I am in the middle of my sixth year publishing this blog and trying to demonstrate that we can have a better tomorrow if, we are willing to work together and to make significant adjustments in our life-styles. It has been challenging to find the facts about our natural world to provide others with the information which supports the concerns we need to be aware of for our future survival on Earth. I am encouraged by the reviews this website receives, averaging almost 4000 reviews every 30 days. In an effort to reach more people, I went on facebook and have been posting articles from the website. Social media is something I have little knowledge of so, my facebook page is reaching a limited number of people.
I am aware there have been numerous predictions of the end of time throughout history and none have been accurate. No one is capable of predicting when a major catastrophic event might happen but, scientific data provides strong evidence that Mother Earth cannot sustain the adverse demands humans continue to require. I tend to be an optimist and believe the adverse human impacts on Earth can be reduced if, we understand the problems and have the desire to provide a better future. We must start by opening our eyes and our minds to the expanded scientific knowledge base that is available today! We must listen to the facts not opinions. The question is, how do we reach a larger audience and provide the incentive for people to insist on logical changes designed to improve the future?
Iris and I have donated our time to presenting the facts, hoping others will begin to insist on our leaders becoming knowledgeable of our dilemma and to work with the scientific community to find and implement realistic Evening Thoughts. Expanding your scientific knowledge base will allow you to reach others and encourage them to participate in this movement.
We believe the most critical need is to educate our youth in a way that provides them with a deeper understanding of the important relationships our natural world provide, which we are dependent upon for the sustenance of life. Science education has not yet adjusted to incorporate the most important element which is understanding the connections and relationships that exist between all living organisms. My book, "I'm Just A Tree-Life depends On Me", presents an example of how science and environmental education needs to be presented to our youth. Instead of presenting the scientific facts about trees, this book illustrates the connections and relationships trees provide and share with humans. This concept can be used to present any element of the natural environment, including rocks, insects, micro-organisms, etc. Basically, the process focuses on ecological relationship rather than narrow scientific facts about the element.
Our hope is that we can enlist individuals and groups to become involved in spreading the facts about our natural to others, building communication networks, sponsoring information sessions, and contacting your elected representatives. Contact your school boards and encourage them to search for materials that teach our children to respect and preserve the natural relationships required for the future we all seek. Please pass on information about our website and talk with to your friends and contacts about the importance of educating ourselves with the facts surrounding population expansion, deforestation and the adverse impacts humans are having are having on the natural world we depend upon for life. We need to understand that climate change is the result of our growing world population and the destruction of our remaining forest cover. I just read a medical paper indicating life expectancy will reach 120 years in the very near future. Effective management of our natural world is the only solution! Together we can make a difference! PLEASE JOIN US IN EXPANDING THE AUSIENCE NEEDED TO CREATE A DESIREABLE FUTURE FOR HUMANITY!
HAS TOMORROW ALREADY ARRIVED
Hard to believe, but I have been writing this material for six years now which means 150 plus articles have appeared on this website. I would never have thought retirement would push me into becoming a communicator and writer. My career as a scientist left me haunted by observations, experiences and a quest to understand the relationship our indigenous people shared with the natural world for thousands of years. I cannot explain how or where this quest for knowledge about our Native peoples in depth appreciation for their natural surroundings came from but, a little knowledge simply intensified my thrust for more. Iris’s interest in her Cherokee heritage, surely accounts for some of the interest and opened many doors with members of the Native culture. I began searching for literature that would help me understand the importance of the natural world and our dependence upon the world for the substance of life. After six years of research, my thrust has only intensified.
Where I have failed is in understanding why so many people are unwilling to accept the scientific data that paints a clear picture of what is occurring with our natural world? I am saddened when I think how we defeated and attempted to convert an entire culture to our western ways, that could have helped us develop a Eco-friendlier appreciation for our natural surroundings and prolonged life on Mother Earth! Today, human beings and the natural world are on a collision course with many human activities being so harsh they are literally destroying the life sustaining elements supplied only by our natural surroundings. We put off until tomorrow the changes and adjustments required to prolong our species existence. Economic growth, accumulation of wealth and easier life styles have driven us, at the sacrifice of the natural world, for the past 200 plus years. I suspect tomorrow may have arrived, as we lavish in our glorious life styles! After 25 years of retirement and hours and hours of research, study and observation; I am still overwhelmed by the number of people that refuse to accept the scientific facts and information that have been discovered and collected about the current conditions of the planet we call home! Lands once covered by vast forests and grasslands occupied by animals in great numbers and rich in diversity have been reduced to less than half of the original acreage. Rivers, Lakes and Oceans are being contaminated with waste and chemicals and the air we breathe is full of chemicals, toxins and excess greenhouse gases.
Our species has been recognized for foresight, anticipation and recognition which has allowed us to grow and expand to over seven and a half BILLION people worldwide. These traits now need to focus on humanities future if we care about our children and grandchildren. We have become so enamored with how clever we are and our sense of self-importance, we think what we create is more important than the natural world! Can we and will we ever learn? When will it be to late? Has tomorrow already arrived? If we are willing to accept the truth, I believe we can make a difference! Please alert your friends and contacts to this website so we can reach more people and unite in an effort to enhance the natural surroundings required for human sustenance in the future!
HOW DO WE SAVE OURSELVES?
We are a part of nature and nature provides what we need to stay healthy and survive on this planet! If we plan to provide a desirable future, it is incumbent we understand and appreciate nature for the role it plays in supporting life systems on planet earth. We have been aware of the devastating effects climate change is having on life itself for decades yet, we are still questioning if it is real and are human demands the major cause of these devastating changes. Industrial, political and media sources have convinced us enormous profits are more important than life itself. It is difficult to understand how we reached and accepted these mis-information conclusions. Fortunately, our young people are more in tune with the scientific data that has been warning us for decades of the coming perils.
I recently learned of the David Suzuki Foundation in Canada; a foundation dedicated to enlightening the public of the environmental issues we face worldwide. I have been reading some of his writings and find them informative and supportive of the concerns I have been expressing. He suggests we should appreciate nature for its own sake, after all we are part of it. There are knowledgeable scientists and caring people trying to alert the public to the truth about our natural world and the need to take actions to change the future we are headed for but, little attention is being given to the issues.
Ideas are beginning to surface as we approach the next election however, it is difficult to know what is true as the two opposing view points are locked in yet, appear to have little personal understanding of the complexity and depth of the issues. The interconnections of Nature are so amazing and complex, we are decades from fully understanding them. It is obvious however, that we are continuing to imperil all the systems that support human life on our planet!
So, the question remains, can we save ourselves? The answer lies in whether or not we are willing the focus on the health and diversity of our natural world or remain dedicated to the creation of wealth and quality life styles. In my mind, the most important element that allows forested lands to sustain and support life systems; is biodiversity. I am overwhelmingly convinced saving human life will require reversing the destruction of biodiversity worldwide. I will use forestry as an example but, we must remember bio-diversity is the key element in the functioning of every life system on Earth!
I have spent the better part of 70 years observing and managing the functioning of our natural world as it relates to forest covered lands. Most of today’s forests are second and third generations due to heavy demands for forest products by our past human society. A few old growth forest communities remain but, they very limited and usually in isolated locations. Here in the Appalachian Mountain country, most of these mountain sides were nearly void of trees 150 to 200 years ago. Fortunately, the second growth was regenerated by natural local seed sources so, the new communities are for the most part, carbon copies of the original stands. Observing these regenerated communities, provides insight into how forest covered lands should be managed to reverse the destruction of biodiversity!
The first requirement is to identify the individual forest communities which are the product of the underling physical characteristics of the site they occupy. Soil types, soil characteristics, slope, slope position, aspect and moisture all help define the boundaries of the community. Managing communities rather than landscapes is critical. The next step is to put clearcutting back in the tool box to be used only when it is the best tool to accomplish the pre-determined goal and objectives for the individual community. Timber harvesting becomes a tool not a goal! The process then is to READ THE LAND; DETERMINE AND SHARE WITH THE PUBLIC, THE MANAGEMENT GOAL FOR THE COMMUNITY; PREPARE A SCIENCE BASED MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR THE COMMUNITY AND SELECT THE PROPER TOOLS TO ACCOMPLISH THE GOAL OF HEALTH AND DIVERSITY! Valuable resources from the treatment become the by-product of proper management.
Our next responsibility is to start the regeneration process. Again, our goal is to improve diversity by avoid plantations of single species and single age classes. We must rely on natural regeneration using local seed sources and allow time to maximize vegetative species diversity and different age classes. Even-age management needs to go to the rear of the bus in most cases. Do not introduce non-indigenous species to the community! Finally, the scientist needs to visit each community every 10 years to evaluate the need for further treatments to support the community’s health and diversity.
This is the only way our shrinking forest acreage will be able to continue to support the various life systems on Earth! This is a more intensive management process than has been applied in the past, or currently on our public forest lands. Although, the process applies to the science of forestry, it has implications for all eco-systems and life systems. The “how to” will change but, the driving goals and objectives will remain the same.
David Suzuki states, “Healthy oceans and the plankton they support give us most of the oxygen we breathe and provide food for much of humanity. Trees sequester carbon, produce oxygen, filter contaminates in the air and water and prevent erosion and flooding. Polar ice caps regulate global temperatures and ocean currents. From the smallest microbes to the largest mammals, biodiverse animal life keeps natural systems in balance, ensuring that everything in the food chain – including us – can find sustenance.”
Reversing the destruction of biodiversity is the key to saving ourselves and desirable future! NEVER FORGET, THE EXTENT OF DIVERSITY IS THE MEASURE OF PREFECTION!
DEFORESTATION AND CLIMATE CHANGE!
Science estimates the world population in 1800 was one billion people and is currently over seven and a half billion. Scientific efforts have been undertaken to determine the population carrying capacity of planet earth based upon the availability of resources earth can provide. Estimates tend to fall between nine and ten billion people being the upper limits for Earth’s capabilities. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts our world population will reach ten billion in just 30 years. Certainly, no one should find it difficult to understand the difficulties we will face in providing the resources that will be required. The food requirements alone will necessitate clearing forest covered lands for agricultural purposes. There are no new lands to be discovered on our planet so, highly populated countries like China are already looking to acquire lands on less populated continents, to deforest for agricultural reasons. Population expansion is a serious problem and will require accelerating the deforestation of our remaining forested lands and increase levels of CO2 and toxic pollution to our atmosphere!
The result will be continued significant changes to our climatic conditions therefore, we need to take a closer look at how deforestation impacts climate. First, we must understand there are three different forest types; boreal, temperate and tropical, each having somewhat different effects upon climate conditions. We also need to understand different kinds of surfaces reflect the incoming solar energy in different ways which is called, “albedo”. It is defined as the ratio of the radiation reflected from the surface to the total radiation falling on the surface. The lower the albedo the more solar energy is absorbed. Forest cover has a very low albedo thus, absorbing high levels of heat from the solar energy.
Boreal forests have a large influence on local temperatures and have the largest influence on global mean temperatures of the three forest types. This results in warmer temperatures throughout the year when compared to surrounding areas that are void of trees. Boreal forests are found in colder climates with shorter growing seasons thus, producing smaller trees. This results in only moderate intake of CO2 and a low rate of evapotranspiration. Deforestation of boreal forest cover will result in reduced evapotranspiration and cooler temperatures along with lower humidity. Deforestation of boreal regions would, overall, increase the surface albedo leading to cooler temperatures and increase in snow and ice cover, which would enhance the cooling.
Temperate forests tend to cool the air during the leaf-on period and warm the air during leaf-off periods. During warm seasons with sufficient moisture, local cooling is caused by evapotranspiration and shade. The surface roughness of forest cover, contributes to increased rainfall and surface warming. Trees in temperate forests grow larger and faster thus, absorbing increased levels of CO2 and a higher rate of evapotranspiration. Another mechanism by which forests affect local weather is by aerodynamic roughness. The rough surface of forests causes a drag on the air flow resulting in reduced wind speeds and enhances the exchange of heat and moisture from the forests into the air. This causes convection which increases cloud formation and increased rainfall. Deforestation of temperate forests will result in significant increases in surface temperatures, reduced moisture and leads to desertification. What can we expect as we approach ten billion people on planet Earth?
The tropical forests are very different from the other two zones. These forests grow in very warm moist conditions and are considered carbon sinks using over fifty percent of the CO2 available within the atmosphere. They are frequently referred to as the lungs of Earth producing almost thirty percent of the oxygen required to support life on our planet. Rainfall averages 70 to 100 inches annually with a very high evapotranspiration rate. Over 50% of the currently identified living organisms are found in these forests. Scientists believe there are millions of species yet to be identified in the tropic ecosystem. These forests are the center of bio-diversity, the single most important element in Earth’s ability to support the life systems on our planet. Forest communities in the tropical zone, can contain 400 to 500 different plant species as compared to a temperate community which seldom exceeds 15. Plants from these forests are being used for medicine, beauty produces and food, but are being threatened by deforestation for lumber and agriculture. The past 50 years has resulted in the loss of 17% of tropical forest acreage. Today, tropical forests are experiencing habitat alteration and species extinction on a large scale and more rapid rate than any other ecosystem.
Loss of tropical forest cover will have a major impact on global warming and climate change. We can expect significant reductions in transpiration resulting in reductions in rainfall, increased temperatures due to reduced transpiration and significant increases in atmospheric levels of CO2. As temperatures raise, many species will become extinct and climatic conditions will change over the entire planet.
Understanding the forest ecosystems hopefully, will create a better appreciation for the impact we humans are having on our natural world and encourage us to make the needed adjustments for the future! As our population grows, deforestation will accelerate and we will rapidly move closer to the limited carrying capacity of Mother Earth!
Our Nation remains in a major debate over the environmental issue of climate change and its cause. It is apparent, that accepting the impacts humans have had on our environment and climate conditions, will necessitate significant changes for corporate American. Scientific data leaves little doubt that human greed these past 200 years has resulted in devastating impacts to our natural world, including current climate conditions. One of the leading causes of this change has been deforestation. We have destroyed over half of the forest cover that originally existed on our land base. Deforestation continues to clear the equivalent of 20 football fields every minute worldwide. Our world population is seven and a half billion people today and will reach ten billion in just 32 years. Deforestation leads to desertification and significant changes in our climate.
The facts are obvious and support the need for change, however our corporate community is unwilling to accept scientific fact because it will demand changes that will affect their financial stability and profitability. The debate is so intense, the current administration has chosen to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, that had 195 nations support. Climate change is resulting in more intense and more frequent storms including tornadoes and hurricanes, larger and more intense wildfires, gradually raising temperatures on our planet and raising ocean water levels. Our U.S. Weather organizations collaborate these changes with their detailed record keeping.
Scientific efforts to collect weather data to alert our leaders to the future problems we will encounter and identify options to reduce the predicted outcomes, are continuing as are efforts to ignore the facts before us. Our interest in the Natural World and our dependence upon Mother Earth for the sustenance of life introduced us to a new friend, James Chaves, whose ancestors came to this continent over 300 years ago from Spain. James interest in his family history resulted in a collection of documents, photographs, maps and stories, that present a compelling real-life story of climate change in the Magdalena Valley of New Mexico. This story dramatizes the impact humans have had upon the land and the resulting climatic conditions.
The Chaves family arrived in the 1600’s, to the largest land grant on the North American Continent from the King of Spain, 2.2 million acres. A land grant does not covey ownership but, gives the grantee the privilege of using the land with stewardship responsibilities. The information James has collected, paints a vivid picture of what the valley looked like over 300 years ago. The hills were covered with dense ponderosa pine forests and the prairies grew waist-high grass waving in the breeze. The rich soils provided productive forest cover as well as a bountiful supply of forage for the wildlife and domestic animals. Rainfall was distributed throughout the year and the grazing of livestock provided for the needs of the family. The vast forest cover provided shade that kept the temperatures several degrees cooler and provided hiding places for the wildlife. James ancestors raised sheep to begin with but, years later converted to cattle ranching. Things were good and the community of Magdalena was providing for the needs of the surrounding ranchers and families.
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 ceded 529,000 square miles of land to the United States, which included the Chaves land grant and the community of Magdalena, New Mexico. Almost immediately following the Treaty, several timber barons moved into the valley and setup 5 large sawmills in the community. They set out to mine the ponderosa pine trees from the surrounding hills by clear-cutting the forests. By 1930, the forests were gone and major changes in the climate were beginning.
In 2016, James took us out on the land to show current conditions and describe the changes that had occurred since the arrival of his ancestors over 300 years ago. The first thing we observed was the obvious lack of trees on the rolling hills. Hillsides once covered with large ponderosa pine trees were now barren with a few scattered pinion pine trees and juniper trees. Neither of these species grow much beyond twenty feet tall and tend to be individual trees scattered over the landscape. Occasionally, you see an old cottonwood tree clinging to live along a dry stream bed. If you search enough, you can a couple of remnant ponderosa pine trees that were seedlings back when their parent trees covered the area. The soils are dry and cracked from the direct sun beating down, and there appears to be top soil remaining. Deep gullies called arroyos are numerous and the result of heavy runoff from the rains that come in late July and early August. The top soil has obviously been washed into the creeks and streams and deposited in the Rio Grande River. Without trees, the wind has also blown volumes of rich top soil away. James told us the rains now are concentrated to a few weeks in late summer with average rainfall now at eight inches. Humidity’s run about 8% to 15%. The only forest cover was now on the step slopes of the distant mountains that lined the north and south sides of the valley.
Our next concern was where the tall prairie grass had gone? We were only observing clumps of several varieties of bunch grasses. James explained the changes in climatic conditions had caused the changes in species of grass on the prairie lands. The loss of top soil had reduced the productivity of the land and the increased temperatures and lack on moisture brought new plant species to the area. Bunch grass has long roots able to reach as much as six feet below the surface to find life sustaining moisture, grows in clumps and usually reaches only six to eight inches in height. The valley once rich in forage, now requires 40 acres to support one cow for 12 months. Other plants found, in what is today high-desert, were prickly pear cactus and several varieties of yucca.
Magdalena, New Mexico has gone through a major transformation over the past 300 years, and is a real-life example of what is happening throughout the world as our world population expands and our forest cover shrinks. Scientific data collected over the short history of our country, provides the factual knowledge of the destructive impact’s humans have had, and are having on the natural world we depend upon for life. History confirms advanced science and technology will accelerate the destruction of our natural word rather than extend life on our planet. The answers will only be found in our stewardship responsibilities for Mother Earth, which will necessitate management principles that recognize the individual forest communities and focus on preserving the diversity of natural plant species and age classes that were in the original communities. Yes, Mother Earth needs help! What we do to our forests we do to ourselves!
MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
The Board of Directors for the new proposed Museum of Natural History in Waynesboro, Virginia held an evening meeting with people from the area who might be interested in supporting the proposed project. One of the board members invited me to attend with him based on my interest in the natural world. I had only recently heard of the project and being new to the area, I knew none of the people in attendance. The gathering was held on top of one of the local mountains at a magnificent mansion built back in the early 1900’s. What a beautiful structure and view!
The project being proposed would serve as a satellite facility to the main museum located in Martinsburg, Virginia. The evening involved meeting potential supporters and several presentations designed to inform everyone of the required financing and the future goals for the facility. The two major purposes of the museum are the preservation of historical objects and information related to the local natural world and the opportunity to use these collections for educational presentations. The long-range goal is to establish other satellite locations throughout the State to reach the largest population possible. One of the people in attendance was a well-known geologist that assists the main museum in the presentation and interpretation of the geological exhibits. He demonstrated how the material and information can be presented in story format by explaining how the Appalachian Mountains were formed when the North American continent collided with the African continent 600 million years ago. A very interesting story that would catch the imagination of most people.
This project would be an obvious benefit to the State of Virginia and the community of Waynesboro however, my mind immediately began imagining how a facility like this might be able to initiate a new educational process. I thought about the story the geologist presented and although very interesting, how would young folks from the urban cities react? I remembered a situation in the 1980’s, where the Forest Service was attempting to introduce young urban children to the outdoors by busing them to various sites on the National Forests and interacting with them about the importance of forests and the natural world. The project was a failure because it did not understand the everyday needs of the urban children or their parents. Not only were the children afraid but, they had very different concerns on their minds. Were their parents going to be there when they got up to provide and protect them, would there be food for breakfast, was it safe to walk to school, and could they depend on their parents being there after school? They were totally focused on everyday issues of living and safety and had no interest in things outside that world.
A co-worker and I decided we needed to introduce our forest supervisors to the children’s world so future endeavors might realize the importance of understanding the driving motivations of these urban children. We set up a meeting in the inner city of Detroit with key leaders to discuss and to understand how we might relate our interest in nature to these children. Surprise! Our supervisors were not comfortable participating in this endeavor due to their fear of the inner city conditions.
Success comes when we are able to relate science, nature and human needs so the young person visualizes how the information relates and affects them. This exciting new project could be the opportunity to revolutionize our education process by linking science, human needs and relationships, in the interpretation of stories about our natural history. The stories need to explain, why it is important to me, today, and how does it help me live a better life. The title of the children’s book I just published explains the concept, “I’m Just A Tree-Life Depends on Me “. This story does not present the uses of the wood we take from the forests or how the tree grows but, presents the relationships we share with trees that sustain life, including human beings. WHAT AN OPPORTUNITY THIS PROJECT COULD PROVIDE!
WHAT WILL OUR FUTURE BE?
When I first started this effort to spread the word about my concerns for the natural world, my focus was on the science of forestry and current management of our remaining forested lands. Time, observation and study have demonstrated that my concerns are not limited to forestry, but rather apply to science in general, human cultural values and life styles. Listening daily to news reporting and searching for factual information on current human impacts on the natural world, is resulting in my concerns intensifying rather than subsiding. I have reported in the past about our expanding world population and the expected demands this will place on our natural surroundings as well as the continuing deforesting of our remaining forest covered lands. Our demands for resources from our natural surroundings and the expanding demand for cleared lands for agriculture, transportation and urbanization will obviously accelerate the destruction of the natural world we rely on for the sustenance of the life systems on our planet. We are being bombarded by our political leadership suggesting we can make “America Great Again”, so it was time to look at the facts. Our world population is expanding by 75 million people every year, we have reduced our forest covered land by more than 50% and continue to deforest the equivalent of 20 football fields every minute worldwide. The United States health care system is ranked the worst among the top 10 industrialized Nations in quality of care, access to doctors and equity. In fact, the World Health Report in 2000 rated the U.S. as 37th for health care performance. Related to health care is life expectancy where the U.S. continues to fall. In 2013 we ranked 26th and in 2017 we have fallen to 43rd. Once a world leader in education, we now rate 14th among the other countries of the world. It is difficult to find somewhere that we are holding on to our world leadership reputation.
So, what does the future offer? Leadership under the control of the wealthy elite few, is not willing to accept the factual data that knowledgeable scientists are gathering and updating daily. Decisions are being made to maximize wealth and profitability rather than sustaining life systems, including our human species. A few voices are heard attempting to find solutions that might offer some relief, but fall on deaf ears most of the time. We all recognize that the required changes will impact our economic systems and life styles, and are therefore not anxious to proceed into the unknown. If true leadership can be found, it must accept the scientific data and define for the public what the real problem is. Without informed consent of the problem, the old adage, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it”, will continue to drive us into abyss.
Global warming and climate change are not a figment of our imagination! Science tells us the best measurement of global warming is the monitoring of ocean temperatures. As humans continue to pour greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the oceans have attempted to temper the effect by absorbing more than 90% of the heat from these gases. In 2018, we set a new record for ocean temperatures. Scientists tell us that if all the heat the oceans have absorbed since 1955 were suddenly released into the atmosphere, air temperatures would rocket by more than 60 degrees. The cooling of the Earth’s surface by our remaining forest cover is vital to helping slow global warming! Factual data confirms warming ocean temperatures are resulting in the ice melting six times faster today than it was in the 1980’s. According to knowledgeable scientific data, Antarctica is melting at an alarming rate with sea levels having risen 8 inches since 1900 and rising faster today then at any time over the past 2000 years. Shrinking our land base due to raising sea levels will have devastating impacts on millions, if not billions of people.
Do we really have a problem? Is there any thing we can do about it? Won’t advanced science and technology find solutions for the future? Is it worth the cost and life changes that will be required? The first question can only be answered by strong leadership that is willing to study the scientific facts and develop and communicate the real problems to the public, so as to gain acceptance for realistic solutions required for future generations. None of the adverse changes to our critical natural world can be solved with simple solutions, but all potential solutions must provide for improvement over the current condition. Time is not on our side, but we must slow down and focus on problem definition if we hope to find realistic solutions. Problem solving is not easy, but there is no doubt the focus must be on public involvement through problem definition rather than jumping into technical unproven solutions. Solutions will come from the bottom up once we begin working together to solve problems! Is not that the major purpose of a democratic government? I keep hearing people suggest our government is broken. We the people are the government! It is government leadership that is questionable, but must be controlled by the power of your vote. It is we the people that must make the final decisions and adjustments not the few that are driven by profit and wealth! There is much work to be done and fiddling while Earth burns will not provide a desirable future!
INDIVIDUALISM VERSES RELATIONSHIPS
Listening to the media report on the destructive burning of the great Notre Dame Cathedral, triggered many thoughts about what humanity considers important. This human build structure has historic significance and is recognized worldwide for its architectural design and religious symbolism. Constructed 800 years ago and full of valuable art objects, this building has been visited by millions of people annually hoping to experience the renewal of their religious values. This catastrophic event received monumental media coverage and surfaced the emotions of millions of people worldwide. Before the flames could be extinguished, commitments to rebuild were being expressed by church and government leaders. Within 24 hours, millions of dollars were pledged, by wealthy individuals and groups, for the rebuilding of this iconic Cathedral. Being constructed by humans, the majestic structure can and will be rebuild regardless of cost and the symbol of European Catholicism will again attract the masses. The loss of this historic structure is a tragedy but, it will be reborn as a new holy monument to hopefully, remind the people of their religious foundation and beliefs.
My thoughts were directed to the differences between our human reaction to this catastrophic event and the current alienation humans appear to feel about the greatest structure ever created, planet Earth. The Universe functions through relationships and Earth is the sustenance of all life systems, represented by almost 10 million different species. Earth is symbolically burning and the rate of spread is accelerating as human demands increase daily. Earth is not human created and no amount of money or effort can rebuild this majestic creation, which we are destroying. We have relied on religious teachings to understand the story of creation and Earth certainly should instill stronger spiritual emotions and beliefs than the Notre Dame Cathedral. This devastating event should remind us of our religious foundation, the relationships with our natural world and our responsibilities to care for the greatest gift ever created. Just one day after the disaster, the media is spending hours talking about the iconic religious structure, its symbolic history and the emotional experience one feels when visiting. Numerous vigils are being held to mourn the loss of this structure. Earth should arouse similar, if not stronger, sacred feelings as it represents almost five billion years of history and the 650 million years of the evolutionary development of our own species. I have never heard of a vigil being held to mourn or call attention to the destructive actions impacting Earth!
The story of Creation includes the unbelievable ability for renewal, which we witness every year with the spring re-birth of life which follows the winter cleansing by the white snows. Unfortunately, the destruction of planet Earth can not be re-constructed by humans. Our only hope is to re-kindle our spiritual emotional relationship we share with Mother Earth so we feel the same concerns for our natural world, which we appear to have for human made iconic religious structures. This must be followed by a commit to carry out our stewardship responsibilities. Imagine what we could do for future generations if we had the spiritual and emotional concerns for the structure that truly supports life, Mother Earth. What changes and solutions could we initiate if we were willing to contribute the same financial resources to reduce the human adverse impacts currently destroying earth and our natural world? How do we re-establish the required emotional and spiritual relationship with Earth? Why do human made symbols become more sacred than the sustenance of life? The Bible begins by introducing us to the story of creation and our responsibilities for care-taking but, ends with the destiny of creation. It is our own species that will depend upon our willingness to establish our priorities and determine the true iconic shrine that deserves our emotional and spiritual focus. Success demands looking past our focus on individualism, to the power of relationships! Everything is connected and nothing is its self without everything else! The only difference between humans and the 10 million other organisms is the human soul, the ability to live a moral life, understand right from wrong and redeem our stewardship responsibilities! The future of our species depends upon us!
Domestication and Manipulation Impacts on the Natural World
Two weeks ago, I presented a message at church intended to alert people to the importance of the natural world and the necessity of re-establishing our sacred relationship with Mother Earth. The message started with the first book of the Bible, the story of creation and ended with the last book of the Bible, the destiny of creation. I have been troubled since with the inability or unwillingness of people to accept the devastating impacts we have had on the life sustaining elements found only in our natural surroundings. We have truly alienated ourselves from what has been labeled as “The Natural World.” With the aging of our society and the focus on individuality and the mechanization of our life style, nature has lost its reality and become almost a figment of our imagination. Something nice to talk about but not really anything to be concerned about. After all, earth belongs to us and we are the masters of the planet and everything on earth. I think about the few individuals that have been trying for the past decade to alert us, with little success, of the devastating demands we have been requiring from Mother Earth. It is apparent our 2020 election will intensify the debate over global warming and climate change, with several candidates already attempting to highlight these issues. Observing the raging debate within our Western society, resulted in my need to express how our attitudes and values effect our actions.
I began thinking that if we believe earth belongs to us and we are to take dominion over it and all lesser forms of life, then our highly developed intelligence can provide the opportunity to manipulate and change other species to meet our desires. It all started with early human efforts to domesticate a variety of plant and animal species to serve humans. Seemed like the right thing to do, after all they were simply lower parts of the food chain required for survival. Little did we know what domestication would lead to. Science and technology today, is just beginning to identify the positive and negative results of our historical domestication efforts. True, domestication has provided abundant supplies of grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts to feed the masses but are there adverse consequences? We are just beginning to learn that plants in the natural setting have a hidden life which allows them to communicate with other plants and animals plus care for and feed other adjacent plants. Domestication and row crop planting, destroys these natural social connections leaving the plant void of its hidden natural life systems. This is true of trees planted in plantations where all trees are the same species and age class. In addition to eliminating the plants social connections, we destroy the bio-diversity found in natural forest communities. We then exacerbate the problem by introducing non-indigenous species to increase growth rates or avoid disease problems. There are numerous examples of human manipulation by introducing non-indigenous species with devastating results. Here in Virginia, we have an excellent example of an introduced non-indigenous plant that is out of control, kudzu. Kudzu was brought to the southern states of American for soil stabilization in the 1800’s and has become a major problem as it chokes out other tree and plant species and can even completely cover houses and other buildings. This plant is so invasive it is frequently referred to as the “mile a minute vine.” Wild horses are another example of an introduced species able to expand their numbers thus requiring population control to prevent competition with domestic livestock and range land destruction. Observe what we have done to chickens by hatching and raising new chicks in incubators. Most hens today have lost their mother instincts and are unable to hatch and raise a brood of chicks.
Examples of our ingenious efforts to domesticate and manipulate plant and animal life are numerous and inevitably lead to disastrous impacts on our natural world. We believe our intelligence is so advanced, we now are attempting to genetically alter several different species of plants and even animals. Vegetables are being altered to improve their appearance and increase storage life. I no longer recognize the variety of apples in the stores and tomatoes are brighter colored and the skins are so tough you have to peel them. Wheat has been altered to increase production, resulting in the medical field reporting the inability of the humans to digest modern day wheat and being the major cause of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Our advanced ingenuity has brought many interesting changes but what adverse impacts have occurred to our natural world? Has the natural world become so abstract, we are no longer capable of comprehending our human impacts on Mother Earth and the future of human life? The industrial revolution and advance scientific knowledge has flourished over the past 200 years but, what does the future hold?
FINDING SOLUTIONS TO COMPLEX PROBLEMS
We are continuously being bombarded with opinions over global warming and climate change. Seems to be two of the top issues for debate in the media today. Science continues to provide data supporting the gradual warming of our atmosphere and there are reports, almost daily, of severe weather conditions which are more prevalent than we can remember in our past. Even with the volumes of advanced scientific knowledge and technology, which has allowed us to measure changing conditions, the debate seems to intensify whether climate conditions actually are changing and if so, why? The next looming question is; if these adverse changes are occurring, can we do anything about it? This question highlights one of the major reasons why there is little desire to find solutions to these issues. No matter how hard we search, any effort to protect the natural world requires significant changes in our life styles. It will result in economic changes in the global economy and profitability for our corporate world. Deniers of global warming and climate change are deeply involved in the debate to protect their profitability rather than worry about prolonging life systems on our planet. To many of the environmental groups, organizations and individuals take extreme positions following the concepts of “Preservation”, as defined by John Muir, which would require unacceptable changes in life styles for the world’s population. Preservation may have had merit 100 years ago, but with 7.5 billion people now occupying planet earth, it is no longer feasible and our options have become more limited.
I believe the biggest reason the debate continues to expand is the two concerns involved are the results, not the problem. You must first define the problem and gain acceptance by the public if you hope to find solutions. The defining problems in this case are population expansion and deforestation. Both of these problems are on a course to continually expand if we fail to implement solutions soon. There are no new lands to discover and the demands we have placed on the existing land base in the past, has resulted in devastating impacts upon our natural world. Industrialization is continuing to accelerate the damage to Mother Earth. The U.S. Census Bureau has predicted an increase in world population of 2.5 BILLION people in just 30 years. The rate of deforestation is projected to accelerate as the demand for agricultural lands increases and urbanization continues to demand more land for homes and skyscrapers. How long can we ignore the reality of the destiny of creation before it is too late? Confirming population statistics is simple and modern technology provides easy access to the facts that define our remaining forest cover. It is time to stop debating the null alternative and focus on the two looming problems the people of Earth are faced with! Individualism must give way to a strong concern for the community, so together we can find the path to a more desirable future. Our political leaders have lost their way and are unable to see the vision our founding fathers had when they established this egalitarian democratic system of government, for and by the people! The first step is to define, present and gain acceptance of the two over-whelming problems - population expansion and deforestation! Only then can we join together to identify acceptable and meaningful solutions that will provide the path for future generations!
Our alienation with the natural world has resulted in it becoming an obscure thought in the back of our minds that receives little, in any, consideration of the important role it plays in all life systems. We are infatuated with our mechanical society that provides our daily needs and pleasures, but it is incapable of fulfilling our human life sustaining requirements. Earth does not belong to us and the natural world is an undeniable reality that demands stewardship and care by humanity! The story of Creation is magical, but without human stewardship and care-taking, Revelations presents the story of the destiny of Creation.