’re left preserving.

Rob Dietz
Well, I used to work with a guy named Mike Scott at the U.S. Geological Survey who studied kind of broad scale conservation and his big conclusion was we are great at conserving rocks and ice but this is good, now we can add sand.

Asher Miller
This is actually probably pretty smart to do that because otherwise all the frackers are going to grab the sand and use it for fracking operations.

Rob Dietz
Right, or make some more drywall out of it or whatever. But yeah, I mean you think about, like we have to set up these boundaries which is where nature resides. And then we can get in our campers and go visit.

Asher Miller
But that’s the thing. Even when we go and visit them, right, it’s sort of technologized our experience with nature. It’s done through RV park camping, or even in our cars. We go off to places, we get out of the car ,or maybe we look around a little bit you know, or people take out snowmobiles, or they’re hiking you know on –

Rob Dietz
Jason almost just vomited when you mentioned snowmobiles.

Jason Bradford
Dune buggies are better

Rob Dietz
Dune buggies. Let’s ruin those safety parks.

Asher Miller
Some of these paths are paved to make it easier for people to walk on. And there’s you know, there’s an ADA thing there which I respect and I think it’s really important for –

Rob Dietz
It’s only for Americans with disabilities If you’re a foreigner with a disability, then you’re not allowed.

Asher Miller
Exactly. So even that experience is not, you know, again, I’m gonna sound like a crotchety old guy. Is that experiencing nature? And I’m guilty of this too, going on hikes sometimes I might stick my earbuds in and listen to a podcast

Jason Bradford
When I was a kid, my grandparents took me to Yosemite a couple times. Like when I was 5 and when I was 6. And we stayed in the Ahwahnee. Oh my god, that was incredible.

Asher Miller
Was that a lodge there?

Jason Bradford
The Ahwahnee is the is this luxury lodge. It was built in the lodge architecture. That era of the early 20th century. Amazing. Freakin incredible. This dining hall and stuff, and we’re in Yosemite National Park. But then, I remember going later, like in junior high, and I had to eat like at the Marriott. Kind of like a cafeteria.

Rob Dietz
It’s hard. I just came up with a business idea based on what you said, Asher, with putting in your earbuds. So, with the shifting baseline stuff as the animals are all disappearing, what you’ll do is you’ll go to a place like Yosemite, you’ll put in the ear buds and they’ll play animal noises and tell you what used to be there. It’ll be great. Like going to a museum.

Asher Miller
No, no. You’re thinking way too simply here. We need the VR. Yes. So you’re walking on this path. In fact, you don’t even need to walk. It’ll just escort you, like an escalator. You know what I mean? And then you could see all the animals that should be there.

Jason Bradford
Like a cougar trying to attack you.

Asher Miller
Right. In fact, you can go and experience all the National Parks by going to some place in your little town at some strip mall where you just go inside with the VR goggles on your face.

Jason Bradford
Okay, well, that’s fun. But I want to get serious again, if we can.

Rob Dietz
Yeah, okay. I’m okay. I’m willing to go there. If you got something good.

Jason Bradford
Well, here’s the thing is, you’ve brought some things up for me. And I’ve been thinking about how I grew up, and what that told me about nature and my relationship. And it was kind of like, almost thin, like I had to find it myself, in a sense. Like, I didn’t grow up in a culture that revered it, or was telling me much about it. You know, I go to my backyard and I take care of the doughboy pool. And –

Rob Dietz
What is that? What the hell is a doughboy pool?

Jason Bradford
It is an above ground pool. A cheap ass pool.

Rob Dietz
Oh, okay. Why is it called that?

Jason Bradford
I don’t know. It’s a brand. Okay? It’s not like Pillsbury.

Rob Dietz
I thought it was like the shape you get in by swimming in it, or something.

Jason Bradford
Right, right. So what’s interesting though, is even though that was my upbringing, I had enough experience, like my grandparents taking me to Yosemite, and my uncle lived up around Lake Tahoe and I would go on hikes with him and camping, you know. My first camping experience was when I was 10 or 11. So I kind of knew I was really into this stuff, and even just seeing like tadpoles in the creek. So I majored in biology. And as I had this ability as an undergrad to go to Costa Rica. And for a whole quarter, you know. Like all my classes were in Costa Rica, I was living there with other students. And we were living at this Lodge. This new kind of, you know, it wasn’t very fancy, but it was his lodge right at the edge of this forest. And I would walk into the forest every day, just like outside, get breakfast and go do stuff related to classes. And I had this class where they taught us basic botany and taxonomy. So that was the ability to recognize plants by their characteristics, give them names. It took me a while. At first I was like, “This is hard.” But as soon as it jelled – I remember this moment, like about four weeks in, where this jelled. And I started successfully figuring out what one plant was versus another. And suddenly, this forest which is hyper diverse, right, there’s 1000’s of plant species. Suddenly, I saw patterns, instead of just hitting this wall of green stuff, I suddenly saw uniqueness everywhere, and was able to distinguish and then see relationships. And it was that vocabulary combined with being told, “Look for this. Look for that. Look for the shape of the leaf. Look for how the leaf is joining the stem. Look for how the stem is attached. Look for these little things called stipules. Pay attention to its growth habit.” All this stuff that I never even paid attention to, but I was taught. It was almost like, I had not been taught that as a kid, it wasn’t a culture. But I was now learning this culture of sort of science and ecology, and I was studying it from that perspective as like a 19 year-old, 20, 21 year-old, maybe. I can’t remember.

Rob Dietz
Yeah, it’s almost like a bit of a tearing down of the walls that you’d been living behind.

Jason Bradford
Yeah, so it can happen. And what though, when you get when I got that, a vocabulary and that kind of observational skills, suddenly like my connection to it just accelerated.

Rob Dietz
That’s really interesting because I want to explore that idea of the vocabulary and language for a sec. I was listening to a podcast again in prep for this idea about nature and how we’re being disconnected from it. The podcast is called “Rewild Yourself.” And it ran, I think, from 2014 to 2017. And in this episode, this guy who did the podcast, Daniel Vitalis, is interviewing another guy named Arthur Haynes who wanted to learn an indigenous language.

Jason Bradford
Wow.

Rob Dietz
Because he thought that, well, English is the language of the colonizer. And you would have a very different perspective, if that’s the language you know, versus an indigenous language. And in that episode, he was talking about all these interesting ways in which it manifests. So one of them was like, okay, in English, you talk about rain, right? And it’s a noun. It’s the rain out there. Well, in the language, he was studying, Passamaquoddy, the idea of rain is all verbs. It’s all action. And there’s like 50 different verbs that talk about what sort of raining action is happening. And so you think about if it’s all about nouns, and the rain is a thing, it’s almost like, “Oh, well, of course, we can commoditize that.” Whereas if it’s an action, it’s something I’m in relation with. Totally different way of seeing the world. So maybe you were decolonizing yourself a little bit there, Jason.

Jason Bradford
That’s an interesting perspective. I definitely,

Asher Miller
Although the language that you were learning was probably –

Rob Dietz
Latin?

Jason Bradford
Latin, right.

Rob Dietz
Also a colonizer language.

Jason Bradford
No, they were nouns. They were now these plants that had names and recognizable features. But there’s a difference between seeing it as just all this green stuff, to seeing it as, “Oh, that’s this family of plants.” And, “this individual is in the same family as this one over here. I can see how they’re related to each other.” And, “these tend to have flowers that are visited by butterflies, and isn’t that cool?”

Rob Dietz
Well, that’s the piece, right? Because you’re studying what happens ecologically.

Jason Bradford
Yeah.

Rob Dietz
How does everything interact? How does energy flow through the system. You’re seeing the patterns and relationships.

Asher Miller
But language is a key means for us to create memory?

Jason Bradford
Yes.

Jason Bradford
Right? And to retain information, store information in our brain. So, it’d be hard to imagine doing it without language.

Jason Bradford
Right. I realized how important language was.

Rob Dietz
But one of the things that Louv pointed out in his book, “Last Child in the Woods,” is that, language, yes, you’re right is how we interpret the world and tell each other things about it. But because of our disconnect, we’ve got the problem of like this atrophying of our other senses. Because we’re so walled off. Like think about how many stimuli there are in an outdoor setting versus in say, a library. I mean, there’s a lot of books to read, but you know, inside the wall of it, some interior room. . .a lot fewer stimuli, and certainly less for your nose and your eyes and your sense of taste.

Jason Bradford
I think that’s important to understand because we recreate visual stimuli very well. But the others we don’t.

Asher Miller
Right. And just to get back to language thing I find really fascinating about verbs versus nouns. The other thing about verbs, I think, is, when you think about rain in verb form, it’s a recognition that it’s constantly changing, as well. There’s emotion, there’s dynamism involved in it. Whereas a noun could be very stagnant in a sense. And, and part of our disconnection from nature, and what we’ve done in terms of our relationship with nature, and trying to control it, is to take away all the variability of it. And that comes at a huge cost. Which is something I actually want to get at it, because we’re talking about sort of nostalgia, our nostalgia for kind of our childhoods where we had interaction with nature, and that’s sort of being lost. But I think it’s a lot deeper than that, right? I mean, what are the kind of emotional, mental, kind of psychological, even physical tolls of being disconnected from nature.

Rob Dietz
Well, there’s a ton of them. First off, I have to point out that in myself, I’ve got this goddamn colonized brain that – like you’re talking about verbs and nouns, I go to School House Rock, the cartoons that played Saturday mornings, in the 80’s, during when all the animated shows are on TV, and I’m singing in my head, “verbs that’s what’s happening, a noun is s a person place or thing.” You know, it’s so stupid.

Jason Bradford
I remember reading this book, “Gaviotas.” You guys ever read that book? About this place in Colombia? That is kind of in the lowlands, and they build this almost utopia?

Rob Dietz
Yeah, that’s by Alan Weisman, right?

Jason Bradford
Yeah. Well, they had this thing where they built a hospital. And the hospital had a retractable roof. And whenever the conditions were right, they retracted the roof.

Asher Miller
Oh, interesting.

Jason Bradford
And so let the patients, they’re lying in this bed, see the sky, feel the air, smell everything that was outside. And so apparently, you heal faster. But at night, they could see the stars. They would open up and they just like stargaze.

Asher Miller
I think Richard Louv, I know we keep we keep referencing his writings, but I think he talked about how there’s evidence with studies that yes, you know, what is out your window at a hospital, what you’re even just looking at.

Jason Bradford
Yes.

Asher Miller
Not even being in, but looking at, makes a difference in terms of people’s recovery. I mean, you have all kinds of these really, really interesting studies.

Rob Dietz
I have a favorite two stats from that. One is, they looked at Michigan inmates whose cells faced a prison courtyard. And those people had 24% more physical illnesses than those who cells had a view of farmland.

Jason Bradford
Has that helped you in Illinois?

Rob Dietz
No, it’s only in Michigan.

Jason Bradford
Okay.

Asher Miller
There’s just something about Michigan people.

Rob Dietz
Yeah. The other one is that people who watch images of a natural landscape after a stressful experience, those folks calm down markedly in five minutes, as measured by muscle tension, pulse, skin conductance, as compared to someone who didn’t see a picture of something –

Jason Bradford
And that’s just, that’s just the picture.

Asher Miller
That’s just a picture, not even being in it.

Rob Dietz
So, I’m gonna walk around with like, some awesome calendar of the National Parks and hold it up every time I feel –

Jason Bradford
Fold it in your back pocket, like, you know. Pull it out, unfold it,

Asher Miller
Maybe this should be an experiment with the proverbial Karen’s out there who get mad and asked to speak to the manager of the store. You know, all the employees should just be trained to, like, grab a nice, beautiful picture of nature, hold it up in front of their face, you know, calm down.

Rob Dietz
That’s huge. Yeah, there’s all kinds of health effects, where you have negative effects if you are away from nature and positive effects if you’re in it. Obesity is an epidemic problem now, attention deficit problems. We’ve got more prescription of psychotropic drugs to people.

Asher Miller
Do we need this evidence? I mean, it’s just logical to say that we as a species, evolved. We became a species intimately connected to nature. And in a relatively short period of time, we’ve done all of these things to wall off nature. And now we’re disconnected from it. Wouldn’t you think that there would be some consequences on the back of that?

Rob Dietz
Don’t try to get all rational on us here. I mean, this is Crazy Town.

Asher Miller
It’s sheer basic – I mean, I think it’s just as simple as that. Of course, this is a problem for us. Right? But, I think we need to talk about, you know, here we are, this podcast is Crazy Town, we’re talking about these huge forces that are driving us over the edge of the cliff – in terms of like a real existential threat to humanity and other species on this planet. So, I think it’s worth really talking about, well, how does this sort of relationship with nature or the lack there of pertain to that? And for me, I think there’s a few things there. One is, probably that we would argue that getting reconnected to nature in understanding nature’s flows, being in relationship with nature is not just psychologically, emotionally, physically better for us. But because of the physical limits of the planet to support the way we function, we have to change that, right? We have to simplify, reduce, get back into living within ecological bounds. That means we have to be connected to nature in order to understand how to do that, right? So that’s like, to me, sort of a given. But the other thing is that nature’s remarkable, and nature provides incredible, probably the only areas of solution, quote unquote, solution that I would have any hope in in terms of how to deal with sequestering carbon and these other kinds of things. But if we don’t value nature, we don’t really really value it. We are going to continue to be on this course where we basically will, you know, we’re maybe in the wily coyote moment right now, but we’ll realize we’re off the edge of the cliff.

Jason Bradford
It reminds me a little bit of like these forest bathing studies, what you’re talking about, because they you can turn them either way. Right? And I think there’s probably though, there’s a way to use this, it’s both potentially commercial, and it going towards more like, you know, just double down on some sort of technological substitute. Or there’s a way to look at this it says no, we really have to turn towards using nature and valuing it and connecting with it. So you guys familiar with these? A little bit?

Asher Miller
Forest bathing?

Jason Bradford
Forest bathing. So, like we’re talking about like –

Asher Miller
Is that just going in the woods?

Jason Bradford
Yeah.

Rob Dietz
Why can’t it just be called going into the woods? I think forest bathing, I of course, imagine somebody like in some kind of like, mountain, there’s a waterfall, and they’re bathing you know in this little pool.

Jason Bradford
Well, I think it’s kind of interesting. It’s a Japanese phrase. So maybe the translations -but so these Japanese researchers figured out that when people walk into the forest, it lowers a lot of the stress responses, you know, cortisol levels and blood pressure and heart and breathing rate, whatever. But of course, it’s science. So they gotta figure out, why, why? Well, they narrowed it down to exposure to a terpene in the air.

Rob Dietz
Is that like a pterodactyl?

Jason Bradford
Yes. It’s a tiny pterodactyl.

Asher Miller
You thought pterodactyl, I thought turpentine.

Jason Bradford
Well, terpenes are phytochemicals.

Rob Dietz
Asher, put down the turpentine. Stop huffing it.

Jason Bradford
Terpenes is a large, large class of phytochemicals. So phyto- means plant, chemical plant. They’re made by plants. And if you walk through a forest and you smell, you’re usually smelling terpenes. So you ever go smell like some of the trees out – like Ponderosa Pines where they smell like vanilla. That’s a terpene.

Rob Dietz
I was thinking butterscotch.

Jason Bradford
Butterscotch. It’s a terpene. Like, Linalool is the terpene in lavender.

Rob Dietz
So like those cheap Halloween candies you get, that’s just as good as breathing in the forest?

Jason Bradford
Well this is the thing. It’s interesting. It’s like, they’re able to recreate the results of these people walking in the forest by putting in a motel room and injecting pine scent, into the room. So there’s something to be said for artificially getting these chemicals, right? Like, that’s why you take like Epsom salt baths that have stuff that calm your – or chamomile tea. You’re in your little cubby of a home, but you’re bringing these chemicals in. But it’s –

Rob Dietz
Alright, I take it back, Asher. Start huffing the turpentine.

Asher Miller
I’m not sure that’s the kind of chemical you’re referring to.

Jason Bradford
But to me, what’s interesting is it gets at the biochemistry and that we evolved in a relationship with the environment where our body isn’t healthy, isn’t actually –

Asher Miller
Cut off from those things.

Jason Bradford
Yeah, our body actually needs interaction with all these phytochemicals to actually maintain levels of stress levels, of relaxation levels, of mental clarity.

Asher Miller
How interesting would it be if – here I was just thinking about like food diet? And all the education people do around, you need this much protein, carbohydrates, etc.? Imagine if like your diet included that? You know, exposure to these kinds of chemicals in nature.

Jason Bradford
You know, you could almost, like people will package diet programs, like Weight Watchers, and ship you 12-weeks. You could be shipped like: here’s 12-weeks of the right chemicals you need to inhale,

Rob Dietz
Now it’s my turn to start crying, okay? Let’s just do that.

Asher Miller
Can we not do that?

Jason Bradford
Well, that’s what I’m saying. I would rather not go that route. I would rather us say, you know, what’s a lot cheaper and easier and non commodified way to do this? It’s to just take some walks in a place that has trees.

Rob Dietz
I mean, I think that idea of it is healthy, as you were kind of alluding to, Asher. It’s pretty common-sensical to say like, “Of course, being in the, in the habitat in which we evolved is good for us. Breathing air, that’s, clean, but has the chemicals that we evolved under is is good for you.” I totally get that. One of the big takeaways for me, and looking into this is like, if you don’t have some kind of meaningful, depth-full relationship with nature, you don’t love it, how could you possibly care for it? And why would you not exploit it and undermine it? And of course, when you undermine the habitat that you live in, you’re at least at some point in the future, if not immediately, you’re undermining yourself.

Asher Miller
I gotta say, guys, it makes me really sad to think about – we’re talking about our nostalgia, sort of the overall disconnection that humanity has been undergoing – but think about not only younger generations who are experiencing less, you know, than their previous generations. But all of those kids, all of those people that live in these urban environments, you’re talking about the smell. We know what you meant when you were talking about

Jason Bradford
Diesel doesn’t cut it, by the way.

Asher Miller
But there’s an inequality aspect of this that is really heartbreaking to me. Because there are kids, there are people, disproportionately people that are poor, that are people of color, who never been afforded the opportunity to have that connection, don’t know what those smells even are. In fact, they’re being exposed to the exact worst chemicals that they could be exposed to. They’re on the frontlines of all the shit that we’re producing in these urban environments, you know? So when we’re thinking more about reconnecting to nature, can we start with the front of the line, and the people who never had any connection to nature?

Rob Dietz
I want to whiplash you for a second and try to shift you from sadness to anger.

Asher Miller
Oh, that’s easy.

Rob Dietz
Because when you think about people without connection to nature, and how they can get an exploitative mindset, and how that’s what’s led us into this overshoot, or is one of the hidden drivers that’s led us into the overshoot situation that humanity faces. . . I recently came across just an awesome example that I’m sure the two of you are really going to enjoy. So Harvard educated, Matthew Yglesias, was one of the co-founders of vodx.com. So he’s not one of these people, at least any – I don’t know his history, but I assume he’s got some money and some resources. What he wrote recently, was a book that I think, is born out of his lack of connection to nature. He wrote a book called “One Billion Americans.”

Jason Bradford
Oh right. We talked about the this before.

Rob Dietz
The case for thinking bigger.

Jason Bradford
God dammit.

Rob Dietz
So this guy, if you go into his book, there’s a great little passage in there where he writes –

Jason Bradford
You did this?

Rob Dietz
Yeah, I didn’t get the book – I was able to get a little sample online. He writes, “I am not personally a nature lover or an outdoorsy person. But for those who are, it’s worth emphasizing that an expanded population need not come at the expense of wilderness or outdoor recreations.” He goes on, he talks about how a higher population might mean higher CO2 emissions, but that’s okay, there’s more of us and we’ll engineer a way out of that problem.

Jason Bradford
Ahh.. That’s the whole idea. It’s like a Julian Simon sort of like, Simon-ness, like, “the ultimate resources is the human mind.”

Asher Miller
But it’s say with a straight face? “Oh, we can have a billion people in the United States and there will be no impact on nature.”

Rob Dietz
Yeah, well, and it’s just telling that you know, he’s a four-wall urbanite —

Asher Miller
He’s clearly disconnected from nature, this guy.

Rob Dietz
And I don’t mean to, like rail on the guy. He’s probably an okay person.

Asher Miller
No, you can rail on him. Because you know what? He spent time writing a book, and you’d think that he’d done a little bit of thinking and research in writing that book, and to come to conclusion that – it’s even being ignorant of it. It’s saying, I’ve looked at this, and I think there’s no problem. And you know what? Fuck you. You’re wrong.

Rob Dietz
Alright. Well, time to double down on the anger because I got another guy and another book for you. I read a book called “Naked Economics.” The author is this guy, Charles Wheelan. And he’s, a lover of neoliberal capitalism.

Asher Miller
Are you just a glutton for punishment, Rob?

Rob Dietz
You gotta know all sides of the story, okay? So, he wrote this little vignette in the book about – it was kind of the intro of the the idea the book. It’s like, “imagine you’re in a cafe in Paris, and you eat a tuna sandwich, and it’s really wonderful.” And then he talks about, “think about if you had to orchestrate how that sandwich got to your plate? Like you would have to be in the ocean and do the fishing, and then you’d have to cut it up, and you’d have to . . . ” All this stuff. So, this Tuna from the South Pacific –

Jason Bradford
It’s easier than making a toaster.

Rob Dietz
Right. Right, it is. But he basically goes through, it’s like the magic of the marking.

Jason Bradford
Right, I’ve heard this before.

Rob Dietz
And, you know, to some degree, I get it, that’s fine. But you don’t have to do any research at all really to then go look at his Pacific tuna and realize, this is a species that’s been fished out. I mean, they’re now rare, they had to close down the fishery. So again, if you have no connection, no reverence with nature, it’s easy to commodify it,

Asher Miller
You know, not only that but you don’t give a shit about other people, too. Because that tuna is not gonna be there for future generations. And how many people get to go to Paris and eat a fucking tuna fish sandiwch? Do you mean? It’s like –

Jason Bradford
I hate this whole – So there is a difference in economic thought between – the dominant is that we should price everything and just accept the market. This is the dominant thought. If we put prices on nature, and they’re good prices. We know enough to figure out how to put the right price on, that the market will then adjust.

Rob Dietz
Yosemite: $1.99, Yellowstone: $2.99. Buy two, get a third free – especially if it’s made of sand.

Jason Bradford
So this mindset of this last guy, the tuna fella. This pisses me off because you know, the market is just going to gobble up everything, right? But the idea, what some people say, okay, if we commodify it, if we put a price on it, and the price is high enough, it will discourage consumption. So the way to discourage consumption in their mind is put a price on stuff that I consider sacred. It’s like, no, no, no, no, no, no. You cannot eat my child. My child has a high price on it. Okay, I know it’s tender. A tender human. Okay, the ribs are spectacular.

Rob Dietz
There’s a there’s a price. Like what is it? Like $1,200 bucks, $13,00. Come on, you’d sell.

Asher Miller
Depends on the day.

Jason Bradford
But that’s the thing. It’s like, you can really easily go to examples where you’re like, oh, no, no, no, no. That is taboo. We would never put a price on that.

Rob Dietz
Your child didn’t do the dishes? The price just dropped.

Jason Bradford
Yeah, we go spot market. So I just kind of, this is I think, though – the fact that we talked about language and the culture we’re raising, where everything is for sale, everything’s commodified.

Asher Miller
But to me, it’s not the tuna fish guy. It’s people who were actually kind of part of our collective tribe who were wanting to actually address these issues.

Jason Bradford
Well, even Nordhaus, for example.

Asher Miller
Not even just Nordhaus who we pick on a lot, right? I mean, I think that there are other people that that are not economists. They’re environmentalists. And they fall into – they see this rapacious capitalist, exploitative, extractive system gobbling up nature, and they know that they want to protect nature. They love nature, they love species in nature and biodiversity. And they see the role that nature plays in addressing the climate crisis. Like, all their motivations, their reasoning is coming from the right place. And they’re desperate to figure out a way of solving this problem, knowing that they’re coming up against a machine. That is this, you know, it doesn’t even have a head on it. It’s got, you know, it’s got billions of heads on it. And so you understand the rationale of saying, “Well, God, if we just put a price on carbon, we can actually get them market to like, respect nature.” But I think what you’re pointing out here is in doing that, we continue to think that nature is there for us to control. And as long as we have that mindset, we will never, ever truly figure out how to live sustainably on this planet. Right?

Jason Bradford
Yeah. No, I think we have to think of it more of like sacredness and taboos.

Asher Miller
There is no price on that.

Jason Bradford
Yeah, that’s like your baby. Are you going to sell your baby? No, you wouldn’t. You have to think about that for nature. Like, there are things we should just never do. Because if we do them, they’re so morally reprehensible. But the problem is our culture is so broken that it doesn’t understand what is morally reprehensible. Right? It doesn’t understand it. It just imagines that you can solve the most glaring, obscene, terrifying problem we’ve ever faced, which is the complete collapse of our civilization and destruction of the biosphere, setting back, you know, evolutionary progress or whatever evolutionary history, millions of years of loss of species diversity and ecosystem destruction. We think we can solve that by just like tweaking the price of the stuff that we’re like funneling through the industrial maw? It’s just bogus.

Asher Miller
I think, and I guess we’ll get to this when we talk about the do the opposite. I think a lot of this comes down to humility, and humility can come from being in nature. You know, I had an experience where I nearly drowned in a river. I was jumping off these rocks in a river in Colorado. And I just didn’t realize how powerful – it was in the summer and the rivers flowing fast. I just didn’t realize how powerful it was until I landed in and I was like, “Oh shit.” And I just got swept down river. And I was taken into another huge rock and just sucked down, pinned against the bottom of the rock, at the bottom of the river. And in that moment, I thought I was gonna die. I was so awed by how powerful this little river was. You know? And so, maybe all of these people who are trying to set this policy, these agendas for us –

Jason Bradford
Throw ’em in a river.

Asher Miller
Let’s throw them in a river and see what they think.

Rob Dietz
I love it.

Asher Miller
Stay tuned for our George Costanza Memorial, “Do the Opposite Segment” where we discuss things we can do to get the hell out of Crazy Town.

Jason Bradford
You don’t have to just listen to the three of us blather on anymore.

Rob Dietz
We’ve actually invited someone intelligent on the program to provide inspiration. Hey, do you guys ever have trouble finding podcasts that you like?

Asher Miller
I just listen to ours.

Jason Bradford
Yeah, no. What other podcasts are there?

Rob Dietz
Well, that’s actually what I wanted to talk about is another podcast that’s sort of cut from the same cloth as Crazy Town.

Jason Bradford
Well I should check it out.

Asher Miller
Soiled? Stinky?

Rob Dietz
Well, I don’t think they talk about poop as much as us?

Jason Bradford
Burlap? Is that the cloth?

Rob Dietz
They talk about environmental topics, and they got a sense of humor. It’s called “Sustainababble.”

Jason Bradford
Clever.

Rob Dietz
And yeah, it is clever.

Asher Miller
Yeah, I’ve actually listened to it. It’s pretty good.

Rob Dietz
And there’s two guys, Dave and Ollie. And they work for nonprofits in the UK, and kind of as a labor of love, they record and produce, “Sustainababble.”

Asher Miller
Now, the other thing is they have British accents, so. . .

Jason Bradford
They’re kind of like us, but they sound smart.

Asher Miller
Yeah, they’re smarter than us.

Rob Dietz
Yeah. Wow, low bar. If all you got to do is be smarter than us. But please, yeah, go check out “Sustainababble.”

George Costanza
Every decision I’ve ever made in my entire life, has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be.

Jerry Seinfeld
If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.

Rob Dietz
So we’ve been talking about how our culture, our language, our desire to price, everything, commodify everything, how that ends up making us over exploit nature and not have a very healthy relationship with it. So what the hell can we do that’s the opposite?

Asher Miller
I mean, it’s gonna sound really overly simplistic and kind of stupid, but pretty important.

Jason Bradford
We’re used to that with you, though.

Asher Miller
Yeah. Get out in nature. Actually go out and get out in nature. And everyone’s situation is different. For some people, it’s literally going out the door, the back door, front door, what whatever. For other people, it’s a serious, serious effort. So your circumstances will dictate how often you can do that. But I would say for everyone listening, challenge yourself to go out and really immerse yourself in nature. Go bathe in the forest.

Jason Bradford
Yes. And you know, the thing is, like you’re saying, not everyone has easy access. So if you want to step up and make it easier for others to have access, maybe think about supporting your local public parks, or local land trusts which do a good job of trying to locate access to nature to as many people as they can. So there’s always a good way to get involved. Whether it’s with a nonprofit, or with a public organization. So that’s really good.

Asher Miller
And if you have the means to do so, support programs to help kids get out in nature. Particularly kids that are under resourced and don’t have the access to nature themselves. You know, urban kids.

Jason Bradford
Yeah, I’ve had some friends do that, like out of college.

Rob Dietz
Yeah, you have one sitting right here. When I finished grad school, I was a teacher at an Upward Bound program, which is taking students who are the first in their family to go to college, or who meet a kind of an income, low income level requirement. All these kids came to a university campus that was near the Great Smoky Mountains. And we went out and did field ecology research and taught them stuff. And some of them, this is the first time they were getting out into into the woods like that.

Jason Bradford
And like a lot sixth-grade or eighth-grade programs from schools, you know, they have a week where they take the kids in the class somewhere. So is that happening in your community? If so, can you make sure it’s doing a good job? It’s well supported? If not, can you develop something like that? So that’s another way to do that is to you know, get it through the schools even.

Rob Dietz
Yeah, I think those are cool, I think, a little bit harder challenge and one that we were, I think starting to allude to is that we’ve got to get out of this colonizer mindset and this exploitative relationship with nature and try to, in some ways, think more, indigenously. And I don’t want to pretend like I’m ssomeone who’s knowledgeable in this realm. What have I done? I’ve read some some books. And we’ve all, you know, the three of us have sit here and make fun of how colonized my brain is.

Asher Miller
You’re colonized by the 1980’s.

Rob Dietz
Yeah, so much crap that some TV screen told me to do and be. But lately, I’ve been kind of fascinated by some of the writings I’ve seen on what it means to decolonize, and how to think more indigenously. And I wanted to maybe finish things up here with a quote out of a book called “Sacred Instructions.” And it’s a book by one of the friends of the Post Carbon Institute, Sherri Mitchell. You’ve actually interviewed her in the past, Asher.

Asher Miller
She’s one of my favorite people.

Rob Dietz
Yeah. So before I read this, I got to ask for pardons for butchering the pronunciation of some of the words that she uses from her language. And, it’s a little longer than the typical quote, but I think it’s really worth thinking about some of the things that she has to say.

Asher Miller
And maybe we should end it on this note.

Rob Dietz
Let’s do it.

Rob Dietz
Alright, so here’s what Sherri Mitchell says at the beginning of Chapter 16 in “Sacred instructions.”

“Skejinawe Bemousawakon is the way of life that is held by my people, the Penawahpskek, and the other tribes within the Wabanaki Confederacy. This way of life is about living close to the Earth, close to our kin, and remaining every mindful of our responsibilities to the sacred agreements that we have with every living being. It’s about the sustainability of the Earth, our relationships, and our spiritual connections. Kciye means harmony with the natural world. It is not enough to know that we are part of one living system. We must also take active steps to live in harmony with the rest of creation. This means that we cannot adopt attitudes or beliefs that place us above the natural world. We cannot see ourselves as having dominion over the land, the water, or the animals, We can’t even see ourselves as being stewards of the Earth. We are only keepers of a way of life that is in harmony with the Earth. Every day, we must act in ways that acknowledge that we are part of one living system, a unified whole.”

Rob Dietz
Kathleen Dean Moore is a writer, philosopher, and environmental thought leader. She is a professor at Oregon State University and co-founded the Spring Creek Project for ideas, nature, and the written word. She’s written and edited a bunch of wonderful books. Her most recent is “Earth’s Wild music: Celebrating and Defending the Songs of the Ntural World.” And I’m happy to call her a friend. Kathleen, welcome to Crazy Town.

Kathleen Dean Moore
Thank you, my friend.

Rob Dietz
Yeah, it’s great to have you here. Jason, Asher, and I have just been discussing how humanity seems hell bent on distancing itself from nature, and how that distance enables us to undermine ecosystems. And of course, when we do that, we undermine ourselves. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You’ve written beautifully about how people can have deeply fulfilling relationships with nature. Can you describe your views on humanity’s relationship with nature?

Kathleen Dean Moore
I can try. You know, the person I am led by and inspired by is the tribal elder whose name is Jack Forbes. And he points out how odd the notion is that we might in any way be separated from nature. He says, you could cut off my hands, you could cut off my ears, you could cut off both of my legs, and I would still live. But if you cut off the air, I would die. If you cut off the water, I would die. So why do we think that our ears, and our hands, and our legs are more a part of us than the natural world? So we feel ourselves better than the rest of creation. We feel ourselves separate from it. We feel ourselves immune from its laws, and that’s very convenient. Obviously, Al Gore talks about inconvenient truths. But we should talk a lot about our convenient lies. The lies we tell ourselves were about how separate we are from the earth. So if we want to destroy forests wholesale, if we want to grind the hindquarters of animals into patties and eat them. if we want to wring the last oil and gas from the earth, it’s very convenient to think of ourselves as separate from the earth and immune from any kind of consequences. Or to think that if we do have consequences, we can force them off on poor people in our country, or in the southern hemisphere, or on future generations, worst of all. So we need to do what you quoted. That beautiful Sherri Mitchell is saying, is that we need to find ourselves as keepers of a way of life that’s in harmony with the earth. But we should understand how absolutely radical that idea is and how revolutionary it is. How much it would undermine, completely cut the stilts out of the extractive economy.

Rob Dietz
Yeah, wow. So many thoughts are going through my head right now. Probably the most important is this idea that we’ve got to end our our supremacy viewpoint. This story that we’re above everything. We’ve been feeling that more and more as I speak to people people like you, and Sherri, and others. A big part of that is what stories we teach our children. And, again, the three of us, Jason, Asher, and I talked about how children face what’s called this shifting baseline. And they’re facing this in two ways. One is that, children experience our depleted natural world. The one we’ve already exploited in the ways you were talking about. And they think that’s the way things are supposed to be. And then at the same time, they’re experiencing all of this technology. They’re so embedded in it, and in this materialist economy, that they think that’s how things are supposed to be. So if we’re going to restructure the economy, rebalance, get a much more holistic way of living, how do you see us doing that, resetting the baseline with children?

Kathleen Dean Moore
Yeah, that’s a really, really tough one. I mean, have you ever seen a landscape that hasn’t been degraded? Ever?

Rob Dietz
Not once. I mean, you know, you you think you have, and then you go back and hear from older people, or see older photos, and then you understand how what you thought was abundance isn’t even close.

Kathleen Dean Moore
Right? Yeah. And the situation we find ourselves in that’s different from people who came before and people will come after, is the rapidity of the loss. So that, you know, in the 50 years that I’ve been writing about the natural world, the world has lost 60% of individual plants and animals. They’ve been wiped off the face of the earth in the time I’ve been writing about them. And the population of North American birds is down by a third. Half of the grassland birds are lost. Half of the butterflies are lost. And the difference is that, we remember. We have lived through this. It has happened so quickly. We have done it so quickly that we can remember what used to be. And of course, that’s not the case for the children. And of course, they have the sliding baseline of ecosystem thriving, and that’s really worrisome. They can walk into a tree farm and think it’s a forest. I’ve seen children play on the most extraordinary stumps and never raised their eyes to see the missing tree. I think that what we have then is the sliding baseline of ecosystem thriving, and then the sliding baseline of our expectations of ourselves as caretakers. And then we have a sliding baseline of imagination. Can we even imagine a thriving life-drenched world? And then that’s the end of our sliding baseline of hope. So I think about this in regard to my own grandchildren. I think about this, what can we do, as your question asked. And I wonder if maybe the only thing we can do for the children is to help them devote their lives to the restoration of a healthy, eco-cultural landscape. As they say, build it back better. Maybe if a child plants a tree, that child can imagine a forest. And maybe if we help the child plant a huckleberry bush, maybe that child can imagine a hummingbird. So, giving the children opportunities to be part of recreating a whole, I think is probably our best chance.

Rob Dietz
I really appreciate that and agree completely. I’ve often thought, sometimes it feels futile, going out and you know, fighting this huge force that’s overly exploiting the planet and you know, this mass of humanity, and the economy and what can you do? But those kinds of actions. Planting a tree. Getting out in the, even if it’s just the backyard, and seeing what happens. Yeah, I think that’s beautiful.

Kathleen Dean Moore
When you feel hopeless about the possibility of change and against this huge flow, you should go to this little town in Oregon that’s called Lancaster. Maybe you have been to Lancaster?

Rob Dietz
I haven’t.

Kathleen Dean Moore
It’s just this little town in the middle of wheatfields. And it used to be a river town. It was the center of the agricultural area, and the head of steamboat shipping. And they used to ship out all these products down to Portland, on the steamboats. That town is now a mile and a half, or two miles, or maybe even three miles away from the river. And it happened overnight. And it happened because of a flood. So it was the force of the river that actually changed its course. And what happened was that there was a flood that was ripping out the cottonwoods. And the force of the river was carrying those cottonwoods down until they lodged against the shore, or something. And more and more of them piled up. And of course as as you start blocking a river, you slow its flow, and it stops dropping its load. And so the river itself, that force of the river, rocked the river, and it leapt in one movement, two and a half miles away. So I’ve been thinking about that. I don’t want to go too far off subject, but all we need to do is start to slow that river. We don’t have to stop it. We just have to jam it up all over the place. And the river will do the work of stopping itself.

Rob Dietz
I leave it to you, of course, to find a beautiful nature metaphor to describe what we need to do as humans.

Kathleen Dean Moore
Yeah, but one little obstruction to profits. Or, one little deflection in complacency. You know? One blockage to business as usual. All of us need to find our stone or our tree and chuck it in. And the force of the river will turn it in a different direction.

Rob Dietz
Yeah, it’s funny. One of your books is titled, “River Walking.” But here you’re talking about river leaping.

Kathleen Dean Moore
Exactly.

Rob Dietz
Speaking of books, too, I want to turn to your most recent one, which is, “Earth’s Wild Music.” And that’s about wild songs and the majestic creatures who sing them. Your writing in it can strike two very different chords. You’ve got a celebratory chord, and you’ve got a sorrowful chord. But overall, the book is a call to defend nature and the music of the natural world. And that theme is right in line with work I’ve seen you doing to find the connection between nature and the art that we humans produce. Can you talk about art as a gateway to nature conservation and deepening our relationship with nature?

Kathleen Dean Moore
I’m happy to. This writing of this book, “Earth’s Wild Music” has been a great, great joy for me. At the same time, you know, it has brought me into contact with facts that are just impossible to hold these days. You know, Mary Oliver, the poet Mary Oliver, a writer, wrote, “my work is loving the world, which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished. Which is mostly rejoicing. Which is gratitude.” But not anymore. Celebration isn’t enough. And the person who’s going to write about the natural world has to find a way to open people’s hearts without breaking them. Maybe crack them a bit to let the light in, as Leonard Cohen says. So how do you do that? I think you do it with art, with literature, with music, with visual art. And here’s my metaphor. This is not a river metaphor, Rob. This is takes you back to a cave. And here you have Medusa. Remember that Greek goddess whose hair was so awful, and whose appearance and countenance was so fearsome that when people looked at her, they would turn to stone? They were paralyzed. They were unable to act. And I think that’s the situation we find ourselves in right now. If people look directly at the climate crisis, at the extinction crisis, at ecosystem collapse, they are paralyzed. So many things coming at them. So many snakes, that they’re turned to stone. But what happened with Medusa is that here came the great Theseus with his magic sword and his shield. And he held his reflective shield up to Medusa,so that he could look into his shield and see a reflection of her horror. And then using that image, he reached out with his magic sword and cut off her head. That’s the work of art. Is to provide a reflection of the horror so that people are able to look on it without being turned to stone. So that they’re released from their horror and they’re able to see in a different way. They’re able to reflect on what we have, and in that they would be then empowered and open to change. So I look everywhere I can for these reflective shields. And right now I’m working with music because I think music is a way to take an emotion straight into – or information- straight into the heart. So for example, we’ve been creating these tiny concerts and they’re so much fun. Each one of them is four minutes long. Each of them has a wonderful poet or writer reading a selection for “Earth’s Wild Music” about a particular animal and accompanied by a live performance by a musician. So for example, Robin Kimmerer, the beautiful author of “Braiding Sweetgrass” reads a piece on the common murre, and is accompanied by two youth string players- a cellist and a violinist. And so we’ve got these up on YouTube, you can google Spring Creek project and you’ll find them all there. 20 of them. In each case, your mind, your heart, will be opened to the glory of this animal, and you will come away also understanding how horribly imperiled they are. So there’s just an example of what we’re trying to do with music.

Rob Dietz
Yeah. Wow, that is that is inspiring. And I, from my past, working in conservation biology, I have to say it’s a lot more inspiring than just running through a list of the eminent extinctions, or all of the problems with the habitat. That tends to be what happens when you put a bunch of conservation biologists in a room. It’s not often that you key in on the beauty, the music, of it all. And so I really appreciate that.

Kathleen Dean Moore
Yeah, we live on a singing planet. We can’t let the music die.

Rob Dietz
Well, you know, I don’t want to get overly personal, but I was wondering if you could share with our listeners, something that you’ve done. And obviously you’ve done a lot and thought a lot about this. But I was wondering if you could maybe come up with a story or something that you’ve done at some point in your life that deepened your connection to nature, or maybe just made you realize something about your place in all of this?

Kathleen Dean Moore
Oh, yeah, right. I could talk about the Galapagos Islands underwater. I could talk about Glacier Bay, but let’s not. Let’s talk about my backyard, okay? Because I live on College Hill in a town of 65,000 people. My house is crammed onto a lot that’s 50 feet by 100 feet. So my backyard is probably – it’s just a dumb little backyard – about 30 feet by 20 feet. And for the longest time it was lawn. It was soccer nets. It was a swing. It was sprinkler heads. It was a fringe of petunias. But when the children went off to college, we tore it all out. Everything. And we started planting native plants. It was so much fun. Milkweed, wild azalea, bleeding hearts, sallow, huckleberries, hemlocks, vine maples, all crammed into this. And by now, maybe five, six years later, we have a real forest. It’s tiny. It’s a native forest. And it’s a blizzard of birds. You know, it’s proof of the old adage that if you build it, they will come. There are birds out there, there are animals, there are butterflies, there are other kinds of insects that are looking for a remnant, even if it’s a recreated remnant, of the world that they evolved in. They can’t live in lawns, but they can live in these little patches. So it’s made us happy. We can sit in that little forest, that tiny forest, and feel that we’re in a spray of confetti of birds, you know? Like a celebration after the Super Bowl. It is so full of life. And I was reading that there’s been this big mega study of what makes people happy. And they say number one – there’s three things. Number one is sleep. I wouldn’t have thought about but that’s what it is. Number one is adequate sleep. Number two is gratitude. And number three is doing something for others. So it shouldn’t make me surprised that this little tiny forest is making us happy because it involves giving back reciprocity, trying to recreate something that has been a gift to you. And it involves trying, in a tangible way, to make something whole that had been torn apart. There should be a sanctuary movement everywhere. People are talking now about making 30% of the planet into animal habitat and remaking it. I know E.O. Wilson is talking about half, or 50%, of the earth. We can do that. That’s where we have to go. We have to stop the harm. We have to stop the killing. And we have to build back the places of wildness and life fulfillment.

Rob Dietz
Thanks so much. Kathleen Dean Moore is the author of “Earth’s Wild Music.” I really enjoyed talking with you and want to say thanks for joining me here in Crazy Town.

Kathleen Dean Moore
You are doing good work, Rob. Thanks for the opportunity to chat.

Jason Bradford
Thanks for listening to this episode of Crazy Town.

Asher Miller
Yeah, if by some miracle you actually got something out of it, please take a minute and give us a positive rating, or leave a review on your preferred podcast app.

Rob Dietz
And thanks to all our listeners, supporters, and volunteers. And special thanks to our producer, Melody Travers.

Asher Miller
You know, one of my side gigs is to try to find sponsors for the podcast, yeah. And I had a hard time because every time I let people know that the show was about not putting a price on nature, nobody wanted to sponsor it.

Jason Bradford
I know. You passed the buck on to me and I was talking to all kinds of – like decommodification? Are you a communist? Or what’s going – I mean, I just got a lot of blowback from all potential sponsors.

Rob Dietz
You couldn’t get DuPont, or somebody like that to sponsor?

Jason Bradford
Nobody wanted to touch this. I’m like, we can greenwash it. I mean, we can do our best. But no, it was –

Rob Dietz
Maybe like Sesame Street? This episode is brought to you by the letter N and the number 2.

Jason Bradford
Okay, what is that? What are you getting at?

Rob Dietz
Maybe we just can’t find a sponsor. So this can just be brought to you by nature.

Jason Bradford
Sounds good.

Asher Miller
That sounds good.