September 20, 2019

I started my day a lot earlier than I like,  but I knew I owed it to Swedish teen Greta Thunberg’s lead for world-wide climate change marches today.

News of the “greenhouse effect” first appeared in 1824.  The first mention of global warming in 1975 was still long before Greta was born.  It was 1995, still before Greta was born, that there was a definitive statement that humans are definitely responsible for climate change.  Three years after Greta was born, Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” came out in 2006.

But the humans of the world were mostly too busy thinking about money — how to get it, how to get more, how to pillage and plunder to take what was thought to be rightfully ours as the masters of the universe and the most intelligent of all living things.  Yes, there were a few endearing characteristics of humans, but not enough to deflect disaster.

Much of nature, and many animal species continued to quietly disappear while the human population grew.  It was 1 billion in 1800, two billion in 1930, 3 billion in 1960, 4 billion in 1975, 5 billion in 1987, 6 billion in 1999, 7 billion in 2011.  8 billion is projected for 2024.

I won’t be here to verify it, but I strongly doubt humans will outlive climate change no matter how smart we get with technology and out of the box clever ideas.

Greta’s generation may make it into middle age or beyond, but I don’t see a happy ending for humans.  But the ending of humans will be a happy ending for nature because I firmly believe in the ability of nature to reboot and thrive again minus humans.

I ended the evening by watching a science fiction movie by chance called “Knowing” with Nicholas Cage.   In it, the entire earth is destroyed by a massive sun flare.  However, aliens have taken a selection of chosen children into spaceships and transported them by twos with two rabbits to a fresh, pure land with a beautiful large tree.  As I watched the children playfully running toward the tree, I felt a tiny flicker of hope that these children would be better guardians of nature, but a dread that they would once again contaminate mother nature with human arrogance and superiority.

May 26, 2010

How do I make sense of the world? Probably from a mixture of my upbringing, the time I was growing up, and my own personality, I stayed very naive far too long.
I believed that all policemen wanted to help people and were my friend. Except for one very nasty teacher in the second grade, most of my teachers were nice people who lived up to my third grade teacher’s name, Miss Darling. And officials and politicians wanted to make the world better.
The 1960s was a heady, idealistic time. I heeded the words of the organization Zero Population Growth, and the warnings of the book, “The Population Bomb,” and adopted an unwanted child instead of creating yet another American consumer of valuable and limited resources. I did volunteer work or worked for very little money, incorporating into my personal finances the non-profit mentality of the places and causes I worked for. I wrote passionate letters to prevent a pipeline being built in Alaska, the killing of whales, and against hunting. In fact, I worried a lot about the environment.
When I saw fly-encrusted unrefrigerated meat being sold on the streets of China in the early 1990s, I just knew that that couldn’t happen in America where the government protected us from unhealthy meat. When I saw pharmacies in China where remedies for every malady were concocted with secret recipes no one else knew, I knew that that couldn’t happen in America because we were protected by government agencies that tested every drug for years. When I saw rampant corruption in the Third World for myself, I was confident that American politicians behaved better.
I knew that bad things happened. Hadn’t I been born at the time when World War II was raging, my father was a soldier, and Jews were being annihilated? As a young child, I heard about bomb shelters, Cold War, and nuclear bombs that could destroy the world. In fact, when the lights went out all across the East Coast one evening when I was coming home from my first job after college, I was sure we were being attacked by either aliens or Russians.
Nature made more sense to me than human beings. So, when I first heard the words uttered casually by a Stanford University professor during conversation at a faculty dinner, his simple sentence caught my attention. In fact, his sentence is the one that has replayed in my mind more often than any other sentence. I can’t say I really understood it when I first heard it, but I intuitively felt it was correct.
When I eventually learned that the American governmental agencies I so trusted had been poisoning me with chemicals, preservatives, bad food, unhealthy food, dangerous food, as well as being cruel to the animals awaiting slaughter, the professor’s wise pronouncement explained why. When the ridiculously expensive medications that had been so well tested turned out to be lethal, I thought of the professor’s words. When I nervously watched my little cache of retirement money disappear in 2008 as though with a magician’s wand, I could understand why the banks betrayed us and our politicians printed more money to give to them.
And these days, watching the struggling sea creatures in the Gulf slogging through oily guk, stately pelicans enveloped in black death, and babbling BP executives in fancy suits, I think once again of the professor’s wisdom that explains such man-made catastrophes.
The words of Robert B. Betts in his very readable book, “Along the Ramparts of the Tetons,” made excellent sense to me. He suggests writing a list of the achievements of humans. He then points out, “You will also probably find that just the list of achievements you have jotted down is so seemingly impressive it reinforces the natural inclination of our species to regard itself as something special indeed, central and vital to the order of things. But as busy as we have been and as much as we may think we have left a mark, this globe has spun around very nicely without us for five billion years — a disquieting reminder that humans are not one of creation’s irreplaceable components.”
He might well agree with the professor, whose name and face I can’t remember, but whose logic has given me comfort for more than half my lifetime. What did he so easily utter? Simply put, “The big brain experiment is a bust.”

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