Since The First Earth Day 48 Years Ago This April 22nd, Efforts To Protect The Environment Have Never Been Under Greater Siege
A Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted April 20th, 2018 on Niagara At Large
This past March 19th one more shameful moment in the brief history of humans on this planet.
On that date in Kenya, a country that was once (if no more) one of the richest in terms of biodiversity, the very last male white rhinoceros on the planet – a rhino named Sudan, whose species is believed to have walked this earth long before humans crawled out of the slime, died following desperate efforts to mate him with the two last female white rhinos living in captivity.
Sudan’s passing represents one more failure of our species, whose major missions seems to be to hunt and kill and junk up and destroy virtually all forms of life-sustaining habitat as we think we can without annihilating ourselves.
Rather than cherish the few moments we share on this earth with other great creatures like an elephant or a tiger or snow caribou or a whale or a rhino, the passing of Sudan and extinction of his species, like the extinction of so many other species and the struggle of even more now pushed to the brink, too many of us living in so-called advanced, affluent consumer driven cultures seem as hotwired as ever to sack whatever else inhabits this planet’s lands and seas s for short-term gain.
We continue to plunder and destroy like this, not so much because we need to in order to survive. We do it because – even in the face of all science and evidence all around to that this is a pathway to eventual self-destruction, we would rather deny all of that so we can go on playing with our plastic bags and spray cans and oversized houses, trucks and cars.
So in the name of “growth and prosperity” we go on cutting down and paving over more of our forests and wetlands, and perversely call that “balance,” so we can have even more.
We go treating our rivers, lakes and oceans like open sewers and sceptic tanks for every conceivable kind of garbage. Then we mock and marginalize anyone who protests as a tree-hugger, an ideologue, a social justice geek, and most perversely, a “special interest” that is standing in the way of progress.
John McConnell, the late American peace activist who came up with the idea of Earth Day at a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) conference in 1969, would no doubt be in tears if he were here to see how far we are continuing to slide back from the pledge back then to move in a more life –sustaining direction if he were here for this Earth Day.
Almost all of the gains that have been made since the first Earth Day in 1970 have more recently been eroded or deconstructed, quite sadly by the same generation of “flower children” from the 1960s who once wanted to (as the Joni Mitchell song goes) “get back to the land and set their soul free.”
As that generation – my generation – grew older and took over the levers of power, it collectively decided that it would rather pave paradise and opt for the shopping mall.
You can appeal to this aging generation all you want – you can urge them to consider what kind of future their children and grandchildren will have – and if they have children and grandchildren they will assure you that they care about them, and in the moment, that is likely quite true.
Yet at the end of the day, they know they are only on this earth for a few more years. They will be checking out soon and they don’t want to hear about any changes that involve cutting back on consumption or shifting to a more minimalist lifestyle. They would rather be left alone to play their toys.
Just witness what is happening in the United States right now with the current president gutting that country’s Environmental Protection Agency and weakening or completely eliminating programs for protecting air, land and water, including the Great Lakes.
All of this in the name of going back to a time when life was “great” for people in America – a time when what prosperity there was came at a cost of skies being blackened with soot from factory stacks, and rivers so polluted with petrochemical poisons that you could light them on fire, and a neighbourhood called Love Canal in Niagara Falls, New York where toxic waste pooled up from underground dumps and the residents were forced to flee.
Canada is far from immune from all of this deconstruction of environmental programs in the United States. Politicians here are already looking at this and insisting that our governments will have to do the same thing in order to compete for businesses that want to locate in jurisdictions where they can operate as freely as possible from rules and regulations.
And, of course, we have all of the continued strip mining of what are left of Canada’s the boreal forests for the tar sands of Alberta, and the epic battle over the Trans Mountain Pipeline so the goo from these pits can be moved to the Pacific Coast.
Reportedly, Canada’s economy is so dependent on the tar operations that it might tank if this pipeline is not built. So little else we are building or producing in Canada – nothing much of a diversified economy here – that the country’s prime minster and Alberta’s premier, along with the bank and corporate barons they work for, are fighting for the construction of this pipeline as if it is the umbilical cord for Canada’s future.
Forty-eight years after all the hope and energy that rose from tens of millions of people around the world participating in the very first Earth Day, here we now are, almost through the end of this second decade of the 21st century, facing a sad state of affairs as environmental protections are unravelled, our lakes and oceans fill with sewage and plastic, and the polar ice caps continue to melt.
Frankly, I have given up on my generation, even though I know there are some people over the ages of 50 and 60 who are trying to make change for the better.
What hope I have left rests with young people, like those kids from the Parkland, Florida high school where the mass shooting recently occurred and who are now fighting for more sensible gun laws.
Some of those young people saying that the adults failed to do the job, So now they are left to ‘clean up their mess’ for the sake of a better future. This also holds true for the mess the adults have made of the planet.
These kids have been identified in the media as “the young and the restless,” as “the disrupters.”
For the sake of the planet and their future on it, I hope they stay restless and keep on disrupting for as long as it takes to tear humanity away for the destructive path we are now on.
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