As yet another species leaves the Earth, forever, the Giant Galapagos Tortoise becomes but a memory. Lonesome George has been a symbol for conservation for many years and as the last of his species, like the canary in the coal mine signals the end of the earth as we knew it. We continue to cut funding for baseline data collection about flora, fauna and conditions worldwide while continuing to throw money at evermore problems that are the result of humankind’s interaction with the biosphere. In my neck of the woods, we have drained and filled over 95% of the wetlands that were here when the first white man set foot on what later became Wisconsin. We have removed all of the native forest cover. The last few white pines are currently dying because they are the only site deemed worthy of a heron rookery. The tallest trees in the area will be wiped out not because of direct human action, but due to the fact that we cut down all the other trees like them, now they stand out because they are just doing what they do best and all the others like them have been cut up and hauled away.
Frequently, we forget that we are part of a vast network. We often lose track of our impacts on the Earth, because we are so far removed from the actual events required to make our purchases possible. The light switch is a perfect example. We flip the switch, not even realizing that it has both a direct cost, tallied up and billed monthly, as well as the hidden costs of wires, poles, generating stations, coal, oil and natural gas (not to mention nukes), transportation costs, railroads, shipping, the heat from transformers and the ecological damage created from all these other activities. There are far more costs than the pennies per kilowatt that we pay. When we allow these cascading systems to continue to operate unchecked and misunderstood, suckling at the public trough, floating dreamlike on the ocean of public opinion like an oil slick, we exempt the industry from responsibly handling their own waste, becoming responsible public citizens and making a true accounting of their impacts on our lives, our health and the resources that we will either have or not have in the future.
The sadness of the week was exponentially increased when Japan decided to restart on of their nukes. Over the course of the year that has come between Fukushima’s melt down and today, as each nuclear generating station came up for permit renewal, local citizens said “NO!” to them. Now, there are claims that without this form of energy production, the Japanese economy will crash. The powerful interests that own the vast majority of wealth worldwide do not want to have to act responsibly and that truth, sadly, seems to transcend international boundaries. adding to that difficult issue, the pollution that these same forces unleash on the planet know no boundaries either.
We are experiencing the results of more than a century of exploitation, wanton destruction of nature and the endless industrialized rape of the planet and her resources. Now, the chickens, as they say, are coming home to roost. Even cutting emissions produced by cars in half has no benefit if we drive twice as many cars twice as many miles. Now, we are facing problems because the web allows folks to see for themselves some of the drastic impacts that are perpetrated upon the planet and her people by corporate players. we are beginning to see the results of our actions, and the outlook is not as hopeful as the technocrats have been telling us.
We are trying to hit a moving target. The problem is that the rate of change is not steady. In a cycling series of systems, we have feedback loops that seem disjointed and arbitrary but this is only because we are enveloped in the very systems that we impact. I urge everyone to take two steps back, ask serious questions about where things come from, how they get to us and the hardest question of all, whom do I serve? Lonesome George needs to be much more than a symbol. He can only live on in our hearts.