WHAT HAVE WE DONE?
“What have they done to the Earth?
What have they done to our fair Sister?
Ravaged and plundered,
And ripped her and bit her.
Stuck her with knives in the side of the Dawn.
And tied her with fences and………
Dragged her down!!”
Aside from the fact that most civilizations have historically referred to Earth as our Mother, this excerpt from the epic Doors song entitled “When the Music’s Over” has always come to mind whenever I ponder the fate of mankind. It is certain that Nature will survive our insults and eventually repair the damage. The question is: “Will we still be around to see it?”
Some people are predicting dire consequences in our immediate future. Some say we have already tipped the scales too far. Given the fact that many of these modern day prophets are professional scientists I believe we should be paying attention. If any present theories and opinions are to be discounted, it should be those who contend the present situation to be a “natural occurrence” or that our human impact could have little effect on something as large as the planet. These people are generally not scientists or not paying good attention to their own surroundings.
Whether it be the soil, air, oceans, or the various plants and animals that inhabit Earth, all recent studies show our biological systems in decline. All of the ice that has historically (since the last Ice Age) covered the poles and our high mountains is melting at an alarming rate. This cannot be denied. Our scientific protocol demands that facts be supported by rigorous testing and/or precedents set by previous experimentation. Opinions are to be stated as theory until such can be proven scientifically. Therefore, it would be career suicide for any scientist to perpetrate a hoax or attempt to pass off theory as fact. Unfortunately there have been a few who have attempted to do just that to further their own career or particular employer. However, these people are generally exposed by their peers in due time.
Regardless of your political choice or whose rhetoric you would like to believe, the facts are beyond debate. All well informed members of the human race are aware at least at some level that our current abuse of resources and subsequent plunder of natural systems needs to slow down at some point or we will simply consume ourselves out of existence. I personally believe that even those who stoically contend that no real harm has been done understand (at least in their heart) their view is not realistic.
Having been a “Nature lover” all my life I have noticed that in recent years those ultra-conservative advocates of economy based upon unbridled consumerism no longer wish to debate the issue. Their arguments have become weak. Their viewpoint cannot be supported by science or even by unbiased media. One cannot read, watch television, surf the internet, or engage in intelligent conversation and still remain oblivious to the subject. Instead, those who regard their own well being or profits to be above the Law of Nature will attempt an air of smugness as they walk away from any opportunity for discussion. Likely they have already lost an argument or two so they choose to avoid further embarrassment.
Point is that many of us feel basically helpless to affect positive change. The so-called silent majority here in the United States still choose to elect politicians who maintain “business-as-usual” and who owe their office to special interest. We console ourselves by tightening our belts, complaining to our respective peer groups but are reluctant to risk offending our fellow citizens with any truly radical behavior. Yet radical change is just what the situation seems to call for. The longer we procrastinate, the worse things get.
Until recently it could truthfully be said Americans in general enjoyed the highest standard of living worldwide. However there are now several smaller nations in Europe, the Middle East, and even Africa who enjoy greater per capita wealth and/or a higher standard of living. It can be argued that the bulk of these are due to fortunate oil reserves and our American technology to exploit and consume those reserves.
Be that as it may, a recent survey showed the citizens of the tiny country of Denmark to enjoy the most comfortable standard of living in today’s world economy. Denmark does not hold huge oil reserves, nor are they the richest per capita. They are not a democracy. They also have one the highest tax rates with your middle class Danes contributing half their income to taxes. Yet their access to public health care, education, housing, and other programs subsidized by their government (via the high tax rate) allows the Danish to be the most comfortable people on Earth (at least for the time being). No, I am not Danish……………..Just stating the facts.
Perhaps we would not be so reluctant to pay taxes IF our own government would provide more for the average citizen and less for special interest lobbies. Danish students actually get paid a stipend while they attend universities. Our college students are obliged to take out student loans (many of which are defaulted) in order to afford higher education. Medical care? Insurance? Affordable housing? ………..Same story.
Still, much of the world does look to the United States for leadership. Developing nations set their goals by our example and achieve this with our technology. I find it outrageous that our latest advances in sustainable energy are popular in places like Africa and the Middle East while your average American does not own so much as a solar panel save to operate a rinky-dink set of yard lights or to open the front gate automatically. The U.S. citizens who have invested in high end sustainable energy or building technologies are so few in number that they generally become subjects for local media that are seeking “human interest” stories as filler material. We, as citizens should be aware of our leadership role and embrace sustainable technologies.
Even those of us who may not be able to purchase things like solar panels or wind generators should realize that there are many little things we can do that collectively will make a difference. For example, using a tote bag to go shopping, carrying a refillable container for refreshments, or using washable baby diapers instead of disposables will result in untold tons of savings in paper and plastic plus the energy used to make those “disposable” items. Public transport, car pooling, walking or riding a bicycle, the list can go on and on and any one of us can do these things if we simply stop and think. We are so used to being a “throw away” society that we don’t give it much thought.
My favorite example of recycling comes from the homeless. Motivated by lack of income, these people remove tons of thrown away materials each day and recycle for pocket money or make use of our “trash” for shelter, clothing, whatever they may need at the moment. Give a homeless person a stack of newspapers and he or she may show you quite a number of ingenious ways they can be put to use. I would love to see some statistics on just how much waste is put to use or recycled by the homeless that would otherwise wind up polluting our cities or filling our landfills.
Back when The Doors were popular and the present generation was much younger, most of us were part of a very positive, non-violent (for the most part) revolution. We were bound to change things and change things we did. Was it enough? Are we really satisfied now that we have become the business owners, and political leaders, plus the makers of policies, morality, and social structure that will be handed down to our kids? We were all born into a polluted world. That is not our fault. However, it certainly is our fault if we let it continue.
There is a fresh new ideology emerging. We can have a very positive impact on this Earth before our time is up. We can turn the corner from rampant consumerism, an economy based on fossil fuel consumption, and the plundering of finite resources. I think it may be useful to pull out those old vinyl albums, the written material, art, and other paraphernalia of our youth to remind us of who we were. Then think about what we have become and what we can (or should) be doing. Love, Peace, Happiness …….. Far out, man………………………………