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CHASING DOWN THE MUSE: A holiday wish list

As the countdown to Christmas continues, I’ve been thinking about gift giving. As I have mentioned before, I “retired” from the manic shopping frenzy several years ago, swearing off all gift exchanges, and in their place, gathering with friends for meals and conversations. 

The conversations range from the silly to the sublime. Surrounding all is the camaraderie and sharing of ideas. 

The thought occurred, if I were “in charge of the world,” what gifts might I bring to our planet? 

And so, this list: 


Food for every child. While I recognize the obstacles to manifesting this wish, I find it grievous that in a world of such vast wealth and consumption, that any child would suffer from malnutrition or starvation. How can a child learn anything or grow to be a contributing member of our society if he/she has insufficient food to eat? 

Potable water. Many of the diseases that wrack our global population are caused by not having clean water to drink. Amidst great intelligence and scientific prowess — rocketry, satellites, and smart bombs clean water seems like an easy ask. It involves education and a commitment to changing policies and tactics. 

A presidential candidate that can re-unite America. This might be a tall order, given that in the last eight years we have increased our schism and become more firmly entrenched in polar positions. We have become accustomed to tossing barbed rhetoric, rather than engaging in meaningful exchanges. If we are to continue to grow our intelligence and our talents, then we will need to work more diligently toward a common ground. A leader with this as an underlying agenda could work small miracles. 

Less of us. Yes, a wish for a continued reduction in our global population. We have long left the days when a family needs to breed farm hands, but now face media pressure to have larger families as a status symbol. We have already reached the brink of sustainability on the planet earth. We might, in fact, have already tilted toward a non-recoverable position. I support an allocation of one child for each person – a simple human replacement value which does not add burden to our limited resources. 


More open space. Or at least, irreversible protections for those spaces that currently exist. What heals our tired spirits and over-taxed lives is an escape from our crowded urban environments. One of the reasons that former presidents established the National Park System and the National Wildlife Refuges was to protect natural spaces from the building hand of man. In these reasonably untouched areas, we can experience rejuvenation and reconnection with the natural world. 

A shift in values. While I am not shy to embrace capitalism and the entrepreneurial spirit, we would all be rewarded if knowledge were more valued than the accumulation of “stuff.” We are programmed to want-want/need-need and in so many instances we have forgotten how to think. What if teachers were paid more than rock stars or athletes? Think of the great minds that would gravitate toward the field. Think of how we might change the world? 

Drug rehabilitation instead of incarceration. The proportion of drug addiction, and those jailed for drug-related incidents, has never been higher than it is today. Our attempts to squash this problem with jail and prison sentences has had little affect. In fact, we’ve created a turn-style system, where young men are stamped as felons because of drug sales. They serve time and are put back on the streets with no chance of meaningful employment (check how many companies who will hire a felon), no housing opportunities, and yet we expect them to somehow toe the straight and narrow. The slightest infringement on their parole, and they are back behind bars. We pay for this — approximately $23,000 per person in jail and their lost lives. The United States has the highest per capita percentage of incarceration of any other country in the world — even dictatorships. 

End of graft and political pay-offs. As long as I am dreaming, then let me dream of a system that rewards talent and excellence, not good-old-boy politics. If products and/or services are top-notch, who needs a lobbyist? When our elected officials make decisions based on the reception of gifts, we have lost our electoral voices. 

A cleaner environment. This process starts at home, and carries into the larger scheme, with conscious choices about utilizing our resources. Driving less saves fuel, reduces hydrocarbon emission, and dumps less oil onto our roadways. Careful watering minimizes the draw on our precious wells. Seafood choices can protect dwindling endangered species. Not washing down the drive helps keep refuse out of our oceans. Picking up trash makes each place cleaner. 

CATHARINE COOPER loves wild places. She can be reached at