Public Environmental Enemy Number One: Human Beings
My attempt to maintain a listing of the worst environmental villains has failed miserably. As we are closing in on the three month anniversary of this blog (have you noticed that spell check doesn't recognize blog) I have devoted a grand total of two posts to the topic. Its not that I'm not fanatical about the topic, more that when I think about it I get completely overwhelmed. There are just so many to choose from I don't know where to start.
There's the American government sponsored by the oil industry raping the Alaskan wildlife preserve instead of investing those billions in developing alternative energy; the builders of subdivisions everywhere destroying land of all types to build butt ugly housing; the Big Three auto makers and their insistence on performance over efficiency; electrical suppliers returning to coal powered generators instead of enforcing conservation efforts. The list is endless.
But the real reason is that you can reduce the list down to one commonality that is painfully obvious. There is only one thing that drives all the different enemies, one desire. Fulfilling the needs of the consumer. Each of the aforementioned groups of people do what they do based on the demands placed on them by us. Human beings.
That's the painful truth. We can try and blame it on corporate greed, government indifference, or some other excuse, but if we were not compliant, or even worse, demanding of the services provided, there would be no need for them to deliver. As long as we demand the luxury of five bedroom houses for two people to live in, massive automobiles for no other purpose but to convey us to and from work, and conveniences to cool our air, trim our hedges, change our environment, and open our cans we create the raison d'être for all of these crimes.
By sitting at my computer at this time of day and writing this blog I have very little idea of how much demand I'm making on the system but at a guess I'd say there is the minimum of a light on to see with, the power to run my computer, to run my internet connection, to have the blog's server on to pick up post, and the power on in all the offices that are needed to be staffed to allow all of that to happen. That's just scratching the surface.
When it comes down to it there is really only one enemy of the environment and we are it. None of our actions do anything to recompense for what we take. We don't even make good fertilizer as corpses. Most other animals, minerals , plants etc. either give something back or are neutral. When was the last time you saw a rock use a hair dryer? Prey and predator serve a purpose, make a balance. If left alone most animal populations adjust themselves over time, or there is sufficient habitat to allow for one area to be abandoned in favour of another for a time to allow overgrazed areas to recover.
So called primitive tribal humans recognized this flaw in our make up and organized specific rites to remind themselves of their need for gratitude to the natural world. The "give-a-ways" and the "pot -latches" of native Americans were in recognition of the fact that we don't give anything back, that we have no integrated way of saying thank you. Even though those ceremonies did not actually give anything back in the physical sense they served as a reminder of our limitations so that we could govern ourselves accordingly.
Humans leave a massive "footprint" behind and do little or nothing to repair the damage. Whether strip mining pumice to make stone washed jeans and leaving the tailings to pollute the water table, clear cutting old growth forest and destroying thousands of species' habitats in order to build more housing modules, or refusing to practice sensible family planning in order to maintain sustainable levels of population, it all amounts to the same thing.
The ever continual population boom is probably the biggest contributor to the ill health of the planet. In the wild when a population booms one of three things happens, predators thin the herd, the food runs out and famine reduces the population to a sustainable level, or decease ravages the group. Since humans have no predators except themselves, we are mainly the victims of famine and decease of our own making. Each new virus that springs up, every new famine in the sub Sahara, are a direct or indirect result of our overpopulation.
We in the so called developed world have stood idly by for too long allowing the populations of the former colonies to be manipulated by the religious and political agenda of a minority. Under the guise of aid they ensure their morality is imposed upon populations that are suffering from the rapid mutation of viruses via the huge petrie dish of a large population weakened by starvation. A virus is like any species playing out its little evolutionary war, mutating to resist our medicines at an alarming rate. As far as a virus is concerned the more warm bodies to grow in the better. We must pressure bodies like the U.N. etc. to start handing out condoms instead of prayer books. If the world population is not brought under control soon, well, to put it succinctly we're f***ed.
The thing is that there is good news. It has been predicted that the upcoming generation of women in the developing world, with the advent of education and the opening up of options for a better life, will actually have less children then previous ones. But that has to be sustained over the long term, and we have to actively work to promote that lifestyle everywhere. There is no way this world can hope to support the over 5 billion people on it for much longer. It's already cracking at the seams.
What had started out as a sort of neat idea to highlight the worst polluters or environmental offenders just sort of fizzled out as I whittled it down to the bare essentials. Sorry about that but sometimes looking in the mirror isn't pretty. Our species has been partying without caring for a while now, its time to deal with the hangover.