ECOLOGY, HUMAN GREED, AND UPCOMING CATASTROPHES

I read an article today that argues that coal-burning generators are not doing all that much damage to the climate. This is the kind of argument that makes me gag. I’ll get back to this later.

Kids swimming in the Blackstone

There is no serious dispute that humans hold significant responsibility for damaging earth’s ecology. You can’t label water pollution or unbreathable air as caused by earth’s normal climate cycles. These are things humans have created.

For more than a decade, the entire west and southwestern area of the U.S. has been running out of water. They had quite a lot to begin with because it had been going through a period of better-than-average rainfall. Since then, each year of drought has lessened the amount of available water. They are, as a friend of mine who lives there pointed out, in big trouble.

Prodigious volumes of water are necessary to sustain a modern population. (It requires, for instance, nearly 3,000 gallons of water to produce the food for a typical family dinner, according to a “Facts Brochure,” issued by the Utah Water Supply Internet site.) The water supply must serve not only individuals, but also agricultural and livestock enterprises, municipalities, businesses and industries. Indeed, 80 or 90 percent of the total consumption in agricultural areas may be attributable to irrigation alone. As a result of the relentless growth in demand, said the USGS, “Ground-water resources in the Southwest [have become] among the most overused in the United States.

The absence of water in these areas shouldn’t surprise anyone. These are designated arid regions.

“Arid regions by definition receive little precipitation— less than 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain per year. Semi-arid regions receive 10 to 20 inches (25 to 50 centimeters) of rain per year.”

These arid regions are hard to miss because it was and is, desert. Sand and cactus. Despite all evidence pointing to this being an area that can only support a limited number of people, greed and short-sightedness have resulted in a gigantic population boom in areas with extremely fragile water resources.

Humans are greedy. Land, to a developer, equals money. Build houses, roads, malls, businesses. Count on there being more rain than usual and when if (when) that fails — because it’s an ARID REGION — blame it on climate change. The climate didn’t do this. People did.

I believe in climate change, but first and foremost, I believe humans are stupid and short-sighted. We intentionally do everything wrong based on personal greed and lack of interest in the future.

Phoenix

Planet Earth did everything except put up billboards pointing out that this is arid land. Couldn’t you tell from the Ironwood trees and the cactus? If you were a fan of western movies, remember all the westerns where ranchers keep telling farmers if they plow the land, it will destroy the grass and turn good grazing land into a desert? We were supposed to root for the farmers who were the designated “good guys.” Except the ranchers were right and the farmers were deluded.

Ironwood in the desert

So then there was the dust bowl. Rich prairies became deserts and everyone had to move away. Bye-bye prairie. Increasing human population beyond an area’s ability to support it is the kind of idiocy modern “first world” governments are unable to resist.

We see a tree where we might want to put a road? Cut it down. For that matter, cut down the entire forest. Plant some tiny trees miles away. Point out in a dulcet-voiced advertisement how you’ve supplied the birds and animals who lived in the woods with a new place to live. No one mentions that this newly-planted area won’t be a viable place for anything to live for many years to come — assuming that those tiny trees grow into bigger trees. Fifty years later, more than a billion birds are dead due to loss of habitat with millions more dying every year.

Phoenix sun through the smoke – Photo: Ben Taylor

The heat this year out west is fierce. All that asphalt and cement don’t give the earth breathing room. Instead of nightly cooling, overheated pavement emits as much heat at night as the sun produced by day. Meanwhile, cities keep growing and water levels keep dropping. The west is on fire as smoke fills the air and the lakes empty.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Phoenix at sunset

I have watched people moving to places that are already — literally — on fire or flooded. Maybe they assume whatever is going on won’t affect them personally. Stuff on the news is always “other peoples’ problem.” To quote Alfred E. Newman, “What, me worry?”

We can fix a lot of what ails the earth, but we have to actually do something other than argue whether planet-wide catastrophe will strike in 30, 50, or 100 years.

Roaring Dam – Photo: Garry Armstrong

The Blackstone River was one of the most polluted rivers in the world 60-years ago. Today you can swim in it, fish for trout, and that water feeds back into our watershed. It isn’t pristine yet, but it will be. This cleanup didn’t happen by itself. The planet didn’t fix it.

People fixed it.

Now, back to those coal-burning generators. Haggling over how much these emissions damage the climate is as stupid as building giant cities in the middle of a desert.

I’m sorry if taking care of our ecology may damage someone’s bottom line, but NOT paying attention will ultimately do more damage to everyone’s ultimate bottom line: staying alive. Air quality is not something about which we should argue. Doctors, climate scientists, and meteorologists agree.

Clean air = GOOD.
Dirty air = BAD.

Overall, climate change is part of a much larger picture of human abuse of Earth. The heating of the earth, loss of potable water, dirty air, melting ice sheets — these are all critical and endangered parts of our ecological system. They are also about your life and the lives of your children and grandchildren — and my children and grandchildren.

If we are going to have future generations, they will need water to drink and air to breathe. We should be planning to make sure they have it.



Categories: Anecdote, birds, Blackstone River, climate change, Earth, Ecology, Nature, Photography

Tags: , , , , , , ,

24 replies

  1. I wonder if we have reached the tipping point and no matter what steps we take, it will be too little, too late. I hope, for sake of our children and grandchildren that that’s not the case, but I worry that it is.

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    • I think we actually COULD fix a lot of it — not all of it. We have wrought miracles where we really tried.

      But will we? We seem to think we should solve all these issues but they should not cost us anything. Greed has driven this country for a very long time and if it doesn’t stop — like today (yesterday would have been better) — there really isn’t any hope. Because it’s going to cost. Personally, I think the industries that gained the most from the damage should be helping to foot the bill. Fat chance of THAT happening.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s hard not to see the end in sight. It’s a sad inheritance that we are passing on to the next generation. I’ve lived a good life but it saddens me to think of the future. Even over the last couple of years, I’ve watched the population of my beloved butterflies dwindle. Tears.

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    • Just this summer, some kind of disease hit most of our larger birds including Robins and Blue Jays. They disappeared and I haven’t seen one since. Presumably they will survive, but one day we had a dozen of them and after that, none.

      I haven’t seen a butterfly in three summers and I wonder if I ever will again? The damage around here is more subtle than other places. We aren’t by the shore, so we don’t have tidal damage and we don’t get ocean-borne storms. We have less snow, warmer winter, and until this year, very dry summers. I have to bless this year’s rain because we live with a well so if the water goes, we go with it.

      The haggling over HOW bad things are and how SOON the damage will be beyond repair are just another way of dodging the bullet which is, of course, DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT. If we can’t agree on everything, at least let’s agree that we need clean air and clean water and have to stop destroying every woodland in the path of the next mall that will be a skeleton in less than a decade. IF we can’t agree on every detail, we can at least agree that we need to do a lot more than the nothing we are doing.

      I wish I could see the world improving, but I don’t see it. Mostly, I see everyone sort of agreeing, but no one doing anything about it — except, ironically, the Chinese. Go figure.

      Like

  3. You are so right about the experts arguing and both sides can be right. It gets dangerous when the media adopts both-sides-now-ism. How can anyone have trust then? You’re a great wordsmith and you pay careful attention to facts. And on top of it all your perspectives are so often entertaining. Good use of humor. 😇

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    • Everyone has a point, though some are more dubious than others. But I think everyone can agree on the basics. We need clean water, breathable air, and a return to trees and green places. We have to stop slaughtering anything larger than a squirrel. Forget the details — just DO SOMETHING. We spend billions on wars we can’t win and arms we don’t need and probably should have, but zip on managing land, air, and water. Will it ever improve? I’m not optimistic — yet I know we CAN fix it. We have to want to fix it — and therein lies the problem.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re absolutely right. I have been following the situation with the near-extinction of Salmon. There are many factors at play – overfishing, overly hot water in rivers and streams, dams that prevent Salmon from their journey upstream to spawn, etc. Plans were afoot in Maine to remove some dams to allow the Salmon to reach their spawning grounds but property owners reversed that decision. Greed directly affects species survival but people need to care. So many don’t.

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        • That’s really my point. Forget the statistics and scientific studies. I think we can all agree that we’d like to keep the salmon. We’d like to keep the air and have clean water. We should get the garbage out of the oceans. We CAN do it. We HAVE done it. Money always seems to get in the way.

          If more people really cared, we COULD do it, but then, there’s the money.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. WE CAN DO IT! It’s been proven here too… When we moved to Maine in 1973, highways and byways were trash-ridden, rivers and streams poluted. IF PEOPLE FIXED IT THEN… PEOPLE CAN DO IT NOW!

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    • I agree. This valley was a DISASTER. The Blackstone was one of the top three most polluted rivers in the U.S. and one of the top 10 worldwide. We were a mess of decaying old factories and hazardous soil. It was ugly, filthy, and dangerous.

      We fixed it. We CAN fix it. We just have to be willing to put our money and effort into doing the job. We don’t lack capability. We lack the willingness to spend money on something that won’t benefit us right this minute, but might benefit those yet to be born.

      I don’t remember who said it, but it was “If people lived a lot longer, they’d care more about the future.” We need to care about the future, even if we won’t be there to see it.

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  5. LIVING HERE IN LA GETS WARMER AND WARMER. . . THE AIRCONDITIONER HELPS, BUT IT IS EXPENSIVE.

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    • Even running two small, new A/Cs here is very expensive, but when the humidity climbs to 75% and the temperatures are in the 90s, people like us, aka “old folks,” simply can’t breathe. I would love to cut our electric bill, but it’s not just the air conditioners. It’s also two pretty big dehumidifiers that keep the basement from turning into mold city. We all do the best we can and it’s never quite good enough.

      Like

  6. This one is a tour de force Marilyn. Superbly written content. Best, Babsje

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    • Thank you! I wish it was better. After hours of trying to make this less disjointed, more organized, and include more information, I realized that I wasn’t going to fit everything into this post. I would need a series of posts — which I may do in the fall, after vacations are done.

      There was much more I wanted to say. In the end, I had to strip out about 1000 words and somehow make the sections connect to each other — at which I’m not sure I succeeded.

      I will have to rewrite it. I’m sure I can improve it. This kind of writing requires a more research and it’s never enough. There are so many voices to address. Even agreeing with most of them to one degree or another, ALL are too busy arguing. Scientific arguments are reasonable, but the time for commitment has arrived — and passed. We need to ACCOMPLISH something. All this nit-picking isn’t solving anything.

      Let’s just admit that we need — at the least — to clean up the air and water. Stop cutting down the trees and slaughtering animals to stuff them and hang on the wall — a concept which actually makes me ill. Why in the world would pieces of dead animals be considered decorative?

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome. I can imagine how much woek went into writing and then editing this. A blog series would be excellent. Or a book. You have the chops to pull it off! But the time? That topic could be a career all in itself!

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  7. when you put it like that, marilyn, it really makes me sit up and think! Ireland doesnt have it half as bad as the USA, but man! That is awful that the western states have it so bad, and all down to human greed! XX

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    • One of the saddest things I’ve learned over the years is that almost every horrible thing we have done as a species boils down to who is getting rich. Wars are fought for profit and peace is only made when war is costing more than it earns.

      Greed is, sadly, not all that American. it’s international. The more “advanced” and industrial a country is, the more is willing to do anything make a few pounds, dollars, francs, or whatever more. There was a point in history — back when the Romans were still a real Republic — when doing the right thing was sort of (almost) (kind of) balanced against greed. Now? Who ISN’T looking at “the bottom line.”

      The weirdest thing for me is that most of these people are already insanely rich. They don’t need more money. They have more than they could ever spend now, so is this some kind of game for them? International monopoly?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Who knows, I think it must be though I mean why else would they be so greedy only to get more richer most of these millionaires are like that just want more money and more profit

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      • Just read the title of Mary Trump’s book “Too Much and Never Enough” in 5 well chosen words, she summed up the problem of world wide greed among those that already have more than enough to live on. The rest of us consider ourselves lucky if we can squeeze out a living and enjoy some of the things we like. We accomplish this through some kinda balancing act. Part of our problem has been delayed financing (credit), directly by banks, or indirectly by little plastic cards. We are all, to a certain extent, jugglers.

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        • Considering how much prices have gone up and how our pensions have NOT gone up, juggling is the way to go. We’ve managed to do a lot here with a LOT of juggling. Now, we just have to wait. But I think we’ve gotten the worst stuff (mostly) repaired. Imperfectly, but not badly either. In the spring we have to confront (tada!) WINDOWS. Oy.

          As for why people who already have more than anyone needs always want more? It’s a mental disease.

          Like

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