Some of the environmental discourses attributed to people are discussed briefly here.
Everything is connected to something else is a discourse that sometimes uses chaos theory to explain the unknown. If a butterfly in Africa flaps its wings a hurricane can develop in North America because of imperceptible vibrations that disrupt the atmosphere. Another way to look at the causes and effects of a system is to consider that some ecosystems are truly closed. A wave ripple in a pond reflects back into the same pond. On a larger scale an ecosystem’s borders can appear open. Harvesting every swordfish that can be caught swimming in the Gulf Stream does not seem to affect the species population in the waters around Hawaii but depletes the species along the Eastern coast of North America throughout the entire seasonal migration routes.
Prometheans, identified as people who trust the experts to fix things, can be considered correct on a large scale if “Mother Nature” or “God” can be considered the expert. Just as whaling was becoming a dying industry because we hunted them to the brink of extinction, petroleum deposits were harnessed to provide a substitute fuel for lamps and a tool for generating electricity. When all the breathing air is gone we could conceivably discover a new way to deliver oxygen to our bodies cells without the use of lung tissue. That reminds me of the old joke about a man climbing onto his porch roof when the flood came and refusing to get in the row-boat that tried to rescue him because God was going to take care of him. He also refused to get into the bigger boat that tried to rescue him when he had to climb to the house roof as the water rose. When the helicopter offered to rescue him as he clung to the chimney, he repeated that God would take care of him. At the pearly gates, he asked Peter why God let him down and was told that he was a darned fool because God had sent him two boats and a helicopter. We cannot just blindly trust that everything will work out alright. We need to be proactive and take responsibility for our actions.
It is a matter of perception whether engineering and market economics can become our environmental savior or just keep complicating and prolonging our downfall. Economic rationalism holds that private ownership will be the answer to protecting the environment. It is thought that pride in ownership and competition to keep up with the Jones’ will be incentive to clean up pollution. But can we really rely on the good intentions of corporations to have the welfare of non-shareholders in mind when initiating policy? Economic motivation of this type more often encourages us to pass the buck and export our problems to places that don’t matter to a board of directors. Rationalization is the basis of a NIMBY attitude after all. (Not In My Back Yard)
Ecological modernization uses adaptability to address environmental problems. If you manufacture of the best buggy whips in the world you may find yourself no longer part of the global economy. When the planet and its population change, you need to change with them.
Nature knows best may be the single most inappropriate argument for change ever used. Or is it a better argument for things to stay the same? I get confused. Putting up a dam to block a river is bad unless a beaver does it. Dredging a channel through a barrier island is wrong unless a hurricane does it. Starting a lot of little fires to protect the habitat of Scrub Jays keeps the ecosystem the way it is, which is a constant state of re-growth and change. We preserve Scrub Jay habitats because if we let nature have its way people would get displaced by marsh flooding and forest fires. On the other hand we preserve Scrub Jay habitats because if nature had its way the birds would get displaced by vegetation changes as the forest regenerated itself. Wait a minute. If nature had its way things would change and that’s a bad thing unless nature does it?
Not understanding a relationship of flora and fauna in an ecosystem should not be the basis for exerting man’s will to terraform the habitat for the benefit of a political action group.
In Jupiter, Florida the Army Corps of Engineers constructed a jetty system to keep the Jupiter Inlet open for navigable boat traffic. Within two years the inlet was completely closed off because of long-shore currents depositing tons of sand across what used to be an open but constantly shifting channel to the ocean between barrier islands. Today the same agency is poised to extend the South jetty of Ponce Inlet to stabilize boat traffic through the channel. The problem has many facets which are discussed at some length in an interview with Randy Richenberg of Save Smyrna Inlet on the web site: http://www.surfermag.com/features/oneworld/smyrnainletjetty/
For those unfamiliar with Florida, Ponce De Leon inlet often gets mistakenly referred to as New Smyrna inlet because of its proximity to that town.
The tide has to flow in and out of the inlet and the sand has to flow down the coast line. “Fish gotta swim, birds gotta eat”. The inlet has been closed by storms in the past and reopened by storms also in the past. That was in a time when there were not so many rich boat owners living in the area. Economic concerns get balanced by environmental unknowns. 40 miles to the South, Port Canaveral has built a lock to permanently close the inlet from disturbing the Canaveral National Seashore sanctuary. Opinions are mixed about what to do. Nature seems to keep changing what man has constructed to preserve nature. It is all quite discouraging.
The interconnectedness of earth, sea, and sky is easily observed, yet some people tend to ignore the consequences of their actions. Everything has to end up somewhere is just a simple fact, yet to a person that goes through life ignoring the actions and reactions surrounding them every moment to focus on buying the latest app for their phone or which restaurant to meet at after work, the phrase “out of sight – out of mind” becomes a comfortable habit. The cigarette butt that gets carelessly tossed from an open vehicle window and starts a grass fire can be explained away by the law of averages. If something only happens once out of twenty times, then it will probably not happen to yourself, even if you do it several hundred times because it is the other 6 billion people on the planet that bad things happen to, right?
Debbie on Should we alter or preserve ha…