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'So polluted has our planet become that a 10th Century person, would asphyxiate simply trying to breathe'

David Rutherford - wonders at our hyprocrisy over meat and the environment

It's a great country isn't it? A nation of animal lovers us! First we feed the animals to the animals, to increase size and productivity, and the buggers go and get BSE. Then we pack them onto our farms, to maximize returns, albeit with frequent trips around the country, and the buggers go and get foot & mouth. All this because we want cheap food. The reality, as many of us know, is that much of our herd would survive foot and mouth, it's just they are not as economically viable as bantamweights, big is better, well at least to those who trade in flesh anyway.

Growing up in the countryside, I was often reminded that there would be no sheep & cattle in the fields unless we ate them, they by insinuation serving no other purpose. Perhaps the empty fields of Devon and Cumbria bring an ironic truth to that sentiment.
Given our recent track record on animal welfare, don't you find the Daily Mail's attitude to the cat eaters of the Far East a little hypocritical? They who hold open market with crates of cats, ready to fricassee for your delectation, surely one man's cat supper, is our chicken tonight!
What is clear is that nature is telling us that what we are doing at present is incorrect and unsustainable, which is just as well, as we ourselves seem unable to reach that conclusion unaided. Perhaps now is the time for the human rights bill to be extended to cover all our domesticated livestock, and insist on a carcass trade rather than the live trade that currently exists.

The last century whilst harboring many notable achievements, has been bought at a terrible cost to our precious and unique planet. This blue jewel that stands out so proudly in the barren expanse of space, hosting a multitude of different life forms, unrivalled throughout our galaxy is struggling under the weight of those achievements. The Industrial revolution has poisoned our atmosphere, perhaps irreversibly, and still countless millions have yet to join the revolution and still live a hand to mouth existence. The seas have been plundered of their bounty; our own North Sea is now almost totally devoid of Cod. The scale of commercial flight must be contributing to upper level atmospheric pollution, yet demand for these services is set to explode in the coming decades. Indeed how much damage has space travel caused with its continual puncturing of our atmosphere? Wars have ravaged the planet, killing millions of us, but no doubt billions of our flora and fauna - who knows the long term effects yet to emerge due to nuclear, chemical & biological weapons that have been used and tested for the past 30 - 40 years?

Despite all that, we send out messages into deep space proclaiming our peaceful good intentions. Seriously would any intelligent species take us at face value, when we cannot even trust each other? It would seem far more sensible for interstellar travelers to mark our planet as a biohazard on their star charts. So polluted has our planet become that a 10th Century person, would asphyxiate simply trying to breathe, each lung full merely speeding their inevitable demise.

It was Aristotle I believe who said, "the earth is the cradle of civilization, but all children must leave the cradle", the truth we must now face is whether such a bad tempered, abusive and infectious child warrants that opportunity, or will the cradle simply rot before the opportunity arises?

Set against those admittedly bleak thoughts, I am minded to recall the words of John Lennon's "Imagine", why is it that he & those like him are painted by society as dreamers? It is a sad reflection on all of us that we listen, empathize, yet do not act. No doubt we will continue to act in this manner until it is truly too late and the mad scramble for lottery tickets begins to leave this cradle forever. You just know that the Lennon's of this world who can see a better way, will not get places - no we will once again entrust our future to the politicians, military, scientists and all the others who got us into the mess in the first place.

Perhaps we should let them go or insist that they do, leaving us to take our chances, Listen to nature and work within its parameters rather than forcing those parameters further and further apart until they will stretch no more. I am not an avid follower of things religious, but have often wondered by in the Bible, God did not want Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. It seemed to be such a ridiculous notion, yet as every day passes and the papers headline crisis after crisis, it seems less so. Perhaps God was aware of our potential and propensity toward self-damage, after all ‘Knowledge is power and power they say corrupts’.

In light of that perhaps the words whilst restrictive were there only to protect us from ourselves, but as we all know Adam bit the apple and the rest is history. So here we are today, entrusting more and more of our daily lives and long term future to yet more technology. We all briefly pondered the ramifications of this reality at the turn of the millennium and then forgot even quicker when the millennium bug didn't bite. However last year, vast areas of Canada were plunged into darkness by a solar storm that knocked out the computers.

NASA now has contingency plans to turn off many of its satellites next time a similar event is forecast, that's right forecast. There is now a special team who studies solar activity who can alert the authorities of likely problems. The reality of course is that the Earth has always been subject to such storms, they cause the "Northern lights" amongst other things, it's just that our increasing reliance on technology means that a once beautiful phenomenon, is now a potential hazzard.

I mention it only because it is another example of us trying to stretch the parameters in which we must work. We never seem to know when enough is enough, whether it's trying to get our animals bigger than nature intended to the rush to convert to technology without truly thinking, what happens when they all go down. Perhaps if we all lived to be a thousand, we might think longer about what we do and how we do it, for now it seems we only have the horrors of BSE and Foot and Mouth to tell us that we need an urgent re-think on where we are going.

© David Rutherford 2001

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