The world is completely screwed.
Human beings are, basically, a parasite on the face of the planet. We’re chewing through every reserve of natural resources in existence at a more-than-breakneck pace, meaning that our grandchildren will be lucky if there’s anything more left than a desolate rock.
All of which is to say, “Happy Earth Day! (Tomorrow!)”
The holiday, which began in 1970, was originally conceived as something more than a couple kindergarten classes planting some trees in a lot that will one day contain a treeless Walmart parking lot, anyway.
Earth Day is supposed to be a day where we stand up to industrial interests and demand that they stop destroying our homes.
Not convinced that that’s something we should be doing? Let’s take a look at a short list of environmental problems, followed by the Daily Lobo’s official recommendation of what to do about it.
This year’s Earth Day has the dubious distinction of coming only two days after the April 20 anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon spill.
For those of you who have been watching nothing but “Jersey Shore” reruns for the last year, or were too baked last 4/20 to realize anything out of the ordinary was going on, let’s review what that was, exactly.
The Deepwater Horizon was an offshore oil rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and releasing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf. The oil leak, coming from an underground oil reserve, was eventually plugged, but the damage was done.
It was the worst oil spill in the history of the planet, according to the New York Times. The spill destroyed tourism in the Gulf of Mexico and put thousands of fishermen out of work. The health effects on the people living in the region are unmeasured, but it’s safe to assume nothing good will come from it for anyone exposed to the oil.
The ecological effects are even worse.
Like the health effects of the spill, it’s still too early to measure the extent of the devastation, but we can sift through peripheral accounts of specific damages to draw some conclusions.
For example, National Geographic reported that scientists are seeing an unheard-of epidemic of dead dolphins washing ashore. Dolphin die-offs occur every few years, but the difference in this one, government scientists said, is that the die-off was concentrated in neonatal, or newborn, dolphins. Worse, a recent study suggests that for every dead dolphin that washes up on the beach, 62 more die and never make it to shore.
So, yeah. Thousands of dead baby dolphins. Doesn’t really lead to the most pleasant conclusion about the ecological effects of the spill.
But, wait! Won’t the government save us?
Not really. Less than a month before the spill, the Guardian reported that President Obama opened 500,000 square miles of U.S. coastal waters to offshore drilling. This directly contradicted his campaign promise to not do exactly that. The federal government then failed to punish BP, the oil company that owned most of the rig, in any significant way.
The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression gave the Obama Administration and BP, jointly, a “Muzzle Award” for restricting media access to the Gulf in the wake of the spill.
Transocean, the company that managed the rig, gave bonuses to its top executives for its “best year for safety” ever.
But that’s just the tip of the oil well, as far as environmental problems go.
The state of Utah is moving forward with plans to mine tar sands for petroleum, based on a model pioneered in Alberta, Canada. This practice is new, because it’s a very expensive way to extract petroleum, and only makes economic sense if the price of petroleum is high — so the fact that they’re going ahead with the project in Utah means gas prices are not expected to go down significantly until, well, ever.
But besides hurting your wallet, this project is another instance of humanity literally consuming the Earth.
Environmental Defence, an activist group out of Canada (note the weird spelling of the word “defense,”) called the tar-sand extraction in Alberta the “most destructive project on Earth.” The Indigenous Environmental Network called it “slow environmental genocide.”
As for nuclear, remember those reactors in Japan? Tokyo Electric Power Co., the company that runs them, predicts the Fukushima Daiichi reactor will be entirely cooled sometime in the next six to nine months.
It’s important to note here that there’s at least one nuclear reactor in California (the San Onofre reactor) that sits near the coast and directly on a fault line, just like the Fukushima Daiichi reactor.
To sum up: We’re pretty screwed.
What to do about it
Earth Day was founded in 1970 by former U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson. (Think you’d get elected to the Senate with a name like that today?) Nelson was inspired by the student protesters he saw fighting against the Vietnam War and decided we needed a similar movement for the environment.
The first Earth Day was a huge success, boasting more than 20 million participants.
The Vietnam War parallel is an inspiring one. If it wasn’t for the widespread activism at home, it’s quite possible we’d still be over there.
The lack of activism today is the reason we’re still in Iraq and Afghanistan and have now started a third war in Libya.
So take this opportunity to put down your Call of Duty: Black Ops controller. Gather up some friends. Start a protest. Shut down some intersections. Or, even better, storm President David Schmidly’s office and refuse to leave until they stop watering campus grass at 2 p.m. You could remind him that it’s a huge waste of water (since it all evaporates), and it’s illegal to do in Albuquerque during the daytime, anyway.
But do something. We have too many people sitting around watching reality television instead of taking some responsibility for the world they live in. And that is precisely why the world is in such bad shape today.