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All about apples and saving the planet

So, two planets are shooting the breeze. One says, “OMG. I’ve just discovered I’ve got people. The other says, “I was just talking to a planet in the next galaxy, he had some. Don’t worry, they don’t last long.”

Alan Watts was a popular philosopher back in the 1960’s — back when we still had philosophers. They are still playing his talks on a Boulder radio station, I learned recently. Watts was known as a Zen philosopher. He loved to tell stories and was very funny at times. In one of his talks he was looking to put the human existence in perspective. He said the earth “peoples” — in exactly the same way an apple tree “apples.” Kind of like, well, we are not such a big deal in the scheme of things. Kind of like the planet joke.

Anyway, my topic is what to do about our species’ threatening predicament: global warming. Add to that what some people are calling the evil twin: ocean acidification.

Oceanographers and marine biologists are sick over what is happening to the world’s coral reefs. Essentially, the increase in acidity caused by increased absorption of the greater concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, is “melting” the coral structures made by the coral animals. It’s also affecting the myriad of shellfish. Coral are “keystone” species that are home to hundreds of other species. Oh, what’s another species here or there? Unless, of course, it’s us.

The indefatigable MIT professor emeritus Noam Chomsky put a perspective on the problem I hadn’t thought of before. He wrote, “ … who owns the Earth? Who owns the global atmosphere being polluted by the heat-trapping gases …?” He’s talking about the “commons.” The “commons” is all that of this earth that we use to survive and prosper. Let’s add to the above the oceans and the fresh waters, and all the living organisms.

Chomsky further states, “Or to adopt the phrase used by indigenous people throughout much of the world, ‘who will defend the Earth? Who will uphold the rights of nature? Who will adopt the role of steward of the commons, our collective possession?’ That the Earth now desperately needs defense from impending environmental catastrophe is surely obvious to any rational and literate person.” Ironically, he points out it is the so-called “primitive” indigenous people of the world, including the First Nations and the Aborigines, who cry out to protect the essential; and it is the advanced and self-styled “civilized” of the developed nations that are the cause of the destruction.


As hunter-gatherers, humans had little need for “government.” With the advent of civilization based on agriculture, and larger stable populations, decisions had to be made for the greater good. Over-grazing a pasture could spell starvation for a community. Governments had to be formed for survival. As little communities grew into today’s nation states, the scale and scope of the governments grew as well. Today we have a common enemy that threatens our survival. As the famous line in the Pogo cartoon goes: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

As much as the fanatics scream out about “one world government,” that is exactly what has to happen. The United Nations, conceived in part by President Franklin Roosevelt, was created in 1945. The new superpower, the United States (the only intact major nation surviving the war) needed a tool to allow it to manage the international affairs. This country badly needs to have an epiphany. (Definition of epiphany: “an experience of sudden and striking realization,”—Wikipedia).

Either the U.S. will take the lead, or it needs to get the heck out of the way. Let the UN and the world get on with it.

President Obama recently gave a generally ignored, but major speech on the environment. It was ignored because the major media outlets and commentators think such a speech is of no interest to their viewers or readers, and even if it was, is not acceptable to their corporate owners.

As Chomsky wrote, the protestors in Taksim Square, Turkey, or Cairo may be the beginning. In other words, this change is going to have to come from the people. “We the people” need to push our governments. I’ll march; any time, any day.

Afterword: Here’s some more Alan Watts going on about apples in his “The Nature of Consciousness, published in 1960: “You don’t need to beat nature into submission. Why be hostile to nature? Because after all, you ARE a symptom of nature. You, as a human being, you grow out of this physical universe in just exactly the same way that an apple grows off an apple tree.”

Patrick Hunter is a longtime resident of the Roaring Fork Valley and lives outside Carbondale in Satank.