Thursday, April 22, 2010

An Earth Day statement

Well, it's Earth Day. A day for lots of people to say lots of silly things about Our Mother, The Planet. Like how good she is to us and how we should be kind to her and "save" her, and so on.

Mother Earth does not love the human race. Nor does she hate us. She has no feelings about us at all. She was here long before we evolved to scamper around on her surface, and she will likely be here long after we're gone. We, on the other hand, depend completely upon her for life and everything that makes life enjoyable. Mother Earth is a stunningly beautiful, dreadfully abusive, and unforgiving mother from whom there is no escape.

Humans are not capable of destroying the planet, or even life on the planet. But from a completely humanocentric perspective, it is important to preserve the planet's capacity to sustain our lives. And beyond that, most of us want much more than just a life; we want a life that is enjoyable, comfortable, and interesting.

Now I will stop speaking for others, and just say that an enjoyable, comfortable, and interesting life, for me, includes lots of other species, large areas of wilderness, clean air and water, lots of energy and technology, peace, and freedom to pursue my individual interests. Furthermore, I don't just want all that for myself. I won't be really satisfied until every human being on the planet has an enjoyable, comfortable, and interesting life as well. Their specific requirements for that may be somewhat different from mine, but I suspect that much of what I mentioned is basic to all of us. And I'm not done yet. I also want to accomplish all this in a way that will be sustainable for many future generations.

Why does that feel like an impossible dream? If we all want these things, in various degrees, what is getting in the way of their achievement? It seems to me that our current numbers are too large for all of us to have a really good life. I would rather see four billion people well-fed, happy, and free, than 12 billion with many of them hopelessly starving, miserable, and/or enslaved. Watching nature shows, it does rather look like it's in the nature of every species to expand its population to the point where survival becomes increasingly difficult for many. That difficulty, of course, is caused by all the other species doing the same thing. And as people grow more numerous, the pressure on those other species, and the wild, humanity-free places where many of them thrive, grows greater.

But I wonder if humans are even capable of reducing their own population voluntarily, and I wonder if there are as yet undiscovered ways to make all of us comfortable here. Perhaps what is needed is more ingenuity. More smart people. Or more freedom for smart people to accomplish things.

Human beings spend a tremendous amount of energy killing, torturing, enslaving, and imprisoning each other; and a great deal of ingenuity figuring out new ways to do these things. This is something I have never really understood. Isn't our gigantic, abusive, inescapable Mother Earth a big enough adversary for us? Shouldn't we be using all our combined intelligence and strength figuring out ways to deal with the disasters and diseases she throws at us? Why do Earth's children insist on fighting all the time instead of cooperating to make their lives better?

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