Monday, September 18, 2006

THE WORLD IS NOT AN OYSTER

The world is not your oyster, it's not your breadbasket, it's not at your feet. The world is a living, breathing entity complete unto itself. It doesn't need you. You need it.

There's a fierce debate in the media, in political salons, on the street. In a general way this debate is about something called 'the environment'. No matter the side of the debate people refer to 'the environment' as a thing apart. The argument is about human activity and it's relation to the environment as if they were somehow seperable.

It's easy to think you can seperate these things. Go out bush that's the environment - trees, grass, insects, creeks, wild animals. No protection from heat, cold, bites and scratches. In cities, human activity: cafes, offices, museums, galleries, cinemas, theatres, busking, resteraunts etc. This is an artificial zone born of human imagination and designed for human comfort. We never give a thought to the source of those things bought with that ultimate product of human ingenuity: money.

What do we do in the city? Drink latte? Latte consists of coffee, water, milk and sugar. Where does the coffee come from? Coffee beans. Where does the milk come from? Cows. Sugar from sugar cane, paper-wrapped. And lots and lots of water.

A kilo of coffee requires a thousand litres of water. This does not include the steam forced through espresso machines, or the water used to clean the glasses. To grow a litre of coffee costs a thousand litres of water. This means if you like your coffee and buy a weekly half kilo of your favourite Columbian gold you're using twenty-four thousand litres of water a year. Just for coffee.

We live in a age of abundance. Clever monkeys we are. After millenia of struggle we've carved out this grand comfort zone for ourselves. We emerge from the womb and can persist to oblivion never once considering the material costs of the things we eat, drink, watch and play with. What materials, for instance, are required to produce a half hour of television? I don't know. Certainly someone, somewhere is capable of calculating the costs, ecologically. But well over 99% of us never even stop to consider it.

How many litres of water does it take to make an episode of Neighbours?

A human being can live without food for several weeks. Each one of us can go the rest of our lives without another movie, another pair of Levis or another Kylie Minogue cd. But water? Different story. A few days without water and you drop dead. You, me, everyone. With water the environment ceases to be out there and becomes integral to your very being. You are alive and you need water or you kick.

The ecological argument right this minute centres on Global Warming. That the earth is heating up is not in question. The question is why? The obvious correlation between the emergence of the industrial system in the nineteenth century and the corresponding heating of the world is treated with skepticism by many who frequently use their voices to champion our current economic model and all those who sail in it. They call themselves 'skeptics'. The Australian a few weeks back characterised the debate as that between skeptics and alarmists. Given the choice which one sounds rational?

The 'alarmists' are those who say that human activity causes global warming. Skeptics often characterise these people as loony, trendy, even evil. A particular target are the Greens. Surely our current economic system, based on the free use of resources in the pursuit of riches couldn't be a factor. The skeptics are not being skeptical simply because they don't want to held irresponsible for persisting with their air conditioners and four wheels drives. I'm sure also that the Murdoch press is being totally objective. That the Greens refuse to get into bed doesn't factor at all.

No! The skeptics are rational. They are fully informed. They've taken the time and the trouble to learn the basic science, to understand the limits of our knowledge re. non-linear systems like weather. They've researched the scientific discourse thouroughly and taken the trouble to filter out those skeptical scientists pouring cold water on the 'alarmists' for scientific reasons like keeping their job. They've come to their own conclusions. The effects of halting economic expansion for ecologically prudent reasons hence diminishing stock market dividends and losing real estate development opportunities never once crossed their minds.

And let's just say that's true. Does it matter?

Whatever the impact of human activity on the ecology, the ecology's impact on human activity is certain. Just ask someone who owned a hotel that got wiped out by the tsunami. President George II has declared that the American lifestyle is not negotiable. Well Mr. President, Nature doesn't negotiate. It doesn't care. To Nature, you and me are no different to the trees. It does as it will according to it's own logic and our stock market portfolio isn't relevant.

Humanity can now look back with unprecedented clarity on its history, its origins and development patterns. We can understand the link between some mutating wheat and the birth of civilization. It wasn't just hard work and bright ideas Mr. President it was luck. We were lucky. And luck always runs out.

It's time to advance little monkeys. It's time to look hard at the facts of existence and take our carved little niche in the cosmos a few steps forward. Whatever the facts re. global warming we must be aware of the relationship between ourselves and the planet. We need it and living according to an entirely human code of ever advancing riches and 'progress' won't kill the planet. But it just might kill us.

1 comment:

Sarah Pell said...

Great another left wing dickhead who thinks (hopes) the world is about to collapse. Just because you don't qualify for a bank loan don't spoil it for the rest of. I don't care about you but the world is my oyster and I'm going to eat it.