“Ah-nold,” past governor of the once-great state of California, authored an Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times the other day. Summarily, he wrote that it’s all over but the shouting. Human endeavor and its impact on the planet’s eco-balance have cast its fate: Sea levels have risen seven inches in the last ten decades. In the past ten years, average temperature in California and the Southwest has spiked two full degrees. Water treatment plants in San Francisco have had to close due to rising sea levels as have portions of the 101 Freeway. Global climate upheaval is not a “distant” threat, he wrote. It’s here.
We were warned. “Tonight I want to have an unpleasant talk with you about a problem unprecedented in our history. With the exception of preventing war, this is the greatest challenge our country will face during our lifetimes. The energy crisis has not yet overwhelmed us, but it will if we do not act quickly.” Jimmy Carter, April 18, 1977.
Less like a wedding, more like a wake. Earth Day once trumpeted a reunion of humankind and Nature. But the present atmosphere is more like dread and despair. The state of the planet is like the dying relative no one really wants to visit because it’s so sad. Ah-nold wrote there is still a chance we can change the outcome. Let’s hope.
We did it. When alien life forms excavate ruins of future Earth, they will find answers easy to come by. How did such a complex culture as ours disappear in such a short time? The answers will be apparent. Humans invented some of the most effective forms of global suicide known to the galaxy. We may not see it now, but the inappropriate use of what seem to be boons, turned them into banes. Here are some great inventions that led to our demise because we refused to apply wisdom to their use. The inventions are not bad, negative or evil. The choice is always between what is possible and what is appropriate. We should have paid more attention to the latter.
Internal combustion engine. Imagine alien archaeologists of the future pondering thus: “Wow, these ancient humans actually invented a device that takes toxic hydrocarbons previously safely locked into solid and liquid form and burns them so that they polluted and destroyed the atmosphere!” That’s essentially what we have done with coal, oil and fossil fuels. Indiscriminate use of a brilliant invention is at the core of global climate change.
Industrial agriculture. Another seeming boon that we’ve managed to turn into a suicidal drive to kill the planet, destroying our life-support. It sounds good on the surface, but the surface is exactly what we’ve destroyed by raping the topsoil, polluting it with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and building a system that uses huge reserves of our precious water supply. There is a better way of growing food than confining unthinkable numbers of animals, growing monocrops of corn and soybeans on the same dirt (no longer qualified to be called “soil”,) year after year.
Electric light bulb. A great idea misused and abused for a hundred years. Furthering our detachment from Nature by distancing the human experience from the natural clock. Overuse depletes vital energy resources. We’ve become idiotic in its application. Even 35 years ago we were smart enough to “turn out the lights when you leave.” Now, we see unoccupied buildings, construction sites and vast stretches of real estate lighted like a landing strip 24 hours a day. Indiscriminate, thoughtless application is insane. Fortunately, some folks are realizing it. French President Francois Hollande mandated back in December that closed businesses extinguish lights between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. It’s a start.
Antibiotics and pharmaceutical drugs. Another life-saving and brilliant discovery overused to the point of species suicide. The paradigm of pill-popping at a whim or nudge arguably kills more people than it heals. Not only have we become a society addicted to prescription drugs, every time we pee we pollute the water table and drug our planet’s animals. Antibiotics and their overuse could likely spell the end of the line for our species. Human evolution is no match for the rapid evolution of drug-resistant pathogens. The very thing we try to kill has become stronger because of us.
Better living through chemistry? Hardly. Untested use of over 80,000 chemicals invented in the past 50 years has wreaked havoc on our planet and bodies.
Resistance to limiting the exploitation of natural resources is based on the interests of commerce. French shop owners decry dark streets. Canadian oil companies balance profit on pipelines.
We’ve invented our own demise. Should we have stopped at the wheel? Of course not. But we’ve ruined a lot of the planet by building roads where maybe there should be none. Human invention is rightly celebrated but human discretion is vital. Archaeologists will find we used too much of one and not enough of the other. But for now, maybe Arnold’s right. Heading to Earth Day Omaha gives hope.
Heartland Healing is a New Age polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. It is not an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or The Reader. Visit HeartlandHealing.com for more information.