There is no serious dispute by anyone that humans hold significant responsibility for damaging Earth’s ecology. You can’t label water pollution or unbreathable air as caused by anything the earth does to itself — short of being hit by an asteroid. These are things we have done. To ourselves. It’s all about greed, our complete lack of humility as Earth’s supposed guardians — and our failure to accept responsibility for younger generations.
A lot of things we’ve done are not merely ecologically stupid, they are just plain stupidly stupid.
Take Phoenix, Arizona. Lovely city. Nice people. Used to be a charming desert where they made Western movies. You can always tell they were made in Arizona if you’ve ever been in Arizona and taken a good look at the Superstition Mountains. They are in the background of every B (and many A) movies made in the 1940s and 50s. I took a lot of pictures when we were there, so I look at the movies and I know I have a picture of that place somewhere on my hard drive.
Developers looked at the desert and heard the sound of money jingling in their ears. In the Sonoran desert, they built a small town, then a city, then a huge sprawling city that’s running out of water. Holy moly, what a shock!
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.“
For more than a decade, the entire west and southwestern area of the U.S. has been running out of water. They had a reasonable amount when the population was small, but since the unstoppable population growth, each year there’s less water. There is a drought — not unusual in an arid region.
The lack of water shouldn’t surprise anyone. These paces are called arid regions because they don’t get much rain and don’t have much water.
“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.”
Arid regions are hard to miss. It’s a desert. Sand and cactus. An area this dry can only support a limited number of people or anything living. Nonetheless, greed and short-sightedness have resulted in a population boom with the most fragile water resources.
You can’t blame this sort of stupidity on something Earth did or might do. The entire region is running out of water and no one has any idea what to do about it. Meanwhile, people are still moving there. These aren’t stupid people, but it’s as if they don’t connect the news with themselves. They will move there and the next email we get will complain about smoke from the fires, and how it hasn’t rained. How the air is full of dust, sand, smoke — and no one can breathe. What did they think would happen?
Of course Earth has natural climate changes. Obviously. We’ve at least three periods of glaciation, aka, the ice ages. Since we aren’t having a glacial episode now, obviously the climate changed. Somewhere between the previous period — dinosaurs — and glaciers, a really big rock (asteroid) hit the earth and for some time afterward, Earth was in shock.
There’s a great description of what happened in an article in the Smithsonian Magazine called “What Happened in the Seconds, Hours, Weeks After the Dino-Killing Asteroid Hit Earth?” Should we again be hit by a six-mile long asteroid, that would pretty much finish life as we know it. Earth will fix itself, but not fast enough to save us.
In this age of man, we are the asteroid.
There is almost nothing we can’t fix but we have to care enough to do it. It will cost money, but the stuff we have to clean up is the same stuff we trashed.
Exactly how long before Earth becomes unlivable? I don’t know. Disagreements about timing notwithstanding, we should clean the trash out of the waterways and the oceans. We should clean up the air. By the way, there is no such thing as clean coal. Coal is coal and if you burn it, it dirties the air. Even if you have to change your economy, that doesn’t mean you should keep burning it. By the 1940s, London’s air was so filthy from coal smoke, you could not see the city from outside it. Sometimes you couldn’t see it from inside. Remember those pea-soup fogs?
California used to have an orange sky. Now it just has smoke because it’s on fire.
The human species is damned by its insatiable greed. Even though we are the monsters who made the mess, we refuse to clean it up. Like spoiled toddlers, we figure we’ll just leave it. Let it be someone else’s problem. I’d never have gotten away with that in MY house. Would you?
We didn’t start the mess, but with all our new technology, we’re destroying everything faster and more thoroughly. We made fortunes trashing this planet, but we’ll be damned if we have to spend anything to repair it.
This isn’t a political issue. It’s life, death, and the future for our descendants as well as all animals and plants we love.
Shame on us.