Saturday, October 4, 2014

Environmentalism is anti-American

Book Review of the biography of Rachel Carson, "On a farther shore".

Are we part of nature, or above it? Did god give it to us for our domination, or did we wriggle from its bosom to the condition of (bare) consciousness and power that threatens to undo the patient work of millions of years of evolution? Thousands of years ago, we had already killed off all our immediate ancestors in the hominid line and countless other species of megafauna. Now we have taken over most of the arable land of earth, comandeered much of the fresh water, polluted the rest of it, as well as the oceans, killed off many more species, doubled the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and the fixed nitrogen in the biosphere, and are facing ocean acidification and dramatic climate heating as an irreversible future fate.

But two generations ago humanity (and that would be the US) created the most immediately alarming and noxious dangers of all- nuclear weapons with their attendent radioactivity, and a fusilade of biocides and other poisons emerging from the postwar chemical industry- pesticides, herbicides, plastics, drugs, "food" additives, cleaners, etc. After a cavalier start to the era, when Las Vegas visitors turned out with their sunglasses to watch nuclear tests, the far-reaching dangers came increasingly to public consciousness, resulting in the above-ground nuclear test ban treaty of 1963, and the establishment of the EPA in 1970 and banning of DDT in 1972.

The reduction of nuclear radiation has been enormously successful, with negligible impact from current uses. The Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters have been the sole, and very large, blots on a very good record of radiation control (negligible amounts were released in the Three Mile Island disaster). Whether we want to use more nuclear power or not for the sake of climate change is a reasonable question.

Our record on control of biocides and other environmentally harmful chemicals, on the other hand, is far less impressive. Their use is less individually dramatic than that of nuclear technology, but their scale is mind-boggling. Every home and garden center hosts a biocide department that reeks to high heaven. DDT may have been banned, but an endless supply of other biocides have been concocted that are applied over the best land to kill all insects on it. The holocaust is ongoing.
"In 2006 and 2007, the world used approximately 5.2 billion pounds of pesticides"

Rachel Carson played a large role in our budding environmental awareness, both in her early work in books like "The Sea Around Us" that celebrated the beauty and interest of the natural environment, and in her last prophetic work on the dangers of the new pesticides, "Silent Spring". This biography is a worthy testament to her drive and talent which formed out of very unlikely materials (being a self-made professional woman in the 1950's) an earth-shaking message.

Indeed she could even be regarded as a significant religious leader, inspiring love for the world, and issuing prophetic warnings about its mistreatment at the hands of humanity, due in part to a lack of spiritual awareness, or misdirection. Humans have an innate religious sensibility about nature, and all the old religions treat it with reverence. The Celts had their sacred groves, worship of trees, and custom of bringing holly and mistletoe to their dwellings at the winter solstice. Unfortunately, the monotheisms, with their worship of a blown-up self-image, put nature into the shade as something to be dominated, something lost anyhow (Eden), even dirty and unclean. The unholy mix with post-war technologies allowed the dream to become a reality ... to "purify" the world of insects, vermin, disease, and all kinds of uncleanliness.

Obviously there is a great deal of good in cleanliness. But we learn that even our own health benefits from some amount of infection and dirt, lest our immune system idly turn its attention on our own tissues by mistake. Which is not to mention the wider ecological benefits of moderation and species diversity, and particularly in less wanton destruction of insects and other unheralded organisms that may not be the "stars" of our nature shows.

While we have banned the most noxious chemicals, (thalidomide, DDT, aldrin, lead arsinate, etc.), our systems and policies are simply not up to the task of protecting ourselves or the environment in a more comprehensive way. They are not precautionary, but rather wait for some dramatic harm to come to light before starting studies and investigations that take forever. The neonicotinoid insecticides are still being applied by the ton, despite their clear harm to bees (not to mention to all other insects).

Why? Principally, it is the agricultural and chemical interests, and their conservative allies, that fight chemical control policies every step of the way. There was once a time, when the EPA was founded, when conservatives were true to their name and cared about conservation, not only of their power, but of the environment as well. Those times are long gone, as the interests of the 1% diverge increasingly from those of the rest of society, indeed of humanity in general. Their loud patriotism tells us that government is bad, taxes always too high, scientists are all lying, and corporations always tell the truth. The worship of self has turned from a projected image of god to the even worse god of Mammon.
"It had only taken a few short centuries to move from a time when we gazed out at the ocean and wondered what was over the horizon. Now, she said, "our whole earth has become only another shore from which we look out across the dark ocean of space, uncertain what we shall find when we sail out among the stars." Based on the experience of her own generation- which had brought the world to such a dangerous crossroads- Carson said it was now time for the inheritors of earth and it many difficulties to finally prove human mastery not of nature, but of itself. "Your generation," she said, "must come to terms with the environment."

  • Wildlife is in dramatic decline.
  • Bees are in especially dramatic decline ... collapse.
  • Fly less to fight climate change.
  • On the psychology of evil, corruption, ideology, contradiction, hypocrisy, and other forms of humanity.
  • In the new economy, nice guys finish last.
  • Cute kids ... these days.
  • The recent US military campaign has little immediate effect. ISIS keeps gaining ground, and "One estimate puts the number of overall desertions for the Iraqi Army at over 90,000."
  • How and why the Fed shores up the global dollar system.
  • But banks run the Fed, so of course ... the Fed serves Goldman.
  • Goldman, Lehman, Enron.
  • AIG as a money-laundering bailout. "Alternatively, maybe Mr. Geithner simply felt that Goldman and the like had a more legitimate claim to billions of dollars in funds than the taxpayers who were footing the bill."
  • Bonanza gets one in against the bankers (Episode 284, The Trackers)
  • Pray our way, or the highway.
  • To screw workers, employers talk out of both sides of their mouths.
  • This week in the WSJ, annals of irony: "But does anybody in the government feel it is necessary to be truthful about anything anymore?"   
  • Economic graph of the week.. just how dramatically our economy has changed over the last 60 years. We've already had a class war, and we lost.

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