Hello humanity, this is Earth. The planet Earth. You’ve called me by different names like Gaia, Mother Earth, Terra, etc.
It really doesn’t matter what you call me as long as you don’t call me late for dinner. To be honest, I never got that joke. I’m not sure exactly what “dinner” is., but I’ve noticed it’s a popular joke with you folks.
Anyway, I’m writing this open letter because I’ve noticed a lot of you have been concerned with what you call “climate change.” You seem to be concerned about “saving the planet.”
I’m flattered that so many of you are concerned about me. I mean, the dinosaurs were living on me for almost a billion years and never once did one of them even notice I existed. Now that I think about it, the fact they had brains the size of a walnut might have had something to do with that.
But I digress. Sorry. I do that a lot. I’ve been around for over four and a half billion years. Cut me some slack.
Be that as it may, the reason I’m writing this letter to you is though I appreciate your concern about my welfare, you need to know you don’t need to save me. I’m doing just fine.
I’ll continue to do just fine. Like I said, I’ve been around for over four and a half billion years and my surface is constantly changing. When I started out, I was basically a really hot rock. The only thing I had to do was make volcanoes.
Granted, at first, it was interesting, but I got to tell you, after the first billion years or so, it got a little old.
Then it started raining. It rained for a long time, even by my standards. All of a sudden almost three-quarters of my surface was covered in water.
That was cool. I had clouds and snow and much better sunrises and sunsets.
But then they got bigger and more complex. First small fish, then bigger fish. That was neat. Then a few of them left the water and started walking around on land. That was weird.
The next time I took a look (you have to realize that your perception of time is different when you’ve been around for billions of years) I was covered in plants and trees and there were insects and dinosaurs everywhere. They were interesting but all they really did was wander around and eat each other.
Again, cool at first, but trust me, anything gets boring after the first hundred million years or so. Things were going fine until this big asteroid crashed into me. I gotta tell you, that one hurt. I remember thinking “Oww! That’s going to leave a mark!”
And it did. After that, the climate on my surface changed and all the dinosaurs disappeared.
Then you guys came along. Now realize, that by my standards you’ve only been around for about a year or so. Even so, I’ve been fascinated by watching you.
You guys actually figured out how to use fire.
You invented the wheel. You created civilization. You created beer! Not one dinosaur in over 500 million years ever came close to doing anything like that. You guys did it after being around for only a few hundred thousand years.
I was impressed. Lately, and by lately I mean for maybe the last 40-thousand years or so, you’ve been inventing all sorts of really interesting things. I have to confess, I’ve really gotten into Netflix.
But I have noticed that you’ve been changing my surface environment lately.
Yes, it’s definitely you folks doing it. It took me hundreds of millions of years to turn hundreds of millions of years of dead dinosaurs and plant life into coal and oil and you’ve managed to burn most of it and dump trillions of tons of CO2 into my atmosphere in a few minutes by my time frame.
You might want to stop doing that. After the asteroid hit, my surface changed so much that the dinosaurs died out. All of them.
It happens. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to have a harder and harder time living on me. Trust me, you’re not the first living things that have come and gone, and you won’t be the last.
I have to admit, I’ll miss you guys. Like I said, I’m really into Netflix and again, you invented beer!
So basically, what I’m trying to tell you is even if you keep doing what you’re doing, I’m going to be just fine. You don’t need to worry about me.
You need to worry about you.
“We have met the enemy… and he is us”
Walt Kelly – Pogo cartoonists
I receive many inquiries concerning this quote, so perhaps this page will answer most questions, and explain the origins.
From the foreword to The Pogo Papers, Copyright 1952-53
“The publishers of this book, phrenologists of note, have laid hands upon the author’s head and report the following vibrations:
Herein can be found that rare native tree, the Presidential Timber, struck down in mid-sprout by the jawbone of a politician. Pogo returns to the swamp from a couple of political conventions to find his unfinished business being rapidly finished, once and for all, by rough and ready hands.
With that much information, you are about as well-equipped as anybody to plunge into the still waters of the Okefenokee Swamp, home of the Pogo people. The activities in this present book were spread shamelessly over the past drought-ridden year. Looking back across the fertilizer, small shafts of green can be seen here and there, while off in the distance wisps of smoke denote the harvesters at work.
Some nature lovers may inquire as to the identity of a few creatures here portrayed. On this point, field workers are in some dispute.
Specializations and markings of individuals everywhere abound in such profusion that major idiosyncracies can be properly ascribed to the mass*. Traces of nobility, gentleness, and courage persist in all people, do what we will to stamp out the trend. So, too, do those characteristics which are ugly. It is just unfortunate that in the clumsy hands of a cartoonist all traits become ridiculous, leading to a certain amount of self-conscious expostulation and the desire to join the battle.
There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blast on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.
I receive many inquiries concerning this quote, so perhaps this page will answer most questions, and explain the origins.
— From the foreword to The Pogo Papers, Copyright 1952-53
This was true when he wrote it, it was true when he said the words that we still recite — because they are true. They are even more cogent and urgently needed today.
We have met the enemy … and he is us.
It’s raining. Dare I say it? It’s pouring. But this is no longer unusual. It used to be the rain came and left. Recently and including today, it’s sunshine that comes briefly then vanishes.
Yesterday was a day during which it didn’t rain. It wasn’t always sunny, but it didn’t actually rain.
Just as well I took pictures because yesterday’s trees with golden leaves are today’s bare, wet bark. At least it isn’t cold. Yet.
It has been raining as if this were Portland. Definitely not anything like Massachusetts in the summer or fall. We weren’t flooded yet, probably because we never got one of the massive hurricanes. We are far enough north that we usually don’t get the full power of hurricanes … but they occasionally show up.
If they don’t show up “in person,” they show up as a close cousin. Always, they bring rain, wind, and weeks or sodden, gray weather. In the winter, they bring the blizzards. In the warmer weather, a nor’easter means nonstop rain plus a full measure of gloom.
But we also have our own little hurricanes, the infamous nor’easters that pound in from the ocean and then sit right over Boston and just keep bringing in water from the ocean in a powerful circular drive.
Two years ago — the worst ear of the 10-year drought — there was no rain, not even a drizzle through May and almost none in June.
This year, the ground is sodden and feels like a sponge. The trees are dark because the bark is wet and has stayed wet for months. There is green mold growing on our vinyl siding. Even the rocks are green.
Dry? When was that?
As did many others, I thought a few people might develop a conscience and a spine and not put Kavanagh on the Court. We thought someone might use their head for something other than a hat rack and realize jailing children was immoral. We thought they might hear the kids who had not been shot at their own school, hear their voices.
They didn’t do any of these things.
So we have an immoral drunkard Supreme Court Justice, babies in jail, lots of dead kids, and jailed babies many of whom may never find a home.
It didn’t happen. No spines, no consciences.
Please vote. Make sure all the people you know who can vote and have their heads outside their asses vote too. Drive people who need a lift to the voting place.
To put it simply, this is it. We’re out of time. The world has a dozen year to repair itself before we can’t stop the descent of Earth into…? I don’t even know what we will be if we can’t stop the planet’s destruction, but sometimes, being old has some advantages. I won’t live to see the end.
We can’t fix everything, but we can give it our best shot. We can do our best to try to talk to people who are still able to listen — and there aren’t many of them left. Everyone is dug into position. I don’t think there are a lot of minds we can change. If nothing else, these past two years have ossified the minds of everybody. We all need to unfreeze our minds. A lot of things need changing — fast — and we have to forget there is a box and think in new and different ways.
To all my younger friends, everyone does the best they can with the world they inherit. No generation gets a map showing you how to fix things. For each of us, the world is a different place with unique issues. What worked for us probably wouldn’t work today. Moreover, even when you get it right, your “right” isn’t permanent. You can pass the “right” laws and un-pass them before your not-yet-born kid makes it to kindergarten. There is no forever.
Governments and countries are not forever. There is no Roman Empire, though it lasted a long time. FYI, the Roman Empire began with the crowning of Gaius Octavian Thurinus in 31 B.C. and fell to the German Goths in A.D. 476, for a total of 507 years. The Byzantine Empire, Rome’s eastern half, did not fall until the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453.
What happened to the Assyrians and the Babylonians? How about the Philistines or the Greeks? Or, for that matter, the British? Empires and governments come and go and this country is very young. If we were to end right now, we wouldn’t even make the historical timeline. We haven’t been around long enough.
Nothing is permanent. Not governments, politics, religion, or morality. Not culture or society. We reinvent ourselves over and over. Good times, bad times. That’s just how it goes.
My generation can’t fix it. I’ll vote as I have always voted: liberal and democratic. But after that, it’s up to other people. If they don’t vote, we will lose. History happens. Each of us is part of it, like it or not. Be a good part of history. Do the right thing. Vote. We have a planet to fix.
And don’t forget to think before you vote!
I’ve been waiting to find intelligent life on earth. I’m still waiting.
We got the word in 2018. Twelve years to fix the world.
It had taken hundreds of years to screw it up. Hundred of years of burning coal, pouring poisons into the streams and rivers and it all flowed into the oceans. And all that while, we were doing it to improve the quality of our lives. Not only our lives but the lives of all the children and grandchildren who would come after us.
They would have the machinery to do what used to be done by hand. The world was gigantic and somewhere, there was an enormous hole into which all the trash could be put. It was an endless hole, so we’d never run out of space and would never need to worry about how much junk we were creating.
Then came the realization that it was cheaper to replace stuff and people forgot how to fix things. Gradually, the gigantic endless hole was not endless and the oceans were full of bottles and straws and floating trash.
The garbage began to spread over the land. It was a slow process, but it was as sure as the earth turning. Most of the world’s cities were full of trash. At first, it was just a little bit, as if a trash bin had been tipped and a tiny bit had spilled on the street.
Then there was more. Eventually, long after the aforementioned twelve years had come and gone, you couldn’t walk through a city or town without wading through garbage. Not just rubbish either. Real putrid garbage.
First, the birds vanished. The songbirds and raptors. The long-legged tall birds — herons, cranes, storks, egrets. After that, the big beasts vanished. Many had gone before, but now it was the working beasts — buffalo, yak, wildebeest. Shortly thereafter, cows and sheep and goats declined as well, though no one knew for sure the reason. It just happened.
Eventually — by then no one was surprised — weird epidemics of unknown origins killed turkeys, chickens, and ducks. No more eggs. No matter which came first, all were gone.
The hogs lasted longest. Humans bred them as fast as they could, then hunted the wild ones to extinction. Soon the bees went from many to few and crops could not grow. Ultimately, all that was left was a single white skull on a burned plain where once the long grass had grown across thousands of acres.
It would be a mere hundred years until the world repaired itself. The hidden animals crept from their secret places. The woods returned and oak forests grew tall and dark and deep. A new world without people emerged, but it was a good world.
I haven’t read the official report, but I’ve read a lot of summaries and I wasn’t at all surprised by any of it. Twelve years left and then we can’t “save the earth.”
I consider it highly unlikely we’ll make that deadline.
I was one of the enthusiastic founders of the original Earth Day. Over the years, as we have cleaned up a lot of the inland waterways — the Blackstone and Hudson Rivers are two notable successes — and cleaned up the air around New York and on the west coast — I knew we weren’t making progress fast enough, but at least I could believe we were trying to head in the right direction.
Now with the big orange dictator setting up the world for extensive additional pollution, I wonder how quickly we will bring about our own doom?
People are the problem.
Our misuse of the earth, our pollution of the waters, our coughing up of coal dust into the air? People. Human beings. We did it, are doing it, and are unlikely to stop.
No other animal has polluted anything. Just people.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
— English Standard Version, Old Testament (Torah)
I’m not religious, or at least not in any traditional sense. Moreover, I don’t think the seven books of the Old Testament — the Torah — are close to the whole story. I have a lot of backup for this belief. It is widely believed there were hundreds of biblical books, most of which were destroyed during the first burning of the Great Temple. And then again, whatever was left were burnt in Alexandria. Even the memories of what was remembered died with the old Rabbis between the Crusades and the Holocaust.
Hundreds of other books that were equally as holy as the seven we currently revere were burned, buried, destroyed. Do you think maybe they had something to say to us? Maybe this bit of text was not intended to tell us to exploit and despoil every inch of earth and every animal on the planet?
We have dominion over the earth, but we have not ruled the earth so much as destroyed it and now, it’s on the edge of fighting back.
I read a report recently about how well the area around Chernobyl has revived. Without human habitation, it has blossomed and wildlife has returned in plenitude. It’s not that the radioactivity has vanished, but that somehow, the world finds a way to move forward, radioactivity and all.
It turns out the earth can handle nuclear devastation. The only thing that it can’t manage is us.
This report does not offer us a lot of turnaround time — a mere dozen years. Perhaps you can take comfort in that although the earth may well become untenable as a place for human habitation, once it extracts us, it will be beautiful again as it was when we lived in the Garden of Eden, right below the mountains bordering Syria.
There are two signs on the path to the place.
In Hebrew, the words are “גן עדן” meaning “garden of Eden.”
The other sign says, in English, “Paradise.”
I felt, being there, that indeed if there was an Eden, this could be it.
You might also take a look at Gordon Stewart’s “Climate Change in the Golden House.”