Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earth Day 2017



The tired battles between corporate capitalism and monolithic socialism have never been about places like the one where I live. At best, rural areas have been granaries to feed the urbanizing, industrializing, modernizing world... 
In the past... environmentalism... has been a distant and patrician enterprise. City folks have wanted to protect the mountain heights where they spent their summers, the lakes where they had their camps just as animal lovers in the West have struggled to protect the elephants of Africa or the seals of Siberia. No slur is intended; such efforts are essential...
But that sort of feudal noblesse oblige... cannot guard the future of either the region or the world... A Rockefeller could happily set aside Adirondack wilderness, but to imagine self-sufficient, self-reliant Adirondack communities would threaten everything a Rockefeller stood for. ... 
A community that made environmental sense would not have all the things that we have today. Its stores would have far fewer items, and far more of them would be locally made... Electricity would come from local sources — rivers, wind, the sun — and be used more sparingly. Cars would grow steadily rarer, and buses and bicycles more common.... 
In certain ways it might be richer, too, of course. Maybe those of us who live in the cold climes would only get bananas, currently America's favorite fruit, on special occasions — but we would have a hundred varieties of apples to choose from, almost year-round... [And r]iding a bicycle makes you feel better... 
Everywhere the transformation will look different, just as spring comes to each spot with subtly different signs and vestiges. In city and suburb, in poor nation and rich nation, in tropic and farmbelt and pole, environmental hope will appear in various disguises. Some places it will come as a sleek new bus or a bike path; in others as a cleaned-up slum, a repaired school...

[O]n some not-too-distant day, I will wake up and drink a glass of fresh milk from a neighbor's small dairy... and it will fill me up with hope. 
- Bill McKibben, Hope, Human and Wild <http://amzn.to/2oTyVSQ>

17 comments:

  1. A few years ago, Bill McKibben had the misfortune of being seated next to me on a turbulent evening flight from Philadelphia to Burlington, Vermont. He was as well-mannered and articulate in person as he is in his writings. I wonder, though, if Bill's idealized America (like his kindred spirit, Kentucky's Wendell Berry) is not only impossible, but not desired by the majority of his countrymen, who love their Sport Utility Vehicles, snowmobiles, jet-skis, and anything else unnecessary to human survival but fun to own that runs on fossil fuels. It is hardly in the spirit of 'buy local', but I like having fresh fruit in winter, flown in by planes burning lots of jet fuel from coastal South America, where it is in season.

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    1. Mr. McKibben was on an airplane, yep! Mr. Gore and execrable hypocrite DiCaprio are also constantly on planes, if not some of the world's largest motor yachts, not to mention 24,000 square foot houses. Did you know that the single easiest way to lower your lifetime "carbon footprint" is to avoid air travel? How worried can these guys be, really, about "The Planet?"

      I have not noticed any of these fine gentleman, nor any of their well-heeled bourgeois minions and Hollywood shrills, choosing to lead by the personal example of a SIMPLE "lifestyle," minimizing consumption of fuel, clothing, appliances, food products procured from thousands of miles away, or all the latest "tech" which relies on the mining of rare minerals in third-world countries under brutal conditions by near-slave labor. NONE. Including Mr. Barack Obama and his deepest-blue fans.

      Many such as McKibben continue propagating the Edenic fairy tale (rebooted as "Gaia" for our secular age) that in some pre-industrial past we lived a pure, clean pastoral existence in "harmony with nature." Well, the truth is in those days we lit grass fires to stampede whole herds of buffalo off cliffs to eat, choked on burning dung to stay warm in inadequate shelter, enjoyed child mortality of better than 50% and the life expectancy for most was around age 38.
      Most women died in childbirth or related septicemia. Most men died of trauma and fun things like tetanus. All lived frequently on the edge of starvation, where one failed harvest might wipe out an entire settlement. Read up on early Jamestown. "Short, brutish and nasty" is an understatement. "Chewonki Camp" it was certainly not!

      Everything in this world has always been a trade-off in terms of benefits and costs. Our standard of living today, particularly those of us reading Muffy's blog, would have been beyond the imagination of kings and emperors even 150 years ago. We should be down on our knees with gratitude to the innovators and industries who make this life of wonders and wealth possible, instead of painting them as some kind of Earth-killing demons. We have cleaned up our act LONG ago.

      When Earth Day began, there WERE vast problems in our own country with industrial and municipal pollution and waste disposal most of which have been solved today. But green NGO's almost NEVER share that good news and accomplishments, which mostly come from inside industries seeking solutions, because that might cut off the flow of checks. No, doom, gloom, desperation and Apocalypse just down the road (note they keep moving it 10 or 100 years) keeps the money flowing. Anytime someone cites appeals to authority and emotion, put the safety catch on your checkbook. Seek facts, dare to read sources outside your usual comfort zone, and apply a little common sense observation to questions at hand.

      With today's technology, there is NO reason why energy extraction and use should devastate the environment, and I don't believe any company on the planet wants to be responsible for that. But you DO like the lights to come on, you'd like to keep your smartphone, riding a bicycle from Guilford to NYC in the snow after milking a cow is a non-starter and you're not going to row yourself to London, either. So let's keep it real.

      Happy Earth Day, friends! ;-)

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    2. Many thanks!

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  2. This was a particularly important passage to read. Environmentalism is for everyone, or at least should be on everyone's mind.

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  3. Balance is a virtue...and a necessity.

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  4. For those who want of milk, perhaps should personally own the cow and participates in all it involves, including getting the fresh glass of milk- for enlightenment.

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  5. In the spirit of Earth Day;
    Blacks:3 & Whites:2
    http://lambcam.chewonki.org/

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  6. Some solutions are really easy--the WWF should introduce the Chinese purveyors of rhino horn to the Little Blue Pill that works a whole lot better! I suspect rhino poaching would cease, but their one-child policy might be in danger . . .

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  7. In my perfect America, individual towns would be allowed to look at the sidewalks and pavement already in place and to rename some of the sidewalks bike paths. As I look around at the lack of people using bikes, I think many share my distrust of the whole process of sharing the asphalt with cars. The cost of procuring land for bike lanes is prohibitively expensive and is keeping the US behind the wheel.

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    1. Biking is never going to be basic transportation except over very limited distances, in fine weather, by the young and hip. Why? Because biking as a "thing" is impractical for the vast majority of the population who are older, or heavier, have medical problems or a lot of objects to carry or are just not athletic or inclined to be. Most people also don't have the time or opportunity to take a shower when they get to work. This is only a "solution" for the obsessed, or marginalized poor who can't afford better transit.

      Exercise junkies, so many of whom are rabid about their passions, simply can't understand why everyone won't do it. Short answer--either because it hurts like hell, or it's impractical. Or raining!

      There is nothing wrong with cars. The problem is better management of traffic flow, and mass-transit that actually WORKS.

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    2. No disagreement on adults who would bike, Greenfield. Likewise, no disagreement on anything in your original post. I think there are many solutions to explore. Allow me to suggest the example of kids who could bike to school in safety again, as we did when I was a kid and were allowed to pedal against the flow of traffic. Even families that live in "safe" areas have to arrange transportation for every place their kids go. In many places, my idea would be impractical, I grant you, but I would leave it to the towns and to the families that live there to work out the what ifs. There are good reasons for putting some decisions in the hands of individual towns across America and for leaving public transportation thinking to people like yourself. I am all for public transport and real improvements to traffic flow as well.

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    3. No disagreement with that! A signature weirdness of modern suburbia is the curious dearth of children playing outside in any capacity that is not organized, supervised, and micromanaged by adults. We are seeing the outcome of that syndrome in our university populations at this moment.

      There ARE solutions, but to get to them we have to be practical thinkers, not utopians. New Englanders I think have suffered from a certain brand of ivory-tower-infused Utopianism since the time of the Transcendentalists, and it is not helpful. Since the Perfect World never existed and never will, we need to get busy mitigating the more egregious monstrosities of this one--with the mindset of a plumber or bricklayer, not a builder of air castles. Theory must work in practice, and work to a reasonable degree for people of all conditions while taking the environment into consideration as well. Lots to do!

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    4. In my virtually perfect county (otherwise I would move), there are bike paths galore. Perhaps you've heard of the rails to trails thing. They seem to be well used, especially on weekends. Typically they parallel the main roads and parkways and not surprisingly, a few bikers prefer to take their chances on the shoulder of the highway with the cars than on the bike paths. I'm not sure how I'd describe that mindset.

      On the other hand, there are still a few pedestrians who really would prefer that people on bicycles stay in the street where they belong instead of endangering those on foot. I suppose that walking is the lowest form of transportation.

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  8. Thank you Greenfield. I well recall living in Northern California, the hot bed of Earth Day supporters and environmentalist and being impressed by how many of them, at least in the San Francisco Bay Area lived in redwood houses with redwood decking and drove gas guzzling vehicles. PA Anonymous

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  9. whatever you put out, Hatch Match
    https://give.birds.cornell.edu/ea-action/action?c=68403_2

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