180400 Gaia

I grew up in a sleepy little town along the Pacific Coast called Sunset Beach, California. Both houses I lived in were on pilings in the sand on the ocean front. And I was not only a surfer, using mat, body, and surfboards, I was a beachcomber, walking along the wet sand looking for treasures.

In those days, there was a lot of kelp, washed up by having escaped the kelp harvesters in the Catalina channel and, within the kelp, tackle and fishing lines. But,washed in on the sand, there were also endless globules of tar from oil tankers pumping out salt water ballast once safely behind Catalina Island just before anchoring. I was adept at avoiding them and still my feet were often black and sticky.

There was an extensive marsh on the other side of the main road (Pacific Coast Highway) where I also roamed, carefully looking for clams with my bare feet but sometimes cutting my feet badly on the ubiquitous broken beer bottles. And, there was an adjacent untamed 5-mile section of beach which everyone called “Tin Can Beach” because the dunes were festooned with thousands and thousands of rusting tin beer cans.

When I went with my father to his office in Los Angeles, my eyes would become painfully red and itchy and my lungs would ache with the sulfur in the air. Prevailing winds kept exhaust fumes contained within a 3-sided bowl of hills surrounding the area.

In those days before the Environmental Protection Agency, people did their own thing without a care in the world for the well-being of their fellows or the planet that nurtured and sustained them.

I recently watched a National Geographic Channel airing of a NOVA special on global warming which cited many scientific discoveries in a number of diverse areas — including the die-off of half the world’s coral and efforts to revitalize reefs with heat-resistant strains of coral. Rather than roll back the industrial age, scientists seem to be suggesting rolling forward the industrial age with non-polluting wind and solar power and more efficiency.

Several years ago, I replaced all the light bulbs in my home with LED bulbs which create the same amount of light as a 75 watt incandescent bulb by using 13 watts of power. On the surface, this seems a savings of 62 watts, but it isn’t. Because the A/C is not efficient and because all this excess energy must be removed from the home’s interior, we’re talking about saving something like 150 watts per bulb on hot days and nights. I consider this a win-win. I also put solar panels on my roof; another win-win. And I’m using solar energy to heat my swimming pool.

There are vast amounts of data suggesting that mankind is interfering with the balance of nature. For one thing, we’re cutting down a lot of trees and rain forest and replacing them with stuff like blacktop and bare soil. This means that not only are we throwing CO2 and heat into the atmosphere at an alarming rate, we’re removing mitigating influences.

I’ve listened to a number of speeches by Al Gore, the son of a tobacco farmer, who is NOT an agent of industrial America. While he may be using some hyperbole, he hasn’t said one thing I consider a lie.

I’ve seen before and after pictures of Glacier Bay, Greenland’s massive ice shelf, and the Arctic Ocean among Earth’s shrinking ice boxes. And I’ve personally experienced the benefits of the Environmental Protection Agency’s effect on air quality. For me to deny the need for environmental protection would be to doubt my own eyes and experience.

The Earth is, itself, an organism. She breathes. She has daily, monthly, yearly, and longer cycles of quiescence and restoration. She has been alive, growing, and evolving for well over six hundred million years and has survived drastic, life-threatening illnesses. The last was some 65.5 million years ago when a huge asteroid hit southern Mexico and wiped out all photosynthesis for six years or so.

Even worse events earlier destroyed most, but not all, of Gaia’s varied and interactive organelles, but Gaia is resilient and bounced back, evolving new forms of life to sustain and enrich Herself.

Compared to these events, Her current infestation is a minor cold; a small inconvenience. Still, She’s feeling it. She has a mild fever; Her temperature slightly above normal.

Her skin has been scarred by miners, loggers, road builders, high rises, and houses; Her veins restricted by dam builders, Her lungs polluted with smog and chemical waste, and many of Her organelles have been hunted or fished to extinction or near extinction.

In his hostile takeover, mankind has been selfish and brutal, treating everything in his path as something to be owned and controlled, as possessions to be bought, sold, or destroyed for his own, personal, selfish, short-term benefit. It is true that he has mitigated certain problems he’s caused with work-arounds: salmon ladders, drainage ditches, fishing seasons and restrictions, whaling bans (but only after the major damage was already done), environmental laws, and smog abatement. But in a world where profit is the singular incentive for much if not most human activity, it is only a matter of time before this resourceful pest will work around these barriers in its quest of ever greater self-indulgence and self-aggrandizement.

The Earth is overrun by people who, like locusts, are stripping Africa bare of her trees and wildlife. We are already well past the point where nature is in balance and every day, our numbers increase and our ceaseless rape of the landscape continues and expands into new territory.

We are a mean beast who, through lust for money, fame, power, or just personal survival has done many atrocities to himself, his fellows, and his environment. Maybe government IS trying to take over from individuals, but the ones profiting excessively aren’t the ones running our elections. They merely own stock. The system of corporate capitalism has neither compassion nor conscience — only greed.

I trust corporate capitalism to keep doing what it’s always done: feed itself gluttonously at the expense of everyone and everything else.

It’s not that I trust bureaucracies to do the right thing. It’s that I trust corporate capitalism to do only what is in the interest of short-term profit. And that is rarely what is good for anyone in the long run.

My home is currently run on 75% solar power and 25% nuclear power. I would have made it 100% solar power if I’d had enough south-facing roof. While we’ve had nuclear power, we’ve had Three Mile Island, Chernobyl (an ongoing ecological disaster), and Fukushima Naiishi (another ongoing ecological disaster), as well as dozens of other less well-publicized problems in addition to leaking waste products into underground water supplies and oceans.

Nuclear power and nuclear weapons infect Gaia with life-destroying radiation and its thousand-year curse. Mankind’s selfishness and greed leads us to ignore even the long term survival of our species in our singular pursuit of short-term self-gratifying goals.

©April, 2018, David N. Dodson, Phoenix, AZ

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