We Disregard the Natural World at Our Peril.
Colorado’s Senator, Tim Wirth once captured some business language and turned it on its head. “The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment,” he said. That seems obvious, a no brainer, but it wasn’t obvious in the recent presidential debates.
Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! The rate of unemployment. No tax cuts for the rich. The Republican mantra of salvation through economics drove the debate through the entire election season.
Hello? Climate change? Is anyone listening?
Even when Romney called Obama a wanton job slayer for blocking the Keystone Pipeline, a multi-faceted environmental issue, Obama did not stand tall for the planet. He could have said the pipeline carried “dirty oil” from tar sands, or that refining the oil in Texas and Oklahoma would have added many tons of carbon to the atmosphere. He could have quoted NASA scientist James Hansen, who said the pipeline meant “game over for the planet.” He could have even quoted himself from 2008, saying this would be “the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of oil” by expanding alternative energy sources. But he didn’t.
It took super hurricane Sandy to break the wall of silence around the environment and shout, along with Samuel L. Jackson, “Wake the fuck up!”
The spanking Sandy gave the East Coast is only the harbinger of more and more dire storms to come. Had ecology played some part in the Democrats’ election strategy, Obama might have pointed this out, thereby accepting the gift Sandy handed to him. He didn’t. But Sandy, being super, gave him the gift anyway.
We know why Obama didn’t put the planet in play, or we think we do. The most profitable companies the world has ever seen are threatened by the truth. Their business plans will have to be curtailed or abandoned if carbon is outed as the environmental danger it is. And if Big Oil takes a hit, the whole carbon-based economy of manufacturing and transportation will stagger and jobs will be cut. The American Dream will be shown to be the Ponzi scheme it has always been—one that enriches the present as it impoverishes the future. Screw those who get in the game at the end.
We disregard the natural world at our peril. A great naturalist, Aldo Leopold, a man well ahead of his time wrote, “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
Indigenous people live this as their reality. Poet Simon J. Ortiz of the Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico writes, “We are the people of this land. We were created out of the forces of earth and sky, the stars and water. We must make sure that the balance of earth be kept. There is no other way.”
This view has consequences for how we live. It demands the kind of generational, long-term thinking that corporate balance sheets and stock prices don’t favor. As a global economy, how do we get there from here?
If we are creatures who have arisen from and remain utterly dependent upon the earth, if the earth is our mother and our home, if partnership rather than “dominion over” is our proper relationship to earth, then we must get there; economy must be subordinate to ecology, economy must be dependent on planetary health. We must get our priorities straight and “WTFU!”
The truth for me is that we live in sand castles and never know how high the tide will rise. Some of us need relief from this fact, and work longer and harder to obscure it. That seems to have been the path for about half the electorate this voting season.
But embracing your sand castle and its vulnerability calls us to be grateful, and asks us to treasure each moment and each hand we hold, living awake and in truth. Accepting impermanence leads to the firm ground of what is, rather than the comforts of illusion. It might also take us to an above ground future of sunshine, clear wind and clean water. I would like that for us, now and in the future.
Adapted from the Boulder Daily Camera.
Tom deMers lives wherever he can, writes as often as he can, meditates regularly and sings whenever the spirit moves him. You can reach him at [email protected].
~ Ed: Stephanie V.