Saturday, March 29, 2014

Killing us Softly

There is little doubt in my mind “They” are killing us. Softly may not be the right word to describe this, perhaps slowly, quietly, secretly, insidiously, criminally, purposely, deliberately, but perhaps on the other hand, blatantly, obviously, even flagrantly, depending on your point of view. “They,” here refers to corporations that exist solely to make a profit. The gigantic oil companies are of course the most obvious offenders, but big coal, big timber, big pharmaceuticals, big banks, big insurance, big plastics, and so on, are each, in their own ways, just as unhealthy for human life on this tiny planet we are forced to call home. In fact, under our existing circumstances, it appears that the very acts of human life are inevitably leading us to our own extinction, “Us” being just that, all of us, who are contributing in our own small ways to that undesirable end.

It is not hard to see what is happening with the fossil fuel energy companies. First they are eagerly trying as hard as they can to exhaust whatever stores remain of oil and coal, gleefully boasting now that the U.S. is the major producer of such stuff. Second, not only are they short-sightedly and greedily ripping this stuff out of the ground they are also leaving much of it spread over the landscape, the rivers, lakes, and oceans where it ruins the water, kills plants, fish, and animals, and cannot easily be removed even in years. I will not even mention the absolute insanity of the nuclear energy business which may well hasten our eventual demise.  

Not so easily seen and understood are the acts of billions of individual daily that collectively contribute to our eventual downfall. Think of this every time you come home with plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic cups, and nowadays just about plastic everything. Huge collections of plastic garbage are already swirling about in the oceans where they do not quickly, if ever, deteriorate. And do not forget our serious overfishing that has already depleted the stocks of certain commercial fish. The building of dams on our rivers has also had a deleterious effect on some species. Not only has this created a problem, the pollution of our lakes, rivers, and oceans, makes things even worse

Then there are the pharmaceuticals, busily inventing new problems and the pills that will overcome them, putting them on the market prematurely, reaping huge profits and then perhaps paying a relatively insignificant fine. The only bright spot in this is that lawyers no longer have to chase ambulances, just using the media to convince people to sue because of some recklessly marketed pill, and thus saving a bit of oil. Doctors, hospitals, and of course the insurance companies all have a hand in the health care racket, dosing us with unproven drugs, subjecting us to unnecessary tests, and cutting us off when we really need them.
In some places even the air we breathe is so foul it kills people, millions go without clean drinking water (which, by the way is becoming scarce), the powers that be have colluded to bring about more poverty than ever, housing has become too expensive for many, homelessness is present in our cities, and life has indeed become brutish and unpleasant for far too many. I do not believe this is how humans were meant to live.
I know it sounds foolish to say so, but humans, as we live now, are just not part of the ecosystem, as they once were. When humans lived in small bands and lived by hunting and gathering, and even when they had primitive agriculture, they did not disrupt nature in important ways. They fashioned only primitive tools, constructed simple containers that were biodegradable, husbanded their flora and fauna, and were unable to kill by the thousands. They were, in a real sense, simply another part of nature. I realize that living like a Bushman or Australian aborigine, or even a traditional American Indian or Eskimo, is not a very appealing career for anyone living in the “modern age,” but I cannot help but believe that is what was intended for humans by the evolutionary process. In many ways we are still “primitives,” but are living in cultures that are completely out of sync with nature and apparently out of our control. The internal combustion engine, plastics, explosives, and other such technological breakthroughs are mixed blessings at best and completely out of control at worst.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike the inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

From  Thomas Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

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