I suppose readers of this column have heard about huge pieces of ships and buildings from the Japanese tsusami that are now piling up on Oregon beaches, about high levels of mercury in blood samples that were expelled into the air on the coastline of Canada and have produced a series of fatal cancers in one particular area of Japan, and the report that it is only now, several decades after Chernobyl, that milk from goats roaming mountain ranges in some parts of Scandinavia, is safe to drink.
Less known is that more oil and gas, the number one pollutant cause of our ecological and economic crisis, has been consumed in the past 30 years than in all other human history. More than 50 years ago, Earth began its current trajectory towards a planet that lost ground every year in its ability to convert human waste into life supporting natural resources. The current estimate of the annual monetary value of natural resources services is 3 to 10 times the entire economic value of all human economic activity. Of course, for most of our lives, no economic value at all was given to these services. We added the cost to our Gross National Income of every oil spill and other fossil fuel disaster.
The plain truth is that there is no away. What others do deeply influences our lives and similarly, what we do, deeply influences the lives of others. Responsibility for sustainable living is the first order of every day for every nation, village, business and individual.
Time is short. Change is stunningly fast and vast. China is now the largest economy as well as the most populous and continues to grow at a much faster pace than the US. The Euro Zone is the second largest economy and several of its countries have a human welfare index far above that of the US. Our national corporate and political leadership may include thousands of brilliant individuals, but their collective incompetence to afford us a standard of life that works for all and the environment, is now a major factor in the decline of US success in inter- national politics and trade as well as the increasing failure domestically.
China leads the world in the production of every type of renewable energy technology – every one of which technologies was first developed in the US.
Germany produces more than 50% of its entire national weekend electricity consumption from renewable energy in one of the most cloudy climates on the planet. Brazil and Indonesia are developing tremendous economic capacity. In every case, their governance is less gridlocked than ours and less beholden to corporate financial control that remains tied to the fossil fuel economic development models, and so they can adjust.
A more positive future is available for us by working together at the local level where we can define our goals and highest values as well as how we shall rearrange our relationships and resources to achieve better communities and lives.
We cannot get a way from our responsibility and our opportunity is right here, right now.