adaptation, comfort, Earth, global warming, home, overpopulation, She's Beautiful, Soul Dipper, Yann Arthus Bertrand
Retirement has increased my concern that for the past thirty years, my weight gain has mirrored the national average. Now that I no longer get paid to walk seven to ten miles per day while lugging up to thirty pounds of processed trees, I feel the threat of increasing waist and hips each morning as I struggle into my favorite jeans. I am determined to halt this dreadful accumulation before it does serious damage to my health.
It is interesting to note that during that same thirty year period, the North Pole has lost thirty percent of its ice cap. For me the weight has been a slow accrual. One pound per year doesn’t seem like much, till you look back and add up the damage. Same for the loss of the world’s cyrosphere…or snow and water accumulation. That this planet is undergoing a phenomenal change is undeniably apparent. Satellite images, gazing down upon earth, clearly document an abrupt loss of snow and ice. In addition to loss of general mass, what is left of the cryosphere is now 40% thinner than it was 40 years ago.
We are beyond pointing fingers and arguing over who is to blame for weight gain or ice loss. We are now dealing with clear and present danger. On a personal level, we risk becoming a nation of clogged arteries and diabetics who need wheeled devices to ambulate from the bed to the bathroom. As inhabitants of Planet Earth, we risk altering our environment beyond our own capacity to evolve along with the changes.
For over four billion years, this round ball of water, atmosphere, minerals, metals, flora and fauna, has been evolving and changing. Archaebacteria and cyanobacteria are the ancestors of life as we know it. Bacteria were the elements needed for life to evolve. Every addition to this planet has had an effect, like the ripples of a pebble tossed into a pond, rippling the water outward away from the point of impact, to the banks that hold the water, and back again. Some minute adjustment occured to allow each new life form to take the stage. And with the arrival of each new life form, came adaptations to everything and everyone around it. Each being exists only by the existence of another being.
The earth is a complex organism, living, breathing, adapting, and reinventing itself. One small example is “the corals that are born from the marriage of algae and shells. Coral reefs become home to plants and fish. The equilibrium of every ocean depends on corals.” And the equilibrium of all that lives on land corresponds in some way to the equilibrium of the oceans. It is a delicate harmony. But where the earth has been gently evolving for four billion years, humans have been tinkering with that balance for a mere 200,000 years. Our impact has escalated exponentially.
By sheer weight of numbers, humans increase their impact. Since 1950, world population has nearly tripled. That volume of humanity strains the balance of resources needed to sustain it. We have used our incredible ability to adapt, to learn, to explore, and to experiment, to mold the planet and the space around it to better suit our needs. No longer does each family unit produce the food and shelter it needs. Now we concentrate our efforts, we specialize, we live in thick clots of humanity, producing waste and consuming prodigiously.
The more creative we are, the more resources we exploit. We have unbalanced the balanced organism. We now separate ourselves into the haves and the dream-of-havings. Now twenty percent of world’s population consumes eighty percent of planet’s natural resources. Half of the world’s wealth belongs to the richest two percent of the world’s population. Ironically half of the world’s poor live in resource rich countries.
We have become a parasite that sucks the life from its host. We need to return to a symbiotic relationship with our planet. We need to slow our impact enough to give homo sapiens time to adapt to the changes we’ve forced on our host organism. Just as I need to weigh the cost, the benefit, and the pleasure of each morsel I devour in order to halt my expanding waistline, I also need to weigh the cost, the benefit, and the pleasure of each resource I reach for as I live my comfortable life. We all need to work together to decrease our impact on the natural resources we take for granted.
Two videos have impacted me enormously, She’s Beautiful which I already shared in my last post and one that was suggested to me by one of my kind, spiritually in-tune, and worldly readers, SoulDipper. The documentary “Home,” by Yann Arthus Bertrand and narrated by Glenn Close, makes the destruction of a planet as visually appealing and as visually disturbing as would be the filmed saga of a sperm and an egg joining, growing, developing, and then passing through the birth canal to become one more human being on our already crowded planet. I warn you, this one is a full length documentary. But it is exquisitely photographed and edited and it is filled with facts even more compelling than those I’ve used to make my point here.
For me the challenge after viewing these videos is to raise myself above the morass of hopelessness that inevitably follows. I feel hollow and hypocritical in the small ways that I try to rein in my contribution to the rape of our host. But if we can all at least be mindful of the resources we use, perhaps this will lead us to invent new ways of approaching life, new ways of living lighter and smaller.
I’m interested in how my readers feel about these issues. What is your planetary diet strategy? How do you go about reducing the weight of your being?
Credits: Header Image: University of Illinois; Polar Research Group; Polar Cryoshpere Sept. 1, 1988 – Sept. 1, 2008. * Earth from NASA * © Typhoonski | Dreamstime.com
Beautifully written, Linda. I don’t agree with those who worry about destroying the planet. I think we need to learn how to use our intelligence to conserve and clean up after ourselves. If we continue to waste resources and scour the Earth’s crust, we will doom ourselves and possibly some of our fellow creatures. But I think the planet itself would do fine without us — maybe that’s the lesson we need to learn. The good news is that we already know what to do. The question is, will we do it?
Thanks Charles. Only a wise and open-minded person can appreciate the writing, even while disagreeing with the message.
What most worries me is that we are, in fact, continueing to waste resources and scour the Earth’s crust. And yes, our behavior, along with natural changes that would occur anyway, will doom us. I agree that the planet would be better off without homo sapiens aboard.
I’m curious that you believe we already know what to do. I’m not sure I know. I’d be interested in hearing more about your thoughts on what we need to do and how we should go about doing it.
Thank you for writing this, RW. Bravo to people who stop to watch these documentaries. We are responsible for being aware of the impact we have on our planet. We “use” it in ways we don’t see anymore. We can influence change (speak up!) and we can change our destructive habits. Every little bit helps.
You are so right about how we use our host in ways we no longer see. I hope that every little bit helps.
Thank YOU for steering me towards Yann Arthus Bertrand.
Good perspectives. I agree with something that I think I understood you to say in a comment under another post. Which was that (prepare for gross paraphrase) scientists, political figures, and generally most people of influence have botched information, presumed too quickly, published things in text books for our children to learn, built cities around hypotheses, and never once gone back to apologized for their misinformation. And, after all that, how will they ever be able to use their influence to raise awareness for what may be the real issues?
Linda Paul said:
Yes, Dinkerson. You do raise a very good point. We have been bashed over the head so many times by “experts” that we become wary of expert advice. First they tell us to forgo animal fats for the factory-made “wonder” fats that lull us into even worse dietary choices, then they about face and tell us that those wonder fats are killing us and contributing to national obesity. Who do we believe? Which band wagon do we leap aboard? What choices are the best for an endangered planet and our own powerful species? At least we are having the dialogues.
I agree with bronxboy55…very well written! As always.
I think it’s so important for those of us who share this perspective to be able to talk about it, if for no other reason than to try and find ways of living with the fear and dread and sadness and anger and guilt and other heavy emotions it raises. I know I’ve been struggling with this since I was ten years old, when I first started reading about habitat loss, endangered species, and the extinctions that were already taking place back in the 60’s. Back then I used to cry myself to sleep at night with prayers for the elimination of the human race from the planet. (Possible first depressive episode? hmmmm…) This concern was also a major contributor to my later, biggest, longest, and most dangerous episode, due of course to that old “morass of hopelessness” you referenced. Finally, I realized that I had to find a more constructive perspective going forward.
Funnily enough, I found it while working with hospice, where my understanding and acceptance of what I think of as the Law of Endings evolved. For whatever its worth, here’s what I came to personally: I think that we’re currently living through the death of an age, and at least some of that death involves the destruction of a way of life for the entire planet that, as you so eloquently describe, took aeons to evolve. A lot of the massive changes that have already taken place are well past the point where they can be reversed, (the book A Plague of Frogs – 2000, by William Souder, is an eye-opening, and dismaying, read.) Even if humans COULD immediately come together and successfully address things like climate change, loss of biodiversity, resource over-consumption, and an unsustainable level of population growth going forward, life on this planet will still look dramatically different. We are, for better or worse, exiting the old age and entering a new and different one.
I eventually came to the same conclusions you did, although perhaps out of a different motivation. I, too, decided to make every one of my choices count as a personal act of deep love and respect for this planet and everything that lives on her. Only not because I hoped it would change any outcome, but just because with whatever time I have, that’s how I want to live and treat our world, no matter what eventually happens. I have no idea where all the current changes will lead or what shape the future will ultimately take…there are far too many moving parts and unknown influences in operation to accurately predict that. But I found the best thing for me is just to allow myself to go ahead and grieve the massive losses taking place every day, to continue hoping for the best, while also surrendering to the possibility that it might not turn out that way.
Because none of those things means that I can’t continue to love this world with all my heart. It feels good to be able to say that somewhere. Thanks, Linda.
Linda Paul said:
Dia, as always you come to difficult scenarios with what sure seems to be calmness and wisdom, although, I understand that your gains in that department have come after paying a very high emotional price.
Your Law of Endings…well….I’m still waiting for the BOOK….it is interesting that you expand this analogy to life on earth as well as personal life. Sadly, I believe you are right in concluding that many of the things we’ve taken for granted here on the mothership will be vastly altered in the near future.
And hope for change? That is difficult. We can’t even agree on a national health care plan in this country. How could we possibly expect to agree on changes to benefit the health of our host? And how could we possibly expect the entire world to jump on board with us in those changes?
This is a lovely post. It is nice to see that there are people out there who care about these things. I am not the best ecologist in the world, but I am working on it. Currently I’m reading “No Impact Man” by Colin Beavan (they made a documentary too that I haven’t watched yet) and I hope that by the time I finish it I will have learnt things that I’ll be able to do to help the planet.
I am a student of translation and interpreting and I don’t know much about science but I think that one of the main problems is the fact that there is way too many people in the world. Not long ago I found out that thanks to medicine and agriculture, or not, we are 10,000 times more common than we should be. This means that, if it weren’t for them, there would only be 500,000 people on Earth.
The bigger the population is, the less resources there will be. The bigger the population is, the more pollution and gas emissions there will be. The worst is, that most people don’t even care. We always want to go to places by car because it is more comfortable, instead of taking a bus, riding a bike or walking. We don’t care if we pollute thousands of liters of water if we put a drop of oil down the sink, because it is more comfortable to do that than to put that oil in a bottle and throw it in the trash. It doesn’t matter if we are washing the dishes and we leave water running, or while brushing teeth. Same when we are showering (I normally stop it while washing my hair or body, although I have to admit that sometimes -especially in winter- I don’t, but again, I’m working on it). Recycling is something that we should do too.
People should also start thinking about adoption instead of bringing more people to the world. There are lots of children out there who need parents, why don’t give them a home? The problem I find with this, is the fact that adopting takes so long and sometimes it is extremely expensive. I will never understand why you have to pay thousands of euros to go save a kid from misery in their country. Or not even another country, your own, you don’t have to go to another continent to find a child. If people thought about this, the population number would decrease. How much? I don’t know, but probably enough to help the planet quite a lot.
There are a lot of things we could do, small actions that done by a lot of people would turn into a huge thing. It’s just a matter of making consider all that. The problem is that people don’t worry about anything only when its too late do you put ur hands on your head, and think, “oh god”.
I’m no expert in this field, but these are just things I’ve been pondering over, and maybe there are better solutions.
It’s a matter of making all that considered*
Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to thoughtfully respond.
I’m obviously no expert in the field of energy and ecology either. But, like you, I keep trying to do the right thing…or what I hope is the right thing. Often it’s difficult to really know because there is so much conflicting information.
I absolutely believe your theory that there are too many people on the planet. Humans no longer have predators, other than each other and disease….and we keep chipping away at diseases, so those will eventually go away, too. Any time an organism outgrows its biological niche (in our case the whole world and part of the universe) it dooms itself to starvation and perhaps extinction. I hope we won’t also doom the rest of the life forms in our universe…!
I feel good about one thing, at least I have not contributed to overpopulation. There are so many options…so many kids who need a good and loving home. It is only human vanity to makes us feel we NEED to have (give birth to) kids.
We have a lousy mass transit system in my area. It is difficult to do here, because we have fewer people per square mile. That means fewer people to support the expensive options. Meanwhile, we all have our cars, and as you say…cars are so easy. For local, short hops, I try to use my bike as much as I can.
I try to not to over heat or cool my home. But, the air-conditioner in the summer is a huge temptation because I hate the heat and my house really percolates despite upgraded insultation and windows. But the real heart of the matter is that I live in a home all by myself. This is environmentally wasteful…but I don’t do well at all with room mates or ….well….live-in mates, for that matter.
It’s all a matter of balance, small sacrifices, and awareness.Let’s stay committed to our efforts, no matter how trivial them may seem.
Sorry I took so long to answer.
You know, I think you should read the book I mentioned on my comment: No Impact Man. I am in page 47 out of 250 or so and I’m loving it. I’m sure that I’d learn lots of things with it that I’ll share on the blog =)
Gracias, Merry. I will add that book to my list of “to reads.” (Will I ever catch up?)
Of course you will, especially since English is your mother language (right?). For me it’s a bit more complicated sometimes, that’s why I am so slow. I think you could read four books before you start this one and still catch up! Haha. Or just watch the documentary =)
You’re shaming me now! I’m slow even in my mother tongue. And YOUR grasp of English is phenomenal. I am always mightily impressed by anyone who can master a second (third, fourth….???) language as well as you have. Heck, you write better English than probably 80% of Americans.
You’ve made me blush! =D But like I said, I still have a lot to learn =)