By: Peter Nichols
Early on in President Obama’s recent State of the Union address he claimed that economic disparity is the top issue of the moment. That claim is dangerously wrong. The issue of the moment is the degradation and exploitation of what sustains and nourishes humanity:
It’s the Earth, Stupid!
Later in the speech Obama spoke of having sufficient domestic fossil fuels for 100 years of continued status quo. That assertion displays the danger of the President’s misguided perceptions. It is akin to an addict feeling good because they are high and know how, where, and when to get high again. It is not a sober or rational interpretation of reality. It is destructive cynicism posing as benevolent pragmatism.
Our ecosystems are in such dire straights that, unless dramatic change is enacted, we do not have 100 years of existence to fantasize about. We are at a moment when the “think globally act locally” line translates into “think about the future, change now.” Now there are high and rising levels of contaminants in the atmosphere and the biosphere, compromising their functionality. The contaminants got there mostly from burning fossil fuels, which we all do or which is done in our name by our government. The consequences–also high and rising–range from reduced availability of basic resources (food, water, and shelter), along with increased sources of death and disease (cancers, unstable environmental conditions, and frequent catastrophic events).
Ironically, perpetuation of these environmental ills will only exacerbate what Obama sees as a dearth between the haves and the have-nots, by expanding the commoditization of life sources (breathable air, drinkable water, tillable soil etc), while increasing demand for the already commoditized (healthcare, food, fuel). That bitter reality is eloquently elaborated in a 2003 report from the U.N. on water scarcity titled “Fresh Water: Enough for You and Me?”
Calls for reducing individual carbon footprints often fall on largely deaf ears. That is because individuals feel that they simply do not have gluttonous or grotesque consumptive practices and, comparatively, they are right. According to Kirkpatrick Sale, as cited by Derrick Jenson in an Orion Magazine article, individual energy use in our country never accounts for more than one quarter of the total; corporate industry and agriculture coupled with the government (military) consume the other 75 percent. The U.S. Military is the largest American based consumer of fossil fuels. These habits and expenditures are often justified as necessary; they aren’t.
The U.S. Military maintained abroad doesn’t increase our security at home. It decreases it, by limiting our ability to invest and reinvest in our infrastructure (schools, roads, etc.), by drawing the U.S. into foreign conflicts, and by elevating the U.S. as a receptacle for resentment. Nonviolence and self-sovereignty are the only effective means of fostering greater human well-being.
Food production doesn’t benefit from agribusiness’s perceived efficiency and potential, touted and sold by Monsanto, but suffers from its actual waste. As Joel Salatin pointed out in his recent Acres U.S.A. article, the dedication to big agribusiness is a hangover from the Manhattan project’s massive government subsidy of destruction.
That subsidy was reallocated into chemical and fossil fuel dependent corporate industry and agriculture after WW2; it is no accident that the main ingredients(nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus) in most chemical products used on farms are the the same main ingredients in explosives. To maintain that life-line, corporations and their minions of hallucinatory lobbyists skew by spewing pseudo (corrupt) science interested in enriching (fattening) the few and the now, while starving/sickening, killing, the many and the future.
For instance: studies “prove” that organic (not genetically-modified or chemically-mutated) plants don’t produce as much food as their chemically-mutated opponents, by testing on a site where the soil has already been subjected to years of torture, disrespect, and abuse in the creation of monstrosities (e.g. roundup pesticide resilient crops). Such research does not even qualify as science, yet it is the basis for policy and perception worldwide.
There is also a popular fear that ecological (logical) farming would mark a return to times past, characterized by blights, contagious animal diseases, pests, etc. That’s wrong too. The supposed benefits of modern corporate farming are baseless: big agribusiness still suffers those “past” problems and in many cases far graver variants: mad cow, avian influenza, Salmonella, Clostridium difficile, MRSA. And that’s without bringing obesity or type 2 diabetes into the mix.
Ecological farming has improved vastly over the last 100 years, learning invaluable habits about crop diversification, hygiene, disease prevention, and health retention that three generations ago folks never dreamed were at the root of their woes. All while maintaining ancillary benefits of healthy habitats.
The triad of life, liberty, and happiness is thrown about as our collective mission statement. Well, it’s fair to say we aren’t happy. We have lost many of our liberties, and if we do not act immediately we will lose our lives. Our ecologic future is being stolen, and that matters more than our economic future.
Call on all elected officials and all those seeking elected office to bring our military home, to invest in land and water rehabilitation projects and in small farm start-ups. Call on them to divest of devastation and destruction. Preventing the unexamined combustion of more fossil fuels isn’t radical. It’s rational. It isn’t unrealistic; it is the only reasonable action. Let America once again be an example to lead others and itself. Because remember:
It’s the Earth, Stupid.
But before all that gets done, I imagine dirty money must be removed from politics.
Peter Nichols is an MFA Writing student who likes rock climbing.