Here’s a long but pretty good audio interview with Derrick Jensen asking Tom Horton about the death of Chesapeake Bay. Horton wrote about environmental issues for many years for the Baltimore Sun, a paper that is now pretty much a bad printed-out website. For some reason, though, I read it every day when I lived in Baltimore. I’ve heard it said that Luddites love their newspapers…
Even though I linked to it, I’ll admit that at first the interview is slightly boring, but then you remember that they’re nonchalantly talking about the end of life in the oceans. It picks up by the middle and end though, when Horton cites the collapse of the Soviet Empire and the ecological renaissance it provoked as the state apparatus was forced to wind back, adding “I don’t suggest empire collapse as the best solution for the Bay.” Of course Jensen, on the contrary, couldn’t disagree more.
Horton cites how effective dam removal is that restoring watersheds, though, which is more than most scientists, even the best intentioned ones, are willing to admit.
And speaking of scientists, the new governor of Maryland is doing what most newly elected officials are doing these days, which is rolling back any small—but significant—progress on the evidence-based ecological front in favor of a rejuvenated free-market populism. He’s now halting regulations that would prevent mega-agricultural runoff from spoiling said bay. This, only two weeks after the release of a report that ocean food-webs will soon collapse. The language is getting more direct:
“We are setting ourselves up in the oceans to replay the process of wildlife Armageddon that we engineered on land,” said Douglas McCauley of the University of California Santa Barbara’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, lead author of a report on the findings.
So good news all around, then.
I know that some doomer friends of mine root for collapse—and I myself am guilty of daydreaming about how much less we would care about spreadsheets and meetings and reports if our bank account suddenly disappeared or if we could no longer get sushi (gasp!)—but I don’t think it would have the effect that these friends desire. “Surely X tragedy will cause people to take notice!” they insist. For many, the XL pipeline would serve as the new line in the sand. But it’s obvious that “new line in the sand” connotes multiple lines in the sand—which defeats the purpose of each line.
If the past is any indication, no “benchmark” along the way to complete catastrophe is going to awaken the public, whatever that means—let alone incite any kind of meaningful action from the people who actually control the levers. In fact, with each announcement of this or that beloved species going extinct (there are only 3,000 or so tigers currently living), it’s more likely that we’ll see more (violent) support for the ideology that got us into this mess, at the expense of both mounting scientific data and a morality that gets less blurry by the hour.
Never mind that industrial capitalism has depleted every life-giving resource on this planet to the brink; what we need, above all, is entrepreneurship!
So in other words, buckle up because the majority of people are going deny more and more vehemently (and violently) that the problem exists precisely as the problem gets worse and more evident. Meanwhile, the elite will keep weaving dreams and conjuring spells. They probably know that without a living ocean they’ll die with the rest of us, but they also probably know that they’ll be the last to go, and in the meantime they have access to tuna stored in well-defended frozen vaults, for when tuna go extinct. Talk about externalities…