I don’t get quite as emotion-ally involved with the state of the earth as I used to. I have no grand-children and therefore, no hostages to the future.
And it appears the future is looking more precarious all the time.
The environment was always my pet political issue because, while other things may cause vast temporary pain, they are temporary — wars end, dictators are overthrown, economies bounce back. While that may not be much comfort to the individuals who lost loved ones in the wars or went hungry during depressions or were tortured under dictators, man can overcome events. And we can do it on a cosmic dime (relatively speaking) by changing laws or changing attitudes.
No so with the environment. When a species has been wiped out, it is gone forever. When an aquifer is polluted, it is mostly likely ruined forever (at least as humans think of forever). When we change our very climate so that the ice melts and the seas rise and the hurricanes and tornadoes become ever more deadly, there is no saying, “oops, let’s go back,” at least, not any time soon.
In the ’60s, when young people were a’brim with the idea that we could change the world through movements — (civil rights! women’s rights! end the war!) there was a passion for the environment. We high-fived when the Endangered Species Act passed. We wanted to save the wetlands and the redwoods and the habitat of this or that owl or fish or mammal. There was an almost spiritual fervor about defending our planet against the greed of the plunderers.
Now we post pretty pictures of wolf cubs on Facebook, maybe we even make a small donation, and that’s our contribution to the cause.
There are now more wild horses in captivity (50,000) than there are running free (46,000 +/-) because sorry, there just isn’t room for them. We need those grazing rights for cows, don’t you know?
We re-introduced wolves into Yellowstone to great dissent, because man’s attitude is that the earth belongs to us and we have no responsibility to share with other species if they are threats and/or competition for the things we want to kill ourselves.
We’ve been told by scientists for decades that we were spewing too many noxious gases into the atmosphere but who the heck wants to trade that macho Hummer for a wimpy Prius?
We shrug it off when big swaths of the Gulf of Mexico and the fragile wetlands that surround it are awash in oil and mountains are sheared off to extract coal, gold, copper ... and the resulting detritus clogs streams and rivers or when we’re warned about the dire toll Canadian tar sands oil can take on our water resources or we see documentaries about the vile conditions in which factory farms raise our food.
But the corporate elite take down anything that’s in the way of their profits.
I’m 66 and as I said, at this point, I’m a bystander, reading my suspense novel, waiting to see if the good guys prevail in the end.
Vicki Williams is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached through the newspaper at firstname.lastname@example.org.