Wake Up and Smell the Bovine Excrement

23 January 2011

There has been a lot of talk in the news lately about saving the Earth- about global warming, overpopulation, pollution, disease, war, etc. and so on. I guess it’s been in the news for a while now- 10, 20, 30 years? I have heard something about sustainability,  about being green, about carbon and carbon taxes, global warming, melting ice caps and rising sea levels, conservation of natural resources, or some such topic every single time I have turned on the radio for as long as I can remember. Granted, I listen mostly to NPR, so what else would I expect to hear? But now for the big question: has anything been done about it?  And the even bigger question: does anyone really care?

I see both answers as no- nothing has been done, nobody cares. It’s all just a bunch of b.s. All the recycling, conserving, green building, Prius driving, peace marching, and caring about the poor people of undeveloped countries amounts to nothing more than a balm for the small, meaningless lives we have come to lead in our techno-industrial (or is that post-techno-industrial?) world. All the effort we have put into saving the planet has in fact done very little, if anything, in the way of actually creating any formidable amount of long-lasting change.

It makes us feel good  to heed the call of Sally Struthers and “adopt” the poor Biafran child we see in the ad queuing up for a bowlful of millet. But we quickly lose interest and move on to the next cause once the warm feeling wears off. Sally gets her Twinkies but the kid is still hungry in the end, or worse, gets blown away in a bush war after being drugged and sent on patrol with an AK47 longer than he is tall. And that probably ultimately over oil or gold to feed the West’s need for both.

You feel good after writing the check to Greenpeace or the Sea Shepherds (okay, they may be doing some good- the tack they have taken has put them about a hair’s breadth from inflicting physical violence, which is the only way their “war” is going to be won) or Environment Colorado (I wish they would stop knocking on my door- the sign says “No Soliciting!”), but by the time you close the door you realise you’ve just been coerced into giving money to yet another PAC, and you have no idea what they really do with it.

Should I even mention China? One fact- everyone in the US could stop driving tomorrow, saving oil, pollution, carbon, etc.,  and the Chinese will make up for that in the next ten years. Think about it. Not everyone in the world understands the level of destruction we have reached. And most of the world will never care, or will never have the means to do anything to stop the destruction.

An article (editorial) in the Wall Street Journal this weekend addresses this dichotomy well, it discusses what we think we are doing, and what we are actually accomplishing. The conclusion, as I read it, is that we are probably doing more bad than good. The money we give, the money that non-profits spend, that governments donate, the countless people who have devoted their lives to the cause, seems to be all for naught. People continue to suffer and die, forests continue to be burned down, open-pit mines continue to go deeper, pollution continues to get worse, and wars continue to be fought.

And the Earth will  be destroyed in the end.

The Earth will be destroyed? Wait a minute. How will the Earth be destroyed? I think we miss-read the facts. Who gave us those facts?!

The Earth will not be destroyed! We are not destroying the Earth! Get it straight!  We are destroying the Earth’s ability to sustain us. That is what we are doing. The Earth will not “die”. Its ability to sustain us at our present and growing levels of population/consumption will undoubtedly decline, and possibly reach a level where our species will die out sooner than our expected one million year life span. That is all that will happen. We will die; the Earth will live on. In the blink of an eye in geologic time the Earth will shake us off- a couple of glaciations, some volcanism, subduction, an orogeny or two, and viola! Nice clean Earth. No more humans. Maybe next time the prairie dogs will be at the top of the phylogenetic tree. They’ll probably do a better job with it than we have done; they are smart little guys building up their vocabulary as ours weakens. (If the part about the planet surviving is not perfectly clear, see George Carlin’s thoughts on the subject- “The planet is fine”- thanks R-.)

There may be a way out of this mess though, maybe a couple of ways, depending on your perspective. I personally have begun designing my underground, graboid-proof compound I will build in the Utah desert, looking for that pair of leather pants that will last a lifetime, and searching for that perfect, shotgun wielding blue healer. That is my way out- fighting, and having fun with it. For the rest of you, I suggest a hearty drought of  specially blended purple Koolaid from your Big Gulp as you sit in front of your t.v. watching the big game. Think about it; if you choose the latter, you might actually help sustain lives, such as my own and those of my gathering tribe, a little longer. For that we’d be grateful, and I am sure the Earth would thank you as well.

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