C-span’s Washington Journal call-in program this morning asked its listeners “What do you believe the greatest environmental problem is today?” The callers mentioned indoor air pollution, asteroids, water pollution, animal slaughter, over-population, fracking, and even the hype of global warming. A much longer list exists (volcanoes, nuclear war, ocean acidification, deforestation, loss of top soil…) but the root problem is rarely mentioned. That being what we think, value, and actually do or don’t do.
Each of these human factors are largely driven by our examined acceptance of a single word - ‘independence’. There should be no doubt that this single mental construct is the greatest threat to an environment that has sustained our species since our origin, but also the greatest threat to our freedom and security. Historically, the very government we depend on to protect our freedom and security is based on this fantasy ideal.
In reality, everything, I repeat, EVERYTHING (organic, inorganic, or imaginary) is dependent upon a variety of other things. Yet we go about our lives as if what we do, or what we do it with, is our business and no one else’s. We call this ‘freedom’. Ultimately, we are all free. Free to do anything humanly possible. But we (and others) will never be free of the consequences.
We don’t need to worry about the Earth. Fact is, in the long run (the next 4 billion years) the earth and the natural environment will be fine. There has been at least five mass extinctions, where 50 to 95% of all multi-cellular species were wiped out over the last 600 million years. And, after each mass extinction, life returned to cover the planet with increasing abundance and diversity. Humans arrived in the later part of last recovery. And now, most scientists believe humans are creating the next mass extinction at a pace approaching 1000 times faster than any previous extinction. Humans will likely survive, but not all of us. And, unless we direct our sciences to mimic the powers of nature, and find a new means of surviving the end stages of our primary source of energy, the sun, all humanity will eventually go extinct.
There is a growing possibility that humans could go extinct long before our Sun goes red enveloping the Earth and its orbit. And our extinction is most likely to be the result of our own advances in science and technology which currently serve national and economic interests not that of all people and the environment. Those at the Science March who were advocating for more funding for science and technology seldom mention that science is only a tool. How it is used depends on the value system of the user, not the inventor. Unless our collective value system puts the protection of human rights and the environment ahead of nationalism, patriotism and/or profit, our prospects for the future are grim.
Nationalism as it is now in the absence of ‘justice for all’. It drives weapons development and the evolution of weaponry to unprecedented killing capacity and accountability. We are creating artificial intelligence to give us a military advantage. Its possible that AI will evolve beyond our control, and after attaining the insight that the human mind is fundamentally flawed in its capacity to believe anything and destroy everything, humans will be eliminated. In our species arrogance we forget how fragile our life form is. Thirteen organic systems and structures entirely dependent on each other and a far greater number of interdependent living and nonliving systems and structures makes for health and survival. As individuals, families, cities, states, and nations we are infinitely vulnerable to a variety of microscopic and global macroscopic factors. Factors no independent government can stop, no matter how tall the wall, or how powerful the military.
Because of our unchallenged worship of ‘independence’ “We the People” of the world still have no global democratic system or structures to assist us in protecting our valued lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness…each of which is entirely dependent on our God given life support system we call ‘the environment’. These values used to be ‘self-evident truths’.
We humans have always altered our environment for better or worse, mostly worse, but we in our technological power/arrogance continue to ignore reality. The health of the earth’s environment has the last vote. And, human freedom, security, prosperity, and perhaps our species survival rely on that vote.
If we cannot redirect our intelligence, creativity, science, technology, resources, and laws toward mimicking the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” (as our nation’s founding fathers stated in the first paragraph of our Declaration of Independence) we should prepare for the worse.
So on this Earth Day remember that Earth and life on it will be fine for the next 4 billion years. We may not. Science will only prove valuable if it is applied in the long run to the value that ‘all people’ are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights. Rights not limited to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ But also the fundamental right to a sustainable environment and justice for tall.
The more one reads, questions and thinks outside our dysfunctional culture/society one will increasingly conclude, beyond any doubt, that unless we apply science to the Golden Rule (promoted by every religion) human progress will be thwarted. Ultimately we are free to do, and believe, anything we want. But without understanding and responsible actions in relation to our global interdependence, our security is not possible.
The most effective means of demonstrating our responsibility today would be our collective action in achieving each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals for the year 2030. Read, question, think, and act responsibly. The greatest power you have is educating your elected officials regarding the nature of reality.