A discussion of the damage we do to our environment and the need for change.



I would imagine we all agree that the weather has been strange lately.  The drought this summer in this part of the country did us no favors.  Trees and shrubs that have been around for years were lost due to lack of moisture.  Now, when it’s supposed to be winter, we spend a couple of weeks in shorts until overnight the temperature drops suddenly.

I don’t know much about global warming. I don’t have the scientific mind to really make an argument either way.  For some reason this has become a political issue, which seems even odder than the weather.  No one can deny that some of the storms we’ve had in recent years have been frightening and devastating.  We’ve always had storms, and they often do damage, but they seem to be even more powerful lately. Some people believe this is due to global warming.

There are some things we do know.  Apparently there is a hole in the ozone, and that is perpetrated in part by the burning of fossil fuel. We have become hugely dependent upon petroleum products.  This is not just an American problem, but a global one. Whether or not the weather extremes are a result of global warming is still being debated, though it seems that most scientists believe that it has a direct impact on the changes that have occurred.  Of course, there were changes in global temperature before we started burning fossil fuel.  In the age of dinosaurs, there were no automobiles or electric plants fueled with coal.  And there’s a great deal of concern about species that become endangered or even extinct.  Clearly, that has happened before the burning of fossil fuel, too.

Whether or not we are to blame for all these symptoms, the truth is that we have not taken very good care of our home.  The ocean is filled with trash.  The air is polluted to the point that the naked eye can discern it, though it’s mostly in heavily populated areas that this is most obvious.

There’s been a push toward recycling.  I don’t know if this will save any species or change the weather, but it sure does make sense.  Thomas “Fats” Waller, a musician famous for tunes like “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and many other toe tappers wrote a song many decades ago titled “Get Some Cash for your Trash.”  Waller enjoyed double entendre, but even a literal interpretation of his title speaks to making the most out of what we are fortunate enough to have.  Many people don’t give any thought at all to recycling, and it’s obvious that each city has to come up with its own plan for the collection of recyclable material.

Some things are happening that are helping society to have some effect on the use of various resources.  The shift to electronic books has undoubtedly saved a great many trees.  Many people have yet to make that shift, and I, for one, still enjoy actually holding a real book in my hands from time to time, though I do have the electronic version as well. 

Computers are supposed to help cut down on the use of paper or what are called hard copies of various documents.  It will be a long time before all paper copies disappear, but we’re headed that way.  Unfortunately, computers leave their own footprint on the world’s resources.   This is a great topic for Robert Handley’s blog, “Please Stay Tuned.”   He happens to be a friend and my information technology guru.  He’s most knowledgeable about the various misuses of resources as well.

I am, by nature, an optimist.  I don’t see the world in terms of gloom and doom.  However, it’s clear that the human race is rather slow to learn from the mistakes made through history.  War, for example, is an egregious occurrence that concerns me a great deal.  I’m sure that some people would see war as an important, and an even necessary part of our history.  I’d like to think we could live without it.  So I try not to get moribund about the situation in which we find ourselves, but I do think awareness and action can make a difference in the continuation of life on earth.  One can only hope. 

I’m not sure what got me started on this topic, but with the coming of the New Year, maybe it would be a good idea to consider ways in which we can personally do our part toward conserving resources.  Maybe we can even learn other ways of improving life on this planet.

We can’t really do a great deal, individually, about turning back the clock and cleaning up the mess we’ve left after many years of nonchalance.  But we can move forward mindful of the fact that our negligence does have consequences.  We need to cherish the world in which we live. I have been fortunate enough to visit many places, and I’ve never been anywhere on this earth that I didn’t find absolutely spectacular.  Much of our earth bears scars that mark natural disaster, war and our own inaction as well as deliberate action.  We need to let those scars remind us of our responsibility for the preservation of our environment.