Today marks the beginning of a new age. Some claim that it is just time to turn the page on exploitation, hate and misunderstanding, but the times require far more than even that. What is needed is complete revision of our current direction and a sea change in nearly every aspect of our lives. Like it or not, the horrors which are being perpetrated against humans worldwide demand qualitative change in the way we do business, travel, create and utilize energy and the way we educate ourselves and the world’s children. The food system is corrupt; our healthcare has grown to be neither. This nation’s war machine has run amok and is crushing our ability to maintain peace or security. Most elected officials have piecemeal approaches to specific and discreet problems that, by their very attention to the details, their legislative approaches miss, not only the mark, but are often in the completely opposite direction that needs to be taken. I have no fear that we will continue to exist on this planet. There is no impending apocalypse, no end times scenario or alien invasion on the horizon that will liberate us from our earthly chains. Chances are that you, Seven Billionth Person, will live a full life, teach your grandchildren as well as you can and pass away in much the same way that generations have throughout history.
My concern is with the quality of life in between your mother’s womb and the dirt nap that you will surely take later on. Will you be made sick by the fumes of industry, will your food make you ill and will there be enough of things like clean water and healthy soil for you to base your life on? Mother Earth welcomes you with open arms, but many of the most powerful players don’t give a moment of consideration to the desolation left in their wake. Perhaps, there is a way to immediately penalize those who take for granted the fact that their actions can be as jarring and insensitive as possible, as long as they “pay the price” to play. Integrating the true cost of pollution has always been overlooked. The “smell” of money as they call pollution in the atmosphere is a myth popularized by those who needed a simple excuse for poisoning their air. So too the myth of the oceans, or local river being too vast or fast moving to “worry about” was created by those who stood to gain from their contamination. When we tapped the geologic stores of fossil fuel, the same myths were popularized. Even today, there are those making up stories about how much is left and claiming that if we just removed regulations that protect air, water and the soils, there would be abundant energy lying in tar sands and deep pockets of natural gas that are unavailable currently. The vast amount of energy required to extract the tar sand deposits are equivalent to several years of the entire energy budget for the entire United States. This would be like the old one step forward, two steps back scenario. Similarly, fracking, the process technically known as hydrofracking uses vast amounts of energy, water and chemicals to liberate natural gas deep underground. We may be able to get a little more energy than we pump into the earth, but to what end? Again, we take what we want and ignore the long term consequences.
If you fill your tank with fuel, why would you pump 20% onto the ground? Would any sane person waste 50%? Most of us in the US do this sort of thing every day. In reality, this is what we would need to do to get these “vast” resources. Similarly, the “savior” some say, corn-based ethanol, requires far more energy going into the process than what can be taken out. The old something for nothing myth certainly has power over the imaginations of some, but public policy based on these sorts of myths has had a very poor track record. When booze drops below $20 per quart, or gasoline goes up to that price, corn-based fuel will make sense and we can get on with production, but until then I’m trying to conserve as much fuel as possible.
Our gift to this theoretical seven billionth person needs to be a commitment to achieving sustainability in our lifetime, not some day, not in twenty years, but as quickly as possible so that we can all live better while consuming less. We can see the misery and heartache that comes from living as if the rest of humanity doesn’t matter, let us begin anew to interact with the world as if it, and all of the Earth’s people were one family. The fear and hatred that was sold to our parents as truth did not serve anyone well. True love and patriotism take great courage, but what have we to lose?