By David Glenn Cox
Spring brings us a rebirth of plant life, and Christians celebrate the risen Christ. Then, as a barren winter world begins to green, Earth Day is upon us. I remember the first Earth Day oh, so long ago when I was young and idealistic. It all seemed so easy back then; the public was behind us and it all seemed so obvious. You can’t dump untreated chemical waste into your drinking water supply. You can’t dump tons of dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere indefinitely.
The logical argument was won, as was the emotional argument, however this world operates on neither logic nor emotion. This world operates on money and rhetoric. The political systems of this world make the best use of both leaving us to be governed by the dumbest people in the room, sales people who have mastered the euphemism and the double entendre. The last Bush administration offered us the “Blue Skies Initiative” which allowed higher levels of mercury to be pumped into the atmosphere.
Real environmental legislation has cost Americans millions of jobs, not because a clean environment is bad but because it is not cheap. If blue jean or television manufactures will not be allowed to dump dyes and solvents into the water in this country, they will simply move to where the governments are more understanding, i.e., corrupt. Mexico and China are fast becoming environmental wastelands. China adds one coal-fired power plant to her power grid each week. India has built the world's largest wind farm with the output equal to a nuclear plant. If only we could harness the power of endless talk, maybe then can we hope to escape environmental Armageddon.
The pirates operating in the waters of Somalia began as fishermen pushed out of their own territorial waters by international fishing fleets operating outside international law. The illegal fishing was followed by illegal chemical waste-dumping in Somalian waters; nature abhors a vacuum but capitalists love one.
No forms to fill out or fees to pay, just find a weak or nonexistent government with an ocean and start dumping. For the Somalis it quickly evolved into a money-making venture. There was more money to be made by holding the ships hostage and the original task of stopping the dumping and illegal fishing was accomplished as well.
Then those with access to the media began to tell the tales of pirates operating on the high seas. No mention of illegal fishing or violations of territorial sovereignty, only vicious, bloodthirsty pirates. We create most of these problems environmentally, politically, and no matter on what acre of plant Earth the poison pours or the smoke belches or the blood runs, sooner or later it reaches our house.
Poison pet food, toxic baby formula, sweat shops, child labor, forced labor, falling living standards and environmental degradation, the thread of greed runs through it all. It makes Earth Day like world prostitute day; we celebrate them today but go back to screwing them tomorrow. The problems are addressed but never answered. The car companies, in an effort to fight acid rain, began to install plastic coatings on the tops of new cars. Laundry detergent manufacturers began to sell concentrated formulas to cut down on water and transportation costs, but then added deceptively hard to read measuring caps to make sure that you use more than you actually need.
Here in Georgia a band of supposedly educated and well-meaning people sat in the legislature to do the people's bidding. After a full legislative session they were unable to come up with a transportation bill. The Governor tried a power grab by trying to move transportation into his sphere of influence and MARTA, the local mass transit agency, will face draconian funding cuts. They did, however, manage to pass a tax credit for the state's Wall Street investors.
Anyone who has lived in Atlanta more than twenty minutes knows that transportation is the most critical problem facing us. The roads are overcrowded to the point that workmen must price in the cost of travel to any job. But Atlanta is a microcosm of the very crux of our situation worldwide. Those who are most in need of mass transit have the least political power. While those who suffer in the congestion should realize that supporting mass transit is in their best interest, even if they themselves never ride it, but they are deceived by rhetoric.
The politicians promise more Blue Sky initiatives but the end product never matches the rhetoric. Even President Obama’s alternative energy legislation offers funding for improved oil drilling technologies. We are quickly reaching critical mass; we cannot wait through another generation of promises. The energy wars and water wars have begun and your grandchildren will bless you or curse you for what we do today.
Already this Earth is warning us, already places around the world once habitable are becoming uninhabitable. The nation of Maldives has bought land in Australia and the island nation of Kiribati is investigating doing the same. The prospect of nations relocating to avoid rising seas is the canary in the coal mine. These are things that are happening today, right now, while you’re watching American Idol. Yet these stories are footnotes in the news, back page, below-the-fold news.
The naysayers, the twenty percenters as I call them, publish their letters to the editor about environmental alarmists, and news anchors scoff when it snows during a global warming rally. These twenty percenters believe anything they are told by pundits; pulpit or politico and the media parrots the company line. Again the thread that runs through it all is greed. The illusion of a free press when in fact the press is quite expensive and is controlled by the same people who move your job, pollute your waters and blacken your skies.
They put plastic covers on the cars until you buy them, then they take them off. They concentrate detergent to save themselves money, not you! They support the rhetoric against mass transit because they don’t want to pay taxes. Not less taxes, no taxes. They want a return to the Gilded Age and the age of corporate royalty. Besides, no mass transit means more auto sales, more gasoline sales and more profits for them.
Socrates was put to death for atheism and for making the lesser cause appear to be the wiser. We have in this country free speech with the caveat that you cannot yell fire in a crowded theater. What about those who shout that there is no fire when indeed there is? Is that not just as much of a crime? We have Earth Day but Earth Day only fights the toenails of the monster.
Like the Lilliputians we must begin to realize who this monster is, to take its measure, to fight his strength and discover his weaknesses. The beast has endless funding to fight us and has the full support of the mass media, which he owns. But the beast must sell to us or the beast will die and we outnumber the beast a hundred million to one. The beast lives in perpetual fear of us and spends great amounts of money to divide us. White, Black, Brown, Red and Yellow. North American, Central American, South American, European or Asian, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jew. Man, Woman, Child. Rich, poor, sub-poor, sub-Saharan, sub-human.
The environmental judgment, which awaits us in the next hundred years, will make no such distinctions. It will find all hideaways and free holds and its judgment will pour through the highest gates of the gated communities. We are all one. And we will learn to live as one or we will die alone clutching our money, cursing a world that curses us back. We must learn to rule this world as one or we will be departing from it en masse.
photo by AraiGodai