Do I think identifying nature as a resource separates us from it? Is there another way to frame our role in nature that might be possible?
I’d like to use the poem Radovin by Tim McNulty as an example of a bridge between the world of circa 1915 and today’s world, in regards to whether the miner separated himself from nature or not. McNulty makes a gentle jest of the relationship between ore mining, a process of extracting resources from the earth, and the beauty of nature —– which is the real prize? This laughing, gentle fun-poking question is illustrated in the last two stanzas of his poem Radovin, in his depiction of a failed gold-miner.
“No strike, no hidden vein,
just you and me, ghost, and the rain
over the slant tarpaper roof.
somewhere in the pick and shovel-bending
work of it
came the prize?
Or late afternoon at the tunnel-mouth,
shadows playing against high canyon walls,
dropping from the snowy light.’
I’d place this poem as being written from Cordova because of the mention of high canyon walls. I think that McNulty catches concept of the sinking of our “selves’ into work, which was inevitably entwined with the earth during the 1900s-1940s. Much work, such as farming and mining, was direct extraction of the earth’s resources. Work is natural to human beings. For many of us, work is part of what makes us tick, it is part of our human composition. McNulty is wondering, in his poem, what it was that would make the miner Radovin keep on mining, when there was no apparent reward in the form of ore. Was it work? Or was it the natural beauty around him? The description of landscape is used to frame the loneliness of the surroundings. One wonders if the old-time gold and copper miners had time to notice the beauty of their surroundings…did they separate themselves from nature as a result of their mining conquests? I’d believe not.
Today, many of us have occupations that are not directly related to extracting resources from the earth. We work desk jobs, we teach, or we may work in hospitality or nursing – none of which are directly related to extracting resources from the earth. However, we must not separate ourselves from the use of the earth’s resources, as the technology upon which we now rely uses natural resources.
How can we frame our role in nature so as not to destroy the beautiful earth? We must identify the long-term weather patterns throughout the decades, engage in recycling and conserving of water and other resources. We must gather data on these. We must finance science. We must be exceedingly careful with management of renewable resources, and take no chances of destroying any of those. Above all, we must raise the general public consciousness to identify itself with nature, so that people do not separate themselves from nature, but instead feel part of it.
Below is a picture of salmon spawning near Cordova. You can really only see the tops of the salmon in the stream. This comes from the University of Alaska Anchorage Archives and Special Collections. To see the picture and a full citation, please paste the following link your browser: https://vilda.alaska.edu/cdm/ref/collection/cdmg13/id/3690. Sorry folks, I tried to get this one to embed but didn’t succeed, and I’m out of time. I did, however, get the next one to work as a link at least.
Here is a picture of Cordova’s waterfront, which is what makes me think that McNulty has written his poem in or near Cordova, rather than in Nome, which does not have steep cliffs for landscape.
<a href=’https://vilda.alaska.edu/cdm/ref/collection/cdmg2/id/3068′>Water front Cordova.</a>