Mother Earth to BP: “Make My Day!”

Via on May 29, 2010

 As the heartbreaking BP oil spill continues to grow in the gulf, cynical right-wing oil company apologists like Rush Limbaugh turn wise sages, intoning timeless truths about the natural world’s ability to take care of and heal itself. As an eco-conscious, yoga-practicing, suitably left-wing Elephant columnist, I should probably disagree, but the truth is: they’re right…in a way.

 

The planet’s experienced a lot worse. Hell, pumping every kind of toxin into our ground, air, and water while carelessly wasting every natural resource we can find is perhaps the single most defining characteristic of human society. Nonetheless, in big-picture terms, our total effect on Mother Earth really hasn’t amounted to anything more serious than a bad case of planetary eczema or psoriasis. And, the way things are going, we won’t be bothering her for long.

 

The most significant detrimental effect we’d be likely to have on planetary ecology, more than global warming or any number of toxic spills, would be all out thermonuclear war. As we learned back in the 80’s, when that seemed imminent, however, the worst case scenario is that it might be similar to what happened after that giant meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs…and the planetary ecosystem came back from that just fine, didn’t it?

 

All we’re really doing, then, is making the planetary environment increasingly unhealthy for higher life forms, leading to their extinction: passenger pigeons, polar bears, and…um…uh oh…people….

 

Houston, we have a problem.

 

One thing you hear a lot if you try talking to people about the environment is some variation of: it’s not that I don’t care about forests/oceans/ecology in general, I just care more about people. Which is kinda telling the doctor who’s asked you to quit drinking and smoking, I don’t care about my heart and lungs, I just wanna enjoy life.

 

(Okay, lots of people actually do think that way…guess there’s something to be said for not treating the earth any worse than your own body).

 

Anyway, the only thing dumber is the way some crunchy types concede the point: okay, true, you’ve got the health, happiness, and upwardly mobile lifestyles of humanity on your side, but we’ve got Romantic ideas about nature, pronouncements from ancient spiritual traditions you couldn’t care less about, misanthropy, Marvin Gaye songs, and pictures of adorable animals.

 

Like it or not, outside the Boulder city limits, not everybody gets all that worked up about about poisoned wetlands and oil-covered birds—(yes, Waylon, I know the Buddha says they should…but they don’t)—but they might if they realized that contrary to what Neil Young sang, Mother Nature is not on the run in this or any other century. We are, because what happens to the sea turtles, sooner or later, is gonna happen to us (in fact, it is happening). What it all comes down to is this: we need the earth…but the earth doesn’t need us. No matter how much damage we seem to be doing, if we make war on our ecosystem, as we’re doing, and as the likes of Limbaugh would like us to continue doing, we’re gonna lose. 

 

But, yes, nature will, in the end, be just fine…without us.

 

 

 

 

 

*kind of a completely different sarcastic essay version of an ultra-serious prose poem type of thing from Yoga for Cynics*

About Jay Winston

Jay S. Winston, founder and proprietor of Yoga for Cynics (http://yogaforcynics.blogspot.com), has a PhD in English, making him the kind of doctor who, in case of life-threatening emergency, can explain Faulkner while you die, is currently (semi-)(un-)employed as a freelance writer and editor, teaches creative writing to homeless men, tutors recovering addicts in reading, was recently certified as a Kripalu yoga teacher, gets around mostly by bicycle, is trying to find an agent for his novel, resides in the bucolic Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia, State of Mildly Inebriated Samadhi, U.S.A. and, like most people who bike and practice yoga, used to live in Boulder.

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13 Responses to “Mother Earth to BP: “Make My Day!””

  1. "But, yes, nature will, in the end, be just fine…without us."

    Depends how you define "nature." If we don't care about animals, or biodiversity, yah: the rock that is earth will be fine.

    Not how I define earth, however.

    And it's not we Buddhists' vow: to be of benefit to alllll sentient beings.

  2. Tricycle says:

    [...] came across an Elephant Journal tweet that took me to this, by Jay Winson: Hell, pumping every kind of toxin into our ground, air, and water while carelessly [...]

  3. Like I've said before, "I'd love to see Limbaugh go for a swim in the Gulf of Mexico, today."

  4. Waylon, the point I'm making, which nobody seems to be getting (except maybe Chris), is that the earth will be "fine" in the sense that it was fine after the killer meteor hit. In terms of our own lives, and compassion for other beings, we need to look at things in a smaller sense, in which, at this point in time, we are an essential part of nature, and, thus, making war on it is making war on ourselves.

  5. Waylon, the point I'm making, which nobody seems to be getting (except maybe Chris), is that the earth will be "fine" in the sense that it was fine after the killer meteor hit.

    As you can see here:
    "One thing you hear a lot if you try talking to people about the environment is some variation of: it’s not that I don’t care about forests/oceans/ecology in general, I just care more about people. Which is kinda telling the doctor who’s asked you to quit drinking and smoking, I don’t care about my heart and lungs, I just wanna enjoy life."
    I'm pointing out the falseness of the dichotomy of nature and humanity (except in the very very broad sense that the earth will replenish itself like it did after the meteor, which of cours.

  6. Clasina says:

    I find it extremely arrogant when people play the "people vs. nature" game. Essentially we are a parasite. We use the resources of the earth for our survival. We will not "win" because there is no competition- either there are resources available to us and our species survives for another cosmic-minute…..or we use all the resources and wipe ourselves out.

    Who could possibly think that we could "beat" the earth? So no, the world will not end because of us. Will certain species be affected and go extint? Yes- but that has been happening throughout the history of the planet.

    I thought this article was great- raises a lot of good point.

  7. Elize says:

    In simplistic terms, the driving force of nature is to ensure the replication of DNA and life as humans know & define it … biodiversity ensures more opportunity for the survival of life. Because of our human actions, the world as we know it is changing & may change drastically… such as, life may be reduced to microscopic forms. But DNA/ life/ world-at-large will likely survive.

    Placing ethical, spiritual, moral, religious beliefs and convictions aside for a moment, in simplistic terms we are threatening our own human survival as we threaten the world as we know it. We need the earth's resources to live & we are part of the biodiversity that exists alongside those sea turtles. This is a great point that you're making, Jay- it may be the unifying fact that all humans may hopefully see.

    When we also consider those ethical, spiritual, moral & religious beliefs regarding nature, life, other humans- WOW. We have even more reason to live better for the planet, and ultimately ourselves.

  8. Good blog and discussion, Jay. Thanks.

  9. integralhack says:

    I agree with Waylon. The idea that the Earth (as a biosphere) will be "just fine" without humans or human intervention is a dangerous assumption. Naturally, if all humans were to disappear today or tomorrow, the world as a place for plants and animals would probably be better off. The likely trend, however, is that humans will continue to consume resources and poison the planet. We need to mitigate this–and (I may be a dreamer, but I'm not the only one)–possibly reverse the trend.

    We can't give in to fatalism or the notion that the world will simply "reboot" once we all die. There are already too many fundamentalists that have succumbed to a notion of "inevitable End Time." There is no benefit in joining them.

  10. Sharil says:

    well said. but, 2 things: People outside of Boulder are sickened by this, especially the families dealing directly with this. Neil Young's last live show was freaking brilliant. I understand you probably realize both of these. :) Carry on, Good work.

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