Environment


A Creation Question

Ah, so sweet the irrational mind
That grasps a dogma to humans unkind.
Extolling a truth, creating the line
That somehow their faith is superior to mine.

When I first wrote the above little ditty, I labored a long time over whether it would be the rational or irrational mind that believes what it will (does). We like to pride ourselves that we arrive at decisions/actions from a rational, reasoned perspective. Alas, sigh, but were it so.

So many examples from which to draw. Would a “humane” culture, for instance, create/countenance a healthcare system that doesn’t care for all its citizens? Should we contemplate (assuming carbon-based climate change is real) authorizing the Keystone Pipeline to transport, arguably, the dirtiest petroleum (Canadian oil sands) on the planet?

The above two examples require collective action based on a public debate of the pros & cons, the merits of the argument. Alas, sigh, but were it so. If I were unilaterally making policy I would answer “No” to both. I support universal healthcare for all Americans and would not “permit” the Keystone Pipeline.

But. I am sure you notice that there is a “But” to nearly every human decision. For example, should I logically pay for the “poor” decisions of my fellowman? If you smoke cigarettes today, is it possible that you do not know the accompanying health risks? I think not. If you are obese should your fellow citizens pay for your resulting diabetes and heart disease? Same goes for cigarettes.

The Keystone Pipeline will either take the “product” to Texas for refining or it will be piped across Canada to a Pacific port (refinery) and shipped to China. That’s a fact, Jack. The carbon is going to be released into Earth’s atmosphere regardless of whether or not the United States authorizes the pipeline. Here’s the reality. Deny the pipeline and the environment will still suffer but fewer Americans will be employed.

So what is the rational decision on either of these issues? And what exactly should be the “determining factors” for each? Does the creation of American jobs trump environmental desecration? Are we “morally” complicit—understanding what we do about carbon and climate change—by sanctioning the pipeline?

Are human beings exempt from accountability when it comes to personal healthcare issues? If, I, as an individual make a determination to smoke and/or be obese, should I expect those who do not smoke and/or who maintain a healthy body weight to subsidize my poor decisions?

Even more fundamentally, If I choose to control my fertility by having no more children than I can afford, should I be expected to subsidize the offspring of irresponsible adults who sire/bear children they cannot sustain? Is that fair (also consider: the resulting children)?

As odd as it may seem, we too often arrive at irrational decisions from a rational process—a rational process driven by our preconceived notions as to the truth-of-the-matter. In essence, we start a decision-making process flawed from its inception.

Rather than start from “the” truth, I recommend we begin from the pragmatic. Start from what works (Or, what we theorize might work). Sublimate the urge to argue/legislate/condemn based on your idea of “the” truth.

If you must, consider what works as “the” truth. (Read: Charles Pierce, John Dewey & Richard Rorty)

Ask: what are the realistic consequences of embracing this (any) viewpoint? And . . .

Importantly, what kind of a world are we creating for our grandchildren?

Momma Knows Best.

Intellectually, it is far easier to get your head around what a pox mankind is for our Mother Earth. Emotionally it is quite another thing. Since we walked out of Africa (we are all Africans) approximately 125,000 years ago, Modern Man has rapaciously consumed the environment, never really pausing to consider our impact upon the planet.

By the 1970s, however, it became clear to the most casual observer that human activity (population growth, agricultural practices and industrialization) was quite literally destroying Earth’s rich diversity of life.

Everyday we are inundated with countless “canary in the coal mine” examples of the specific impact we humans have on the land, water and air that sustains us. Our oceans are warming and increasingly acidic. Our topsoils are washing/blowing away or relentlessly sprayed with polluting herbicides and fertilizers. Our atmosphere is increasingly filled with carbon dioxide. Animal, plant and marine species are becoming extinct at an ever-accelerating pace.

We are fishing our oceans clean of edible species. Our fellow humans are “harvesting” perhaps this moment the last elephants and rhinoceros of Africa. 25 million Brazilians now live in the South American rainforest with more humans on the way. In the next few decades all of Earth’s coral reefs will have succumbed to warming waters and acidification. The fresh water Himalayan glaciers that today quench Asia’s insatiable thirst are inexorably melting away.

All of this we are well aware. All of this is caused by human activity, by human population levels unhealthy and unsustainable for our planet’s ecosystem. And there is virtually nothing we can do about it. Even if we stumbled upon “cold fusion” tomorrow, discovered how to cleanly desalinate ocean water and developed innovative new food sources not requiring yet more untilled acreage or scarce freshwater, mankind is heading to a day of—let’s speak euphemistically—to a day of, uh, adjustment. The bill is coming due.

It’s ironic to me that the one nation on earth that should be at the forefront of building a sustainable population and economy is the United States. But now we are hearing increased rumblings that America is heading for population problems. Our birthrates are “plunging” and we could soon become an “empire” in decline if we don’t increase our national population (look at Japan we are constantly admonished). We are told that if our population is not expanding, that our economy will not flourish. Who’ll support the aging Boomers for gawd’s sake?

Our economic model is predicated on growth. Growth today, growth tomorrow, growth forever. It is a growth based on an ever-increasing population (to be consumers — to buy Pampers, toasters and vacations). Not only in America but worldwide.

There is no economic alternative (sustainable & green) being offered that is not predicated on an ever-increasing world population. More people – more growth – more consumption. To argue otherwise and you are painted as un-American, a collectivist and anti-human. To challenge why America “needs” to be at 500 million people, well, we’re talking jobs. And, that I totally get. It is hard to embrace “sustainability” with so many babies crying for more.

Yes, let’s avoid today’s financial “melt down.” But unless we, as a species (nations), imagine and create a sustainable future, what we now experience as a “cliff” will be remembered as a distraction.

Either we humans wisely reduce our population or Mother will do it for us. Mom will cull the herd, our economies be damned.