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The prophets of doom are correct

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By Wendy Binnie

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote: “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.”

Most of them prance along as if the economy is their only care. Meanwhile, the vast majority of peons go about their business and never give a thought to the water they drink or the air they breathe or the potential for a wipe-out from any of a dozen different potential natural threats. Turn on the Science or Discovery Channel, and you might want to think about some of those things we tend to block out of our minds or, oftentimes, tend to take for granted: like the future of the world.

Unfortunately, most of us are unwilling pawns in the continuing conflict between man and nature that has been going on since the evolution of homo erectus. We assume we can’t do anything about it so we wipe such thoughts from our brains. In total denial, the networks and cable shows go on and on saying the same stuff over and over as if it really matters over the long term who did what and why. They, we, and the ultra rich, should learn and understand the word ‘inevitable.’ In the meantime, the polar bear population is falling off because they can’t find food for their young since the ice flows are melting. Seals cannot get their fill of the herring they need to survive and fish are dwindling because of the warming of their habitat; but hey, that’s for the other guys to worry about. But who is really worrying about such things? Certainly not our representatives, who seem to worry only about filling their war chests and of course the very rich who assume nothing bad can happen to them!

These signs are the canaries in the mine but they don’t cause us to pay more attention to the proliferation of casual factors all around us that suggest Mother Nature is really ticked off at all of our abuses and is getting ready to let us have it. Despite all these warnings, we manage to rationalize them all and go about our business of consuming oil. Business sees fit to pollute the environment without government intervention, monitoring or control. After all, nothing’s been done since the Clean Air Act was postponed for another ten years. And while business and industry tell us that coal processing can be made clean, we see no evidence that the coal industry has invested serious money into making that happen or even pursuing the first steps to eliminate the carbon in the air or the heavy metals released in the process of burning coal.

Some of us tend to look to the past to see what happened since it seems to be the only information around that is in some way instructive. According to the current yardstick promulgated by most scientists, it looks like we can expect an Ice Age every 20,000 years and something catastrophic to happen to species every 200 million years - give or take a few hundred life times. But that isn’t all bad. Consider that if we hadn’t had the last catastrophic event at the end of the Permian Age some 250 million years ago, man may have never emerged in the first place. At that time, the Siberian fields had exploded with fires and earthquakes that sent temperatures soaring ten degrees, and the growing pattern eventually released the frozen methane at sea bottom to release more methane to heat the climate another ten degrees, making it virtually impossible for 95 percent of all earth’s creatures to survive. Out of that inferno came a burrowing creature that lived on root systems and tubers. It survived and eventually produced the first mammal, our ancestor.

The prophets of doom tell us that global warming will accelerate the next Ice Age, and perhaps that will be the case because all of the markers seem to be present, including the melting of the Greenland Cap at an accelerated rate and the break-up of the southwestern part of Antarctica which fits right into the Ice Age scenario; this along with the stopping of the moderating influence of the underground river that regulates temperatures around the world. If that goes on hold, temperatures can be expected to plummet; that’s what happened 10,000 years ago as near as scientists can calculate. So we complain and moan about everything while the world collapses before our eyes. It is perhaps a modern-day version of the Emperor Has No Clothes. Our chances for doing anything to correct the problem of slowing or reversing the damage we are doing to the environment, perhaps the single most important problem facing mankind, seem to get slimmer and slimmer with each passing day. “Of course, all life is a process of breaking down, but the blows that do the dramatic side of the work – the big sudden blows that come, or seem to come, from outside –- the ones you remember and blame things on and, in moments of weakness, tell your friends about, don’t show their effect all at once,” wrote Fitzgerald. He argues about the test for true intelligence. It is the ability to “hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time,

and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.” Can we as a nation do this? Can we at least try?

As I was saying …

Wendy E. Binnie, a novelist, lives in Oak Trace.