Thursday, May 25, 2006

Understanding Mother Earth (Part Two)

This entry is a reply to one of Ralph's comments posted to "Understanding the Earth" from May 24. Here is what Ralph said:

I personally am at a loss on how to fight pollution. While all your suggestions are good, do you think they'll be adopted by enough people to make a difference? Or is there a ying and yang factor at work here. As you remove pollutants, somebody else adds them back? My final thought on this is that despite all these pollutants and cancer causing agents, people are actually living longer now than they were a couple hundred years ago. It's evolution, baby, you just need to accept it or perish under its power.


Your argument actually proves my point: Humans, once they recognize a particular need, can change their behavior and address that need in order to find a solution...and quite often they do.

So, you say that humans are living longer. It's true. We are living longer because we realized--at a collective level--that we needed to take action to provide better healthcare for everyone. As a result, much attention has been devoted over the past 150 years to caring for people. We have thousands of hospitals and doctors offices across the country. Healing is big business.

It's a huge priority...and now people know what foods to eat/not eat and they know they shouldn't smoke cigarettes. These are corrective actions taken in light of information gained about a certain situation, namely, that we’ve been polluting our bodies for many years.

And once we realized that diseases like Polio and Smallpox needed to be eliminated, the right people came up with the right cures.

To toss your hands into the air and say, "Screw it. Pollute the environment. We'll grow specialized gills someday to deal with it" strikes me as blatantly irresponsible because it goes against the natural ability of humans to recognize a problem and take steps to correct the problem.

So we have to continue to follow this traditional model. We have to realize--at the collective level--that we need to take steps to correct a pollution problem that we have created. And Stan is absolutely correct: little things make a huge difference.

Do you return your blue plastic bags to Wegman’s for recycling or do you toss them in the trash? It’s a small change, but it can make a huge difference if more people participate. Many people participating in an effort leads to phenomenon, and phenomenon transcends pattern limitation.

Do you remember when America didn’t recycle? I do. All that glass, metal, and plastic went into the dump. Then we realized that not only did we NOT want those materials in our landfills, we also could reuse much of that same material. There are actually niche companies that sort and re-sell all kinds of recyclables.

Now, I realize that some glass, metal, and plastic still go into our landfills, but we’ve also made tremendous progress in the last 20 years—all due to public awareness.

Hell, I can remember when the median strips of this nation’s highways were used as garbage dumps. It was nothing, back in the 1970s, to see garbage on the side of the road. Today, you rarely see garbage on highways...only old tire treads and the ocassional McDonald's cup.

Public awareness.

Remember DDT? It was a nasty pesticide that they used in commercial farming. After studying its effects, biologists told farmers and the government that DDT was taking its toll up and down the food chain, so its use was curtailed. Now eagles and frogs and other animals have largely recovered for this environmental horror.

Public awareness.

Once upon a time, people didn’t know or care about “garbage dumps.” Today, however, pretty much everyone in Erie County knows that there is a mountain of garbage just south of I-90 at the State Street Exit. And the mountain is getting bigger every day (in his book on Erie, Matty Walker said it’s one of the highest points in Erie County).

So, as these problems build and people become aware of them, it is possible to take steps to correct—or at least diminish—the problem.

And remember my opening point: the reason we are living longer is directly related to the fact that humans have tackled the problem of health care at the collective level. This has been accomplished over time with education and increased public awareness. We didn't just say, "Oh, well. This Smallpox thing really sucks, but there's no point in tackling the problem because we're just going to die anyway."

So, Mr. Wolf, if you want to take a “who cares” approach because the patterns that dominate our lives are too big to change, that’s your option. But I think the rhythms of our lives—and I know quite a bit about rhythms—take various shapes and sizes. We can affect some of the rhythms that fall within our sphere of influence (even as I acknowledge that other patterns remain outside our personal purview).

However, occasionally, the larger, more difficult patterns can be tackled by groups that create energy which achieves its own intention, that intention creates an attraction of its own, and that’s how communal problems are solved.




Ralph said...

Right. Pollution is just part of this bigger problem of waste that I see throughout our society. But, at the same time, to accomplish great things, requires expending great energy, and energy use always creates waste... But here's the thing that bothers me, native Americans were probably some of the most enviromentally concious people ever, and the poor fuckers got wiped out by big, bed, wasteful, and generally environmentally careless European invaders. What was up with that? Now, there is nothing wrong with cleaning up litter, because it is pretty annoying, but if you put too much energy into saving the environment, some big bad ass Republican like George W. is gonna tap your phone and put you in re-education camp. So, just watch what you're doing. Did I mention my stomach is bothering me to the point where I think I'm reaching delirium.


DocTorDee said...

That's the best comment you've ever written.

Keep up the good work.


DocTorDee said...

As for evolving to meet the needs of various environments, peep this: