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We are a faithful people, we Americans. Steadfast.
I’m not suggesting that we are an overly religious society in our faithfulness, though plenty of folks believe in a God of some sort, a higher power, the Boss. The Boss that’s entrusted mankind to care for this blue-green ball of life we call Earth. The Boss that couldn’t care less what we do with it since we have free will and can play with the devil all we want.
No, we are faithful and steadfast in our ability to ignore the obvious and still call things A-OK as another generation of bugs figures out how to survive the pesticide, as we applaud our agricultural method that is helping make us fat and prone to cancers and ailments and rely on addictive computer-based technologies that will eventually render us dumb as cows.
We are faithful that our big brains can get us out of any mess, even though small children ask the simple questions that get to the point.
“Grandpa, why would someone put poison on their food and in the air.”
There is no answer for such simple curiosity. When we travel along past a cornfield and the little children want some corn on the cob to eat and I explain you can’t just run out and grab a few ears and boil it up and eat it, once again, the little children ask why we would grow something you can’t eat.
I could explain a bit about the industrial food trap American agriculture has fallen into but it wouldn’t get very far with my audience. They will learn the answers soon enough. I will get on my soapbox in due time.
It comes back to that faithfulness, that steadfast ability to believe that we’re so smart that we’ve figured it out, that we’ve wrapped life up in a tidy bundle built around the myths and misconceptions about our place in this world. We’ve already begun to solve the problem of climate change, don’t you know, by simply shifting our attention from one fossil fuel to another through the wonder of fracking, shifting from dirty coal to clean natural gas via the wonder of pumping water and chemicals deep into the ground. Forget the sun and wind, those are too cumbersome. We’ll just work on a problem by creating several more problems, problems we’ll start to solve another day as the problems add up, larger than the sum of all their parts.
So, we’ve managed to start filling up the very finite amount of atmosphere with our industriousness and the ensuing gases in our drive for a better, more convenient, life. That such a notion might actually take place isn’t a wild guess. For quite some time, a century at least, we’ve understood that we live in a finite bubble of friendly gases that allow us to breathe and plants to grow. Stood on end, that finite breathable space stretches about five miles directly above our heads. Five miles isn’t too far when you consider filling up that space with 200 years of the Industrial Revolution.
Buoyed by our faithfulness and steadfastness we’ve figured out other ways to poison our living space by spending the last half century looking toward a nuclear future even though we just haven’t quite figured out how to deal with the most toxic waste we can come up with. You see, once again, we dove right in because we figured our big brains would solve the problem before the problem began to split like atoms and we wouldn’t have to wait the four or five billion years for the sun to swallow us up.
I can’t begin to explain that one to the little children.
So, we’ve managed to kill the soil with anhydrous ammonia fertilizers and create a food system that features poor nutritional choices with outcomes of poor health and polluted groundwater. We’ve signed on to a nuclear future that we can’t solve in any other way other than to bury the waste in a landfill that will have to last a million years or so. We will continue to extract far more from the planet than we could ever dream about replacing or replenishing, given the fact that a diminishing point will arrive sometime in history.
But we are faithful and steadfast in our beliefs that we won’t kill ourselves off by environmental catastrophe or just another war that gets a bit too much out of hand. We are faithful and steadfast in the notion that we can use our big brains to at least lessen the pain and give us just a little more time to cure what ails us before we go ahead and change the way we do things. We certainly fear changing how we do things, even as that guides us toward a warming climate and keeps killing us by what we grow and eat via industrial and chemical methodology. We are faithful and steadfast that we have done it right and we know there will be a few glitches along the way, there always are, but we’re pretty darn smart to invent all the things we have so far, like Dick Tracy’s wristwatch and a car that drives itself and everybody knows that things can get messy along the way but we don’t give up and we don’t change how we do things.
That’s what having a big brain and uncharted hubris is all about.