Much hoopla has erupted over the last year about "framing problems correctly, " so that we might search for appropriate answers, as opposed to running about in rhetorical circles. This concept should be nothing new to anyone with half a brain. But based on daily headlines and popular media, it appears that the most basic problem of our species has yet to be "properly framed. "
So here, as condensed as the functional half of my brain can make it, is THE problem we humans face: Our DNA is headed for extinction. The Homo sapien species is galloping into the eternal night of non-being. Our particular brand of deoxyribonucleic acid molecules will soon no longer be. Our evolutionary line is coming to a screeching halt. In relatively short time, Planet Earth will be a spinning ball in the vast abyss of space, with no humans lingering upon it.
Indeed, the hour is almost certainly too late for a course correction to be made. The changes necessary to avoid extinction appear to be beyond the comprehension and even vocabulary of most of our species.
My own limited optimism comes from three sources: One, I 'm getting too old to give a damn; two, when we do go extinct, the world will be a better place, inasmuch as nature will once again hold the reins of evolution, and manmade pollution and destruction will gradually come to a halt; and, three, I won 't have to look at Bush 's ugly puss anymore. (Ok, there may be one or two other reasons for optimism, but they 're not nearly as solid as these, and you 'll have to wait my next article to read them).
It ought to be self-evident to anyone who comprehends that earth isn 't flat, that we live on a solitary, self-sustaining, non-expanding, one-of-a-kind, slowly evolving sphere in space. It has always seemed like common sense to me to recognize that the land surface of this planet is thus limited in size, as is its volume of fresh water, oxygen, and topsoil, along with the sunlight that falls upon earth 's surface. Once it is grasped that the earth is round rather than flat, it should seem obvious that our planet 's life support system is of a finite size, and thus of finite carrying capacity --that our planet 's ability to support humans will not grow, nor will our planet sustain a civilization that consumes and consumes and tosses away and never puts back.
Jacques Costeau and David Brower, two of my few heroes, gave this analogy: If the earth were the size of an egg, then all the water on the planet would be just a drop; all the air, if condensed to the density of water, would be a droplet only one-fortieth as big; and all the arable land would be a not-quite-visible speck of dust. That drop, droplet, and speck are all that make the earth different from the moon.
No sane person--and I admit I don 't see too many of them these days--can deny that we are running down, wearing out, or obliterating those living systems that support us, and that we are tearing asunder the fabric known as the web of life. From grasslands and savannas, to wetlands, estuaries, and oceans, to coral reefs and river systems, to tundras, rainforests, and deserts, human beings are laying to waste the inheritance of a once beautiful planet.
We are draining aquifers and chain sawing forests, creating acid rain, dumping billions of tons of chemicals into the land, water, and air, exterminating flora and fauna that have taken millions of years to evolve and that make this planet the remarkable place that it is; we are making every effort to roast our home with CO2, methane, and other infra red-retaining substances, threatening each other with nuclear weapons, killing and torturing fellow humans with demonic methods of every description, damming rivers and trashing estuaries, depleting the oceans, producing billions of tons of garbage a year, and of course happily pumping untreated effluent into the environment, whilst eroding our soils and laying to waste prime agricultural lands, as if we were waging war on the earth that feeds us. Did I mention the biological Frankensteins we are enthusiastically developing through genetic engineering, or the holes we are punching in the ozone layer?
In our so-called educational system, we treat the minds of our children as though we wished to produce a generation of morons as quickly as possible, incapable of thinking for themselves --reverse evolution though involuntary mass ignorance, you might say; we are also turning out 12 million plus men, women, and children as wandering refugees, with scarcely the shirt on their backs; and we 're blithly sitting on our hands while starvation, disease, filthy water, crime, corruption, and anarchy sprout and flourish like common weeds.
The sorry list goes on and on. Yet here are the pressing headlines for a typical day in June, 2006 A.D., for those who want to be on top of things, those who might read the news to become aware, and perhaps offer a hand to save the world: "College Republicans ridicule global warming with snow cone beach party. "
Oh yes: Let us not forget the gay marriages and flag burnings, which represent another grave threat to survival. Never mind that countless people marry cockroaches and couch potatoes every day, by the dozens and the droves, and seem content to do so. It is those gays who will do the world in, given whatever diabolical trysts they must be developing in their bedrooms.
Or so one might conclude, listening to the so-called leaders of the so-called free world. And never mind that politicians defecate daily on everything our flag is supposed to represent, then pass it off as somehow patriotic.
I think it is fair to conclude we are living in an insane asylum. Not a tiny nice white one tucked away on the edge of town, on a dead end street under some cool sycamores with rolling lawns, but rather the nuthouse of humans, where every turn makes you wonder if you actually belong here. From unmanned answering machines leading you in endless loops, so some corporation doesn 't have to pay a human --for "quality purposes, " of course --to a hundred tv channels but not one of any interest, to Jehovah Witnesses on your doorstep enlightening you about the hundred thousand scientists who 've gone astray on evolution, to the radio dingbat gawking about some sorry teenager fondling manikins in the local mall, to the latest venom spewed from our Secretary of State, or perhaps Sean Hannity or Brainless Ann, to witnessing our so-called president struggling to compose a sentence in English, the very language he 'd like immigrants to learn. It 's a madhouse, yes, with no foreseeable escape, save the peaceful, quiet rest of the grave.
But even getting there in a dignified manner may be a trick, given the state of our nursing homes, along with the archaic and barbaric laws governing medical easement of pain and death. If you don 't know about them, enjoy your ignorance--you 'll likely find out soon enough.
So it may not be all gloom and doom to learn that human beings are currently causing the greatest mass extinction of species since that of the dinosaurs. In less than a hundred years, one half of all species on earth will be extinct, as a result of habitat destruction, pollution, invasive species, and climate change, according to those who dedicate their lives to studying such things. At the rate we 're going, we 'll be gone too, and our worries will be over, in a manner of speaking.