Life is easy today in South Lake Tahoe. The weather is perfect and so the most delightful form of transportation in the flat lands of the Al Tahoe area is on foot or on a bicycle. That makes the open air and high pine trees a well scented heaven. Lake Tahoe itself is full to the brim with sparkling clear water, and that is a wonderful tribute to the local ecology movement. Twenty five years ago there were herds of cattle in the Truckee Meadows right next to my September residence, which was very nice in its way, but the cattle’s eatings were destroying the grass and their droppings were putting exotic nutrients into the lake. Those pollutants were providing the nutrients necessary for invasive living things to form a food chain of foggy materials which were clouding the lake. The removal of the cattle and other polluting factors has permitted the lake to begin healing itself and become the pristine wonder it was a couple of hundred years ago.
Those improvements have come at a personal cost to me. The large meadow was my favorite walking place for decades, and I had it all to myself – me and the cattle, and I could walk nearly a mile straight to the beach and never tread where a human footprint could be seen. There were years of accumulated cow pies, and occasional fresh ones, but it was nearly as it was when wild animals had it for their exclusive domain. Some human constructions could be seen, but they were in the distance, and occasionally an airplane would fly over usually at a very high altitude, and out on the lake a boat could be seen crawling along the horizon line; often as not the only thing on the lake was the stern wheeler paddle boat, the Tahoe Queen, taking tourists over to Emerald Bay. It was bucolic, which city raised people would fear and abhor, but my childhood had included enough of these open spaces that I very much enjoy small doses of this semi wilderness.
That is gone now and walking to the shore is along a designated path with split rail fences guiding the city-bred folks along their wilderness experience. It is completed with plenty of signs of what is permitted and what is punishable with numbered laws. These people expect and largely obey the regulations, but the impact on the environment of a few people wandering around this large meadow is miniscule compared to the havoc caused by large numbers of cattle eating everything in sight and pooping the digested vegetation.
When it comes to abstractions people cannot feel the difference of several decimal points in their calculations. Experiments have shown that in weights and measures directly perceived, like lifting weights or comparing distances, we are accurate to about five percent. But with abstractions there is no understanding at all, as so eloquently stated by Joseph Stalin, One man’s death is a tragedy but a million’s deaths is a statistic. Often in the news a reporter will mistake a million for a billion, and no seems to notice or care. Out in the Truckee Meadow a thousand people milling about would not equal a single cow’s impact, and back then there were twenty five or more.
The walk out to the lake is still wonderful, even if there are people on the designated trail. The trees are as green as ever, the lake and sky are as blue as ever and my tranquility nerve is still stimulated by the walk. There is a difference, and it is an enormous one – the people passing on the trail usually don’t say hello. If I look directly at them as they approach and make a very specific effort to give an appropriate greeting they will reply. And yet, this is a grudging reply. One woman yesterday, after my pleasant greeting, and it was pleasant one because I was feeling quite pleasant, moved her lips in reply while staring at the ground five steps ahead. I wonder if she was from Berkeley? It is the response one learns to give to a panhandler in that super liberal city. Because of all the nonsense people encounter in modern society they have lost any sense of proper proportions in relationships.
People have little concept of abstract proportion and they must have human sized concepts to be able to comprehend anything.