Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas Consumerism Is Killing Mother Earth

Tar sands in Alberta, Canada.  Scientists have recently
found that the eggs of birds downstream from the
tar sands contain statistically more mercury.
Today is Saturday, November 30, 2013.

The 2012 Greendex survey found that people in poorer countries feel, on average, much guiltier about their impacts on the natural world than people in rich countries. The places in which people feel least guilt are, in this order, Germany, the US, Australia and Britain, while the people of India, China, Mexico and Brazil have the greatest concerns. Our guilt, the survey reported, exists in inverse proportion to the amount of damage our consumption does. This is the opposite of what a thousand editorials in the corporate press tell us: that people cannot afford to care until they become rich. The evidence suggests we cease to care only when we become rich.  – George Monbiot

If GM crops sprayed with pesticides and fungicides are so
healthy, why is this researcher wearing a hazmat suit?
It's true, folks.  People in countries such as China, India, Mexico and Brazil are more concerned about climate change, pollution of air, water and soil, endangerment and loss of whole species, genetically altered foods,  and shortages of fresh water than people in rich countries like the United States, the U.K., and Canada. 

In Bolivia, one of the poorest nations on earth, Mother Earth has been granted equal rights by constitutional amendment: humans do not have the right to destroy the natural environment.  In that country, also, GMO crops will be completely banned by 2015. 

Ecuador is another South American country that has a so-called "wild law" giving rights to Mother Earth.  As with all laws, the details are still being worked out, but at least the law is on the books. 

The governments of India and China, where economies are booming just now, are reluctant to sign agreements with European Union countries on CO2 emissions, but India has placed a 10-year moratorium on planting GM crops, and China has decided not to adopt GM crops for at least the next five years.  Instead, they will try to develop more sustainable high-yield non-GM crops. 

The global water supply is rapidly declining due to misuse, pollution and for-profit privatization by companies such as Nestlé, whose practices, in effect, severely limit the supply of clean water for the poor. 

All over the world, scientists are warning us that we are poisoning our soil and our water supply, poisoning our atmosphere, and negatively affecting the natural cycles that produce our climate.  We are being warned that our pesticides and fungicides are killing bees wholesale.  Our GM crops are affecting surrounding animals and plants, and leading us into an unhealthy dependance on companies that produce altered seeds. Why aren't we listening?  Why don't we care, as a nation?

Right now we are approaching the time of year when consumerism is at its peak.  There is a frenzy of buying, such that, this very weekend, many retailers will be operating "in the black" for the first time all year.  Many of the things we buy for ourselves and for others are things that we don't really need in order to survive.  They are merely things that tend to keep our feelings of ennui at bay.  In George Monbiot's words, we "spend ridiculous sums on conspicuously useless gifts."   Minbiot asks, "Are we so bored, so affectless, that we need to receive this junk to ignite one last spark of hedonistic satisfaction?"  

Toxic waste dump in Nairobi, Kenya
In order to produce these products, we "wear down the knap of the Earth, ream the surface of the planet with great holes, fleetingly handle the products of that destruction then dump the materials into another hole."  Sorry, I can't improve on Minbiot's words, he's so right on.  We destroy the earth, in other words, to produce electronics, ceramics, plastics, paints, dyes, and various types of packaging.  When we exhaust the ore in one area, we move on to another area, leaving behind destruction so intense that nothing will grow for generations, because the soil and water are so polluted.  Meanwhile, our factories continue to put carbon into the atmosphere at an alarming rate.  There is now 393.66 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere according to CO2 Now website.  The upper amount at which Mother Earth can replenish herself is 360 ppm.  And then when we're done with our toys, we junk them in landfills, once again polluting the soil in the process.
Abandoned coal mining site in Appalachia

Are we truly so addicted to consumerism that we cannot step back and see where it is leading us?  Do we really need all this junk in order to enjoy life?  Is our self-worth really so dependent on what baubles we own, what vehicles we drive, what clothes we wear, or what kind of castle we live in?   Do we really need to impress others with the evidence of our wealth?  George Monbiot has something to say about that, too: Those who are impressed by money are not worth impressing.

Will we continue to bury our heads in the sand and kick the can down the road so that we don't have to face the consequences of our destructive habits right now?  Will we continue to refuse to tighten our belts or set limits on our need for luxuries at the expense of Mother Earth?  

This Christmas, as you do your gift shopping, stop and consider the provenance of the things you buy.  Where do the materials come from?  How is this plastic made?  Where did the factory dump its waste products?  Whose pure water supply was commandeered in order to make this product?  How long will we be able to use this product before it is junked, and in whose backyard will it end up? 

If Christmas is a season of love, the least we could do is spare a little love for Mother Earth.  :-/

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