Good news and bad news

Posted January 12th, 2009 in Blog, Featured 1 Comment »

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

Sums up the daily news, daily.  Always this mixture of good news and bad news, news to scare us to death about our future, signs of hope right in the midst of it, evidence of the ‘great turning.’

Will we turn in time?

Ecological grief and ecological hope – that’s where we are.

Here are some of the bad news stories:

The Tennessee Valley Authority is responsible for another coal ash pond spill, this time  at the Widows Creek fossil plant in Stevenson, Alabama.  Once again, it is a site with a history of problems.  While this spill is smaller and reportedly quickly contained, officials acknowledge that some of the toxic stuff leaked into Widows Creek.  Said Adam Snyder, executive director of Conservation Alabama:

œFor the second time in less than one month, the citizens served by the Tennessee Valley Authority have been unnecessarily exposed to a multitude of health risks due to a failure of a coal ash pond. This unfortunate incident highlights TVA’s over-reliance on coal for energy production and a lack of adequate health safety standards and enforcement. Conservation Alabama calls on Congress, TVA, and EPA to not only conduct an exhaustive evaluation of its current standards, but also to put into action whatever means necessary to ensure that the citizens of Alabama are not put in harm’s way again.  [emphasis added]

You see, it’s bad enough that we are so dependent on this dirtiest of all dirty fossil fuels, full of toxic contaminants, vastly destructive in how it is mined, etc. — but then to have the industry largely unregulated…  This is incredible.

So I invite you to add your voices, or your appropriate outrage, and to let your legislators know what you think; demand accountability of this industry, strict environmental regulations, and a policy to move this country away from its dependence on coal.

Brown Pelican, Santa Barbara CA - by Dori - Wikimedia Commons

Brown Pelican, Santa Barbara CA - by Dori - Wikimedia Commons

Other bad news: brown pelicans are dying in droves out west, from Oregon to Baja California, so many that cars have run over them on the highways.  Some think the cause may be a neurotoxin in the ocean algae; others believe that the birds are ingesting chemical contaminants from all the fire retardants used to fight last year’s wildfires, chemicals that are washing into the ocean with the heavy winter rains.  That would be ironic, wouldn’t it?  If this is the cause, it is another negative impact of the way humans live on the planet, no?  We move into these fire hazard areas to get our pretty mountain house, in areas where drought is common — and now deepening — then expect firefighters and taxpayers to save those houses by dumping vast amounts of toxic chemicals onto the earth.

We almost wiped out this species with DDT until the chemical was banned back in the 70s.  They have rebounded since then, but are still an endangered species.

How’s this one: at least 10,000 people die each year from breathing the air in Hong Kong.  The smog is so bad that some 20 percent of residents are thinking about leaving.  The foul air comes mostly from factories in southern China.

Yes, there is always a steady stream of this kind of news, continued evidence of our maladapted human species, a species that despite its intelligence and talent is having a hard time realizing just how wrongly we are living here.

So where is my good news?

The Obama administration is pouring over the nasty anti-Nature regulations that the Bush people have put in place and are prepared to overturn many of them — like allowing uranium mining near the Grand Canyon, or weakening the endangered species protections, or allowing coal companies to dump more mountaintopping waste into valleys and streams, or allowing concealed weapons in our national parks (see Democrats Look for Ways to Undo Late Bush-Era Rules by Agencies).  I will write an action alert about this later but urge you to contact members of Congress right now.  Overturning these regulations will require new laws and we need to get this high on the priorities list among the many urgencies of this political moment.

Calf - photo by Colorado State Unversity - Integrated Livestock Management

Calf - photo by Colorado State Unversity - Integrated Livestock Management

Here’s another piece of promising news: 1 in 200 kids in this country are vegetarians.  Ain’t that cool?  Some 367,000 of them.  Why is this cool?  Because it means a considerable constituency of young folks is growing up without a dependency on industrial livestock agriculture — another industry whose practices need to be radically altered, if not stopped altogether.  I refer you to the articles by Dr. Richard H. Schwartz and Maya Rose Goldman (one of those kids) in our online Zine.

Reducing or eliminating meat from our diets would make a significant difference in the rate of global warming and in pollution of our waters, soils, and our bodies.  It will also make us a whole lot healthier.

But here’s what I like about this story.  The majority of these young people are not doing this for reasons of health, or even pollution — they are doing this out of respect for animals, out of a reverence for their fellow creatures.  Dr. Schwartz, who wrote for our Zine and is quoted in the above AP article, says: “Compassion for animals is the major, major reason.”  I have spoken with my friend Maya about this a number of times and I can testify to this motivation — and its eloquence.

You see, I believe with all my heart that an essential pathway towards reinventing the human presence on this planet in a way that is life-giving, life-bearing, that might ensure our survival, is the path of respect for the life systems of the planet, for Gaia, for seeing ourselves as one creature among millions, each a part of maintaining the rich fabric from which we emerged and upon which we depend.  I like to think that we would not destroy that to which we bow down in reverence.

But first, like our ancestors of long ago — we must learn again to bow down.


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One Response

  1. Steven Earl Salmony

    Some not so good news in form of a jeremiad.

    My not-so-great generation of elders will likely be remembered as the perpetrators of the most perverse, self-serving silence in human history. No other generation has taken so much from this good Earth, threatened the very future of its own children and given so little of themselves to preserve life for coming generations. Photographs of us will disclose both our corpulence and hollowness.

    Although the disclosure of truth is unsettling, hiding the truth from the human community could be a monstrous example of human-driven foolery, one that could soon lead to a colossal ecological wreckage.

    To suppress the truth by conscientiously substituting whatsoever could somehow be true with willful silence is tantamount to the commission of a pernicious lie.

    A widely shared and consensually validated determination among people with knowledge to maintain their silence, when remaining silent betrays intellectual honesty, conceals the truth and thwarts courageous action, is the most dangerous of all global threats to the family of humanity, life as we know it and the preservation of Earth as a fit place for human habitation.

    From this perspective, perhaps we can begin to apprehend the actual, most formidable enemy of future human wellbeing and environmental health.

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on the Human Population,
    established 2001