Following the rather long explanation of my decision to adventure 4000miles (but ending up travelling over 20,000) across the USA, with only $6 a day to spend for six months, with a multitude of natural checkpoints to see; here is an American take-out to chew through.
Admittedly, I’m saving some of the more politically-positive items for the last instalment following this one, but bearing in mind that because this was my life for seventeen months with far too much to commentate on for a quick bath time read, I have focused on just a few of the social and environmental learnings (and mostly negatives) from my shenanigans in the USA. Here’s a list…something I made quite a few of before I began (colour coded and everything), but thankfully, apart from my blog notes, only had to make a few mental ones while I was on the move..
AMERICANS ARE SUCKERS FOR BRITISH ACCENT.
It’s no secret, and I am completely aware that being British and Caucasian helped many interactions get off to a positive start. Race and religious culture are very mingled aspects of American society, and outside of big cities, it is noticeably divided. In my experience, unlike the impressions we get from media and pop-culture, the USA is not as integrated as the rest of the world is led to believe, and sadly, as I was leaving, the recent (race-related) killings at the hands of the police is more evidence of a desperately split nation with some serious social problems.
I did not come across violent or direct racism in the USA, but I do feel aware that it is easy for me to say that, being Caucasian with a British accent. I felt a certain “safe” acceptability amongst American society which may not have been so easy for someone from let’s say, any other non-English speaking, culturally or racially different background. However, even though there seemed very little integration in rural, northern USA, there was obvious discrimination and segregation across the country. I am not painting all sections of society with the same brush, but through no fault of their own, inner-city Americans (and city dwellers in general, with possible culturally-bias law enforcement), are much more effected by racial issues than any other bucolic American I came across – simply because the concentration of diverse race, culture and wealth is saturated in an extreme environment. Sadly, it is easy to be accepting of varying social issues when you lack exposure to them. However, on the contrary, it is hard to truly respect, celebrate and integrate social differences when people who lack exposure to them, receive embellished and racially-bias “truths”. Being Caucasian, with an English accent, was a helpful start.
AMERICANS ARE EMBARRASSED.
ALL Americans find something (and much) about their own projected culture unappealing. Despite America being loved worldwide in some way or another due to pop culture, music, fashion, sport, even food (there I said it, not all american food is appalling), within its borders I found people and places that are just as uneducated, or blind and confused in their pride and patriotism, as they are disheartened with their own politically-offensive and convoluted, globally-projected culture.
Some food may be incredible, but no amount of persuasive ear-lobbying could convince me that Americans make decent cheese!
Many are patriotic towards international dominance, yet at the same time are disheartened with the amount the nation spends on its armed forces, its foreign wars and its federal leadership (it is proportionately outrageous when so many domestic amenities and social issues need some careful, federally-uninfluenced financing and support). It’s frustrating that so many struggle in society without being aware of what exactly they support to represent their political opinions.
Domestically, there is little evidence of this, but travelling Americans are embarrassed over its indulgence and extravagance, and most places I visited, even remote towns, show no remorse towards excessive use of space – with people living in gigantic houses, driving gas-guzzling trucks and oversized recreational vehicles, with double garages, large yards and spacious basements, but in everywhere, there are always numerous storage companies just down the street – I was baffled (and still am) by what Americans need storage units for. I witnessed only a few pockets of American society living in ways which (compared to Europeans, Asians, Africans, South Americans and most of Oceania – that’s everywhere else in the world then) are living frugally, in conservative spaces. However, space and opportunity (and immigrants) are what America was built upon – Naturally, those opportunistic days are numbered, but it will take generations to change the assumption of entitlement.
American positivity however, is quite contagious, and even though I struggled at times to really throw my arms in the air, do a little dance and tell everyone I loved them because a cheerleader encouraged me to, it is by far much more enjoyable to interact with than an arrogant European or an emotionless Brit (I guess we have a drinking reputation for a reason).
For all it’s achievements, grasping and celebrating what its people should really be proud of doesn’t appear to be the USA’s strength, and as over-patriotic as it is, it isn’t served up without a large side of healthy humility.
THE COUNTRY IS TOO LARGE, WITH A GOVERNMENT THAT IS TOO BIG; DRIVING AN ALREADY DIVIDED POPULATION FURTHER APART.
Having centralised power over too many and too much, has been the downfall of every empire in the history of the world. We need to start learning that because of the way humans have encompassed the globe with our differing requirements and multi-cultures – diversity and micro-culture is best. Sometimes cultures and lifestyles will surge and fade, even become extinct as people migrate towards a preferred lifestyle; but bigger, “world” domination, has never been sustainable, and this needs to be realised in countries like the USA.
Even small countries like the UK would benefit from more localised law. Despite its tiny size, it struggles with innercity politics which don’t transfer well to rural locations. The USA could easily be five or six different countries – all at least triple the land-size of the UK, all with completely different landscapes – geographically, socially and politically. Through historical immigration development, foreign trade and with an increase in wealth, education and class diversity, the USA now has a multi-culturally influenced nation, which one US government will NEVER unite. Laws on guns, abortion, benefits, medically or socially acceptable drugs, religion, and healthcare, will ALWAYS be disagreed upon in a nation so big with so much cultural and social diversity. While a growing government tries to FIX (and additionally to always BENEFIT) from any unifying laws, the entire country will remain arrogantly divided. To compound the issue, as population grows and appropriate living space for people decreases, a divided USA will only split further.
I felt that instead of embracing their differences and allowing a diverse nation to unite by celebrating, embracing and educating through its many cultures, (as well as in many other countries) the federal system is increasing the gap between desperate sections of society; alienating the public not only from leadership, but also from each other. This observation alone is enough to be concerned for such an important and vibrant country.
EMPOWERED ORGANISATIONS ARE NOT TRUSTED.
Like so many developed countries, the political system, the media in the USA and the majority of its leaders continue to inform us that the world is a dangerous place. The American propaganda machine also compounds the problem by making the “world” as big or as important only up to its country’s borders, or where its forces are “protecting its people”. Beyond its borders is portrayed to be a deep abyss, filled with fear and treachery. We are told we should not trust to be safe without lawful protocols, which often strip us of using our common sense. Safety is advertised ultimately as being a sacrifice and an expense, rather than a respected human obligation, and unless we take huge precautions to create failsafes for ourselves, trusting what is beyond our own passport controlled boundary, is not wise.
To be frank, and also remaining BBC friendly, cods wallop! To be totally American about the whole thing – I’m calling BS on the whole thing! The media and the leaders of the developed world are lying. The biggest threat to you in this world is not what is beyond your front door – it is YOU. Assuming that the worst case scenario is “you die”; planning and making good, instinctive decisions – whether it is knowing how to or when to start a fire and build a shelter on the side of mountain, when not to walk through a snake-infested sugar cane plantation without shoes, where not to be after dark in a distinctly-notorious gun crime district, or when not to trespass 400ft away from a farm house on all fours dressed as a fox; the likelihood of death is unlikely, and the world is NOT a dangerous place (excluding war zones, but not all war-riddled nations). The majority of people DO NOT want to harm other humans, no matter what their culture, religion or race (unless when parachuting into a war zone). Even just through sheer curiosity, in desperate situations, when manners are upheld, more so in rural locations and despite what the media may suggest, people help, rather than hinder. If you find your life is being threatened (especially in enemy territory), I am certain that you made a decision to put yourself at risk. I make life threatening decisions every day; I cross the road for example, but intelligence (not a government man, back-lit by a green neon light) tells me when I should cross the road. I put myself in harms way when I hiked through freezing bear territory, alone, without bear spray, in late April/early May in uncertain woodlands in various north American wilderness, but I made smart decisions, and took a repertoire of terrible tunes with me to sing myself to safety (evidently, bears don’t like my Spandau Ballet renditions). I fear many people have forgotten what it’s like to trust their intelligence, over entertainment-news and media. I realise this summary isn’t too helpful for the armed forces – the world for you, is a very dangerous place, but even thousands of miles from your “safe home”, (and I’m not solely basing my experiences on trekking across the USA), if you make smart decisions, it is unlikely you will die.
I AM NOT A STAUNCH ENVIRONMENTALIST.
Humans have evolved in ways beyond nature, in ways which have allowed us to imagine our wild as a commodity, rather than a necessity. We adapt and evolve faster than any other life on earth: change and “progression” will always be imminent, and sadly, we now neglect our most vital resources and no longer relate our survival to our environment. Our singular, most influential invention of all is money, which has split the majority of developed society away from our resources (not just wild ones), and repeatedly divided humanity itself. Money is not the root of all evil, but sadly in hindsight, the wild is now something we can trade in, and the only way we can conserve it, is by purchasing it.
Despite what you might assume – raising money for World Land Trust – fighting to save every area of currently-wild land is a pointless task, but it is one starting point. If we continue to fight for conservation in the same, “anti-capitalist” way, we will lose – resulting in the desperately-receding areas which remain, to be purchased by someone richer.
CONSERVATION IS NOW A LUXURY OF THE RICH.
In the developed world, for roughly the past 400 years, we have been oblivious to conservation (imagine Britain a thousand years ago, or the USA 200 years ago), we simply had “endless” resources for our populations. On most continents, before the industrial revolution, human approach towards conservation was a lifestyle-necessity (imagine Australia 300+ years ago). Now we understand our actions, and our resources, noticeably in the USA have (almost) run dry.
Sadly, the vast majority of us have now put nature below what we value most – money. We compound this problem by exceeding our immediate greed, and using wealth to continue to pillage and capitalise on natural resources (because we need instant gratification in this modern world), instead of sourcing better, long term solutions.
Capitalising on natural, renewable resources is a positive step; we’ve just been slow on the uptake… Only money drives modern, immediate, human “progression”, but most environmentalist organisations, compared to their opposition, lack enough financial wealth to be influential. Too much money is spent capitalising on draining and squeezing the remaining resources to their absolute end: To choose just a couple of examples, we already know that fracking causes earthquakes, and deforestation destroys an unfathomable quantity of vital habitat as well as possible future human resource (medicines for disease maybe?). Approaches to human progression need to change, and alternative sources of wealth are the only prescriptions that will satisfy capitalisation which continues to profit from active habitat, including our own.
Due to our human development, we now have only three, relatively weak weapons to defend our wild resources with 1) Money: sadly, it is the best argument against money 2) Wealth: the poor must be able to afford conservation, in order to be concerned about it and 3) “Progressive” Alternatives: sadly, (and as much as I disagree with survival methods being overly profitable) in order to fight as well as satisfy capitalisation, alternative solutions need to be profitable.
DIVIDED WEALTH FAILS “TRUE PROGRESSION”.
Against what I might write about later, dividing current wealth in order to fight FOR “progression”, is failing our resources. Numerous organisations with similar objectives, but with divided opinion on how to achieve, are not combatting the wealthy regimes which ignore conservation and replenishment in order to quickly line their pockets. In the USA, federal funds and resources “protect” some of the country’s most desirable wild landmarks (at the same time as running them as self-sustaining fundraisers, and funnelling funds into further oil extraction, fracking and mining) yet it’s notable that the landmarks are void of profitable excavation or farming. In fact many of them were either previously, failed profiteering attempts, or are currently under threat at becoming federal money machines (check Californian national parks to be devastated and turned into more damned reservoirs). Nature has to fight, and fighting alone in the wild is often fatal. Ant colonies thrive by fighting in numbers, dogs hunt together to avoid injury from big prey, elephants stay in a herd to protect their young, penguins cuddle together to survive their one biggest threat – the Antarctic weather…you get the picture. Although we hear of many success stories of revitalised habitat and wildlife populations across the world each year; individual environmental organisations lose their fight because their monetary weapon is weak and dissected, compared to their wealthy, “progressive”, profitable, persuasive and drastically-powerful opposition.
WE FAIL TO REPLENISH.
Each group fighting over valuable resource (those to conserve and those to capitalise) lack empathy towards what is most important – long term, responsible “progression”, with the importance of replenishment at the forefront of every obligation. Sadly, “long term” nowadays is related to financial gain, and this only stretches to a few years (the time one government lasts in power), or maximally a few generations – for family wealth and a responsibility towards loved ones. With the planet in mind (and our home), long term needs to be thought of in terms of how long it takes a tree to mature, a resource to replenish, an ecosystem to develop or a landscape to be formed. We fail to replenish, because we don’t look beyond our immediate existence. In the developed world, especially America, indulgence and privilege are taken for granted, and when we capitalise for immediate gratification, replenishment solutions are ignored. It isn’t rocket science, replenishment now costs money, and therefore a luxury of the rich..
THERE ARE TOO MANY HUMANS
Even in the USA, which is by far not the most populated area on earth, it is easy to see over population not only ruin landscape, but effect our own saturated lifestyles. Our natural world is not the victim of resource usage, but lack of sustainable replenishment in line with a responsible approach to a managed population. This is a complicated issue combining birth-rates, food and raw materials, medicines and lifestyles, as well as human rights and our approach to death and longevity. It is one which I believe is overlooked when countries make environmental agreements, and discuss resource concerns – assuming, because it would be virtually impossible to approach the topic with any kind of overall political success. We have reached a critical point where population growth is NOT conducive to human progression – and it is why I keep using bunny ears around “progression”. It is sadly, solely a monetary benefit to institutions which thrive on growing human numbers. Keeping in line with our natural resources, the ONLY responsible “progression” (if our sole concern was our environment and home), would be to decelerate human birth rates, and lose substantial human population in many parts of the world. Clearly, not a vote winner, or a money-maker. Sadly, it is the true state of our existence, and we have not only intensely populated too many fruitful positions on the globe, but almost completely stripped it of its natural, (too-slow-to-keep-up-with-human-consumption) resources.
Eventually, we will have no choice to but to survive on natures terms, and just to be sinister – I doubt we will have a happy ending. Much like the dinosaurs and most marriages nowadays, things will end badly. If things didn’t end badly, they would not end at all.
WE’RE TOO ARROGANT TO ADAPT
I wont make a sweeping statement that Americans are arrogant – in my experience, every culture is guilty, but resistance to lifestyle adaptation or removing an excess is extremely evident in many places in the USA. Even though we could be extinct in the time it takes a few foreign builders to finish the extension on your conservatory (let’s say, if Yellowstone erupts), humanity has reached a point where only extreme shock will force a lifestyle change. It is now naive to expect huge alteration, prior to huge catastrophe or incident – not even loss of money nowadays changes our approach to lifestyle – has anything actually changed much since the most recent failures of 2008?
The USA has numerous examples annually (and they are not the only idiots), where continuous building occurs poorly on flood plains, over fault lines and in the path of known hurricanes. We repeatedly attempt to overcome our environment as a way of “progressing” and populating, instead of understanding, harnessing and respecting it. As a result, we are devastated repeatedly when natural forces occur, and until our “progression”, natural disasters were only occurrences, where humans did not dwell. We don’t appear to be getting any less arrogant, as we “adapt” and grow into a population that seemingly is all supportive of “accidental” suicide. Might it be a step too far to suggest we are in fact controlling our population (to a point) by continuing to be so wonderfully arrogant?
THE USA IS TRYING…AND SLUGS ARE BEGINNING TO WALK
Sadly in the USA, many restrictions are in place on alternative solutions, to make sure government coffers are fuelled continually – check the influence of Monsanto and other giant food operators on an industry so federally controlled, or America’s domestic trade and employment laws across internal state lines. Multiple countries should be able to combine efforts to reach economical and efficient solutions, but as resource and energy are treated as such capitalist ventures, we’re missing the global humanity issue of our species’ survival and the neighbours we need. However, if we really do follow nature’s laws, maybe some people in the world should wake up to their fate? The biggest failure of leadership, is that it now comes with a self-profiting clause, and this is most evident in developed nations around the globe where police forces have been moulded into money makers. If that profiting clause is not met, attempts to work domestically and with foreign powers on “progressive” issues, ultimately never reach the discussion room. Instead of empowering our neighbours to survive together, we attempt to outstrip, and out source in order to be wealthier and stronger, yet ultimately failing humanity.
The Land of the Free is still like no other place on earth. It is varied in every aspect of life. It is a country built on damaged heritage and “progressive” foreign culture, and even though many get on their high horse about racial, cultural and environmental issues, it still manages to be a world leader and powerhouse in nearly all of its endeavours around the globe. Of course it is flawed – it has humans on it.
I won’t make a ludicrous claim to be able to fix the issues, nor represent any political activism against arguably different working-solutions. Fortunately, alternative solutions come in many forms, and as an entire species, we are slowly realising this. The USA is making some progress, although it will take generations to change a mindset, and there is no room for arrogance in Mother Nature’s house (with maybe the exception of honey badgers, but they have no friends).
It is mind blowing just what the USA both consumes and wastes. However, clear attempts to move with the environmental times are consistently being made in North America. Wind farms, solar farms, environmental agreements with foreign nations and noticeably-holistic, sustainable, community obligations are completely obvious if you check local media, or better still, lose yourself in this wonderfully-compiled country. Attempts by the USA’s big government are often short of what is required for long term progression, yet if we consider that alternatives are not currently profitable enough, it isn’t surprising that the capitalising nation is a bit of a slug. Of course it receives bad press on the subject, but in the developed world, by its own design, the USA is under the media-microscope more than the rest. With no exceptions, we ALL have a infinitely long way to go, and I hope wealthy countries like the USA can make the biggest steps first, but also make it easier for everyone else to board the train, without profiteering – humanity requires it.
I feel there will a critical moment, (where the USA geographically or territorially will dramatically change over the next century) and even though it is a distinct possibility that Americans might just have to live without orange juice, hard woods and beer, with increased relative-impoverishment, the people of North America will not lose out.
I said I wouldn’t make ludicrous claims to be able to fix problems, but there might be a few more positive notes and ideas in my final summary. Despite the issues listed in this text, and all the others projected by global media, the USA is still one of the most uniquely amazing and spectacular countries on earth – with infinite possibilities of being able to offer them for the good of mankind.