The head in the sanders and deniers say that there is no such thing as global warming, or peak oil, that there is plenty of oil and other natural resources for us to just reach out and take our fill of. Perhaps they should take a few lessons in finite resources—like sitting down and watching fish die in a fish tank because something is out of whack in the tank. For that is, essentially, what this planet is, on a larger scale: a mostly closed system with finite resources, which is acted upon by geological, biological and extra-planetary solar and galactic forces.
So, here I am watching fish croak in a fish tank without the slightest idea of what the exact problem is. Two have died today, including a scavenger that was just introduced to the ‘hood. Several died last week and have been “replaced.”
I’ve watched these fish frantically go nose to nose with each other, some turn belly up from some kind o bladder bloat or some such from gulping down bubbles with their food. Others crawl off in the corner of the tank and hibernate against the filtration system, waiting for a chance to join the circle of life and feed one of the plants in the hallway.
As I look at these critters, I am reminded that we, too, live in an isolated system, this planet we call Earth. Great and broad her shoulders may be, but they are not infinite. Just as there is something wrong with the fish tank ecosystem, so can we expand the example to the planet we live on, in the same fashion.
There is toxicity in the oceans, over-fishing of fish resources. Chemical run off from our farms, factories and urban areas has reached the sea—with horrifying results.
In my office, the fish are dying because of too much heat, not enough oxygen in the water, and too much of their own urine not being filtered out of their living quarters, Hopefully the chemicals we will buy tomorrow, together with ore charcoal for the filtration system will solve the problem, but the planetary environmental problems that we face are not so easily solved—particularly if some deny, and others won’t even get off their rusty dusties and change their greedy, gobbling, hyper-consumerism.
Yet, even as I hope the fish tank problem can be solved by a trip to the pet store and keep these fish from dying, I wonder about us, these humans in a close environment called Planet Earth. Our waters are contaminated, over fished and dying. Our atmosphere struggles to throw off the combined effects of coal-fired plants, car exhaust, industrial aerosols and a host of other oxygen depleting chemicals which strain its resources.
More still, as we vomit billions of pounds of these toxic, photosensitive chemicals into the air, we deny that our own actions have anything to do with the global weather change. Nah, the other guy did it, for it certainly wasn’t us. We’re not responsible for oxygen depletion, water pollution, global warming or the stench of our own farts. Must be alla them cows and skunks a polluting’ this here air.
And so we go on and on, denying that our high maintenance, hyper-materialistic lifestyle has anything to do with the change in weather patterns, the water pollution, or the increasing toxicity of our air. Surely, it must be somebody else. Weather warfare. Chinese weather ray guns, Russian particle beams. Or, George Orwell, stand back--it must have been an alien attack.
It most certainly can’t have anything to do with how much we consume, throw away, or expel from our thousands of belching, bloviating and spewing chimneys, tail pipes and livestock. Nah, the other guy did it—but who’s dying of cancer, emphysema, and environmentally generated birth defects?
It’s our turn, or will be, sooner or later. More than a quarter of us will tap the cancer smorgasbord at sometime in our lifetime. And, if the cancer isn’t enough, the hidden scythe of invisible pollution in our air will foreshorten our lives, create millions of cases of pollution-related deaths and illness.
In many ways, we are living in a giant fish tank, and don’t have the sense enough to maintain our living quarters. The fish die, with no understanding of what is killing them. We are killing ourselves with the way we live and the way we treat the environment, which sustains us, knowing that much of what we do contributes to environmental catastrophe, species extinction, and foreshortened lives—our own.
This planet existed for millions of years with an environment which could not sustain “life as we know it.” And, when conditions were favorable to human life, environmental catastrophe often cut a wide swath through the human population on regular basis.
Are we suicidal enough to strain its resources to the point where human life will be unsustainable? One thing is for certain. If we keep on as we have been, we will not be around to find out.