Yesterday, April 22nd was Earth Day and it always leaves me with mixed feelings:
- How pathetic and horrible it is that we must set aside a day to honor the Sacred Mother Earth; the source of all good things in our lives and the giver of all good gifts. Every moment of every day should be a celebration of the Earth!
- How good it is that our despicable civilization is at least doing this much, no matter how little it is.
For 2-3 million years humans and pre-humans universally held nature and the Earth in the highest possible reverence. For them, there was no dividing line between the material world and the spirit world, the two were ONE and equally sacred. As a result, they lived totally sustainable lives in harmony with the Earth. They could live in the exact way they were living and leave the Earth in perfect condition for their children. Often, they and their children lived in the same area for literally thousands of year and left the Earth just as fruitful and healthy as the day they arrived. That’s what happen when you hold the Earth as Sacred! But what happens when you revile and hate the Earth, considering it an object to use however you see fit?
Now contrast that with the way we “good civilized people” live. Everywhere we go we literally shit on the Earth like it useless rubbish. We cut down all the trees, pave over the meadows and drain the wetlands. We dump our feces anywhere we want and spread our toxic wastes into the air, land and sea. The Earth is the opposite of sacred to us, it is our toilet bowel. And what do we get in return? Misery! Oh yes, we have miracle medicines and infinite trinkets, comforts and luxury. And what do they do for us? They give us a way of life full of mind-numbing drudgery, meaninglessness, depression and addiction. What a great trade that is.
While I usually don’t celebrate any holidays, an environmentalist author that I think very highly of was going to be speaking at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff so I got a ticket and went to hear him last night. His name is Bill McKibben and in 1989 he wrote one of the very first books warning about Global Warming titled, “The End of Nature”. The idea behind the book was that for the first time, humanities industrial and technological abilities had grown so much that we were now in charge of the future of the planet. It was no longer a wild, independent entity, we could shape it into what we want it to be. The terribly sad thing is that we are shaping it into a hot, uninhabitable, dead planet.
I have several of his books and consider him a balanced and reasoned voice in a very dark wilderness. So when I saw he would be speaking, I jumped at the chance to see him Last night I went and listened to him and I came away more convinced than ever that we were on a one-way death march for the planet and for the majority of us. Somehow, he has remained partially optimistic for our future, but I have no idea how, I see absolutely nothing to be hopeful about. In the last 25 years the science has become crystal clear that we are headed toward a catastrophic environmental disaster and we have demonstrated a total political inability to do anything about it. The clearer the science becomes, the more confused the politicians act! I can’t help but believe Mr. McKibben just didn’t want to be brutally honest and was feigning his optimism, but that is just a guess on my part.
Out of all he said, I want to leave you with three thoughts;
1) Things have got much worse, much faster than any scientists were predicting 25 years ago. It turns out all of their guesses and predictions were conservative. Here are just a few examples:
- When he wrote the book, if you told him that 25 years later the extra heat in the atmosphere caused by humans adding greenhouse gases would have cut the Arctic ice pack in half, he would have laughed at you. Not even us stupid humans could do that! Yet that is exactly what has happened; the Arctic ice pack has been cut in half. That will cause even more warning because the white sea ice reflected heat back into the air and out into space, making the earth cooler. But the dark oceans absorb the heat making the Earth warmer.
- In exactly the same way, if you had told him when the book came out that in a mere 25 years the oceans would be 30% more acidic because of all the extra carbon being absorbed from the atmosphere, again, he would have thought that was ridiculous. But we have done exactly that, the oceans are a third more acidic than they used to be. We are making a very good start on literally killing the oceans and the sea life in them. Millions of people around the world depend on the oceans for food, but much worse we all depend on it to absorb the carbon we are spewing into the air. Will the oceans reach a point where they are so full of carbon that they slow down or stop absorbing more carbon? We don’t know. But if they do, it will be another nail in our coffin.
- Because warm air holds more moisture than cooler air, a warming planet pulls more moisture out of dry areas creating severe droughts and then when it does rain, it comes down much harder causing extreme flooding. Those are two things which we see tremendously increasing across the planet much faster than had been predicted!
2) There is a very good chance we have passed the point of no return and have already set in motion the forces that will totally change the climate as we know it. But even if we optimistically assume we haven’t reached the point of no return, without doubt, we will very soon. There is no time to waste, radical action is required right now.
3) The oil companies have a known amount of recoverable oil in the ground right now. The math and science is very simple and certain; if we extract that oil and burn it that will put enough extra carbon into the air to push us over the edge of no return. It will be a certainty that a devastating climate disaster will follow. Our only hope is to leave that oil in the ground and find a different source of energy.
I know this is a very negative post and for that I apologize. But it’s an issue of life and death for every living thing on the planet and it’s an issue not to be trivialized.
However, I also have very good news to offer you; you can make a big difference by becoming a vandweller and moving out of your house. Living off-grid in a van means you will drastically reduce your consumption of oil and therefore your carbon footprint. But the best news of all is that you will not only be doing a very moral, ethical and positive thing, you will be making your life infinitely happier.
Now that is good news!