Monday 18 October 2010

Dig this

To begin with, we used whatever was already available on the earth's surface - water, plants, animals, rocks.
Then we used those things to build tools to get to the source nature's bounty. We dug.
The problem with pollution starts from this digging. We are digging stuff up from the bowels of the earth and burning it. the smoke from the burning fills the atmosphere and we try to stuff the residue back into the earth. What on (and above and below the) earth are we up-to?

Why dig?
Nature assembles a molecule using the available resources. When nature assembles a molecule, it creates a whole bunch of them until it cannot do so anymore. And then those molecules assemble themselves into bigger molecules and so forth. competing sets of molecules fight for resources and arrive at a 'natural' balance. Thus we are told by evolutionary biologists and is probably the most logical explanation we've got so far.

So, the human set of molecules digs because:
- It can.
- that is what nature intends (aka because that's the way our minds work.).
- The competition is weak

The end result is that the human race has become one of nature's runaway processes.
There is no set of molecules strong enough to contain our expansion except ourselves. Common sense dictates that a lack of competition leads to complacence and weakening until a point where a competitor emerges, thereby restarting the game.

How do we use the bounty?
Between the dug up earth and the polluted atmosphere, we have made the earth's natural produce unusable without "purification" but have 'pure' fizzy drinks and packaged food, both filled with chemicals from the earth's bowels. We have also increased our chances of survival, but all we can do with our extended lives is consume more fizzy drinks and packaged food while sitting inside our climate controlled houses.  Having eliminated all competition, we laze around and weaken ourselves. This recipe for weakening the species is actually the human race's heart rending cry for companionship. We have made disease our competitor.

Free lunch?
If you mess with the source, you are obviously altering the produce. I find it hard to believe that digging for oil thousands of feet below the surface of the earth will not necessarily have an effect on things on the surface of the earth. Plundering the earth cannot be a free meal. there is a price to be paid and humanity is only beginning to realize this, in fits and starts. But we are limited by our imaginations and can only think of danger and calamity in terms of what we see and feel.
Digger

Go, stop or escape
Escape is an option, but sadly, glorious visions of the human species plundering planet after planet in the limitless universe remain fantasy fit for celluloid.

What we've got is this one planet. So, our options are to either stop (not slow down) or go full steam ahead. Slowing down is useless unless we extract oil at the same rate at which it is created, which means that we can produce one automobile only every 2,00,000 years or so.

Stopping means leaving all dug up holes as they are and consuming only things that are on the surface. scraping rather than digging. Then we can talk about sustainable scraping, which would be closer to the realm of what is possible than sustainable digging.

The other option, which is the one we are currently practicing, is to have one big party and discuss sustainable development during brief periods when we are hung over from too much consumption.

So, why is it so difficult for us to comprehend the perils of plunder and loot? Is it a limitation of our senses? Perhaps we are at a stage in evolution where a new sense is being developed - one which will alert us to dangers not seen by the existing senses.

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