Reflections on Earth Day 2007

Every day is Earth Day when you think about it. What we do every day determines the future of the earth as we know it. The reality we face is that there is less and less margin of error to allow us to correct for mistakes.

We are still at a very primitive stage of understanding the delicate balance of the earth’s multiple environmental systems that keep it all together and working. We do global computer modeling based on things we think we understand and come up with projections of what might happen. The earth has feedback loops to adjust for changes like global warming but these loops have limits. Exceed the limits and the whole thing falls apart. Ask yourself how many people have had their home aquarium system die off.

The question for the future of earth is whether mankind comes to accept those limits or realizes too late that some things are not controllable by man at this time, if ever. Will we make changes in time to prevent a breakdown to our current operating systems for planet earth? Are we willing to come together to find a commonly shared solution or is it every nation and every corporation and every individual for themselves?

The prudent course of action when the engine light comes on in a car is to stop what you’re doing and check out why it came on. Warning lights are going on now on the earth – the most obvious being global warming and climate change. But also the disappearance of established ecosystems with associated habitats and species is also occurring like coral reef destruction and loss of major fisheries. We are literally spraying the earth with a host of chemicals whose long term effects we know little about let alone short term effects. Nature has a potential to recover if we don’t exceed global limits.

Our chemical impact is coming about for a variety of reasons. These include the introduction of new chemicals by the free enterprise market system which does not include an upfront analysis of impacts before chemicals are sold and released into the environment. Mining operations, smelters and chemical processing plants, coal plants, pharmaceutical and drug companies, military weapons, recycling operation, toxic waste dumping, disposal operations, you name it, there are thousands and thousands of ways we are producing, mixing, distributing and changing the chemical composition of our living environment that is cumulatively building up negative impacts.

Science usually operates by doing controlled experiments where you change one factor while holding the others constant. The earth is now like one huge laboratory where thousands of changes and chemical experiments and biological experiments are occurring simultaneously and very few are being tracked or understood.

The stakes are huge. Where once you would see something go awry locally, now many changes are occurring on a vastly larger scale because we are experimenting with changing things on a global level. Chernobyl was an example of a local incident that spread regionally. I remember going through a former mining area in the West some 30 years or so ago. The closer you got to where the smelter had been the more stunted the vegetation got.

Today with coal plants the same thing happens. Burning high sulfur coal produces sulfur dioxide which can be converted to sulfuric acid – that’s what acid rain is. The visible effects are regional not local and are becoming global as more chemicals get introduced into the atmosphere, our land and the oceans. A recent report cited air pollution from China showing up in the western United States. Carbon dioxide buildup occurs in the atmosphere as more plants are built. China in its attempt to catch up with the US prosperity model is planning on building one new coal plant a week.

While there is one earth, there is not one world. We are still a mish mash of warring ideologies and factious peoples. Capitalism creates an economic battle for competing markets and resources in which cooperation and restraint seem a lower priority than winning market share. Religious ideologies and war also are fracturing world unity.

While capitalism has increased material goods and comfort and produced many advances in science and medicine and other areas it also has placed a higher value on individual rewards and ownership rather than addressing community needs and shared prosperity worldwide. The AIDS crisis in Africa and people still suffering starvation and malnutrition around the world are just two examples of problems the world community is not addressing together with compassion.

That is not to say we can not change but to do so means more emphasis on shared values of one world and one people all sharing one earth. Instead the world remains divided by political, economic, and religious boundaries. We still build fences to keep us separate.

For religion to change, it means accepting that we are all children of a God who exhibits himself or herself in numerous manifestations. We are all God’s chosen people. There is not one chosen people or religion.

For economic systems it means accepting each other as partners and workers in one company with shared rewards. We are not competing against each other but we are working to provide basic human needs for all and sharing fairly in the rewards of hard work. We can not view others as nations or people to exploit or dominate or take advantage of.

For political systems it means governments will have to work to provide services fairly to all people, not give special tax breaks to the wealthy or tax exemptions to favored corporations.

For political systems and religions, nations need to separate religious belief systems that divide and limit people from political systems and governments that provide basic health care, nutrition, housing, food and education. Religions that limit freedom by domination and exploitation and edicts destroy human dignity and well being.

The future of the earth depends on mankind evolving into one co-operative worldwide caring community. We need to implement policies world wide that support individual life and human dignity without giving up basic freedoms. We need to develop a non-exploitative sustainable economic policy toward each other and the earth which currently sustains all of us. We need an economy that is not dependent on continual growth but that is sustainable in terms of the limits that exist for maintaining life on planet earth.

And we need to implement political policies that are fair to all by guaranteeing basic rights for all. These include access to adequate and safe food, clean water, clean air, housing, basic education and basic human rights. Religious policies need to accept the worth of every individual and practice tolerance for differences.

The future of the earth for humans depends on facing the reality that things need to change. Together we can envision and work for a future that allows us to live peacefully together, working for our common good. History is replete with wars and conquests. One side loses and the other wins. The reality of the earth today is that in a battle with the earth we all lose if we don’t accept the reality of the fact that no one wins if we perish as a species because we didn’t pay attention to the warning lights. The warning lights are blinking.

Comments are closed.