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
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
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