PUBLIC TELEVISION PRESENTS, “NATUREWORLD: SEEKING THE ORIGINS OF THE ENVIRONMENTALIST.”
(This program is made possible in part by a grant from American World Corporation: “Meeting tomorrow’s energy needs, TODAY!”)
(On screen is a montage of public parks and backyard barbeques.)
Voice over: It’s a warm spring day. Gathered at the parks and picnic grounds across America, families are cooking meat and tossing softballs, swimming, and enjoying the first sunshine after winter’s gloom.
In a dark meeting area at Barnes and Noble, though, (Shot of bookstore interior) a different group gathers. Besides the fanny-packs stuffed with organic granola bars, a few all-cotton flannel shirts, and clean-scrubbed faces wearing no makeup, one might not recognize these individuals as being a separate species. They behave mostly like normal Americans, but they are not really like us. These are Environmentalists. This is their monthly ritual gathering. They will be discussing, in a language understood only by themselves and an elite group of scientists and sociologists, just what should be done to return America to a natural state.
Jim Hastings is part of this group. While not a true environmentalist himself, Jim has, over the years, gained the trust of these mostly gentle creatures. Much like Jane Goodal with her gorillas, Jim has studied the Environmentalists by living among them. While not adapting all their traits, neither has he laughed at them, nor run them off of bike paths. These Environmentalists have allowed him to view their rituals, and have had him in their private lairs. He has even witnessed the births and deaths of a few of them. He hopes that by observing their behavior in captivity that a further understanding of their true nature might be realized.
Hastings: The Environmentalist is a peculiar beast, if one can truly call him ‘beast.’ He communicates differently with other members of his species than he does with us. He tries to fit in, but usually some annoying demand or some misunderstood terminology makes him appear hostile, and society in general grows to mistrust him.
There is a theory now among scientists that, given the similarities between regular Americans and these other creatures, they may actually be descended from a common ancestor. The American goes camping, for instance, although he generally does so in a vehicle equipped with toilet facilities. The true Environmentalist stays outdoors in a mummy bag, and buries his spoor in the woods.
A common trait also is what is referred to by behaviorists as the ‘Bambi Phenomenon.’ In both Americans and Environmentalists, those between the ages 6 and 14 seem to experience a common, sudden love of animals, sunsets, and what-have-you. It is most prevalent among the females, and may be brought on by a trip to the movies. There is enough nonsense in animated films and fairy tales about brave deer and friendly bunnies to possibly prompt this response in the formative years. Thus the name, ‘Bambi Phenomenon.’ Usually, by 14, most creatures get interested in sexual activities, and the true American begins attempts at attraction by dressing in petroleum-based synthetic clothing and ritually smearing the face with paints tested on animals. The Environmentalist, even though just as interested in the mating act, seems to be the more selective, choosing tents at nature retreats over the back seats of automobiles, and searching more thoroughly for that one elusive individual who can actually understand the Environmentalist’s arcane language.
Look, there is a young Environmentalist now. (Zoom in to a young lady.) We have been tracking this individual for some time. She is not wearing Chinese athletic shoes or carrying a plastic handbag. She has, however, been looking at that young American near the Rap CD’s, the one with the backward baseball cap. (Pan to Boy.) She is at a difficult age, and perhaps she is not a true Environmentalist at all, but only has residual characteristics from some dark origins before the two species split. There may have been an American somewhere in the family tree. She must experiment a while before determining her true identity. Only time will tell.
Because DNA evidence has proven to be inconclusive, I am hoping that by studying this particular group, I can determine whether this common origin theory has merit. It is difficult, if not impossible, to get an American to admit a lineage back to Thoreau. Many Americans are not even familiar with the name. It is equally difficult to get an Environmentalist to acknowledge that Great Uncle Charles was a lumberjack by choice, and not forced to cut trees by greedy logging companies. And especially when these individuals speak mostly—and unintelligibly—of sustainability, shifting paradigms, globalization, and the Bush Administration.
Perhaps with this tribe, we can determine how much intermarriage has occurred and may be continuing to occur, and whether the two groups, Americans, and Environmentalists, have actually been genetically compatible enough to produce offspring. We may determine if either group is destined for extinction. So far, the Environmentalist appears to be somewhat endangered, despite his own efforts to reclaim his lost forests and streams. Will the Environmentalist lose his identity through intermarriage, or will he merely be annihilated by having his territory overrun? Again, only time will tell.
The screen image now shows a scrub forest. A zoom in reveals a highway turnout. Parked on it is a Land Rover. A close up now of four people, dressed in khaki clothing and bush hats next to the vehicle, preparing cameras and other equipment.
Voice over: It is a cloudy morning. We are meeting today with Dr. Robert Bottomly, and his wife and assistant, Barbara. Bob and Barbara have dedicated their lives to the study of Environmentalists, and are considered the world’s leading authorities.
We are climbing into Bob’s Land Rover, on our way to a wilderness area in California. Bob and Barbara have along with them their assistant Dave, a professional videographer; and Barbara’s son Bill Allen, something of a rebel in the scientific community but also an expert marksman. (Camera pans from Bob to Barbara to Dave to Bill.)
It is Bob and Barbara’s hope to encounter an Environmentalist in his natural habitat, study his behavior, and tag him for future observation.
Bob: Environmentalists might behave differently in the wilderness than they do in captivity. Barb, for instance, thinks that out here they do not meet in large groups, but in twos or maybe threes. She thinks that family structures might be different on account of that.
Barbara: Yes. It is rare to find an entire Environmentalist family in the wild. We have been unable, as yet, to document the true social structure of the wild Environmentalists. Many times Bob and I note only two or three males, or the same number of females. Sometimes it is a lone male, and on rare occasions, a young male and female who do not carry the traditional mating decorations—rings, for instance—but still stay in a common sleeping bag.
Bill: Come on, Mom, even you and Pop like it better when I’m not along.
Barbara: Quiet, Bill. Environmentalist children are usually left behind, we believe, for a more sinister reason than privacy. That is to infiltrate American families, and indoctrinate their children.
Bill: Pop, look! An old Volvo station wagon.
Bob: Nice work, Bill. Lets pull over and investigate.
Voice over: Bob earlier had told us that a possible sign an Environmentalist is nearby is the presence of this vehicle. He pointed out, though, that sometimes an American might pick the well-worn Volvo if he can’t afford something newer and more powerful, and so closer scrutiny is required.
Bob: Remember when I found that wretched wagon outside Sacramento? Turned out to be a double bass player. And Bill was about to nail him with a tranquilizer dart!
Barbara: Bob, a ‘Save the Whales’ window sticker.
Bob: Not a positive yet, but a possible. Let’s check the back bumper.
Bill: Look at all this greasy soot back here, Pop. (Closeup of grimy bumper.)
Bob: Now here’s a positive! This car is ancient, and hasn’t been tuned up in years. That tire’s been allowed to get bald. The individual driving this believes in safety and economy, or he would be driving an Expedition. He hasn’t had it tuned because he won’t support a mechanized society that runs roughshod over his beloved terrain. He only drives anything at all because he has to—bicycling on the Interstate being forbidden. He doesn’t seem to realize, or else doesn’t care, that in this condition, this car pollutes even more than an Expedition, because he only uses this old heap for essentials, and can’t trade it in because that would be supporting a throw-away society. Besides, he no doubt thinks his mechanic charges too much.
Barbara: Bob, do you suppose we might find a family out there? He has a safety seat.
Bob: We’ll find out soon enough.
Voice over: We all gather our equipment and head into the bush. Our scientists are excited, because of the safety seat. And for viewers, this should be a rare treat: most of us have probably never encountered this species in the feral state.
We move along quietly, hoping not to spook this Environmentalist—or frighten a possible mother—so that Bob and Barbara can study her natural maternal behavior. Does she spank her children, like Americans, or does she behave like Environmentalist mothers in the city, sitting them in corners and quietly telling them quaint parables? Does she feed them carob and granola out here?
Bob: Shhh! I’ve spotted something. No, Barb, I’m sorry. It’s not a family group. That’s too bad. Hand me thee binoculars, dear. Dave, be ready with that camera.
Yes, we’ve got ourselves a live one. He has just a small backpack. He may not be out here long.
Wait. He’s studying a map. Bill, check the GPS. There’s some kind of tubes scattered on the ground. If I can get closer…
My God! What a find! Barbara! Billy-boy! This is better than a family! We’ve got ourselves a Rogue!
Barbara: Bob, you mean…?
Bob: Yes dear. I know there have only been isolated incidents, and that many scientists don’t believe they really exist. But that’s dynamite he’s got there on the ground. If Bill there will confirm this, we are within walking distance of the oil pipeline. It’s my belief this Environmentalist plans to blow it up!
Bill: But why, Pop? Wouldn’t he be taking a dump in his own nest, so to speak?
Bob: He thinks by doing this he can stop Americans from doing even more damage. The Rogue has had his territory so encroached upon that he will try any means to prevent further erosion of his turf. Like a tree spiker. He no longer even cares about other Environmentalists’ opinions, and has probably even been shunned by his own family.
He’s like the elephant that runs amok, or the Yellowstone bears that have to be taken away.
Barbara: Right, dear. What pressures he must be under!
Bill: Pop. He’s looking up. I think he’s spotted us.
Bob: Quick. The tranquilizer gun! It’s extremely important we get this one tagged!
Barbara: Bob, we’ve spooked him!
Bob: Billy, get back here, its not worth the risk!
Bill: But I can get him, Pop! One little squeeze…
Dave Great shot, Kid! Looked spectacular on the video monitor!
Voice over: We move closer. Looking down at the now inert form, Bob and Barbara face a dilemma.
Barbara: As good citizens, we should turn him over to the authorities before he does any damage.
Bob: Yes, Barbara. But as scientists trying to understand this specimen and how he has come to such a state, we need to just tag him before the dart wears off, let him go, and let nature take its course.
Barbara: But he might cause a petroleum price spike…
Bob: Yes, Dear. I know. But he could be our key…Oh, such decisions…
Bill: Mom, Pop. This pipeline’s been here for years, and is probably poorly maintained like all the others. It could blow anyway. Bombing it wouldn’t change a thing.
Bob: Sometimes I wonder about you, boy. But you may be right.
Voice over: A call is put in to the Forest Service, anyway. But they are busy investigating claims of off-roaders that another Environmentalist is harassing them; so our party’s decision is made by default. This Rogue will escape, but at least he’s been tagged.
(The viewer now sees another montage of parks, swimming pools, and tailgate parties.)
Voice over: We are back in civilization. Americans are once again enjoying the sunshine, while Environmentalists are back in their dark meeting room.
We may never understand the Environmentalist. He seems to speak differently, eat differently—it has been discovered that many Environmentalists are strict herbivores—and tends to whine hauntingly while in captivity.
But evidence exists that we all may be descended from common roots, in spite of the superiority claimed by both the Environmentalist and the American. Somewhere, perhaps in prehistory, the hunter-gatherers may have broken into two distinct species, one, perhaps, a little stronger than the other, forcing the weaker group to defensive positions, forcing them to give up their habitats to live on the fringes of the cities, forcing them to cry out or even to act out—like our Rogue—in order to preserve what they have left.
Perhaps the field work of scientists like Robert and Barbara Bottomly, and the research of Jim Hastings, may finally bring about understanding and a peaceful co-existence between these seemingly different species. Perhaps we may discover some shared evolutionary trait, and that we can learn to tolerate the Environmentalist and even allow him to dwell comfortably among us.
As Jim Hastings might say, “ Only time will tell.”
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