Was where you are once stunningly beautiful?

August 8, 2016 by Joshua
in Nature, Perception

How far do you have to travel to see stunningly beautiful nature? Not necessarily Grand Canyon or Yosemite level grandeur, but at least something you can’t help but pause to take in?

Now consider this: imagine where you are now before humans arrived, or even after we arrived but before roads, gas stations, and landfills.

How beautiful was it then?

Artist renditions of pre-human Manhattan based on archaeological data look beautiful to me. Across the Hudson are stunning cliffs. In the harbor are picturesque islands. Wildlife ran, flew, and swam free. When people arrived, they’d catch their food right out of the water. Even for a long time after they arrived the place was basically similar. I’m not saying life was easy or better. It’s easy to read beyond what I’m writing and misunderstand me, but I’m only thinking about what it looked like.

I’ve started asking people how beautiful where they are was pre-human and I’m starting to conclude nearly every place was. I grew up thinking stunning natural beauty was something you traveled to, like the natural parks, which we saved for being special. They probably stand out, but I’m starting to think every other place was stunning too. The parks near my parents’ places are gorgeous. You can lose yourself in them.

Did were you live look like a dump before people arrived? I’m sure there were some dumps, but no one I have asked have been in such a place. I’m inclined to believe that people settled in picturesque places, not dumps or hell-holes. Now we’ve them paved over—ironically, I’m inclined to conclude, the most beautiful places. Still, it would have made sense for our ancestors to settle the most beautiful, abundant places.

Lookout points on scenic highways are rare, but I’m starting to think their rarity isn’t because of the rarity of the natural beauty but that the roads get in the way of it.

Please correct me if I’m wrong or missing something, but I think most places were beautiful, maybe stunningly so by today’s standards. Now I think almost no place is.

Similarly with food. Fresh fruits and vegetables in season are becoming more delicious to me than prepared foods the more my taste buds acclimatize to them and de-acclimatize to Doritos. Before refrigeration and shipping, all we had were fresh fruits and vegetables at the height of freshness. It’s easy to say that in August when the local farmers’ markets are at their peaks of unbelievable deliciousness and nutrition, but even in the cold of winter, the turnips, beets, and other root vegetables are delicious.

What got in the way of both of those things—arguably the most beautiful, delicious, and healthy things around—was population growth. I’m not denying the benefits that came with it, like science, antibiotics, fine art, music, and so on. For now I’m just treating two things: that we used to be surrounded by beauty and that we used to be surrounded by delicious, nutritious food. At least our ancestors were.

What have we done?

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