Well yeah!

Consumerism is ‘eating the future’
by Andy Coghlan
———— ——— ——— ——— ——— ——— -
” … all we’re doing is what all other creatures have ever done to
survive, expanding into whatever territory is available and using up
whatever resources are available, just like a bacterial culture
growing in a Petri dish till all the nutrients are used up. What
happens then, of course, is that the bugs then die in a sea of their
own waste.
———— ——— ——— ——— ——— ——— -
New Scientist
August 7, 2009

Reactions and Comments on the Above, By Brock Evans

Petri Dish (courtesy Pacific Northwest National)

Petri Dish (courtesy Pacific Northwest National)

Well yeah, this is interesting to read — of course sobering too — but is it really anything new, anything different, from what we — in our movement and many others — have been saying/warning about for the past half century at least?

Having worked my way through law school mainly by emptying thousands of those culture-dishes at a dental lab, I do believe I can say with a bit of authority that those critters (a) had no other mission, let alone other ‘thoughts’ about their existence; and (b) no apparent means to even try to change things, even if they wanted to.

My zoology is poor and my sense of the working of ecological principles not much better, but aren’t there also examples of mammals (or other life-forms) who deliberately (and inherently, via their own inner biological mechanisms) have fewer offspring when they sense overcrowding of a survival habitat?

That said, and whether or not, I still believe that we humans are in a somewhat different position and on perhaps a somewhat different plane than was alluded to in Albuquerque:

First, because we know, from what we see all around us, what is happening;

Second, because of that fact alone, we conservationists have, already and often, taken on that consumer-god… and fought it to a standstill in over a century of struggles to reserve lands, habitats, and specific life-forms, from forests to oceans, rare desert plants to mollusk-conserving rivers, salmon to spotted owls, and thousands of others.

Spotted Owl (Athena brama) courtesy of Saran Vaid

Spotted Owl (Athena brama) courtesy of Saran Vaid

And we had to fight to do it, didn’t we? There are some exceptions, but please no one tell me or any of you other veterans out there that it was easy, or that the 200+ million acres we now have, off limits to “consumers” (in this country alone), was just a ‘token,’ not worth anything anyhow… if that was so, why did the whole ‘other side’ — mainly producers, or wannabes, of consumer goods –fight us so hard, just about every time?

That’s 200 million + acres to not be consumed so easily. As I said in my first blog, “If Money was Everything We’d Have Nothing.”

Third, “we” — meaning ourselves, and people like ourselves, and nearly all scientists and thinking people in the medical profession, plus many powerful political figures — are also aware, and are trying to shift, change, turn things around, or at least slow them down. 

This isn’t the 1960s, when no one could even pronounce ‘ecology’ correctly; not even the 80s, when (just after the coldest East Coast winter in a century I recall), a few were already sounding the warnings about global warming. It may not seem so, but we have come a long way towards understanding the problem and its causes — and its solutions. We’re not starting from zero, thank goodness.

Can we succeed? Will it be ‘enough,’ even if we do the things, take the necessary measures, to change? I don’t know. But such doubts and wonderings are no reason to ‘go home’ and just quit. We’ve got to try — and that’s a part of being human too: staying our moral/mental ground, fighting on, no matter what someone else says the odds are. Raise your right hands, anyone who has ever embarked upon a great cause — a campaign — who was not assured that to proceed was ‘hopeless’ at the time we started forth.

Fourth, it is still a beautiful planet; waves still crash on wild beaches, somewhere (actually many ‘somewheres’); the late afternoon breezes still sigh through the forest trees down by a river somewhere… and while many species are in trouble to be sure, we do also have truly moral, and noble, laws — the strongest our ‘consumerist’ political system can invent — e.g., an Endangered Species Act, a Wilderness Act, and others — to rescue them as long as the will is there. And we have never shrunk from a single battle yet, have we, dear friends?

So whatever the outcome finally is, I don’t think the whole of human society — the thinking part of human society at least – is, any longer, on such a bad track of ignorance and denial as these speakers seem to be telling each other.

No, it’s not enough. Yes, we’re just beginning when we should have been going full tilt to turn things around, starting at least 30 years ago. And yes, as long as we’re alive and as long as we love the natural world which sustains us, mentally and physically, we’re gonna do the very best we can — aren’t we?

And, speaking for myself, gonna take pleasure and pride in every acre, every species that we still can shove on into the future, to live and survive into another, hopefully more benign, time.

 Entrance to Hoh Rainforest Olympic National Park

Entrance to Hoh Rainforest Olympic National Park


PS: those ecologists, who obviously know and see so much more of the world in which they work than I do, still do seem to be a bit deficient in their knowledge of history, perhaps among other things. For example, the political notion that “the government and economists” made a deliberate decision right after World War II to shift all those weapons factories to producing consumer goods…

They must mean us, because just about every other country in the world was shattered, and in ruins, not to mention 50-100 million dead — at the end of WWII. But the implication that The Powers That Be Somehow Deliberately Planned This, and somehow made it happen, like Stalin might try to do, demonstrates much more than a considerable ignorance of the whole structure and dynamic of our society at the time. By implying that we didn’t start being a consumer-driven society until then, it totally ignores the constant striving of so many Americans, in or out of government, throughout the whole 19th/early 20th century, from the Railroad and Robber Barons to the Gilded Age to Henry Ford and his car for the masses, to boost ‘consumerism’ without a thought for much else. What we see today is not new to us, I’m afraid… or to few other cultures worldwide.

So as I see it, the difficulties now before us, serious as they are, are nothing new. They are certainly vaster in scope and therefore much more potentially dangerous to our planet, to all we cherish, and to our own existence as well. But we still have the ability to think about it — and we are; we still have the capacity to act to stop or slow it — and we are; and we still have, I say, a duty, we who care, to do all in our power every day, to rescue every species and every acre that we can. Which we are also doing, every day.

And if we continue to do so, then perhaps — just perhaps — the sum total of all these thinkings and all these actions, now continually happening under the radar, all around us, just might produce a better surprise for the generations which will follow us than we now believe.

Brock Evans

President, Endangered Species Coalition

blogsite: endlesspressure.org

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11 Responses to Well yeah!

  1. Bob Ferris says:

    Yes, hyper-consumerism is key. Breaking that cycle (and the expectations driven by a GDP-based measure of self-esteem) is so very, very important. I am with you and agree that every wolf, tree and bunchgrass clump we save speaks better of us than all that we’ve have built. Keep up the good fight, my friend!

    Bob Ferris
    Executive Director
    Center for a New American Dream

  2. Charles Phillips says:

    Hey Brock!

    Good to see that your blog and Endless Pressure web site is up and going. How are you and Linda doing? My Linda and I are about to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary (on the same week as our son’s wedding!). Life’s is a real joy these days. When is your best selling book about your life’s works and adventures coming out?? Take good care of yourself and your family.

    With love for you and Linda, Charles

  3. Jan Randall says:

    HI Brock,

    Yes, there are mechanisms (mainly hormonal) that suppress reproduction when crowding occurs in some mammals. There are also hormonal mechanisms (chronic stress) that affect survival. Humans are not immune from these mechanisms and at some point they take effect. Unfortunately, because of our ability to manipulate our environment and use its resources to expand our population, we have managed to avoid these mechanisms (but not entirely in some parts of the world) and in the process greatly damaged our environment. The underlying problem is too many people on this planet, and I for one am going to continue to enjoy it as long as I can and do my part to save some of it.

    Jan Randall, biologist

  4. Mike Roddy says:

    Hello Brock,

    We haven’t communicated for a long time- I was making the rounds in Congress about 12 years ago over timber issues, and may now have hit upon a solution. Thanks for your help and encouragement in those days, but the way.

    Please send me an email and I’ll copy you on something I sent to some mutual friends. Your input could really help here.

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