Ted Folkert – March 2021
An Ugly Footprint
The human impact, as compared to the impact of all other forms of life, has made the world smaller. Through our superior intelligence, our inventiveness, our technological advances, and our incessant pursuit of pleasure and comfort, we have expanded our dominant ownership and control of the necessities of life.
In the process we have inadvertently, created an efficient channel for distribution of disease worldwide. With the ease and affordability of human interaction – the result of mankind’s ability to contribute to technological disasters which threaten humanity while pursuing pleasure, without any sense of responsibility to preserve the basic needs to sustain life, we have incessantly consumed the essential elements for life at a rate which, as our scientists tell us, exceeds the speed of their replenishment. Simultaneously, we have created climatic conditions which, if uncorrected, it is said, will ultimately end human life and perhaps all life here on Planet Earth.
This can’t simply be considered a comvenient population control technique any more than warfare could be considered such. But, like warfare, it certainly provides that function. And, like warfare, the victims are chosen somewhat based upon power and wealth, both as nations and as individuals.
Holding the Bag
By such inconsiderate actions, are we leaving future generations holding the bag?
I recall a first encounter with the term “holding the bag” as a young Boy Scout at the age of twelve or so. In the Boy Scout troop it was a practice of the older Boy Scouts to initiate the younger ones by taking them out in the dark of the night on their first overnight camping trip for a “snipe hunt.” A snipe hunt consisted of carrying a bag out into a weedy field and trying to catch the snipes, whatever they were, as the older scouts supposedly rustled them up and ran them toward those holding the bags. Of course, there were no snipes. It really was just a way of initiating the newcomers by scaring them out of their wits with various pranks and eventually just leaving them there in the dark of night holding their bags.
With this analogy in mind, are we adults who have occupied this lovely planet for the last few hundred years or so leaving the younger generation and future earth inhabitants “holding the bag.” Has our mindless over-consumption and destruction of the life-sustaining resources which have been so plentiful here for centuries caused the troubling signs of depletion at a rate which is unsustainable for human salvation? These life-sustaining elements of which we speak include oxygen, fresh water, moderate temperatures, plentiful food supplies, and other human necessities, just to mention a few.
We all thought the availability of such resources would never show signs of depletion beyond our ability and that of the planet to restore them forever. We seem to have always ignored or been unaware of the fact that it took billions of years for the Earth to produce these basic elements which sustain human life. We have been warned by the scientific community for decades about an unsustainable depletion but we thought these were either unsupportable opinions or that, since we were so smart, that we would discover our way around any such inconvenience. So, apparently, we just ignored it. That is what we mindless consumers of pleasure throughout the world, especially in America, have done.
We always thought global warming was a good thing because it would make available more beach weather, more lovely spring-like days with mild and comfortable temperatures. We jumped in our cars and took long drives just for pleasure, not just for necessary trips to work or to restore provisions, but for a pastime, for sight-seeing, for escape from boredom. We circled the globe on planes for personal pleasure or to increase our income to compete for lifestyle, recognition, success, and fortune.
We bought cars at an amazing rate for the last century, expanding vehicle ownership by geometric proportions, every car spewing toxic fumes into our lovely atmosphere, expanding family automobile ownership from no vehicles or one vehicle to two or more vehicles for every household in the nation. And worldwide expansion of automobile ownership, even in developing countries, of course exacerbated the problem in geometric proportions.
There are now, after a century or so of invention, manufacture, and distribution, billions of automobiles on the roads of the entire planet at any given time. There are thousands of planes encircling the planet at any given time, probably at least 3,000 up there as this is being written, no matter when it was written. There are billions of homes throughout the planet which are being heated and cooled for the personal comfort and survival of eight billion inhabitants. There are thousands of factories around the globe burning fossil fuels to manufacture and distribute goods and services for these eight billion of us.
We reduced the probability of demise from vehicle fumes somewhat by regulating tailpipe emissions a few decades ago, but we reduced the positive impact of such measures by putting more vehicles on the street and at a continually expanding rate. We had lots of excuses to keep us from acknowledging that we were destroying the planet. These were easy to accept and they provided enough personal solace to encourage us to go on living the lies which we swallowed so readily and ignoring the reality of our actions so irresponsibly.
Unfortunately, those of us either writing or reading this book won’t be around to help future generations deal with this debacle or suffer the damage we have done. History tells us that it took millions of years for humanity to develop from other life forms and become the dominant force on Earth. It now seems obvious that it will take far less time to end humanity. At our present pace we could complete it in a century or two – human progress in reverse. It is very clever in the way we have reduced the time required for annihilation of life by geometric proportions compared to the time it took to create it. Can we call that human progress?
It is kind of like Severn Suziki, at age 12, a Canadian girl, stated in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro as she was speaking to those generations of people much older than her: “You teach us not to fight with others, to work things out, to respect others, to clean up our mess, to share – not to be greedy. Then why do you do the things you tell us not to do? You say you love us, but I challenge you. Please make your actions reflect your words.” – A child talking common sense to grownups – a reverse order of intelligence.
These comments were made 30 years ago. How much have we accepted as reality, how much have we learned, how much have we changed our destructive habits, how much have we altered our lifestyles to improve the chances of human survival? Well, unfortunately, not much, if any. And, unfortunately again, if we had attempted to take positive actions and curtail our lifestyles it would likely have been fruitless anyway. It comes down to the same old questions: Who goes first, who complies, who finds justifiable reasons why they can’t or won’t comply, which elected officials will step up and give us the bad news and force us to comply? These are rhetorical questions. How do we provide food, shelter, clothing, education, and entertainment for 8 billion people? We already know the answers – we and all of our elected officials feel compelled to expand everything – population, wealth, resources – you name it. Curtailing our activities and reducing our lifestyles is adverse to the mindset and ambition of all of us, our officials included.
Well, let me be the first to agree to offer to alter my way of life for the benefit of mankind. I will give up my car – as soon as everyone else does. And, unfortunately again, this will be the universal response of all us Americans as well as those of the other developed countries of the world. Instead of stepping forward, we will just tell the younger generation what they must do to save the planet – and we do it while we are driving thousands of miles for a pleasure trip – because we worked hard and we think we deserve it.
And the most pitiful part is that we know what we are doing to the planet but in spite of all this we are apparently willing to leave it uninhabitable for future generations of humans. We will leave them “holding the bag” in a hopeless and fruitless snipe hunt, a hunt for something that doesn’t exist.
Is acknowledging this considered unnecessary remorse? Perhaps, but only unnecessary because it probably won’t change our habits or practices or unwillingness to accept our guilt and culpability for originating and propelling the potential, or, as our scientists tell us, the inevitable path to destruction of human habitability of Planet Earth, our so-called “blue planet,” which we see as a “green planet,” but which is becoming a “brown planet” as we expand civilization and enjoy ourselves.
Think about it!