Thursday, June 10, 2010

Who's ruining the planet?

In a recent article which examined the impact of different countries on our environment, the countries were ranked according to their relative and absolute impacts in various environmental categories, which included: natural forest loss, fertilizer use, water pollution, and threat to animal species.

Because of my travels to some very poor countries, I have had my eyes opened to different ways humans live resulting in different impacts on the earth and on our fellow travelers-the other animals.  I've seen people living in ways that represent much less abuse of earth's resources and much more respect to the ecosystems which sustain life and keep us healthy.  These observations coupled with my studies of the beautiful organization and synergistic workings of the human body have made me very interested in the organization and cohesive workings of the earth's ecosystems as parts of a whole.

Just like within the body, the whole is healthy when all of its parts are healthy and working together the way they were designed to.  When certain parts are no longer bearing their load or become sick, the organism as a whole begins to break down.  This is true from the cell, to an organ like the liver, to the human body as a whole, to the society as a whole, to the earth as a whole.  Each larger organization is dependent on the health of the smaller parts, and anything that affects those smaller parts also affects the whole.

In light of my experience with other populations of the world, I'm always curious to see how America stacks up when it comes to our impact.  I'm not being critical when I say this next sentence, I'm just calling like I see it: 

In my opinion, Americans tend to have a very narrow understanding of global cultures and don't understand that the way we do things here is very different from the way all other humans live and have lived.  This includes everything from the way we sit on a toilet to mall shopping. 

I'm not making judgement about the way we do things, I am however saying that we tend to have quite different values and place our money on very different priorities compared to the rest of the world.

So in answering the question of this blog post "Who's ruining the planet?" I must say that fortunately, America didn't come in first. Unfortunately that honor was left to Brazil which is destroying the lungs of the earth (the rainforest) so fast that we were pushed to a close 2nd place. I'm not feeling so proud to be an American at this moment.

Table 7. Ten worst- and best-ranked countries by individual absolute environmental metrics: natural forest loss (NFL), natural habitat conversion (HBC), marine captures (MC), fertilizer use (FER), water pollution (WTP), total threatened species (THR), and carbon emissions (CO2).

If you can make out the above chart, you can see that America received the rank it did mostly because we use more chemical fertilizers than anyone else.  These fertilizers have been shown to seep into the soil and to contaminate our drinking water sickening and killing not only animals but our children and ourselves as well (have you heard of "blue baby" alerts, here is a door-hanger alert from the government).
When thinking about the fertilizers, I can't help but turn my thoughts to the corn and soy fields of the Midwest which continue to be subsidized by tax dollars so that we can support our addictions. Addictions to what you ask?  Why, firstly to diseased cattle and chickens which are turned into hamburgers, hotdogs, and "nuggets" which make up too many American fast food meals. And secondly to the corn sweeteners which help to plump our little ones. These corn sweeteners are in a very high percentage of processed "foods" from ketchup to fruit drinks, sodas to candy. Is it any wonder why the top diseases killing most Americans are Heart Disease, Cancer, Type II Diabetes, Obesity, and Strokes?

Please understand that I am not being critical of Americans for this, for it is our lack of understanding that allows us to be in the current situation, but I wouldn't be doing my duty as an American if I didn't let you know that the current epidemics of chronic health issues are not normal.  The question we must ask ourselves is:  As far as the earth goes, what do we want to leave to our children? 

As a Boy Scout, I was always taught to "leave it better than you found it" and I can't help but wonder if there's any chance of doing that with the planet as a whole.  If we continue to do what we've done for the last 30 years, the answer will be "no" and our children's health will continue to decline and disease will become even more "normal". 

But there is hope!  

As they say, recognizing the problem is the first step.  And once we've identified a problem, we can work towards solutions.  There will be many articles to come on this blog about solutions because as I see it, the only way for we as humans to be healthy is to clean this place up, and I believe we can do it. 

The movement has already started. 

And when I look at my kids and know that if we don't do something they have no chance, I get the motivation to spread the word about how we can have a mutually beneficial relationship with the earth rather than a parasitic one.