Aether Song

Our time is not in the grey falling rain nor in the boundless blue-green sea. Our time is in the river that lies between them, flowing smooth and quiet over the sand or angry and roiling over the unyielding stones. Joining and dividing. Choosing our own way for good or ill.

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Location: United States

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Through a Glass Darkly

When I emerged from the womb at (9lbs, 6oz) there were already 3.14 billion human beings inhabiting our planet. Today there are 6.5 billion (give or take). Each of those six-and-a-half billion people needs to eat. Each of those six-and-a-half billion needs fresh water to drink. Each of those six-and-a-half billion needs air to breathe. Each of those six-and-a-half billion produce urine and feces, which must be treated so that they can be absorbed by the environment. Many of those six-and-a-half billion need fuel to warm their homes, many of those six-and-a-half billion need fuel to cook their food. Those are needs, we have not even begun to discuss wants.

Once upon a time I lived in a different, more rural town. One night while I was driving home I saw a young deer lying under a small spruce tree beside the road. It was dead. For the next several months I looked at it as I passed and watched the changes. First all of the soft internal organs went, then the hide went and last of all went the bones. There came a day when the deer was completely gone, as if it had never been there. If you think about it makes perfect sense. Otherwise the woods would be so chock full of deer bones you couldn’t walk.

Human beings are not like this although we once were. Only a small fraction of the waste we produce is recycled. This includes gaseous wastes like carbon dioxide which comes from the burning of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are used to run the machines which plant our food, harvest our food, transport our food, package and process our food. Fossil fuels are burned to make the electricity which runs the pumps which pump the water to grow the food, and which pump the fresh water to us (and to the plants where it is bottled as well as being the material the bottles themselves are made from). Like many of the bottles the carbon dioxide from the burning the fossil fuels accumulates. And accumulates. And accumulates. The more of it there is the more heat from the sun it traps in the atmosphere. The more heat it traps the more things will change. Things like rainfall patterns and the strength and frequency of storms. This will cause droughts and floods. This will cause a loss of crops. This will ultimately cause starvation. Today there are more hungry mouths than there were yesterday. Tomorrow there will be more hungry mouth than there are today. With each new person the problem grows, especially here in the developed countries.

Simon and Garfunkel said it well ‘a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest’. If we want to avoid starvation on a biblical scale then the discussions should begin now as to how many of us the earth can comfortable hold. If we want to avoid further disruption of the climate we need to drastically reduce our consumption of fossil fuels now (yesterday preferably). I do not believe that either of these things will happen. Most people don’t want to hear that there is a problem or that they will be expected to make any sacrifice whatsoever for the common good. They want to drive their hummers to the NASCAR races, have their pork bar-b-que’s afterwards and then go home to watch the latest ‘reality’ show on TV. I do not think that they will hear anything or do anything until their own children or grandchildren are screaming from hunger and thirst. At that point they will weep, wail, gnash their teeth and say that it’s too late and that nobody predicted it. They may indeed be right about the ‘too late’ part. It may already be too late. The books I read on this subject always end with that little hopeful upbeat message just like ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ did, but I think that’s just a sop to sell the works themselves, because a message saying ‘we are doomed and there is nothing you can do about it’ would likely not sell as well (I might be wrong about that, the ‘Left Behind’ series is doing okay I hear).

Perhaps I am overly pessimistic, but I do not believe the phrase used by the Easter Islanders - ‘The flesh of your mother sticks between my teeth." - has been heard for the last time on our world.
This is what I see in my glass. Unnecessary death and unimaginable suffering until we learn to be like the deer. If we ever do.

5 Comments:

Blogger Songbird said...

Well, I think it's possible you're overly pessimistic, but also possible that most humans employ denial as a survival technique, as long as it keeps working for them.

7:47 PM  
Blogger jo(e) said...

I think you are being realistic, not pessimistic at all.

I don't think the real problem has to do with individuals -- I think the problem is with a government that is set up so that our leaders never need to look more than four years into the future. It's that incredibly short view that doesn't look at environmental problems until it's too late. How much better if our leaders were required to look ahead seven generations and were held accountable for that ....

5:13 AM  
Blogger Pure Luck said...

So I wonder. How do those like yourself, those with children, feel about sending them into this future?

7:17 AM  
Blogger St. Casserole said...

The future looks scary at any age. I want to know when we will figure out that we have to care for the earth.

I made the mistake of watching the NOVA program about the Katrina and the New Orleans levee failures.

The ocean is 1 degree warmer now. What else but global warming?

It's time to pay attention.

6:37 PM  
Blogger Singing Owl said...

It is frightening. How I feel about it is...afraid. And deeply sad.

5:26 PM  

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