I Also Apologize

Sunset at Riverbend Ponds

“The earth is our mother. She should not be disturbed by hoe or plough. We want only to subsist on what she freely gives us. Our fathers gave us many laws, which they had learned from their fathers. These laws were good. I have carried a heavy load on my back ever since I was a boy. I realized then that we could not hold our own with the white men. We were like deer. They were like grizzly bears. We had small country. Their country was large. We were contented to let things remain as the Great Spirit Chief made them. They were not, and would change the rivers and mountains if they did not suit them.” – Chief Joseph 

Mark Graf led me to read an interesting and moving letter written to Mother Earth by photographer Youssef Ismail. If anyone is inclined here is a link to the letter. Youssef puts into words what I feel.

There is a voice inside of me that has been attempting to get my attention for the last 20 or 30 years. I’ve done a pretty good job of avoiding that voice by keeping myself busy with the externals of life: making money with the hope it will bring me happiness, or that a party life would take away loneliness and insecurity. In a way I’m like the little puppy chasing it’s tail. With my focus on the externals I’ve avoided looking at our natural world or taking any responsibility for the damages I am doing. And, worse yet, what am doing to help bring an awareness to it? My upbringing did not direct me to look at the consequences of our advancing technologies and consumerism. In fact my culture wanted me to focus more on the consumerism, placing my wants as a more important aspect than caring for this earth. So, I also apologize for my role in harming Mother Earth.

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  1. Earl August 6, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    Monte, As we come to recognize the damage mankind’s caused to the nature and the earth it’s very tempting to echo quick condemnations for the way we’ve lived and blindly consumed our resources. However, it’s never that simple.

    Consumerism in itself is not bad or evil. As a matter of fact the it’s provided and funded a high standard of living and technological advances for mankind overall. It’s paid for jobs, homes, education, retirements, medical advances and in many cases eliminated desease. Some third world nations have little consumerism, living off the land so to speak, but I don’t think any of us would want to drop our living standards to those levels.

    Where I hold responsibility as a consummer is we’ve not required those who provide products and services to be environmentally responsible. We’ve not demanded renewable resouces be used when possible and recycling be part of the product life cycle from they’re conception. We’ve not demanded there be as little a footprint as possible when we do harvest natural resources and we’ve not voted with our money to support those companies which support these policies and fundimental ideas. We’ve also not elected governmental officials who support these ideas, passed responsible legislation and who are not swayed by greed and under the table money from big business.

    So, yes we are responsible, but I don’t want to “throw the baby out with the bath water.” IMO, we can be consumers without feeling evil or guilty…we just need to be educated and knowledgable, vote with our money and purchases and demand responsibilty from those we deal with both in business and in our government. Spend wiser and a little less.

    • Monte Stevens August 7, 2012 at 9:33 am #

      Thanks, Earl. My post was not intended as condemnation and I apologize if that is how it comes across. Awareness of what has and is happening was my intent. You say it well, “… we just need to be educated and knowledgable.” I’m not sure our appetites and greed can be governed by regulations as it is more about the individual footprints we each leave behind and that is a choice made within each of us. Consumerism can get out of control and often times is in my own life.

      I find nature to be a wonderful place to spend time just as you do. We are a part of it and our role is not to change it or assume we can control it. Many people do not live a life that is in touch with nature and therefore has no idea of our impact. As a consumer or natural resources do we give little back to earth. I hope future generations are able to experience the vastness of our earth and not just in a 40 acre park. For that to happen and to quote you, “… yes we are responsible.”

  2. Brad Mangas August 6, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    Thank you Monte. I can relate oh so well. Why have I done the things I have done in my past without regard to Mother Earth.

    Recently I had to search deep while finishing up an eBook on lands that I love, lands that have brought me full circle in my understanding of what my responsibilities are when it comes to nature and what she means to not just my life but all life on this earth. I struggled with words to accurately describe my deep respect and humility of my life compared to the natural world. After writing a full page of text I put a single sentence down at the end that had to have come from my heart because I had seemed to run out of thoughts.

    It came in reference to a specific morning some years ago that I may or may not experience again but know I am extremely fortunate to have had experienced it once in my life. I can still feel the emotions I had on that morning, standing (what I thought was) alone.

    “I was not alone, Mother Nature was holding my hand attempting to show me how to live in peace and happiness. Asking nothing in return but my respectful appreciation.”.

    • Monte Stevens August 7, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

      I wonder if the deeper we go into our photography the deeper we go inside of ourselves. Very much along the lines of some spiritual teachings, that the closer we come knowing who we really are the more we know our Creator. I feel nature has a way of teaching us more about ourselves. Nature is our friend so why do so many of us cause harm to our earth. Over the past few years we have scientifically learned so much about the earth but are we using that knowledge to coexist with her? I like the fact that your sentence expresses a personal intimacy with Mother Nature and not as some abstract thing. Thanks, Brad!

  3. John August 7, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

    I’ve long wished I could express myself better when I see the damages caused by man’s greed and apathy. I can’t. There’s simply too much – I see it in the cigarette butts that fill the gutters of our streets, and the empty plastic bottles that litter our shores. While consumerism isn’t good or evil, over use of it in the name of profit is simply irresponsible. Another thing that’s never discussed in polite company: over population. Are there too many people on this planet, given size and overall natural resources? In the long run, it probably won’t matter. Man will run his course in history, but nature always finds a way to survive.
    John recently posted..Mt. Evans AreaMy Profile

    • Monte Stevens August 8, 2012 at 7:18 am #

      Every once in a while we find someone who can put into words what we are unable to say.

      Right now, out side my condo is a trash bin that is flowing over. There is a large older screen TV that is in two pieces. The tube itself is on the ground while the other half is in the dumpster. Not a pretty sight. It feels good to see someone pick up trash, or even do it myself, that is not theirs and throw it in the trash. I also feel my photography has helped me see my poor choices of the past and present.

      And, yes, nature will rebound where man will not.
      Monte Stevens recently posted..AbbieMy Profile

  4. David Leland Hyde August 8, 2012 at 11:46 am #

    Nice, tranquillo photograph. I’m glad you echoed Youssef’s sentiment. I agree. I also apologize. May be too late to do anything else.
    David Leland Hyde recently posted..The Naming Of ‘Hyde’s Wall’ By Writer And Photographer Stephen TrimbleMy Profile

    • Monte Stevens August 8, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

      Thanks, David. Some plants and animals are already extinct, gone forever, so in that regard I’m “too late.” Yet the affect I can have on the future of Mother Earth is to live the present with respect for the plants, animals and all men who share this earth.

  5. Dave Showalter August 8, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

    Yvon Choinnard, Patagonia founder lives by the mantra “do no unnecessary harm”, recognizing that harm is part of the human condition. Keep using your imagery and your voice – you’re making a difference!

    • Monte Stevens August 9, 2012 at 11:05 am #

      Thank you Dave. I’m surprised at my emotional response to your positive and affirmative comment. As a photographer of nature who is out there for the enjoyment and spiritual refreshment I’m not too confident on having an impact with my images or words, even though that is an inner desire.

  6. Greg Russell August 23, 2012 at 9:08 pm #

    Excellent post and sentiments, Monte. I think Mother Earth would accept this apology as it’s honest and heartfelt.

    When I look at members of my own family, I think sometimes that we can’t really blame them for not acting in a way that is consistent with true stewardship, because they are following generations of the consumerism you speak of. Then I start questioning whether ignorance should equal forgiveness, especially with the ready availability of information today.

    Then my head starts hurting. 🙂

    Either way, I think that we are indeed stewards for mother earth and as a culture we need to start acting as such. These letters to Mother Earth are a great start…thanks for sharing yours!


    • Monte Stevens August 24, 2012 at 7:53 am #

      I do have to watch myself as I pass judgement on others because I need to really pay more attention to my own actions and decisions. Just this morning I took a longer shower because it felt good, not even realizing I didn’t need to.

      I understand about the head hurting, as well as my heart. I experienced that yesterday after weeding through some literature on global warning. There are those who believe man is contributing to environmental changes and those who don’t. The entitlement our culture embraces, and more importantly our distancing from living in nature, changes the way we experience the world. And, thank you for sharing!

  7. Dave Showalter August 24, 2012 at 9:04 am #

    None of us are perfect stewards, but this spirited discussion gives me hope for civil and honest discourse in a time when so many make decisions informed only by ideology or emotion. The land is our life support system and we have a moral responsibility to share that simple truth. Thanks to each of you for your openness and honesty.

    • Monte Stevens August 24, 2012 at 9:21 am #

      YOu may have said it best, Dave, “none of us are perfect stewards.” And, yet it is our task to strive to be better stewards and be an example of how to respect Mother Earth. My grandchildren must see it in me!
      Monte Stevens recently posted..The NeighborsMy Profile

  8. Dave Showalter August 24, 2012 at 10:00 am #

    They do see it in you. The seeds are planted.. germination time may vary. You are making a difference.

  9. pj August 24, 2012 at 10:21 am #

    I’m a little late in getting to this post — I’ll thank David Hyde for pointing me here and you for posting this.

    There’s much to do, and sometimes it feels like tilting at windmills. We need to do what we can though, and maybe, just maybe, we can begin to wake up to the consequences of the way we’re living and pass the torch of change on to the next generation. If we give up we lose. Game over. Thanks Monte.
    pj recently posted..what I need to doMy Profile

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  1. […] talented photo blogger Monte Stevens made a blog post in his own words that he called, “I also apologize.” I would like to continue the trend and the tradition by adding my own message to the […]

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