Being reality-based

Posted March 9th, 2010 in Blog, Featured 1 Comment »

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

Folks who have read my book, heard my talks, or visit this website know that one of my favorite things to do is to put together seemingly disparate pieces of our ecological puzzle, connect seemingly separate dots, to try to present a more accurate picture of the human predicament, this moment of crisis in which we find ourselves.

You know, like what does global warming, economic recession and high unemployment, and the unnatural and ecologially damaging Chicago canal (the one that reversed the flow of the Chicago River and created a connection from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River that should never, ever, have been created), have to do with one another?

A couple of things are crucial for me – that we get honest about our world, and that we see the connections.

Whatever else, we need to get rooted in reality. If you watch cable news, you know that is certainly not where we are rooted.

So here are the pieces I present this evening:

Photo: Margaret Swedish

This first one should terrify us all: Rulings Restrict Clean Water Act, Hampering E.P.A. This story explains how a court-restricted definition of waterways that fall under EPA rules is so narrow that many businesses are dumping toxic waste into the sources of our groundwater, tap water, rivers and lakes – with impunity. It explains how things are actually getting worse, our water more and more toxic.  I urge you to read this story – and to think about that glass of water, and to think about your kids, and to get angry and do something about this.

Next: while the industry-funded global warming skeptics and pundits ridicule the science because there was a lot of snow in Washington DC and Georgia this year, the reality is that, elsewhere on the planet, the crisis of HEAT keeps getting worse.

From this week’s Earthweek-A Diary of the Planet:

Neville Nicholls of Melbourne’s Monash University told an online climate science media briefing that initial satellite data indicate “January was the hottest we’ve ever seen.”

He also told the briefing that last November was similarly the hottest on record, while November-January was the hottest three months for that time of year “the world has seen.”

In early February, the worst heat wave in 50 years across southern Brazil and Paraguay killed more than 60 people and turned Rio’s pre-Carnival environment into a blast furnace.

But, hey, it’s South America, so who cares?  Who is even paying attention?

Okay, onward.  This, from today’s business section of the NY Times: Mexico’s Oil Politics Keeps Riches Just  Out of Reach.  Now this is really interesting from the perspective of peak oil, a theory that has fallen into some disrepute lately. Folks that predicted that we were approaching or already at peak oil – that point of maximum global production, after which the slide begins – have been warning that Mexico, a major U.S. supplier and one of our few friendly ones, was reaching peak.  Now, peak means not that there is no more oil.  It means that the easiest to get has been gotten, that more and more investment and technology will be needed to get to the harder stuff, with diminishing economic returns, until ultimately the supply begins its inevitable downward spiral.

Here’s the text I find interesting:

The basic problem is simply that Mexico’s readily accessible oil is used up — pretty much the same thing that happened to the United States when production began falling in the 1970s.

Got that?  The US reached peak oil back in the 70s, and it is to this peak that Mexico’s looming shortages are being compared.  You see, those that insist that there is still plenty of oil don’t talk about this other part – that it is getting harder and harder to get it out of the Earth. That is actually part of the definition of the peak oil theory.

The national oil company created after the 1938 seizure, Pemex, is entering a period of turmoil. Oil production in its aging fields is sagging so rapidly that Mexico, long one of the world’s top oil-exporting countries, could begin importing oil within the decade.

Mexico is among the three leading foreign suppliers of oil to the United States, along with Canada and Saudi Arabia. Mexican barrels can be replaced, but at a cost. It means greater American dependence on unfriendly countries like Venezuela, unstable countries like Nigeria and Iraq, and on the oil sands of Canada, an environmentally destructive form of oil production.

“As you lose Mexican oil, you lose a critical supply,” said Jeremy M. Martin, director of the energy program at the Institute of the Americas at the University of California, San Diego. “It’s not just about energy security but national security, because our neighbor’s economic and political well-being is largely linked to its capacity to produce and export oil.”

So, among other things, expect more war, since the U.S., still so woefully dependent on oil, as is the global economy, is entirely committed politically and militarily to ensuring reliable supply. But expect that supply to become increasingly unreliable, increasingly costly, and a source of great turmoil.

Okay, one more: Childhood depression: Why is it increasing?

How can kids be depressed when it seems like they have never had it better? Children are being raised in environments that generally offer them more of everything… Key indicators of child abuse, health, academic achievement and an overall standard of living suggest this is a relatively privileged generation for most children.

Even so, kids are clinically depressed and exhibiting serious emotional problems.

Okay, what is the connection between this story and those above, if any? You know what is most depressing to me? It’s that the writer seems so mystified: our children have more of everything, what in the world is their problem?! Must be bad parenting.

Or else it might be the world we have made. It might be that having more of everything is not what they need. It could be that what they need is simplicity, love, availability of primary relationships, play, and some assurance that they have a future on this planet that is not full of fear and danger and ecological wreckage.

We need to become reality-based, folks. Not just you and me, but we, as in this culture. It is so disturbing, how much we don’t know about the forces that are impacting our lives, and that are going to shape our future. We are on our way to becoming incredible victims of forces we don’t want to look at or understand, or…

Or what? Or we begin to look full on at what is going on all around us, who is making the decisions that have put us on this terrible course, the role we play in it as individuals, as communities, as a society, and begin to say no, no, we don’t want this future!

What hope looks like

And we can accompany our no, our refusal to participate, with a yes, with one big affirmation of life, one that entails a commitment to getting involved in the work to create a different kind of future for our kids – a future in which their disposition will not be marked by increasing depression, but increasing joy. That joy has content. It refuses the degradation of the planet and the human spirit at the mercy of economic exploitation and meaninglessness, but rather affirms a new meaning for life itself within the context of a new Earth community that is also coming to birth all around us.


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One Response

  1. Peak Oil

    I believe that peak oil is accurate and that we are now past the point of peak oil. I think many of the current events have to do with this senerio and it won’t be long before the main stream media and population wake up and understand what is going on. For me and my family, we are preparing for the next generation.