“Nature and Hubris”

The ancient Greeks understood something about humans and named the quality “hubris.” In its simplest sense it means overwhelming self-confidence. I have been reflecting on that watching fires, floods, droughts and other natural events happening across the United States.

I grew up with tales of Bayocean, pictured on the left at its demise. In the early 1900’s a developer put a whole seaside community on a sand spit, drawing vacationers from inland Oregon to the Pacific coast. It washed away. Later, supposedly wiser developers built houses on another sand spit pictured in the center photo. As you can see, they weren’t as wise as they supposed. Finally, on the right is a current photo of a large “ocean front” beach house on the Oregon coast. I suspect they didn’t intend to be this close to the ocean.

Some facts of nature are persistent. Cliffs erode. Deserts lack water. High hot winds blow from the east to the west of California every year. The oceans are rising. Bears live in the woods. Alligators live in swamps. Nonetheless builders keep enticing people to build homes as if these realities didn’t exist. And people keep buying the homes. Houses fall into the ocean. Even getting rid of water intensive plants can’t change the fact that one lives in the desert, soon too hot to support life. Fires burn down water starved plants taking homes with them. Seaside homes regularly flood. Bears break into houses. Alligators eat little dogs.

And we act surprised. The Greeks didn’t have a monopoly on hubris.


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