EASTER ISLAND BLUES
EASTER ISLAND BLUES
There is no longer any doubt that environmental alarms are well-founded, so why is it taking so long for that fact to sink in? At work recently, someone in the coffee klatch confessed that he hoped things would “stay okay until I die.” Even on the surface, I know this selfish attitude is probably overpowering and protecting most of the people I know. Few people feel any stake or control and so no one acts. Most of my fellows and “fellowesses” usually feel small and gray and bleak. They, like me, are remote echoes of prehistoric pasts, but are still earthly-bound to the nonsense of being a member of an over-riding culture, which never pauses long enough to discover itself. Too busy it is for introspection. Too concerned with making money and pretending to be movie-idols.
Seen from outer space, poor, old Earth has mange. Deserts replace forests and lumber interests tell us they must cut more trees to keep the economy alive and loggers’ jobs. In truth, the lumber interests cut jobs by automating destruction of the forests. The last rape of all the Old Growth left will not save the logger’s lifestyle, and once the Old Growth is gone, so goes the breathing apparatus for the entire planet.
Industry ‘experts’ – hired degrees who know that fact is disposable to theory – tell us that ‘careful management’ will replace Old Growth. Timber company television ads show stretches of green, managed forest. However, what I want to know is, what do all of the forests managed by all of the timber companies look like in aggregate? Taken in cumulated, today terms and future-damaging results, the timber companies and forest rapers (timber and cattle companies, miners and developers) are working against posterity around the world, and nothing and no one seems able to stop it. They even murdered a man in Brazil for daring to say out loud that it was happening.
Our species has done this on a limited scale throughout its evolution. One finds our indelible four-thousand-five-hundred year old scars on the ground at Mohenjo Daro, once the greatest city in the Indus Valley; we know little about its society; it is a barren flattened circle of over 1,000 years habitation; nothing grows there; the name means “mound of death.” If we’re in a place long enough we totally strip it of all resources and threaten all life, including our own. It’s a phenomenon I call, ‘The Easter Island Syndrome.’
According to archaeological evidence, Polynesians arrived at the tiny island off the coast of present day Chile – 300 strong and bearing plants and animals for starters. Before they were done, they were 4,000 strong and they had denuded the island to raise the Aku-Aku, those legendary, long-eared, big-nosed statutes of their ancestors, seeking power and prestige. The Easter Island culture killed itself, consuming its natural resources to do that. One day, the quarries were abandoned. Tools were dropped beside unfinished work. The population fell into cannibalism for a time (I fantasize that they ate the priests and politicians first). The remnant lacked immunity to disease brought by the first European visitors. Europeans thought the survivors were a slow, lethargic people with little memory of their own history and quickly enslaved them. Time and outside assistance changed the picture there to one of livability today, but Easter Island is a microcosmic prophecy for our entire planet.
Billions and Billions
There is a scientific postulate that asserts that the Earth will renew itself – having suffered the depredations of miners, loggers, or nuclear waste makers – given enough time (eons). The Earth will right itself, and all the damage done by humankind will be undone. This postulate is known as the Gaea Effect, after the Earth Goddess Gaea, the ‘deep-breasted,’ whose ‘soil nourishes all that exists and by whose benevolence men are blessed with fair children and all the pleasant fruits of the earth.’ Her majesty was once acknowledged ‘not only by men but by the gods themselves.’ Whenever conservation is mentioned in America, however, many men look as if the devil had propositioned them. Women pointedly mention a husband, father, boyfriend, brother, or hanger-on of male importance, who is gainfully employed as: a well-digger in the oil fields; a logger on a pristine mountain top; a strip miner in the fecund valleys; or, in charge of the nuclear reactors at Three Mile Island.
Freemarket Man thinks of himself as the lord of creation, husband of the universe! How utterly absurd that is. He believes he can rape his bride at will, without conscience, and survive to an unburdened old age. Like any abused wife, the good, old natural continuum will quietly stab Man in the back some dark night. Or, set his bed on fire! The variable is the rate of decay caused by our assault on the biosphere. As our environment disintegrates, we open our amniotic fluid to the outside vacuum – the eternal void of space. We chip the shell from our fragile egg and leave the poorly formed embryo to fry in the empty silence. Word on the street is that the world is ending. We’ve run our course as a species and the forest-destroying masses, the poor and the starving billions, are at last about to bring down Cargill Grain and the International Oil Cartel.
Let ‘em keep on making money, until we’re all dead and money doesn’t mean anything to anyone anymore. Maybe then – if there are any seeds left and soil fertile enough to encourage life – the Gaea Effect will assert itself. In two or three billion years, there might be a restored earth, blessedly minus the threat of humankind (which, viewed properly, is an unsympathetic and rather stupid parasite bent on destroying its hostess). That’s as positive as I can get, until such time as I see genuine evidence that we are working to stop this feeding and breeding frenzy that we’re on as a species.
Ironically, our horrific western rapaciousness nears its cannibalistic end as we celebrate our self-proclaimed, world-wide, ideological supremacy. Natural resources dwindle, reusable trash and garbage is vouchsafed in massive piles of publicly-subsidized debris called ‘solid waste,’ which we privately franchise and mine for private gain. Lo, the seas shall rise as we debate land use regulation and spread FEMA flood relief money along the shore! Our transportation decisions will provide archeological oddities for alien students, raising the question: ‘How could they achieve this standard of engineering, but be blind to their absolute destruction of their own habitat?’ Ask Malthus or Erlich. Ask the Pentagon. Ask any of those who preach procreation from the pulpit to insure the earthly power of their priests and bishops. Ask the leaders of the great political polities who refuse to face the consequences of vast ecological rape. If I’m depressing you, good.
We are as a species, dichotomous and profound. We sing about progress as we dig in our heels to stay in the same place. We are as profound as a potato. Only god can make a potato, although man can manipulate it hydroponically, or cause it to grow upside down on the bottom of a fruitcake. That’s the real majesty of it. That we are able to do so much. To transcend to the heights of ridiculousness. To richly imagine an earthly paradise, and somehow suppress evidence, divert attention, raise barriers of jargon, split hairs, and delay in the courts, debate trivia and mouth platitudinous obscenities to obfuscate reason. Moreover, dodge substance and ignore the fact that the Old Growth forests of the world are almost gone – in Oregon as well as Brazil.
E. F. Schumacher ’s Small Is Beautiful, subtitle ’Economics As If People Mattered,’ is about Gandhian economics and economy of scale. If you see the world as an environment, made up of ecosystems – each independent, yet interdependent – like nations – you realize that the bulk of an ecosystem’s needs can be met internally when the population is small. When over-population or resource-depletion occurs, however, the ecosystem either destroys itself, or assaults another ecosystem for its raw materials. Yet, if the population of the ecosystem limits its numbers and conserves its resources, it may be self-sustaining forever, or as close to that as mere mortals get. In order to protect the earth, Man must understand his dependency and place upon it. He must have a sense of past and future, and take responsibility for the present. We have an obvious choice: spend the present wisely, or squander it like bad money.
If we let it end, mourn no more Beethoven. No more Mozart. No Van Gogh. Visitors from other worlds may find our few survivors (if any) wandering mindlessly in the rubble of our desert midden heaps, searching listlessly for the barest means of survival. Unable to hear or heed our own direst warnings, unalarmed in the face of the direst possible sign; obsessed by a cheese sandwich while the sun fries our brains.
SELFISH POSTSCRIPT: I wouldn’t worry about this so much, if the corporatists and ignorant who are despoiling the planet were only endangering themselves. I just realize that their stupidity and greed are going to kill everything, including me! Now, I don’t know about you, gentle reader, but that pisses me off.
“Act. There may be no result in your lifetime, but without action, there will be no result at all.” – Mahatma Gandhi.
Here are some action and primary resource links that help to make a positive difference.
INVOLVED AND INFORMED (essential links):
KEITH OLBERMANN: GULF FACES ECOLOGICAL DISASTER - VIDEO
CENTER for BIODIVERSITY: GULF DISASTER Breaking News
GET TO KNOW THE BADGUYS: OIL, GAS, COAL, and KOCH
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