The extreme reliance on raw materials and fossil fuel energy has allowed us to develop in certain ways. Before science took the time to prove that we are a compassionate species, we prided ourselves in the fact that we were the greedy brutes that we allowed ourselves to become. Through an elaborate cultural ego-defense mechanism, we told our cohorts that lie ad nauseum to assure ourselves that our unacceptable behaviors were “natural”. In plain fact, we were lied to. It is only through abuse and neglect that we become psychopaths. We notice this when young men undertake war. It has been said for centuries, mostly by warriors, “Only the insane are unchanged by war.” If you don’t have certain mental problems before you serve, you will certainly have a range of them after.
This understanding belies the fact that war is wrong, at least the way it is undertaken today. Our resourcefulness has been applied to war for centuries and each and every development we have produced has had the same net effect, killing more people, more quickly. Now that more than half-a-dozen countries have the ultimate weapon, we have had to curtail our rage because of what is called mutually assured destruction. If even a tiny fraction of the world’s nukes were unleashed, humans would cease to be and cockroaches would flourish. even though the “human nature” crowd has told us that this is our greatest achievement, I seriously question whether the development of nukes has not taught us that we have wasted way too much time and human effort on a horrible endeavor while ignoring obvious and dire consequences that are coming from unchecked development of a deadly way of life.
We bring to the planet, literally, billions of hearts and souls. Thought and understanding are things that we claim to have in spades. Some even claim this as the last “proof” that we are different from the animals. More and more of us are beginning to wonder if this setting ourselves apart has any redeeming qualities. Animals do not systematically exploit the planet to the detriment of all other life forms, although humans routinely do so. In our arsenal, we hold many tools, but often lack the finesse required to wield them. We have been led to a place that proves to even casual observers that we have misused and overused certain tools at the expense of the environment for years. Now we must dig deep into our consciousness and find billions of paths to sustainability. If not now, when? If not us who? At current rates of destruction, it will not be long before Gaia will decide to change things for us, if we do not learn to coexist without threatening our host.
Insight and the ability to change have served us well while we were on our deadly trajectory. The big lies that we allowed ourselves to gobble down and occasionally swallow whole without thought, have introduced problems that are getting harder and harder to ignore. “Worst flooding we have seen in 100 years, along the Mississippi.” A record 200 plus tornadoes from an early season super-storm. May is usually peak month for tornado season, but we have already seen over 60% of the average total for the year already! Texas is having a record fire season and scientists studying soot in the Arctic now have the ability to track where the, mostly invisible to the naked eye, black blanket that is hastening the melting of the ice caps comes from. The silk cord that is around our necks seems pulled ever-tighter with each pearl of wisdom added to our understanding of our insidious grip on nature. Have we not learned yet that we are but a strand in the web of life, not sole arbiters of death for every other species on the planet?
Some, not many decision-makers yet, but a few and vast numbers of “ordinary folks” are starting to get the many messages that mother Earth is giving us. It is well past time to give back to the planet. Some believe that we must give immediately and until it hurts but this is the very thing that keeps others locked into their perceived “comfortable” and obviously unbalanced ways of life. I drove nearly 1,000 miles over the course of four days getting to a remote part of my state, then criss-crossing the county looking for a site to develop. Now, my understanding of the word develop might be different than most, but as I explain quite frequently, when we tug at a single part of the planet, we find it connected to each and every other part as well. The home that my wife and I will build will have a high percentage of recyclable components, use renewable sources of energy and conserve more resources than it squanders, but it will become an exclusion zone for, hopefully, wildlife and the weather. that will mean the displacement of the very things that draw me to the great beauty that is in existence in that particular part of the world. Strangely, we often harm the very thing that attracts us to the places we go to enjoy nature. It is not without realizing the great irony of this that I studied Frank Loyd Wright. This Wisconsin-born architect is often referred to as the father of organic architecture, the art of blending homes with their environment by using local materials and harmonious design principles. Oddly enough, he did some really stupid things, some of which we continue to do without knowledge or awareness. A famous story about him building a home called Falling Water will serve as a great example. Before designing his masterpiece, he met with the family, walked the land and asked them about their use characteristics when they came to their rural retreat along a wonderful cascade. They told him that they liked to picnic on a large flat stone in the middle of the river. When the epic structure was complete, the river remained, virtually untouched except by a stairway that leads down out of the lowest level of his massive stone and concrete edifice. The sun, now, rarely touches the humble platform and when the family would descend the stairs to sit on their favorite rock, millions of pounds of bridge, house and all the belongings in their retreat hover above anyone “enjoying” the picnic rock. The compassion for place and the sensitivity to his own heavy hand both created an icon of architecture and destroyed that perfect place that the family had “discovered” on the site. Much like Wright, we threaten those things that we hold so dear. many are the number of lakes and rivers that have had their banks paved to reduce erosion, caused by humans, in their ever-greater numbers wanting to enjoy them.
Just as we have the power to bring untrammeled and rampant destruction to the Earth, it is within our power to stop, think things through and change our behavior to fit more appropriately into the landscape. We can ask about how we might solve certain problems more effectively, or use the resources that we do consume more efficiently. On my recent drive, and since buying my car nearly ten years ago, I have used less than half the resources that I would have, driving my old (but relatively efficient car that got 20-25mpg) vehicle. Even though my ride uses less than half the fuel to go the same distance, I ride my bike more often and try to combine trips when I go places to maximize my efficient use of resources whenever possible. As most folks have done, unnecessary trips are pretty much a thing of the past. As fuel becomes more costly, people will be forced to cut back in other ways, but we still can’t seem to find it in our hearts to bring trains back which would improve air quality, reduce congestion and wear and tear on our roadways, be the most efficient use of resources and provide many more jobs than our current system does. Sometimes thinking these things through ahead of time may seem like a bother, but living with our heavy handed mistakes has an unavoidable cost as well.
Decisions about appropriate actions we all must take do not lend themselves to blanket statements. We all have certain choices to make. Perhaps for one person, eating lower on the food chain makes the most sense. For another person, fuel switching may yield the biggest reduction in their carbon footprint. Still there are those who hold on to the lies told by an earlier generation. It was said that no progress could be made on the environment unless we all went back to sitting in caves around fires. Though appealing to the corporate leaders, because it allowed them to turn their back to both change and the writing on the wall, this theory was always patently untrue.
Human beings are innovative, creative, uniquely adapted to change and starting to understand the massive drain we have put on the planet’s ability to heal and cleanse itself. More and more science is showing us that the climate is changing and that it is doing so at the hands of humankind. Each creature adapts and changes to fit the needs of it’s surroundings, why won’t we? Instead of injecting our desire into each resource and ecologically discreet niche that we find, we must learn to take two steps back before we annihilate what normally lives there, creating stability for us all by absorbing and transforming energy, by cycling nutrients, gasses and water and by it’s very nature eating, excreting and exchanging gasses. There is no away as we have been led to understand it, so what we need to more thoughtfully consider is the way we choose to go about the business of our lives. Everything we touch will be transformed by our hand and it will be by something as fickle as desire. Let our choices be well-reasoned and insightful. Let them be made to honor the next seven generations. Let us not hand off to them the steaming pile of dung that our parents left us. We must work together now to secure environmental quality now, or face destruction at the hands of a less and less stable climate. do everything in your power to make your own corner of the world sustainable and keep the pressure on elected officials to do the right thing for the future of our people and our planet. What we do best is change, let us not wait until we are forced to change by nature, let us learn to nurture the very processes that lead to the creation of our abundant lives and turn away from those choices that maim, kill and poison the planet while simultaneously creating a false sense of security. Study much, share often and please, don’t be afraid to put your heart on the line for what you believe in.