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The International Writers Magazine:Environment

Eve of Destruction, my friend
James Skinner
Man is the only animal that trips over the same stone twice, or a dozen times!

It’s been a while since I’ve written something philosophical. I used to be a practical person that looked towards logical, historical or technical explanations to issues that could challenge the problems of the world before I put pen to paper. Most of my essays have tried to incorporate research and findings relying on fact with the odd fictional or comical overtone to spice the content.

Not anymore.
‘The older one gets the wiser one becomes’ is an old and worn out 33"record that no longer applies. My experience has been passed over by the speed of today’s changes. The Indian fathers of the Far West could pass on their wisdom to their offspring based on their own father’s advice. Once again I say, ‘not anymore.’ The 7th cavalry took care of that. They killed them off or put them in ‘reservations’ and replaced them with the modern age of industrialisation. Automation took over that sent a great message to the world: ‘Goodbye nature, cement is here to stay!’

During my usual session of ‘zapping’ through the vast array of television channels that now bombard my screen I happened to come upon one on the National Geographic channel that was, as usual harping on about the destruction of the planet. Nothing new, as most of the journalists that are out and about roaming through hundreds of forgotten or unknown zones of the world looking for samples of human destruction are constantly reminding us of this scary issue.
But then one scene in particular struck a cord. The commentator was trekking through one of the wonderful Redwood forests in the State Parks of California and was pointing out one particular sample that was not only 10 feet in diameter and 100 feet tall, but was meant to be over 2000 years old! Even Jesus Christ hadn’t been born!

But what was frightening was the aftermath of his description which simply ended, ‘…and over 95% of the redwood trees in the world have been destroyed!’ The rest of the program was on about the disappearance of other species of flora and fauna.

The message I got from this program went beyond the known fact that we are screwing up the planet. I thought once again about the wisdom of the elder Indian that was picked up by the younger one and how this particular transmission of experience that died 150 years ago is now the key to Mother Nature saying finally, ‘I’ve had enough!’
You know the saying, ‘man is the only animal that trips over the same stone twice, or a dozen times!’, but how did this phrase come about? What coined it? It certainly didn’t apply to the Sioux, or the Cherokees! They looked after the very land that fed them. That is, until the white man turned up!

Where is this philosophical trend taking me? Let’s see; how about reverting to man’s life span?

I’ve been on about this before. Based on today’s statistics we live for about eighty years, barring the odd sudden death due to accident or illness. Yet our contribution to society as well as the planet is only around 50% of our lifespan. The first twenty are spent learning and the last twenty hibernating somewhere reaping the fruits of our so called ‘saved earnings’. Tragedy is that those first twenty are virtually useless as society doesn’t give a fig whilst one is in the learning mode. Come retirement stage, and although one is much older than a Sioux Chief in earlier history, the reverse has taken place and once again no one gives a damn despite the knowledge and experience gained over the last forty years.

What’s this got to do with our planet? Everything! Our short stay on earth is the very cause of our continuing destruction of the natural habitat in which we live. Although society could foresee the future it was reluctant to enforce real long term change. In other words, we live for our immediate gains and comfort and continue to develop more means to better our standard of living; that is, whilst we’re still alive! Again I say, ‘not anymore!’

Going back to the Industrial Revolution of the mid XIX century, man discovered a new source of energy that was to transform humanity. Coal! The beginning of the ‘Coal Age’ opened a new world of transport that was mechanical and no longer powered by nature. The steam engine was invented and with it the railway and steam propelled ships. Up until then, humans had used fauna such as horses, camels or ostriches and wood retrieved from flora to build boats, chariots or carriages to move around the planet. Although they used their superior intelligence to build cities and civilizations travel limitations ensured that ‘Mother Nature’ was not upset. Both fauna and flora were replaceable; coal was not!

So began the long road to destruction that we are now faced with. Coal was not only used to fuel transport. The energetic power derived from this basic source was the platform that allowed man to leap to even greater advances of civilisation and ‘modernisation’.

Hey James, you’ve forgotten about natural gas!

True; the Greeks and the Persians had discovered natural gas centuries ago and used it to illuminate their homes. Without going into the background of this energy source, suffice to say that as a parallel to the advances in mechanical transport technology, natural gas took over from candles and the like for illumination. Networks were built to light up the cities in Europe and America, although they were eventually substituted by a new form of energy called electricity. But here comes the crunch!

Railways and ships needed coal. Electricity generators also needed coal. Scientists and engineers around the world found trillions of tons of this precious fossil rock with deposits in practically every corner of the planet. Huge pockets of natural gas were also discovered. Both source and user came together and whilst the former grew and grew, the latter diminished and diminished; very slowly, but still diminished. One hundred and fifty years ago the gap between what ‘man’ had available as a source of energy versus what he needed emerged and began to grow!
The best, however is yet to come! Oil!

Despite the knowledge of the powers of petroleum that could be used to produce kerosene since the mid eighteen hundreds and several attempts were made to develop a method of transport using this powerful liquid as fuel, the successful development of the internal combustion engine became of age at around the turn of the century. The automobile or horseless carriage was finally invented. When Henry Ford established a factory to mass produce the monster, the gas guzzling age began and the world has never looked back.

Although the Wright brothers kicked off the era of flying using kerosene fuelled engines, the naval industry continued to build coal fired ships. The Titanic that sank in 1912 was one of them. However, as time went by, better refined fuel turned the corner and soon the planet became infested with ships that no longer had an SS (steam ship) before their names but an MV (motor vessel). Similarly as countries became more industrialised, cities grew, factories increased, infrastructure expanded, housing modernised and the whole of the XX century civilisation looked up to the mighty God called ‘Oil’ for its energy source. Although hydroelectric plants, nuclear power and alternatives were developed, oil continued to dominate the world. Ah! But there is a catch.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch the suppliers of the world’s oil were not in the rich developing countries. It so happens that the Almighty played a dirty trick and placed the oil fields in what have come to be today’s international trouble spots. America and Europe were until now the main consumers whilst the Middle East was and still is the main supplier. China and India are rapidly following suit to outpace the present ‘first come, first served’ clients. But they too are not rich in underground petroleum fields.

Back to philosophy and introduction of climate change!
It is now finally recognised that mankind, because of all the burning off of ‘oil’ has been pumping crap into the atmosphere for years and caused havoc with the world’s climate. In the meantime, the suppliers have turned into greedy bankers and what is worse some of them have an inbuilt army of terrorists hostile to the major users that are hell bent in blowing the world to smithereens. There is no doubt that this entire unstable scenario is affecting and will affect the economics of the world. The future is incredibly uncertain and although there are many venues open to seek a resolution I go back to man’s lifespan. If we wish to revert to a level of stability reducing oil consumption and hence energy it will take decades if not centuries. How can the world backtrack without sacrificing two or three generations?
Has Mother Nature played a dirty trick on all of us for screwing up her garden?
© James G. Skinner. May 2008.>

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