Parking lots, fracking, developers, and why we must become ecological beings

Posted January 12th, 2012 in Blog, Featured Comments Off on Parking lots, fracking, developers, and why we must become ecological beings

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

Here’s an interesting little factoid that I found in last Sunday’s Arts & Leisure section of the NY Times:  “There are said to be at least 105 million and maybe as many as 2 billion parking spaces in the United States….Absent hard numbers Mr. Ben-Joseph settles on a compromise of 500 million parking spaces in the country, occupying some 3,590 square miles, or an area larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. If the correct number is 2 billion, we’re talking about four times that: Connecticut and Vermont.”

I wonder what was on that land before all the parking spaces: woods? farms? wetlands? What species might have lived in those areas, birds’ nests and fox dens?

Really, you wonder if we have any sense of the amount of damage we have done – because of the culture of the automobile, of shopping, of the ease of life that comes from our mobility and our ability to put our car a few steps away from wherever is our destination.

I suppose, just like our subdivisions, most of us would rather not know what was there before, what of life and nature was sacrificed for our convenience, our 21st century way of life.

Just like we would rather not know that the slaughter or intentional deaths of millions of American Indians and the labor of slaves are the real foundations of the spread of this nation across the continent.

It is so much easier to prescind within the present, act as if all responsibility begins from this point on.

I want to share some thoughts here about fracking. These articles will tell you more than you ever want to know about why fracking is becoming one of the most destructive technologies ever imposed upon the natural world, right up there with mountaintop removal coal-mining.

Ohio Earthquake Likely Caused by Fracking Waste-Water, from Scientific American
And this one on the same topic from Huffington Post
How things are even worse in Canada, home also of the biggest oil tar sands industrial site in the world
And then how the fracking industry buys its way into avoiding regulations
While it also buys off your members of Congress

Meanwhile, I wonder how much land has been covered over by shopping malls, how many trees cut down in the service of retail, how many wetlands paved over.  When it floods, we get mad at nature. We don’t even think about all those parking lots and shopping malls and business developments that have paved over the land that once took in the water and absorbed it down into aquifers and groundwater tables. Did you know that one of the contributors towards future water shortages, drying up of wells, etc. in the suburban and exurban world is because we have built over natural flood control systems established by the planet over tens of thousands of years? Water can’t go into the ground anymore. It just gets washed into rivers and flows out to sea.

Ask a developer if he or she cares.

Once we have the parking space and the mall and the house in the burbs, we don’t think about these things much anymore. And then all that energy is required to keep it all fueled, thus fracking for oil and gas, and blowing up mountaintops for our electric power.

My thoughts are not random here. If the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center where I participated in the moon ceremony the other night did not exist, there would be million dollar homes all over those 120-some acres of pristine lake shore forests and beaches. I know this because that is what lines the very borders of the park. Not only would nature there be destroyed, but its access would be reserved to those who could afford to be in that 1%.

Our capitalist system tells us that the market decides these things, and that is the essence of democracy. Our capitalist system puts a price on nature and decides its value for those who would destroy it with economic development. And so we are the more impoverished – day after day after day.

The contradictions between this economic system and any hopes we have of preserving our real way of life, which is the human living in a way that reflects our true reality as beings embedded within nature, are irreconcilable. If we really believe that we are more economic beings within a system like this one, rather than natural beings within nature, we will continue this sad tale of moral and ecological impoverishment. If we believe that we are more truly ecological beings, dependent in every way on the water we drink, the food that comes from the earth, the air that fills our lungs, and the beauty that gives rise to art and religion, then our world will look radically different from the one we live in now.

Parking lots would be torn up and the land allowed to renew itself. Developers would suddenly be faced with severe restrictions on what they could do and where. Protecting sentient beings and intact ecosystems would become the highest of priorities of our human endeavors. What we value would shift radically from retail to living deeply within ourselves and our relationships.

Fracking would stop immediately. Actually, we would stop most of our economic activity immediately – to give ourselves time to ponder what in the world we are doing and why. It would be a terrifying time, a time in which we might encounter, finally, the ramifications of what our techno-industrial society has done to the planet and to the human community.

It would be a stark view, a difficult view, one full of the potential for conversion, insight, and a rediscovery of the meaning of the human.


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