Thursday, April 23, 2015

The solution to Our Environmental Ills

Some folks say that we are the source of the environmental crisis increasingly apparent to even the most hardened conservative.  The “we” are us, ”we” created the problem and “we” possess the solution.   

Hmmm... must be some other "we." I didn't create the problem. However, I do have the solution!

The problem was in full bore when I was born. It must have been my parents who created it. But wait! It was going well when they were born, too. And my 11th Great Grandfather brought it with him from England, where they had been practicing it for centuries, when he came to Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1634.

As population increased in Europe during the Medieval Warm Period, consumption of resources increased until the plagues of the 14th Century and the "wood crisis" of the 16th Century that limited further increase. Europeans expanded outward seeking news sources of wealth and energy, prompting another increase in population. The Industrial Revolution led to further increases in population and consumption.

No one created the problem and no one had the solution. The problem was endemic to human evolution and culture.

The "problem" is the per capita rate of human consumption of natural "resources" (the word says it all), multiplied by the total number of humans in any given ecosystem. Human culture has reduced the human death rate and culture has increased the per capita rate of consumption. Thus we find ourselves at the aforementioned precipice, toes dangling in the breeze over the edge.

The solution is simple: reduce human population and/or reduce human consumption, such that humans do not consume more than is naturally replenished nor produce wastes faster than they are naturally assimilated.

There are two ways to accomplish these goals:

    1) Do nothing and wait for Nature to take its course. Continued human growth in a world of finite resources is impossible. Things that can't go on forever, don't. Human economies based on continuous growth will collapse; disease and famine will accomplish the rest. There won't be sufficient resources left for a human culture to ever again regain its present state of development. The future is less not more.

    2) Decide to voluntarily reduce our population through serious birth control, emancipation and empowerment of women to control their own reproductive lives, and elimination of incentives for large families. And reduce per capita consumption and organize distribution such that everyone in the reduced population has sufficient resources to live a full and satisfying life. The future is less not more.

There's no reason to think that humans have the political will to pull off Option Number 2, certainly not before Option Number 1 begins to take effect. Humans are too much like the monkey with his fist stuck in the jar, unwilling to let go of the fruit in hand to save himself from the approaching tiger. Even those who take climate change seriously and bang on unsparingly about its dire effects are unwilling to change their own lives enough to make a difference. Millions of cars and trucks clog the highway every day beneath glaring billboards proclaiming climate doom and gloom.

This cannot, and will not, long continue.

As Jean has said many times, a thousand years from now everything will be OK.

As it must.

    “To aid and abet in the destruction of a single species or in the extermination of a single tribe is to commit a crime against God, a mortal sin against Mother Nature. Better by far to sacrifice in some degree the interests of mechanical civilization, curtail our gluttonous appetite for things, ever more things, learn to moderate our needs, and most important, and not difficult, learn to control, limit and gradually reduce our human numbers. We humans swarm over the planet like a plague of locusts, multiplying and devouring. There is no justice, sense or decency in this mindless global breeding spree, this obscene anthropoid fecundity, this industrialized mass production of babies and bodies, ever more bodies and babies. The man-centered view of the world is anti-Christian, anti-Buddhist, antinature, antilife, and--antihuman.”
― Edward Abbey, Beyond the Wall: Essays from the Outside

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

California Drought and Anasazi Transformation

    Lots of arm-waving, gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair on the Left Coast these days over The Drought. Of course, those whose interests are served, and pockets lined, by spreading fear of GLOBAL WARMING, and other myths, pound on about how climate change is the cause of The Drought, and, of course, humans are the cause of climate change.

    Rather than sorting through the rhetoric, I decided to ask someone who might know about these things, atmosphere, weather, climate, etc. Here's what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Program 
Office has to say about the California drought:


    "The current drought is not part of a long-term change in California precipitation, which exhibits no appreciable trend since 1895. Key oceanic features that caused precipitation inhibiting atmospheric ridging off the West Coast during 2011-14 were symptomatic of natural internal atmosphere-ocean variability."

    So there we are.

    This doesn't let Homo sapiens californicus off the hook by any means. There's still plenty of growth maniacs running wildly about the place, ignoring natural limitations of resource availability, planning new housing developments, industrial parks, airport runway expansions, new dams on rivers, if there are any rivers and creeks left untrammeled. No matter what the human problem is, from poverty to urban crime to childhood obesity, growth is the first solution pulled out of the hat.

    It's time to stroll down to the local haberdashery and get a new hat.

    What's needed is a whole lot less growth and development and a whole lot more simple adaptation.

    
The Anasazi of 12th Century New Mexico figured it out. When times got tough and rain scarce in the Southwest, they abandoned their Great Houses in Chaco Canyon and vicinity and scattered into the uplands, where summer temperatures were cooler, rain more frequent and predictable. They reinvented themselves as Pueblo people and continued to live in place. They've lived there for 800 years or so, far longer than the upstart Europeans who repeatedly tried to drive them off or wipe them out, and failed.

   Now it's our turn to be the Anasazi, if we're smart enough, if we care enough. The imported European lifestyle just doesn't work on this coast or this continent. Natural cycles far outspan the puny timescale, unbounded hubris and unrealistic aspirations of American endeavor. If we are to continue as a culture, a prospect looking increasingly doubtful, it will have to be as a very different culture, one which lives as a part of the natural world, not apart from it.

    

    Not to worry. Those things that can't go on forever, don't. Mother Nature bats last. It's hard and it's fair.