Depending on whose say-so you heed, our planet is going to hell on a speedboat, is fatally flawed, haplessly mismanaged, doomed to slam into an asteroid or be ingested whole when a black hole drags us into its vortex.
But consider, for how many millions of years, trees in autumn have laid down their leaves on forest floors to beget soil, create food and habitat for insects and microbial life, and fertilize our soil – and as fuel for forest fires to restore and revive habitat?
Grass and trees, grains, and innumerable plants live, then lay down to die in the soil that supported their lives. They’ve been at it for billions of years, and our short stay here has not stopped nature from being nature. True to that, and proof, was my morning walk yesterday, along a path that had been substantially clear the day before, now carpeted by drifts of slippery leaves painted yellow and orange.
Yes, we need a sense of urgency – ships cannot be turned around quickly, and the earth can’t either, so putting the brakes on consequential things can have enormous unintended consequences – some positive, some counter-productive. But while we consider big-P political actions and big-A activism actions, make a regulatory juggernaut banning plastics and eliminating oil, we should factor in two other things.
If we harken to brazen claims of some climate change exponents, every peril is lethal.
Taken to extremes, cumulatively, yes, the wrong cocktail of choices could kill us all. The planet’s climate has changed many times from warm to cold and back again in natural ways over billions of years. There were no people, no pollution, no climate police …
None of our activities has stopped tides, moved tectonic plates, or altered earth’s trajectory, speed, or orbit. Yes, we’ve interfered. Much of that interference has been dastardly, but should we now interfere more, or less, or differently to correct our damage done as re-shapers/inventors of our environment?
I doubt we have the collective wisdom, power, or the tools to do that comprehensively without risking unintended consequences while trying to heal the planet.
We might do best to back up, retreat slowly from our intrusions wherever we can, and let the planet use its eloquent powers to heal itself, as it has to sustain life through ice-ages and asteroids, species die-offs, and natural catastrophes of every kind imaginable.
But please, which measures of man-made change will fashion a world better able to avoid Armageddon, vis-à-vis achieving a worst-case scenario?
Maybe, with the stroke of a pen and everyone saluting, we’ll all change at once, do a 180-degree turn on every bad practice overnight, and everything will be instantly corrected, fixed, reversed, and repaired.
That’s not going to happen …
First, what is ‘not yet fully recognized’ value and impact of things already done or underway? Whether your chosen villain is that barrel of oil, an acre of GMO seeded crop, plastics in the ocean, whether CO2 levels are cause or effect, there is no way to measure the future impact of changes already made or in progress.
Second, and I submit this is more important for us to understand, is what are we (7.5 billion earthlings) individually doing already, or could easily do, without need for a law, regulation, or organization commanding or regulating our actions?
We can do something about it, one person at a time, one less piece of garbage discarded, one less thing tossed in a landfill, one less mess created without necessity. We are a renovation project inside a recycling machine called earth.
The billions of years over which the planet we inhabit shaped itself with weather, seasons, species, and shifting tectonic plates – enduring every plausible scenario of cause and effect when earthquakes and volcanos rattling noisily when tsunami waves meet shores and untold millions of species thriving.
The competition was, for everything living, to eat, procreate, survive, and thrive. Notwithstanding mass extinction events, the planet continues to be a life-support system …
Humans came along, and things haven’t been the same since.
We’ve been here such a short time, in which we’ve made enormous progress in longevity, health, knowledge, and society beyond what anyone might have imagined. It has been the best of times, and we are at a crossroads in the tasks of saving the planet from ourselves. No other species has ever had that responsibility, one we all take too lightly.
We could argue that we’ve done great things, but at what price?
Can we do a do-over?
The great writer and humorist Nora Ephron’s mantra was that “Everything is copy.” To that end, we can all write the story we see, discuss the feelings we experience, and tell one story after another to help the uninformed to learn, to help the messed-up ones to clear their thinking, and for us all to be better companions as we travel on spaceship earth.
We can all do more, but I believe that’s a short term effort for short term results. We need to ask ourselves more often whether what we are doing can have long term results to make life better, make the planet healthier, and give ourselves more to smile about.
During this pause time, our pandemic has afforded us, we have a fantastic opportunity to make a difference vs. make no difference. I’m not advocating replacing all fossil fuels with massive unsightly windmills, but it seems to me that every one of us can use and waste a little less stuff, buy a little less stuff, save a little more, invest a little more, and cooperate a little bit more – because it’s not too late.
We’ve evolved from our ape-ish ancestors to this – the people we see in the mirror, in less than 200,000 years, a mere moment in the great arc of time. During this top-layer of history, we’ve collectively done a lot of good while also doing considerable damage. Some are irreversible, but not all. Our pause has proven that we can take off the pressure for a short while, and nature notices and begins recovery.
In our personal troubles, we understand failure and recovery.
Our planet, our life-supporting ecosystem, understands failure and recovery too, far better than we do.
For starters, try these:
Don’t print this page.
Don’t use more than you need.
Don’t do harm …
You see, it’s easy.
And it’s hard, but it will be better if we all get on the same page. I’ve always been on the yes page, but that doesn’t mean I hate or distrust people on the no page; sometimes, we need to change our positions on significant issues, and sometimes we need to fight. Judging when to debate and when to fight is as old and fateful as our time here.
Nature’s comprehensive balancing act is wise and proven – it involves beauty and destruction on a massive scale, and on a microscopic scale. None of its living creatures has ever tried to re-make the planet, weather, or the climate. If we all back up a bit, do a little less harm, the collective impact will amaze us, and I expect it will please the planet for millennia to come. We’ll be all long gone, but the earth will thrive.
P.S. to Prime Minister Trudeau, the PMO, and members of the Liberal Party - now, I admit I live in Alberta – a place heavily dependent on oil, natural gas, forestry, agriculture, coal, tourism, science, education, technology, and humanity – yes, we are all those things. Our oil is the safest, cleanest, most regulated, ethical oil on a planet which will again soon, consume more than 90 million barrels a day. Our industry is the backbone, the heart, and the wallet of our economy – yet we have a government in Ottawa which regularly helps every province and every sector in many kindly and often unsustainable ways to save jobs and keep taxpayers working, to keep companies from folding – but tries to extinguish Alberta’s self-determination and constitutional rights to deal with its resources. Ottawa, you’ve poked the bear, and you should beware …
Your musing today struck close to home. At a group (less than ten, following guidelines closely), I was filling in others about the CCP’S humane rights abuse in their country. I was completely ignorant of this before Covid-19 grounded me at home leading to 4 months of research about the virus, etc. Most folks haven’t been on a similar ‘delve into‘ path. I offered to email a time line from Crossroads showing the Virus chart. One person responded, this way: “I do not support the Falun Gong religious movement or their beliefs.” I did ask her, via email, for an more detailed analysis so I could better comprehend . She hasn’t responded back. I know I felt a significant disconnect from her, and likely it is mutual. Your ability to stay in the same, if not deeper, friendships is admirable. I wonder if the other two people will, SF, Lethbridge, AB