Sutter: My, how far we’ve come
Vail CO, Colorado
The other night at the firehouse, as the crew worked to clean up the kitchen after dinner, a conversation broke out. This is certainly not unusual. In fact, on my shift, the captain in charge is quite fond of the spoken word. Tonight, however, as I scrubbed the caked on remains of shredded chicken enchiladas out of a baking dish, I caught the opening sentence to the evening’s conversation and was intrigued.
I’m paraphrasing, but as I recall the statement, made of course by the captain, went something like: “you know, when I was born we didn’t even have television. That’s right no T.V. We didn’t have jet planes either, or chewing gum.” It should be noted that my captain is also an accomplished fisherman, and that one does not reach the levels he has on the fire ground or at the fishing hole without first mastering the art of storytelling. His gifted proficiency at embellishing the truth to provide a spike in entertainment value is legendary. The general rule at the firehouse is to discount about a third of what he says and maintain the rest as pretty much true. That being the case, I ignored the chewing gum statement and focused on the TV, jet airplane thing.
I have had similar conversations with my parents and grandparents, so when the firehouse talk began I wasn’t all that impressed. After all, my grandparents were around before cars.
What struck me as interesting was the fact that all of these conversations seemed to follow a similar theme. It was a theme appearing to suggest that life in the past was far less suitable. The focus was always on what didn’t exist prior to the latest technological advancement. The comments always began with an “I remember when there were no …” preface. I remember when there were no cell phones. I remember when there were no microwaves. I remember when there were no spaceships.
You get the idea.
The interesting thing to me was that each of these statements centered on the fact that somehow life was less convenient before the advent of these varying forms of technology.
When I say less convenient I mean of course in relation to human existence.
Certainly the rest of the planet could care less how highly defined my flat screen TV lets me watch Sportscenter. Certainly, if asked, the natural world wouldn’t have much to say at all about human kind’s continual advancements.
That is unless you could ask the western black rhino, or the Caribbean monk seal or the passenger pigeon. They would certainly tell you, if they were not extinct of course, that they do care. They may suggest perhaps that more thought be given to the greater effect of human advancement, that what may be convenient for humans may not be so for Earth’s less vocal creatures.
The Yangtze River dolphin, paradise parrot and hula painted frog may also suggest that future consideration be given to what remains of the natural world because while air conditioning is nice, so too are healthy forests, clean rivers and thriving coral reefs.
In a day and age when people camp in droves outside a mall for the chance to drop two grand on an iPhone and grade school kids text each other their opinions on the new Black Eyed Peas video, it may do some good to think not of what life was like when there were no Play Stations but what life would be like if there were no African elephants, mountain gorillas, humpback whales or giant panda.
Ryan Sutter of Avon writes a biweekly column for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.