Monday, September 10, 2007

The Ultimate Pollutant

As the world's scientists tell us that we're edging ever closer to environmental catastrophe, it's become chic to argue about which variables are the biggest culprits. For some, it's our dependence on oil. For others, it's the combination of coal and nuclear power that we use to heat/cool our homes and keep the lights burning. Still others will tell us it's styrofoam, aerosol cans or dioxin.

Personally, I think they're all wrong to varying degrees. From my perspective, the greatest pollutant of all is humanity!

This is not to say that humans as biological entities are more dangerous to our planet's survival than any other species, but our consciousness and ability to manipulate the environment on a grand scale is what makes each of us the most dangerous.

While other species take the natural world as it is and meld their lives into its fabric, we take the world as it is and reconfigure it to meet our needs, wants and desires. And, far too often, it is this process of reconfiguration that wreaks havoc on the laws of nature.

We drive cars and fly in planes because we want to get to wherever faster than we naturally can. We eat foods that come from far away continents rather than accept what are local environs have to offer. We communicate via telephone and computer because it's much easier than visiting each person's house.

Almost every routine action we take on any given day is polluting something. This statement is just as true for the fat cat who eschews the notion of global warming as it is for the most steadfast environmentalist! As Janisse Ray writes today at AlterNet, "Can Environmentalists Live up to Their Own Standards?", the choir isn't all it's cracked up to be. Here's a sobering excerpt:
Many times I have attended some gathering or other to speak about environmental issues, and when the final word has been delivered, the final question debated, refreshments are served on plastic plates and in plastic cups. I prepare my remarks. I take a deep breath, step in front of the crowd. I rant, I rave, I weep and open my heart. I preach fire and brimstone, and the punch is served in plastic cups. I cannot tell you the horrible feeling that envelops me.
We each rationalize our decisions in terms of our impact on the planet. For every positive or beneficial action we take, we concurrently take far too many others that are based on crass desires, not simple needs.

In the end, none of us fully embrace the natural world that we are but a small part of, the Tao. It's this rampant disharmony that most threatens our planet and ourselves.


  1. Is it possible that the climate change is little or nothing to do with mankind?

    Mars is also experiencing climate change as its polar icecap is shrinking.

    It is also believe that the ice on Europa's surface may also be melting.

    That combined with the changes in the sun - at least to me, suggests that something much larger is occurring.

  2. I don't think the Europans have too much to worry about in the short term. As for us, I'd agree that the current economic model simply outstrips our feeble half-hearted attempts to deal with its externalities. And it is sad. We actually have trillions of little solar panels already working all over the planet (in the form of plants) and trillions of patiently genetically engineered body parts (in the form of our cells). Our greed creates a self-fullfilling prophecy.

  3. Sorry, I was meaning the *moon* Europa, the one around Jupiter. It is believed that moon and Mars also are going through climate change right now.

    Mankind certainly isn't polluting those two planets. It seems that the entire solar system is going through change...not just Earth...

  4. I also meant "Europa" (the moon). By the time the ice on Europa starts melting, Earth's atmosphere will be scattered around the outer solar system by an expanded sun and we'll all be little black shishkabobs. So hopefully that isn't on the horizon any time soon! As for idea that the latest warm spell is due to flare ups in the sun, it sounds perfectly reasonable to me. However, every scientist questioned (except those working for Exxon) who put forth an opinion on the issue seem to think that global warming has human causes. I think I'd rather put my trust in meteorologist than an explanation that simply seems plausible. Isn't that why those scientists are there? So that we don't have to trust the Exxon spokesman who appears on Fox News?


Comments are unmoderated, so you can write whatever you want.