Friday, May 16, 2008

Ecology

It's a bit disorienting for me to witness and experience the problems we--the U.S. and the rest of the world--are having with starvation, global warming, fuel, and poverty.

I don't know exactly why, but I got involved with what was known as the "ecology" movement as early as 1970. By involved I mean chiefly interested: I started doing some reading. Like The Population Bomb. Silent Spring (of course). Ray Dasmann's The Destruction of California. A book called Nixon and the Environment. Oddly enough, a philosophy professor of mine at a wee community college ended up crafting a manifesto for Deep Ecology. His name is George Sessions. He brought ecological thought into a year-long history of philosophy--in 1972. Well done, George. He used an article by Lynn White--called something like "The Judeo-Christian Roots of the Ecology Crisis." Not a terribly popular article at the time, but now, guess what: even fundamentalist Christian churches are interested in the environment.

Then I joined Friends of the Earth, which at the time was considered the more radical counterpart to the Sierra Club. I don't think Friends of the Earth exists anymore. They published a newsletter called Not Man Apart, the title of which is an echo from a poem by Robinson Jeffers. I wrote letters to Congress. I remember sending some money to a project aimed at saving eagle-habitats. The (bald) eagle is doing all right now, but I can't take any credit. The amount I sent in was minute, and who knows whether that project helped at all? One throws some cash into the abyss of time and hopes it helps.

The dire predictions about over-population, over-consumption, bad planning, and laissez-faire economics seem to be coming true. A question I had back then was whether capitalism was compatible with environmentalism. Communism, of course, was no bargain for the environment, chiefly because in the U.S.S.R. and Eastern Europe, it was trying to match the U.S. and the West factory for factory, bomb for bomb. So my question wasn't and isn't a loaded one. I just always wondered how a system driven by the illusion of unlimited supplies, unlimited amounts of land, and "need" where there is no need (I do not anything they want to sell me on TV for $19.95, but wait, there's more) could last in a finite system.

When we first moved to Tacoma, we had to recycle everything voluntarily. We'd load up newspaper, glass, metal, cardboard, and plastic, and take it out to a place near the dump. They paid pennies per pound, and we always had a mock celebration when we'd get a $1.50 for a whole load of stuff.

I am well aware of Jimmy Carter's faults, but I still don't know why the U.S. didn't listen to him about energy. Okay, I do know why the U.S. didn't listen to him. Because he was drowned out by the din of corporations and the advertisers' fondest dream, Ronald Reagan. And because no one likes to plan ahead more than about a week.

When it comes to things like the Civil Rights Movement and a comprehensive fuel-plan, I get very impatient with the theoretical arguments and free-market or states'-rights excuses (respectively, in reverse). In fact, the federal government does need to step in during crises and do the right thing, and people have to let corporations and states know that they, the people, are going to go along with the program. Eisenhower had to send troops to Little Rock. White citizens of Arkansas had to back off and take their lumps.

Somebody needs to set some tough-ass mileage-standards, jump-start renewable energy-sources, and tax the living daylights out of the oil giants to grab back some of that stolen cash and inject it into research, etc. I know the arguments about how "the market is working" to create new kinds of cars and reduce fuel-consumption, but the market never works fast enough, and the market doesn't plan ahead beyond the next quarterly stock-report. If the Saudis accidentally put "too much" oil on the market, the original Hummer would be back on the market, driven by soccer-moms and soccer-dads who can't resist advertising (and who can't park the damned beast). Actually, big gub-ment, as Reagan pronounced it, comes in handy sometimes, for pragmatic reasons. And Reagan himself believed in more big gub-ment than did Carter. Reagan began the gigantic deficits, and he injected billions into the military-industrial complex. He just didn't like things such as unions (workers' right), federal limits on corporations, and stuff for poor and working people.

And so ends a Friday rant.
Post a Comment