Earth In The TrashReposted from Collapsing Into Consciousness

As a child, I remember walking through stores that displayed crystal, glass, pottery, and other fragile items on their display shelves. In these waiting-for-an-accident-to-happen establishments – especially to an energetic young boy – It wasn’t uncommon to see a prominently displayed sign that read “You break it, you buy it.” Of course, I knew even then just exactly what those signs meant: That I – or my parents – would be responsible for anything I damaged. If I broke something through carelessness or recklessness, I might not “pay” for it until I got home, but I would pay for it.

I also remember another term, one that I saw on television, in movies, and read about in books: When someone “bought” it, sometimes used in phrases like “he bought the farm,” or by gangsters when they would knock someone off, and say “he bought it,” or he’s going to “buy it.” That was not a term used when someone was actually buying something of value, but rather, that they were going to die.

The Oceans

I started thinking about this when I read an article that appeared on Yahoo! News called “The Ocean is Broken,” written by reporter Greg Ray, of the Australian Newcastle Herald.

It was about the 28-day journey that Newcastle yachtsman Ivan Macfadyen sailed from Australia to Japan. This was a journey he had sailed ten years earlier, but his experience was very different because the ocean was very different.

From the article:

What was missing was the cries of the seabirds which, on all previous similar voyages, had surrounded the boat.

The birds were missing because the fish were missing.

Exactly 10 years before, when [he] had sailed exactly the same course from Melbourne to Osaka, all he’d had to do to catch a fish from the ocean between Brisbane and Japan was throw out a baited line.

“There was not one of the 28 days on that portion of the trip when we didn’t catch a good-sized fish to cook up and eat with some rice,” Macfadyen recalled.

But this time, on that whole long leg of sea journey, the total catch was two.

No fish. No birds. Hardly a sign of life at all.

BACK in Newcastle, Ivan Macfadyen is still coming to terms with the shock and horror of the voyage.

“The ocean is broken,” he said, shaking his head in stunned disbelief.

Parts of the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi River that have been declared dead zones cover up to 6,000 to 7,000 square miles. Caused mostly by nitrogen and phosphorous nutrient enrichment from “major farming states in the Mississippi River Valley, including Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, nitrogen and phosphorous enter the river through upstream runoff of fertilizers, soil erosion, animal wastes, and sewage,” exacerbated by farming practices. But that part of the gulf is not the only dead zone:

Dead zones can be found worldwide (link to NASA dead zone page). The Gulf of Mexico dead zone is one of the largest in the world. Marine dead zones can be found in the Baltic Sea, Black Sea, off the coast of Oregon, and in the Chesapeake Bay. Dead zones may also be found in lakes, such as Lake Erie. source

In addition, the impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010 and its impact on coastal wetlands, fisheries, marine mammals, and the deep sea, has yet to be determined, and the extent and severity of these impacts and the value of the resulting losses cannot fully be measured without considering the goods and services provided by the Gulf, says a new report from the National Research Council.

According to the Save Our Seas Foundation, there are five major threats to the oceans: overfishing, predator loss, climate change and warmer acidic oceans, pollution, and habitat loss.

We have broken the ocean. The oceans provide half of our global food supply.

Soil

But it’s not just the oceans that are broken. The ocean is one part of a bigger story: What have we not broken on this beautiful planet? What remains untouched and vibrant?

Despite being a fundamental resource that supports all life on Earth, soil often falls well below the radar as an important environmental issue. We hear about water or air pollution, but rarely about soil pollution. Yet, soil affects our everyday lives, from the food we eat and where we live to the natural functions and ecological services that it provides. The largest threat to soil ? and therefore to us ? is the loss of or damage to the productive topsoil, often caused by erosion and/or poor land use practices. Source

The natural process of erosion caused by wind, water and ice are being greatly exacerbated by a wide variety of human activities, including poor farming or grazing methods, deforestation and urbanization. Intensive agricultural practices and the over-application of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides lead to the leaching of essential nutrients and excessive amounts of salts or heavy metals in the soil, which can reduce or even prevent plant growth.

At a time when we need healthy soils to feed growing populations, soil conditions around the planet are in steep decline. In Iowa this summer, higher than average temperatures coupled with the lack of significant precipitation heightened concerns over soil moisture and crop conditions. Statewide there was an average of 6.3 days suitable for fieldwork. Climate change and improper use of soils, usually for agriculture, pastural, industrial, and urban purposes are chiefly to blame for soil degradation and decline in quality. Unfortunately, this is a scenario that is not just taking place in the  U.S., but ain locations all over the planet.

Like the oceans,  we have broken the soil that sustains us. The soil provides the other half of our global food supply.

Air

The quality of the air we breathe has gotten so bad that it is now a worldwide health threat. Despite decades of efforts to combat it, air pollution is taking a growing toll on human health, the environment, and the economy, according to a new Worldwatch Institute study.

Once primarily an urban phenomenon in industrial countries, air pollution has spread worldwide. More than a billion people–one-fifth of all humanity–live in communities that do not meet World Health Organization air quality standards. source

Today, the air in cities like Athens, Mexico City, Bombay, Milan, Shenyang, Tehran, Seoul, and Rio de Janeiro contain extremely high levels of sulfur dioxide, a pollutant harmful to humans and the environment. Streams, lakes, estuaries, and even the oceans are dying because of acid rain. “35 percent of Europe’s forests are showing signs of air pollution damage, and crop losses in the U.S. caused by harmful emissions are estimated to be 5-10 percent of total production–more than $5 billion a year.”

We’ve even broken the air we breathe.

Population

Doubling over the past 45 years, current global population of over 7 billion is already two to three times higher than the sustainable level. Several recent studies show that Earth’s resources are enough to sustain only about 2 billion people at a European standard of living.

An average European consumes far more resources than any of the poorest two billion people in the world. However, Europeans use only about half the resources of Americans, on average.

Currently, over 7 billion of us are consuming about 50% more resources than Earth is producing – during any given time period. For example, in the past twelve months we have consumed the resources that it took the planet about eighteen months to produce. We are consuming our resource base.

Need we say more? Bro-ken…..

Nuclear Wars and Meltdowns

I’ve written frequently about the dangers from technologies that far exceed our collective wisdom to safely and sanely maintain them. One needs look no further than my viral article “At the Very Least, Your Days of Eating Pacific Ocean Fish Are Over,” to see where I stand on nuclear energy. Never mind that the 23,000 nuclear weapons in existence are sufficient to wipe out the planet many times over, that we have had several crisis since 1945 where the world came within a hair’s breadth of nuclear war, or that there are 2,500 of these nuclear weapons on high alert at all times. One day our luck could run out on a  system that is primed at all times, and it would only take one mistake. As people who ignored the threats from the banking system until the first banks began to fail, our track record is dismal to say the least.

As scary as nuclear war is, let’s touch briefly on our current major problem: Fukushima. As I’m writing this, TEPCO  – Tokyo Electric Power Company, Fukushima’s operator – is getting ready for its toughest and the most dangerous clean-up operation. In November it will try to remove 400 tons of spent fuel from the plant’s Reactor No. 4. But even a little mistake could result in a new nuclear disaster. Speaking of dismal track records – TEPCO is the poster child of incompetence according to Guy McPherson – TEPCO is schedule to begin the removal of the 1400 fuel rods in early November and be completed by around the end of 2014. The fuel rods must be kept submerged and must not touch each other or break.

“The operation to begin removing fuel from such a severely damaged pool has never been attempted before. The rods are unwieldy and very heavy, each one weighing two-thirds of a ton,” fallout researcher Christina Consolo earlier told RT. “The worst-case scenario could play out in death to billions of people. A true apocalypse,” Consolo added.

If, as Guy McPherson has said in the recent past, the only way for humanity to avoid Near-Term Extinction (NTE) is the immediate shutdown of industrial civilization, while to make matters worse – yes, matters could get worse – recently adding that if industrial civilization’s electrical grid were to suddenly go down, some 400+ nuclear plants around the world would begin to melt down. Without power, the normal shutdown procedures could not take place.

Apparently, we may have broken our future, as well.

I’ve not including “outside” threats from Electro-Magnetic Pulses (EMP)’s), asteroids, earthquakes, super volcanoes, aliens, etc., as they are not man-made or – in this case – man-broken. Although, building a sub-standard nuclear plant on a known fault line in Japan certainly seems to blur the lines between man-made and natural disasters. Heaven knows we’ve done the same thing with several of our own nuclear plants in the U.S. Human-caused events are the ones I’m focusing on, and for what is supposed to be the smartest intelligence on the planet, it appears that perhaps we’re only too smart for our own good.

My point here is that we’ve come to the point where almost everything we’ve touched, we’ve broken in one or more ways: Education, politics, economies, religion, governments, social systems, biology, artificial intelligence, and on and on….What else have we broken?

  • political instability, loss of freedoms, vanishing species, rain forest destruction, desertification, garbage, urban sprawl, water shortages, traffic jams, toxic waste, oil spills, air and water pollution, increasing violence and crime…
  • Two billion people live in poverty, more than the population of the entire planet less than 100 years ago.
  • We are driving over 50 species of plants and animals to extinction per day!
  • We are destroying rain forests many times faster than they can regenerate. We are consuming stored solar energy (fossil fuels).
  • We are consuming fresh water at least 10 times faster than it is being replenished in regions of northern Africa, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, China, and the U.S.

If we don’t seriously wake up – fast – and begin to focus on saving ourselves, any one of these broken systems could fail and we’d be toast.

We will have permanently broken it. And when it can no longer be held together with duct tape and bailing wire, we will have bought it…because we broke it

 

Next: What can we do if we’ve “bought it?”