Sextiped Valley column: Where will any of us live in 2027?
This week the Post Independent had an article about the growing deficit of affordable housing for even the middle class, and the grim prognosis for 2027. That’s only eight years from now.
Last month, the sad destruction of five mountain lions in West Glenwood captured our attention as it destroyed our cherished fantasy of life right now in our valley.
We have filled in and filled up all the habitable places. Now we live with escalating conflicts with all the other beings whose home territory we have colonized. We can hardly avoid seeing that we are now in a war of extermination, in lethal competition for the basic resources of air, water, sustenance and habitat.
There are no more empty places where we can relocate and release “problem” cats and bears into “the wild.” The surviving remnant we so love to watch from our decks grows increasingly desperate, and when they destroy our gardens and kill our pets, we’re sorry — but they have to go. Because there’s nowhere for them to go, that means they have to be killed. But we’re not like our pioneer ancestors, able to assume that their populations will adapt and thrive despite us. No, in our discomfort we perceive the mass extinctions of the anthropocene. We wonder what we have done.
Bruno Latour, French philosopher of science and technology, has identified three universal phenomena he sees as symptoms of a single historical situation: first, “deregulation.” Then an “increasingly vertiginous explosion of inequalities.” And the third, a “systematic effort to deny the existence of climate change — ‘climate’ in the broad sense of the relations between human beings and the material conditions of their lives.”
In his essay “Down to Earth,” published in 2017 in France and now available in English, he says of this historical situation, “It is as though a significant segment of the ruling classes (known today rather too loosely as ‘the elites’) had concluded that the earth no longer had room enough for them and for everyone else.”
When we face stark realities like that which the West Glenwood mountain lions represent, we recognize that the “everyone” has long since ceased to include the fauna of our colonized spaces. But from the 1980s on, he says, these elites, having concluded that it is “pointless to act as though history were going to continue to move toward a common horizon, toward a world in which all humans could prosper … stopped purporting to lead and began instead to shelter themselves from the world.”
Places like Aspen are some of these shelters, where the illusion of a common world will be lovingly curated as long as possible. Unlike Glenwood, where the undeniable lack of options for the local lions has unleashed a profound, maybe existential, unease.
And yet, Bruno Latour points out a realistic hope for a future — one that accepts the limitations of a finite world, in which all its inhabitants are recognized as integral to it. He refers to it as the “Terrestrial attractor,” contrasting it to the dead-end of the globalist fantasy in one direction, and the impossible retreat to an imagined golden past, in the opposite direction. It requires a complete reassessment of what makes life worthwhile within the limits of the world. It imposes a radical solidarity, a common search for ways to live together, which among other things will change what we mean by “affordable housing.” No longer will the protection of property values have anything to do with having a home.
I can’t see how the transition from the current impossible situation to a saner and more livable world will take place. But I see that it must, and I sense that the love for other beings, from the mountain lions on the ledges to the dogs who wait to welcome us home every night, may provide the inspiration and the determination to do what it takes to make it happen.
Realizing we have made a world in which there will soon be no room for the others brings us right up to that point of choice. I hear it in the voices lamenting the Glenwood lions. We will either make a world that acknowledges each being’s right to her own place to live, or we will come to inhabit a world where no place is sacred.
Laurie Raymond owns High Tails Dog & Cat Outfitters in Glenwood Springs.