Today’s post is a letter submitted to the Editor of Willamette Week in Portland, Oregon, January 21, 1999 – a time capsule from the last millennium. It reveals how far we have come in such a short time. Ya think?
On the eve of the Year 2000 there is no doubt that environmental alarms are well founded.
The front page of the Friday, July 25, 1997 Oregonian announced, “Scientist delivers warning on climate.” President Clinton launched a “nationwide campaign about the issue, saying the ‘overwhelming balance of evidence and scientific opinion is that it is no longer a theory but now a fact that global warming is real.‘” Complete with “rising sea levels and glacial melting.”
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; we must “balance” economy and environment; but it’s easy to see who’s got the biscuit. In truth, the lumber interests eliminated jobs by automating destruction of the forests. Industry ‘experts’ know that fact is disposable to theory. They tell us that ‘careful management‘ will replace Old Growth; timber company t.v. ads show vast green stretches of pristine managed forest. What we should know is what do all of the forests managed by all of the timber companies look like in aggregate?
Taken in cumulated terms, the timber companies are working against posterity around the world. In fact the Old Growth forests are almost gone in Oregon and California as well as in Brazil. The last clear-cut rape of all the Old Growth left will not save the logger’s lifestyle, but once the forest is gone, so goes the breathing apparatus for the entire planet.
In 1994, the Smithsonian‘s Wilson Quarterly stated, “Some of the environmental changes may produce irreversible damage to the Earth’s capacity to sustain life.” The island of Tobago in the Caribbean is being inundated by 3-4 feet per year (ten times faster than ten years ago) and is expected to lose 30-40 feet per year in the next ten. “Science and technology may not be able to prevent either irreversible degradation of the environment or continued poverty for much of the world.”
Which brings up the appalling fact that many cities are developing public housing in floodplains. It may be just in time for property developers to cash in before the land goes under. Will we, the dense public, be invited to bail out subsequently sinking subsidized housing? Will we eventually build seawalls thirty feet high at public expense to protect uninsurable money pits?
As to population, experts predict twice as many people in the United States by the year 2050. More babies are being born today than during the so-called “Baby-Boomer” generation and we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet! The ridiculous taboos around the issue of human population – usually “politically correct” arguments of small practical value – are a direct threat to our own dear, precious, misdirected, unthinking selves. We’re breeding ourselves out of room.
Our planet has a limit to the life it can sustain. It must function within a specific and fairly narrow range of environmental limits. In this constraint, the majority of Americans trashes rather than recycles, and eats, drinks and drives too damned much, ignorant of context, and in absolute poverty of conclusion.
No brainer: unchecked growth demands greater and greater amounts of shrinking resources. The scale of many of our dilemmas – e.g. public health and housing – is attributable to too many people competing for too few resources in too small a space. It would seem, therefore, that some education and some action on this issue might be in order. Yet, religious institutions militantly urge membership to procreate, and sponsor armies of child-producing sectarian immigrants. Business leadership focuses on lower wages, larger markets and plentiful cheap labor. Timorous local, state and federal elected leaders bicker over tax-funded population education, and resist tax-funded birth prevention. We argue over sex education, birth control, and abortion while our overcrowded house burns down.
However, the nation has embarked on the biggest prison-building program in its history, even as the hard crime rate falls. This may be due to “effective community policing,” but it is also systematic suppression of a youthful surplus male underclass without family wage jobs. Statistically, economic development largely benefits a relatively small group of players: three-fourths of the people grin and bear eroding livability, falling wages and rising prices in a rat race fueled by non-productive speculation. We have, created whole new crimes – e.g. “simple” marijuana possession – and longer “minimum” sentences that keep our disaffected unemployed off our city streets.
For many leaders, there is no apparent alternative. Most business, elected and mainstream media leadership extols an almost mystical faith in “growth,” pursuing mythical future taxes that can never catch up with the infrastructure stresses the growth produces – particularly as corporately manipulated voters cut off tax money via “popular” ballot initiatives.
In 1956, C. Wright Mills wrote in the Power Elite:
“Two things are needed in a democracy: articulate and knowledgeable publics, and political leaders who, if not men of reason, are at least reasonably responsible to such knowledgeable publics as exist. Such a public and such leaders – either of power or of knowledge – do not now prevail, and knowledge does not now have democratic relevance in America.”
The rich are generally blind or indifferent to the social consequences of ignoring the welfare of the general citizenry. In the end, we all pay for their selfish indifference. If we, the people don’t get smart pretty quickly, we, the people will perish much sooner than expected, and NOT due to any particular plan, but simply because of plain old human selfishness and self-deception.
The time for each one to teach one, each one to reach one, is NOW.
July 6, 2009:
“Act. There may be no result in your lifetime, but without action, there will be no result at all.” – Mahatma Gandhi.
INVOLVED AND INFORMED (essential links):
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- Light at the End of the Tunnel.
Slaughtered Dolphins – Japan
Japanese fishermen riding a boat loaded with slaughtered dolphins at a blood-covered water cove in Taiji harbor, Japan’s Wakayama prefecture. US environmentalist Ric O’Barry has filmed dolphin hunting at the town of Taiji as an eco-documentary called “The Cove” which has started screening in the US.(AFP/HO/File)
Published on Friday, September 11, 2009 by Agence France Presse
Japanese Town Starts Dolphin Hunt Under global Spotlight by Kyoko Hasegawa.
TAIJI, Japan – To animal rights activists it’s a cruel and bloody slaughter; for Japanese it’s a long tradition: this week fishermen in a picturesque coastal town embarked on their annual dolphin hunt. Every year, crews in motorboats here have rounded up about 2,000 of the sea mammals, banged metal poles to herd them into a small, rocky cove and killed them with harpoons, sparing a few dozen for sale to marine aquariums.