Exceeding the carrying capacity of my brain

Warning: this post is a total downer. You may want to avert your eyes, lest your illusions be shattered.

  • Synergy is the term used to describe a situation where different entities cooperate advantageously for a final outcome. Simply defined, it means that the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts.
  • It’s better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). Or, it’s better to give more than you take.
  • The Golden Rule is also known as the ethic of reciprocity, which basically says, “Do to others what you would like them to do to you.” And there’s a corollary known as the Silver Rule, which is essentially, “Do no harm.”
  • An ecosystem is a system of interdependent organisms which share the same habitat, in an area functioning together with all of the physical (abiotic) factors of the environment. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecosystem

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
–Martin Luther King, Jr.

A while ago I watched a movie by author Michael Pollan, called The Botany of Desire, in which he described ways in which humankind is woven into the fabric of nature. This is in opposition to the often unspoken, but widely held view that humans have mastered much of nature. That we have deciphered DNA and bend the genetics of plants and animals to our will. Pollan described how the seeds of plants have used humans in much the same way pollen uses bees. We move seeds around to their ideal environments, and we select our favorite outcomes of those seeds and seek to generate more. The seeds aren’t sentient, of course, but it would also be silly to imagine that plants don’t seek to thrive. Humans, willingly or otherwise, have helped plants thrive. This was a wonderful eye opener for me.

Around the same time I’d been reading a book called ‘What We Leave Behind’ by Derrick Jensen. Another eye opener. Jensen is (I assume) an anarchist. He’d like to see our dominant culture destroyed and in it’s place have many, many smaller cultures arise. These smaller cultures would be sustainable–that is, they would be able to continue existing indefinitely. This is in stark contrast to our dominant culture today which, by nearly any measure, is unsustainable. Jensen’s work is tremendously thought provoking, and alternately encouraging and utterly grim. Lots more that I can’t fit here.

I also recently read another book called ‘Eating Animals’, which is an interesting and engaging read by a talented author. It also shines a light on some pretty grim practices of industrial animal farming. Many of the individual anecdotes about industrial animal farming are revolting, to be sure. But the thing that sticks in my mind is that once again we’re breaking something into its parts and ignoring the ways in which we’re destroying the true Whole. We look at a chicken and wonder how we can make it grow more meat. And we figure it out. But other parts break (like bones). But the bones aren’t important to us, the meat is important. So we ignore the broken bones and say, “But we’re feeding the world!” And we ignore the reality of the sum of the tremendous suffering inherent in billions of (bird) lives under our care.

And I read about the gyres in the ocean. Ghost nets that never stop killing marine life. Plastic bags that choke marine life. Collapsing fish stocks because of overfishing. The decimation of sea horse populations because of shrimp farming. Tiny bits of plastic found in the tiniest sea creatures, which works its way back up the food chain until a human mother delivers that tiny bit of plastic to her nursing child. And on and on. Your great-grandparents didn’t walk around with plastic in their cells, but you do.

One out of every three honeybee colonies is dying out (in the U.S.). Honeybees seem more like an amusement than a critical part of the ecosystem we live in, but the fact is that they jumpstart 1/3 of the food we eat in the U.S., either by honey production or pollination. When bees suffer, everyone suffers.

We’re all running around buying hybrid cars, and taking shorter showers so we can save the planet from burning up. Glaciers are melting (also) at an unheard of rate. Ocean levels are rising. Yes, the temperature of the earth’s climate does naturally rise and fall. But it doesn’t, and never has, risen this high this quickly. And, despite what we’re told, the greenhouse gas production by folks like you and I account for only a fraction of the total. Those short showers aren’t helping. The real culprit is (surprise) industrial animal farming.

I read a book a few years ago called ‘The Tipping Point’ by Malcolm Gladwell, where he makes the case for exponential expansion/growth/popularity because of a few mitigating factors. Once something “tips”, it’s near impossible to reverse. I figure we’ve probably tipped the earth, and I’m pessimistic that we can put it back the way we found it. And I’m pretty sure that whatever happens next is going to hurt.

All that to say that there’s a lot popping around in the old gourd lately. I’d like to synthesize it, but I’m not sure my writing and thinking skills are up to the task. Maybe I’ll just take it one step and one post at a time, and see where it leads.

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