Journal: News & Comment

Friday, April 26, 2002
# 10:37:00 AM:

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Don't blink

The Earth Day phenomenon peaked in 1990 -- that year, it was all over the news, and people seemed ready to commit to genuine change in how we lived our lives. Post-consumer recycled materials were everywhere, environmental books were bestsellers, and change was in the air.

But that was before the messy reality of bureaucracy, government negotiation, and the impact of "environmental responsibility" on day-to-day living set in. Yes, we've integrated some techniques into our lifestyles: curbside recycling, some ultra-low-emission cars, low-flow shower heads, and Energy Star gadgets, for instance.

But we still buy SUVs and don't carpool or walk or bike or take transit, still avoid solar and wind and thermal power, still throw away and burn and eat and plug in too much. We still forge ahead with biotechnology and genetic engineering, without understanding their full implications. Earth Day 2002 was last week. Did you notice?

Yet there's a fallacy on the enviro-side too, when we talk about "saving the planet." The planet doesn't need saving. We haven't changed its orbit or affected its spin. Even the thin layer of life on the surface has survived far worse things than us -- asteroid collisions, ice ages, moving continents, the works. Yes, we're driving many species extinct, but life as a whole -- trees, shrubs, algae, grasses, insects, mammals, birds, reptiles, echinoderms, plankton, and so on -- will keep living, as it always has.

We're not talking about saving the planet. We're talking about saving ourselves. And humans are crafty enough to survive even our own environmental incompetence -- if all we want to do is survive. We won't go extinct. We'll have a future of some sort. The question is what kind of future, and how nasty the transition into it will be.


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