One positive result from the Gulf might be an expanded adjustment to our iron-bound belief in the value of our lengthy, violently enforced claim of possession of the earth.
Our hegemony over this complex, multi-dimensional home to multitudes of critters who co-evolved with it as did we may be losing its exclusivity. Those who adhere to the concept that technology allowed humans to separate from nature might benefit and gain a more rounded, realistic view of this world by volunteering for an up-close look at the disaster we all helped foment for there is no part of America nor the world more intertwined with the mysteries of conjoined existences than the Gulf of Mexico.
How are individuals to react to what feels in some ways like the opening salvos of the final assault on the natural world? Former interpretations of Biblical dogma on such matters rendered to humans “dominion” over the natural world, dominion defined as “absolute ownership” i.e. the earth is ours to do with as we choose. Reagan’s Secretary of Agriculture, James Watt elevated this to econopocalype, when he justified the government mining federal lands because the world is “merely a temporary way station on the road to eternal life…The earth was put here by the Lord for His people to subdue and to use for profitable purposes on their way to the hereafter … we don’t know how much time we have before Jesus returns.” . Such daft admonishments (coupled with Bush’s later statements following 9/11, equating the buy-buy cultural norm with patriotic duty) have rendered opposition to the US’s 11th commandment consumerist lifestyle somewhat treacherous. Thankfully, the lines have shifted to an extent, announced by an awakening among responsible Christians, that dominion implies a duty to take care of what God made.
What sort of health is more important to you, abstract economics or the health of the only home we know? The validity of a double digit increases of economic growth as the sole measure of human progress must includes sober considerations about what the future portends as a result of the same unrestrained, unsustainable growth. Is the “business-as-usual” model announced by the fawning insouciance of the press (financed by ads for the latest distracting gadget) to be the epitaph for the biosphere or is there another path?
Other animals have certainly displayed a facility to modify their world for specific purposes. None have approached the determination and scale of humans. A flight over the copper mine taluses dotting the American west or the hallucinatory reality of burning rivers, hilariously and darkly referenced by Randy Newman, distinguishes our species from any other. Now that the US, so the claim goes, has stumbled across trillions of dollars worth of resources that every other occupying empire seems to have missed, the propaganda could fool one into envisioning Afghan kids skipping down clean streets to new schools when that nation’s neo-colonial future is more accurately displayed by the China’s new Afghan copper mines ending up at Wal-Mart. Think about that, totalitarian nations and mega-retailers reaping free security via the US military and your taxes.
My obsession with the discards of the empire was renewed one Thursday morning upon finding in successive refuse piles (I swear I wasn’t looking) a new pair of rubber waders, a fine Electrolux vacuum and a nearly perfect Specialized brand bicycle. Multiply those modest discoveries by a couple of billion and one can begin to grasp the scale of such extravagant, obscene plenty. The toll your possessions exact on the world doesn’t end with manufacture and nor does your ongoing responsibility. The consequences of abandonment of a sticks used by birds to capture insects is somehow very different from abandonment of trillions of tons of products, especially those which fail after the third or so use, their purchase justified by the false economy of cheap crap. Where is the saving in buying the same thing over and over and over? Acquisition of a new doo-dad involves a pact with the planet that should be entered in with consideration and gravity instead of a feeling akin to the junkie’s first shot of dope. After the thrill fades, then what? A bigger plasma TV? How about a surfboard? Is that it? Has our old earth become just a wore-out whore good only the brief, narcotic thrill of purchase? “Think about the jobs.” some intone robotically, alluding to overseas non-choices that supplant millennial-old agricultural and social patterns with toxic manufacturing jobs peddled under the “standard of living” myth.
One lives in the world they make. Those who find their world increasingly second-rate and unsatisfying might do well to reflect on the current meltdown, that as much as anything was created by millions who swapped their home equity for a garage full of plastic junk they didn’t need, a macro-economic financed by the micro-economics of working for money to finance a manufacturing carousel of planet-killing crap. You are the market and your actions and purchases have a direct effect on what sort of world you live in. Acquire with care, with a thought to what comes later.