As time advances we as human beings forget what life was like for our ancestors. Yes, we can read the history books and watch old movies but we never really understand all the differences between the past and our current environment. We may live on the same planet but the worlds of each generation are vastly different. I began to consider this through the big changes we’re now experiencing with the Shelter-In-Place orders. The nighttime is quieter and wildlife appears more abundant. I’m actually talking with my neighbors a bit more and people are actually going on walks! I started to think that a lot of this would have been normal for previous generations.
One striking example is that in my 42 years of life, I have never seen the Milky Way. Looking up at the stars would have been something that the vast majority of humanity has been able to do. It is something I didn’t even know one could do until through the internet I started seeing pictures of an incredible, science fiction like scene that apparently rises after the sun sets and is visible all night long! I had only thought a few stars were visible through the naked eye. If I could see the Milky Way I imagine I’d be outside every night looking up and just wondering what is out there as I ponder the big questions.
Another example is what silence is like. I don’t think I’ve ever been in an environment with the absence of noise. There is always a motor running somewhere. You hear it even in the library as cars drive by or planes fly overhead. I’ve never been in a world without motors. Even in the dead of night around 3:00 AM there is still noise. For the past decade that noise has been the sound of the ocean. When all other noises die away you’ll still hear the sound of the waves sliding then retreating on the beach. In the house my fish tank filter is always running and there are other various machines humming quietly away.
The one time I do notice the quiet is when I’m hiking in the woods. Yes, there are still motors here and there but sometimes there is a pause and I notice the silence. The silence is actually very loud and I imagine that being somewhere with total silence might make me dizzy and ironically very loud. I wonder what it was like for previous generations that didn’t have to deal with so much noise all the time. I think that noise is probably one of the reasons we have an increase in mental issues in our modern world. I’ve noticed with the Shelter-in-Place orders things are a little quieter especially in the mornings and evenings.
There have been a number of news articles on how wildlife is returning in some areas do so a drastic reduction in the number of humans. A wolf was spotted in France for the first time in 100 years. Here in the Bay Area were getting fantastic pictures of coyotes going places they normally wouldn’t such as walking down the street in San Francisco!
This makes me think of this area over 100 years ago. Coyotes, bears, snakes, mountain lions would have always been a bit of a threat and something you’d have to think about every time you stepped outside. Back then everyone wasn’t fenced in by steel wire, metal cars and built up cities where wildlife dare not tread.
I have taken down my fence and the fact that we do have a mountain lion presence is something I think about every time I step outside my house at night. There a a number of animals that I could cross paths with and this is something that I’ve never had to worry about before in my entire life!
I can think of one more example and this is a change between my own childhood and that of my sons’ childhood. I spent a large portion of my childhood outdoors. I would go exploring, ride my bike to friends houses, go skateboarding or just roam around the neighborhood. This is something my own kids do not get to do. Instead, their childhood is spent principally in front of screens. There is the iPad, the Nintendo Switch, the TV, phones and so on. Yes, we do activities such as go to the park and karate. But unlike me who would just “go outside” to play, my son will head straight for his laptop and the virtual world of Fortnite. The world of being able to just go outside and do what you want does not exist for him and he will never know what that is like as a child.
Pollution – I’ve never experienced such clean air. I have an air monitor on my desk and it is always green! This has never happened before. I think back to my own childhood and I remember the air being clean but now that I’m older and wiser, I imagine it was just as polluted, I just didn’t know it.
So in addition to older generations seeing the stars, and not being subjected to constant noise they would also have had clean air. I’d like to say they had clean water which they would have had to bath and play in compared to our polluted waters today. However, I do not know about the problems they would have faced with parasites, or water borne ailments that would have been a constant threat. They couldn’t have just gone to a 7/11 and bought a bottle of water so I imagine them getting water from streams like humanity has done for millennia. Again, something that we in our modern times cannot imagine or rarely even think about.
Well, enough for today, I need to take care of some work.