I remember when I was a child, I read an article that made an amazing claim. Scientists recorded the electrical activity in certain plants, and they performed an experiment that showed plants had “emotions.” When several plants were brutally slashed in the presence of other plants, the electrical activity among the spectator plants spiked. Even afterward, whenever the “murderers” re-entered the room, the “witnesses” would show increased electrical activity.
Plants were living beings that deserved to be treated with respect, I concluded.
But when I told a neighborhood boy about the article, he laughed and immediately ripped off some leaves from a bush in my front yard. For years afterward, whenever he passed by, he would rip leaves and branches off the plants in front of me and laugh.
I was certainly horrified by his actions but equally confused. Even if he didn’t believe the article himself, he knew that I did, so why did he want to be so mean?
Unfortunately, I’ve seen the same scenario repeat itself over and over as I’ve grown up. Many right-wing Republicans, for instance, seem to take an inordinate satisfaction in cutting down forests inside national parks, in fighting anyone trying to save the polar bears or the whales or any other creature, in behaving like neo-Nazi Holocaust-deniers by insisting there is no such thing as global warming, and fighting with all their might to stop efforts to control it.
They like watching people who care about the environment suffer.
Whether they experience the same enjoyment out of hurting plants and animals as the young boys do who kill neighborhood cats and then grow up to be serial killers, I don’t know, but they definitely enjoy watching other humans suffer.
If they think a Democrat will feel pain if a wetland is destroyed, then they will help that destruction come about by blocking efforts to save it. They have no particular animosity toward wetlands, of course. They simply have a pathological dislike for liberals.
How the environment, which affects both liberals and conservatives equally, has become such a polarized issue is mystifying. Republicans could claim this issue as easily as anyone else. But since Democrats seem to have emphasized it first, rather than work together, God forbid, on this one single issue, Republicans have made it a vendetta to oppose any environmental protections they can.
I don’t understand it. Even now, they could run with this topic still more strongly than Democrats and turn it into their own cause, but the desire to hurt other people is simply too strong.
They have to fight conservation efforts because they so desperately want to hurt their “enemies.” If it means they kill off hundreds of other species to do it, then so be it. If it means drought and famine for our grandchildren, and even in our time for those useless people in Third World countries, so be it. What’s really important is to make a Democrat suffer, whatever the cost.
Perhaps we deserve to make ourselves extinct. We seem to be a pretty despicable species at times. It’s just a shame that as we destroy ourselves, we have to bring down so many other innocent lives with us.
Can plants really tell when there are murderers present? I don’t know. But I can certainly tell. And watching the sadistic glee of these environmental serial killers both saddens and appalls me.
But just as Nazism ended and Germans became respectable citizens again, I have to hope that the murderers of the environment will come around eventually as well.
Perhaps it is a cultural war with stakes as high as those of a global war. But despite my experiences with the average human, I have to believe that justice and goodness will prevail in the end.
To believe anything less would be too awful to imagine.
Johnny Townsend earned an MFA in fiction writing from Louisiana State University. He has published stories and essays in Newsday, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Humanist, The Progressive, Christopher Street, The Massachusetts Review, Harrington Gay Men’s Literary Quarterly, Glimmer Train, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Sunstone, and in the anthology In Our Lovely Deseret: Mormon Fictions. He has also spoken at the Sunstone symposium in Salt Lake on the subject of gay Mormon literature. His latest work is Zombies for Jesus.