To Be Human
Like a ripe Touch-Me-Not seed capsule just waiting for a finger to trigger the pop that sends it’s precious cargo out into the world, mornings burst with the promise of exploration, new discoveries and grand inventions. If you don’t believe me just watch any young child jump out of bed with a head full of grand ideas, or an aging, retired guy about to head out for his morning walk in the country. Lord only knows what discoveries might be waiting out there.
This delight in novelty and new challenges is what has brought us from our shaky, beginnings in Africa to eight billion of us today, spread out everywhere around the world. Go the the Arctic and there we are. The mountains, islands, tropical forests even in the desert, there we are too. We are so numerous today and our impact on the world so huge, scientists now call this the Anthropocene era.
We are a force of nature with the power to destroy ourselves and much of the life we share this planet with. The evidence is everywhere.
The risk of a nuclear holocaust looms larger and larger as the war in Ukraine escalates. Pesticides that kill indiscriminately and habitat loss, because we humans need more and more land to feed and house our growing numbers, drive a host of plants and animals to the edge of extinction – and many, beyond. This summer our much loved Monarch butterfly joined the growing list of Endangered Species, their numbers having dropped almost ninety percent since the 1990s. Tiny particles of plastic are so omnipresent we inhale, drink and eat it.
Due to our over-trust of the chemical industry the waters we drink that used to be clean and fresh now need to be heavily filtered. Today, we in Marathon County, may well be on the cusp of trading our sweet water and precious, water cleansing wetlands, for an open pit sulfide mine. Sulfide mines by their very nature always pollute water – always! How many filters will we need to add to safely drink our water? Let your County Board Supervisor know you oppose this mine.
Despite the many ways our use of fossil fuels endangers the only living planet we know of we continue to choose oil, gas and coal over the sun and wind. Whether it be toxic pollution from leaking pipelines, leaking wells, leaking ships, or our tailpipes; deadly explosions or the weather extremes from our changing climate that today plague every continent, fossil fuels have become a worldwide threat to life itself. Ask the people dying in a drought, drowning in a flood, losing everything in another forest fire.
Fortunately, we can do better. China, determined to dominate the global renewable energy marketplace, leads the way. Last year they brought 53 GW of solar energy and 48 GW of wind on line. We only built 25 GW combined. China has about 500,000 electric buses on the road, we don’t even have 1500, and Wausau has none.
China leads the world in solar panel manufacturing with six out of the top ten companies, and three of those take first, second and third place. Their companies also hold seven out of ten tops spots in wind generator manufacturing while we rank sixth and tenth in solar and only GE makes the wind generator list and it is sliding down not going up in production. Where we led the world in new technology in days past and our economy boomed, we now appear to be headed for the global, economic basement.
If we are to avoid global economic failure, if we are to dodge the fate of the Monarch we must greet the dawn of this new energy day with enthusiasm and vigor instead of hanging on to the past. If we are to save this truly amazing planet and the life – our lives too – it nurtures from our heedless quest for more, we must put clean water, clean air and clean soil above money and “stuff”. To get there we must vote for those who truly cherish planet Earth and the well-being of her offspring in the coming election, and every election that follows.
The Anthropocene era brings with it new challenges, new responsibilities and the need for new adaptations. To get to today we have adapted, physically, culturally and technologically to whatever situation we have found ourselves in. That adaptability, that ability to change to fit new realities is the hallmark of our species. It has served us well.
To become the earnest caretakers of our lonely, little planet may very well be our greatest challenge. And though we hesitate and resist, I have faith that we will adapt as we always have. It’s in our nature to do so.