I took a road trip this past weekend, and along the way I noticed a lot of geese flocking in various lakes and ponds, presumably on their way south for the winter. However, after making a comment to that effect to a friend regarding a lake close to her home, I was informed that those particular geese do not fly south—at least not any further south—they apparently stay right there for the entire Winter.
Now, my friend lives near Chicago, and I don’t know about anybody else, but that doesn’t seem much like ‘South’ to me. I found myself remembering a segment I saw a few years ago on the ABC program, 20/20, about a man called “Father Goose”. He was affectionately named that because he helped a flock of geese find their lost migration route South. It was a moving story, and reminded of it, I told my friend, “They probably just don’t remember their route anymore.”
Apparently, a lot of things- things we call ‘Progress’- have inadvertently changed the migration routes of geese over the years. Some geese have basically become completely unable to fly south because of this. I suppose it could be because whenever anything new is constructed, whether it’s a highway, airport, or housing development, the lay of the land, the water supply, and all of the natural things that were there, have been disrupted. And, just like dominoes standing next to each other, if one of them is ‘knocked down’, they all end up getting knocked down.
Of course, when someone wants to do something nowadays, all he needs is the money and the will and he can do it. He doesn’t have to prove that it won’t cause a problem for this or that- at least not normally. And, the more people that want a particular change to the environment, for whatever reason, the more likely it will come about—even if it may have a detrimental effect. I guess the problem is not being able to look ahead to see if the thing that someone wants to do is worth the problems it could cause. Sometimes, it seems that even if one could do that, he couldn’t possibly take everything into account or be able to see all the possible ramifications.
And, then some people might say, if we did things that way, how could we ever make progress? I would like to challenge those who might say that by suggesting that progress should not be defined the way we currently think of it.
How do people usually define progress? In my experience, progress is most commonly defined as technological development. But, is this really the true measurement of progress within a society? Isn’t this just a surface meaning? What if we measured a society’s progress based on overall factors like behavior, crime rate, environmental harmony, safety, standard of living, health, and well-being? Wouldn’t that truly reflect progress—or not? If we used that measurement now, how would we fare?
As Thanksgiving approaches, I think about the Native Americans and what they might think about all this so-called ‘progress’ we’ve made. They considered themselves the caretakers of the Earth. Maybe if we had tried to learn a little more from the ‘savage’ and ‘uncivilized’ folks who were here before us, we might not be drinking bottled water routinely, wearing sunblock whenever we go out in the sun, or watching on the evening news about how the Arctic is melting at an alarming rate. Because we defined ‘civilization’ as ourselves and our way of life, we were unable to see that things are not what make us civilized at all. It’s our ability to see our responsibilities and to take them seriously—now and especially for the future.