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The State of The Environment: Trouble In Paradise

Eight Myths about "The Environment".

Myth 1. The environment is an external entity. We talk about the environment as if it were somehow detached from us. Just using the words "the environment" implies that humanity is one thing, the environment another. It is this subconscious failure to understand the nature of life as a tapestry, interwoven and connected, that has created environmental destruction which now threatens all of life.

Fact:

The fate of all life is inextricably linked. Life is not just a "thing", it is a process. Life is a verb, not a noun. Life interacts with life in a process which guarantees self-continuance - of life. Life (including humanity) both takes from and gives back to this process. What we take, under normal (natural) circumstances is replaced in the process. Unfortunately - and increasingly - we take so much that it cannot be replaced.

Just one example is the poisoning of the air. We produce unbelievable amounts of toxins into the atmosphere. Most occur naturally but their effects are negated by natural sub-processes that provide a counter-balance. We consume oxygen and produce carbon dioxide when we breathe. Fortunately, plants (particularly rainforests) consume and store carbon dioxide while producing oxygen. This is a symbiotic relationship, one we cannot live without.

The oceans are also great carbon dioxide "sinks". But as global warming has it's impact on the oceans, their ability to absorb carbon dioxide is reduced. Notice the difference in carbonization between a warm bottle of soda pop (carbonated water) and a cold one and you'll get the point. Warm water is not capable of storing as much carbon as cold water.

We are both an integral part of the environment and also totally dependent on it for life. No environment - no life.

Myth 2. We are making progress on environmental issues.

Fact:

For every step forward we take, we take several back. The very best we've been able to do is slow down (and not by much) the break-neck speed at which we are rushing towards oblivion.

An example here is the use of ozone-destroying CFC's. It is accepted by many people that we have not reduced our use of them, but in fact we have only reduced the rate of increased use of them. And to the degree that we have reduced CFC's, we have done so by replacing them with HCFC's, which are 10% less harmful. However, their use is growing so dramatically that soon that gain will become negligible - that is, HCFC's will be 10 times more plentiful than they are today.

Myth 3. We (The human race) are likely to wait until the signs of environmental damage can no longer be ignored. While this may not be ideal, it is "human nature".

Fact:

This is not possible. It is accepted by nearly the entire scientific community that if we wait until it is obvious that we have no choice - it will be far too late. The main reason is that it takes several years for the impact of environmental damage to have it's worst effects. We are already facing a future which is going to be troublesome, to say the least. But most experts accept that if we take action now, we can halt the momentum before we reach the edge. Waiting until things get really scary is waiting too long.

Myth 4. Global warming is not real.

Fact:

Over the last 10,000 years - since the last great ice age - earth has maintained approximately the same temperature. But since the beginning of the industrial revolution, that temperature has increased by 1 degree.

It doesn't sound like much, does it?

Well, consider this: If we drop 3 degrees off that post ice age mean temperature, we're back in the ice age.

Even more frightening is the fact that we have, in the most optimistic scenarios, another 2 or so degrees coming in the next thirty years. That is unavoidable. But if we don't stop the destructive behavior now, that is just the tip of it.

Finally, as of early 1996, virtually all scientific resistance to the fact of global warming has disappeared. It is now, very late in the day, accepted by nearly all credible scientists (those not in the pockets of the corporate elite) that global warming is a fact and that it is the result of human behavior. Bear that in mind as we visit the next myth.

Myth 5. Global warming is real but is caused by nature, not by human activity.

Since we know that the accumulation of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases increase the temperature of the planet and since we know that we (humanity) have introduced (through insane industrial practices, through forest destruction, through oceanic warming and by unnecessarily using carbon fuels to run our automobiles), it does not take a genius to understand that whatever nature might do, we have had a dramatic and negative impact. This should tell us mountains about Rush Limbaugh's true intellectual status.

Myth 6. People in the undeveloped and under-developed countries don't care about the environment.

Myth 7. People in the developed countries don't care about the environment.

Myth 8. Most environmental damage is caused by third world countries in their efforts to develop.

Fact: Almost everybody everywhere knows that we are in big trouble environmentally. However, we also believe that "we" are the only ones who know it. In the developed nations, the wide-spread myth is that the developing countries are more concerned with economic development even if it is at the expense of the environment. And certainly there have been occasional statements by government officials (from developing countries) which take the tone of "Its' our turn."

But we are not concerning ourselves with governments here because we know that governments will not lead the way. We are concerned with the human race and the awareness people have about the environment.

The Health of the Planet (HOP) survey( conducted by the George H. Gallup International Institute), had it been more widely publicized, would have shocked many people and dispelled the myth that only citizens of developing countries can afford the luxury of environmental awareness; it certainly had that effect on the people who conducted it and analyzed it's results.

The survey was conducted in 24 nations. In addition to sampling populations in the fully developed northern countries, it also included Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Uruguay, South Korea, the Philippines, India, Turkey, Hungary, Poland, Russia and Nigeria.

A quote from the analysis:

...the HOP findings were surprising, as they revealed less disagreement between residents of the industrialized nations and the developing nations than is widely assumed to exist on these issues (based, in part, on conflicts between these two sets of nations at the Earth Summit).

This is revealing indeed. It tells us precisely what common sense would tell us - that people everywhere know and agree on the severity of the problems we face environmentally. Our governments - whether democratic or otherwise - do not. They are a part of the problem and are standing in the way of the interests of the human race and the spirit of life.

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