The Patient Planet

Humanity’s greatest strength is its capacity for curiosity.

Humanity’s greatest weakness is its obsession with superstition.

Our sentience, in many ways, can be a burden, as it gives meaning to our actions. But it is also a gift in that it allows us to correct the mistakes we’ve made and grow beyond antiquated philosophies. Unfortunately, we often squander our gift by being obsessed with consumerism and selfishness.

And this has put the only home we’ve ever known in peril.

Consumerism generating unsustainable waste. Over-consumption decreasing the planet’s fish population by 80 percent over the next decade. Introducing invasive species into alien environments causing unnatural extinctions. Destructive coal mining producing vast amounts of carbon emissions, destroying hundreds of thousands of acres of forest land. Oil spills killing animals and ecosystems. Cars emitting an average of 12,000 pounds of carbon dioxide every year per vehicle. Unsustainable agriculture. Deforestation. Overpopulation.

We are killing our planet.

Or rather, we are allowing our planet to kill us.

Whether this change in climate conditions is cyclical or being artificially accelerated, we have demonstrated a carelessness in our exponential growth that threatens to harm the future of our species. Unless we change the way we live, we may not have much of a future to speak of.

Look to our water, once seen as a vast and limitless oasis of resources, coming back to bite us for its mistreatment. There is the uncertainty of the changing of the oceans’ currents, which will have a tremendous effect on the world’s climate. There is ocean acidification, which will effect the entirety of marine ecology, leading to food shortages for ocean dependent countries.

Look to our land, once seen as bountiful with agriculture where we can feed and grow and live, threatening to choke us for our over population. Livestock production generating one-fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases, which increases the growth of other pollutants such as pesticides while using large amounts of increasingly scare resources.

Look to our poor, our economic systems, our way of making a living, and we find economic stratification being celebrated across the globe.

We destroy our land, we destroy our oceans, we destroy our way of life. All societal collapses over the past 5,000 years have involved both the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity and the economic stratification of society into Elites and Masses.  Innovation will only support those at the top. The flow of resources ceases to be equal. As the warming of our planet harms those in affected climates, we will end up with displaced populations. The viability of northern climates being able to support large populations will come under question, as land rushes to Siberia and the Yukon intensify with the global temperatures spiking a couple of centuries from now.

A fight over resources will ensue.

We will be unable to support each other.

And our patient planet will have enough of us.

We can make incremental changes in our lives. Today. We can work to make windmills more efficient, or tidal generators more unobtrusive. We can cut CO2 levels 1,000 times per individual by not relying on fossil fuels. Today. We can eat healthier, stop relying on meat, and move to a plant-based diet, while also solving much of the world’s hunger issues.  We can take an acre of land growing oats and produce 8 times the protein and 25 times the calories of cattle, or grow broccoli and produce 10 times the protein, calories and niacin as an acre of land producing beef. Today. We can build smaller, more sustainable homes. We can use our yards as gardens. We can create and work in green workspaces that allow for creativity over competition. We can foster a collaborative environment where everything we do is for the betterment of us all, rather than the enrichment of our own. Today.

But because we only respond to immediate, drastic, chaotic change, we will continue to test the Earth’s patience, rather than allow for our scientific evolution to guide us. Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson once criticized the political environment as not about voting for who is best for the welfare of people but rather who is best at arguing. Were we to elect scientists and engineers as politicians instead of lawyers and businesspeople, would there be arguments about if ecological change is happening, or would there be action about how to go in the best direction for the survival of our planet?

Whether you believe that Earth was given to humankind or our species grew through evolution, this planet is our responsibility. If we do not take care of it, the fault will be our own as we cause our irrevocable and irreversible extinction. Our best and only hope is to let go of the old thinking that keeps us shackled to previous understandings of the world, wake up to the realities that previous and current generations action have burdened us with, and get to work.

Our world has been patient with us. It has allowed us to grow, to innovate, to learn about the universe we live in without completely destroying ourselves. In Earth’s patience, we have given it much pain, much suffering, and much reason to reject us.

Yet our world still stands by, patiently waiting for us to grow up from our careless innovation.

It is not afraid to teach us how quickly the Earth will reject us.

And how, ultimately, the universe will forget us.

One Reply to “The Patient Planet”

  1. That may be the crux of the issue: Political systems don’t “learn” as well as individual people do, so that social progress is slow. Also, nearly no one surrenders an achieved standard of living voluntarily, especially on account of costs imposed on others in connection. Americans rely on possession of the military initiative they have enjoyed for some time, so that although never acknowledged in public, each citizen knows the country will ultimately take what it needs to maintain its high lifestyle by force, if trade fails to get it. It may not end up a happy world, but it’s hard to say if extinction is in the cards near term.

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