Another Earth Day is upon us, and for me it is a reminder of how delicate life as we know it is, or appears to be on our planet. Yet for all the hype Earth Day generates, it quickly wears off and I seem to easily fall into the mindset of indifference. It is not that I want to be, or don’t care about conservation or being greener, it is the fact that being green is not a way of life or a world view I possess right now.
So as the days roll by and Earth Day fades, I will move on to the multitudes of other things that occupy my life: work, family, chores, traffic, art, bills etc. I won’t give much thought about tossing a can in the trash, or ordering a to-go cup in a styrofoam container. I at least throw such things in the trash and don’t litter, isn’t that enough? At the end of the day I don’t think the knee jerk recyclers will put much more of a dent into being greener than I will, especially if they buy a SUV that gets crap gas mileage. I’m sure people well in the tree hugging/global warming/carbon footprint camps will scorn my words and tell me “doing your share does make a difference…” but in the end will it?
Look at the numbers going against my little contribution to being greener. I’m a single individual living in a developed western nation of 306 some million? The far east has eight times as many people than the US alone and of that portion how many people are so informed about Earth Day and all the trappings that are associated with it?
Do foreign governments and corporations care enough to pay the higher price to be greener at the expense of profits, growth, gnp and their bottom lines? Do they regulate like more developed nations in the west? Not that the USA is by any stretch a role model, we do have regulatory measures in place and continue to push a green agenda upon ourselves, regardless of how diminished the impact will be considering this is not reciprocated in developing nations. We all know our consumption and waste per person exceeds everyone else’s on the planet, so we should be taking the initiative and not pontificating the “greener” high ground when it suites our needs and ignore it when it does not.
With that said, in a world of six billion and growing, we are a thin slice of the population pie, a shrinking minority if I may. Let’s assume we were to somehow completely eliminate pollution on American soil. The pollution numbers would still rocket up, especially in developing nations and those without regulations, ability or willingness to make our presence here less destructive. Is it fair to ask such things of nations going through the industrial growing pains we went through to get where we are today?
Either way time is not on our side. How much time do we have left before something critical in the food chain breaks due to our hegemony on this planet? Maybe it will be the plankton in the ocean that will die off when the ocean temperatures rise 1.5 degrees F above what they are now and the fish that eat them lose their food source and so forth and so on?
I do believe we are standing on a precipice over a deep hole, held up by all that has been put here before our time as a species over tens if not hundreds of millions of years. Yet we are unraveling the foundations of our existence because it is our nature to do so, and I doubt we will ever be a harmonious part of this planet. Will we reach a breaking point in my life time? Will my children witness the fall of man? Who knows, I’m sure these same questions have been asked previously by those who have come and gone before me.
As arrogant a thought it is to think we can affect something such as the earth I honestly feel there is some truth in it. We are helping certain processes along for better or worse, and the cycles of our climate, our solar system and life are going to go on with or without us. We need to realize that we are along for the ride just like everything else living on this world, and we have to find a way to coexist with the other species before we make the journey itself impossible to sustain. In the end, one way or another, a extinction event will occur and the entire surface of the planet will be ‘recycled’, plastic and all.
It would be nice to think others are contemplating what Earth Day means for them before the catch phrase fades away in the weeks to come. Let’s hope that we can collectively figure out how to co-habitate our little rock in space in a way that is sustaining and benevolent, then we will at least not be guilty of self destruction by our polluting hand.