Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earthday 2011

Another Earth Day is upon us and we're no closer to an environmentally sustainable culture than we were in 1990, which was the 20th anniversary of Earth Day when the media was already calling the 1990s the "Environmental Decade." Didn't turn out that way, even with an Environmentalist Vice President. What happened?

A few days ago was the one year anniversary of the Deep Horizon oil rig explosion that leaked millions of tons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. I watched a special report on the BBC, which I usually consider one of the most reliable news source. However, the report was so bias in favour of BP that I felt sick just watching it. They claimed that all the oil was eaten up by special bacteria. Seriously?!? Oil-eating bacteria? What a croc! Though I've heard it on some other news sites, I have a hard time buying it. BP is a wealthy corporation and during the crisis, BP execs seemed to get angry when American media referred to it as British Petroleum, which is the official name of the energy giant. One of the concerns was that severely punishing the company or bankrupting it would have led to an economic crisis in the United Kingdom because of how deeply ingrained it is in their country's labour market and economy. It doesn't take a genius to see the connection between BP, the British economy, and the BBC. Of course the BBC is going to feed viewers the science fiction of oil-eating bacteria cleaning up the entire Gulf of Mexico like some kind of modern day miracle. Yeah, its absolutely safe to eat seafood from the Gulf!

Okay, let's think about that idea for a minute. What if these oil-eating bacteria ended up in the stomachs of various fish and other sea creatures. What happens to the oil? Where does it go? Up the food chain? As I watched the broadcast, I actually got angry. That the media can just lie to us about a major crime against the environment to protect a corporation that has a big impact on the British economy, because peoples' jobs and livelihoods depend upon people snoozing through this disaster, its just outrageous in the amount of obscenity. I'm one who believes that the execs who cut corners and gave themselves pay increases need to face the death penalty. Harsh? Yeah. But until there are real consequences that enforces people to act ethically, people are always going to cut corners to save a buck that makes its way into their pockets at Christmas bonus time.

This year, we have another environmental catastrophe on our hands with the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan that was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami. The news recently upgraded the disaster to Chernobyl-level meltdown. The Japanese are huge consumers of seafood, but who would want to eat anything from the sea in that part of the world?

Its amazing that we've seen our world get hit with disaster after disaster, which seems to be intensifying in magnitude (natural disasters are always going to be a part of life on earth), yet we don't make major lifestyle adjustments. We still continue with our mass consuming ways, even though we've seen massive bird die-offs and fish die-offs, and dead dolphins washing ashore. How many messages do we need to see show up in our world before we get the hint?

I recently had a debate on Facebook (surprise, surprise) regarding capitalism. As is always the case, whenever someone criticizes capitalism, the defenders come out with the same old propaganda: "Its better than communism!", "There's no other economic system out there that can replace it", etc. True, capitalism has been an improvement upon feudalism, mercantilism, and communalism. True, communism could not compete with capitalism. True, socialism has its own problems, which Europe is only starting to experience now. Even Islamism and Christianity cannot compete with capitalism. But there is a brick wall that capitalism won't be able to break through: MOTHER NATURE.

In college economic classes, I heard several professors mention that we would need FOUR planet earths in order for all 6 billion or more people to live "the typical American lifestyle." Yikes! We are only 4% of the world's population, yet we consume more than 20% of the world's energy supply. Hate to break the bad news, but we don't have four planet earths. Obviously, adjustments are going to have to be made. China has 1.3 billion people. 300 million (same as the U.S. population) are in the "middle class". The other 1 billion want to move into the middle class. Then there's another billion people in India, where many aspire to a middle class lifestyle. Can you imagine what these demands are doing to our planet?

To give one example of our absurd trading system, we import far more from China than we export. This means that China has to keep building the steel shipping containers that get put on ships to sail the Pacific Ocean to the U.S.A. Its not cost effective to return empty shipping containers on ships, so we end up having these worthless containers. Some innovative thinkers have used them to build apartment buildings, but they are ugly as hell. Think of the cost to the environment: it takes natural resources to be mined to create the steel structure. We're constantly mining the earth, with toxic residue. Its all poison...for what? So we can have cheap plastic junk from China?

Can we live with less? If we can't, Mother Nature will make it so. Last weekend, nearly 300 tornadoes ripped through the South in a freak weather front. News anchorwoman Diane Sawyer said that this was a record: more tornadoes in a three day period than during an average month. These tornadoes laid waste to neighbourhoods. Houses filled with junk from Walmart were scattered all over. Even a Lowe's home construction store was hit by a tornado and got its shelves rearranged. The local news keeps talking about how the Cascadia Subduction Zone is overdue for a major earthquake, which will cause major damage in Seattle and Portland. I'd hate to see this happen in my lifetime. We are living on a ticking time bomb.

I love the photo above that I found on a Google image search. The colour really captured my eyes. I love it! I guess that's what "indigo" looks like. When I see this photo, a deep part of me wants to just sigh a soul-satisfying "aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!" This is what life is truly about: the beauty and serenity of nature, unspoiled and there for our appreciation. We, who live in man-built cities, need to be reminded of this more often. We have a beautiful planet to live on. We're obligated to leave it better than we found it, because as Native American tribes point out, we're merely borrowing it from our great-grandchildren.

Hope you have a Happy Earth Day! At some point in the day, I hope you will take time out to appreciate our beautiful planet. We don't have three more waiting in the wings if we mess this one up. And lately, we truly are messing this one up. I know that there are many Christians who don't seem to care about our planet because they believe "The Rapture" and Armageddon is imminent. However, for those who believe in reincarnation like I do, I want this planet to be around and much improved upon because there are still many lifetimes I can't wait to experience someday (I plan to be an Aussie or New Zealander in my next life). If you don't believe in reincarnation, well, think about the future generations who will inhabit this planet. Don't they deserve a beautiful, bountiful planet for their enjoyment? Of course they do. Now go plant a tree!