Monday, October 15, 2007

Better Off Without Us

I took this photo of the pond a few days ago. It was a rare occasion that the clouds parted enough to let the light pour through and paint everything in rose and amber at sunset. The image seems soft and warm enough to precede a thought on what the earth might look like without us. I finished reading Alan Weisman's The World Without Us, and I suddenly find it hard to think about anything else. It is not a sad thought, but is actually quite exhilarating to ponder such a thing. How might the world recover if all humans were to disappear on the same day? Weisman proposes just that and takes the reader on an amazing journey to different places on earth and imaginatively discusses the timeline and processes that would occur there, once we have gone. What happens to all the plastic we have dumped? What about the oil infrastructure under Houston? How does a city like New York crumble over time? Perhaps like this:
Roger sez: what can we humans do to lighten our burden on the planet? decrease our numbers drastically and return to hunting and foraging, or go away entirely. neither is likely. what else? conservation, as our darth vader veep said, is a personal virtue. it is a virtue, however, that will lighten our impact if enough of us practice it. so start now. re-use and recycle. get those flourescent light bulbs. you know the drill. what do you eat? how much packaging comes with your food? how far is that food shipped? last winter our local coop had ripe organic tomatoes from israel. how long do you think we can go on this way?

i'll own up to my own dismal opinion that we're sunk, and a large chunk of the planetary flora and fauna along with us, even if every living human became a rabid raw food vegan carless plasticless paperless childless recycler today. we are already far beyond being too many. smart enough to see the damage and not smart enough to do anything about it. i don't think we're bad, just clever enough to push the bounds of biological limits with clothing and sanitation and medicine so that we propagate past the carrying capacity of our ecological niche and so risk destroying it. too bad our niche is the entire planet.

In our combined 120 years on earth, Roger and I have seen and heard enough to believe absolutely that humans will not rise to the occasion, will not heed warnings until it's much (MUCH) too late, will continue to breed in environmentally crippling numbers, will exhaust every resource, will make war on neighbors, will kill to defend myths, will befoul the water and air, will not tolerate economic displacement in the short term for long term planetary health, and will pretend and insist that there is no other way to live.

Which is why we do hope that someday New York City will look like this. It is not a malicious or malevolent thought. It is a desire to let the planet be free from our invasive and insidious damage.

(Two drawings borrowed without permission from the World Without Us website.)

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