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Premise 3: A healthy environment is paramount

May 1, 2009

This one is a simple one.

What does it take to keep you alive?  Food, water, oxygen, and livable conditions are the most essential, bare-minimum necessities, and in order to keep your sanity, you probably need some comfort items.  You don’t need super-capitalism to survive—you don’t even really need The Economy.  With the bare-minimum and nothing else, we depend solely on our surrounding ecosystems.

If our ecosystems cannot provide us with abundant, healthful food we will either starve as it runs out or become malnourished and sick.  Both lead to death.  If our ecosystem cannot provide abundant clean water, the situation is much the same: without enough we’ll dehydrate, and if it’s not clean we’ll get sick—and eventually die.  As long as there are enough plants in the world we’ll probably always have abundant oxygen, but the oxygen we need is only about a fifth of the air we breathe; if our air is polluted, and we are constantly inhaling pollutants we will—guess what?—get sick and die.  (I say we must have “livable conditions,” and by that I mean many things.  We must be either protected from harsh weather or be otherwise able to endure it, and our surroundings must be, overall, safe and able to nurture life.)

plastic-beach-03

Welcome to Earth

If ecosystems can’t even support life, it follows that that life cannot create systems of its own.  Human beings won’t be able create or maintain complex societies if they can’t even drink water without getting sick.  Complex societies can’t create or maintain complex technology if complex societies cannot even exist.  Complex technology cannot create an ever-growing and evermore complex economy if it’s never invented.

It’s easy to say that technology will save us, but if that technology is never invented—because the societies that used to create disappear, because the people in those societies got sick and died—then how can it save us?

If politicians want to argue over how much money goes into protecting the environment, so be it.  They can argue that investments can’t be made to clean up the mess, because those investments would be an impediment to economic growth, all they want.  Yes, there is a line between economic growth and ecological health, one that I will never deny; but economic growth depends upon ecological health, so to ignore the environment because economic growth is favored is also economic suicide.

It’s real suicide as well.

So the choice is really quite simple: Life or death?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2009 8:47 am

    Life or death indeed. I would be best if the greedy, exploitative and short-sighted died first.

    • tonyisnt permalink
      July 20, 2009 12:07 pm

      Ah, and therein lies a tragedy: if an ecosystem dies, it doesn’t choose who is most deserving of that death; it takes everyone. And of course in this system it is actually those least “deserving” of death that die. The third world children breathing in the toxic fumes of industry and who drink poisoned water have done nothing wrong. (This is not even considering all of the non-humans that have had to die.) The places they live are often war-torn or tyrannical; their parents (and their parents’ parents) have often been forced into circumstances nobody should consider desirable. And it’s all fueled by the desire to become industrialized.

      And here another tragedy: the West’s form of industrialization depends highly on the devision and deportation of labor—without it, its social structure collapses. These countries will never have the conditions they desire because they currently fill their niche perfectly and will not be allowed to deviate.

      I think the most tragic thing of all is that none of us know of an effective way to stop the madmen.

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