Fruit Flies in a Bottle
September 09, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- Place a few fruit flies in a bottle with a layer of honey at the bottom, and they will quickly multiply to an enormous number, and then, just as quickly, die off to the very last, poisoned by their wastes. Similarly, add a few yeast cells to grape juice, seal the bottle, and the cells will consume the sugar and turn it into alcohol. When the alcohol rises to 12.5% it will kill off all the yeast, and the wine will be ready for the table.
Finally, consider Easter Island. When Polynesian explorers discovered and colonized Easter Island at about 900 AD, they arrived at an island that was fully forested, with huge trees that supplied essential resources for canoes, houses, food, fuel, ropes and textiles. With these resources, the islanders built more than eight-hundred stone statues (moai) for which Easter Island is famous. When the first Europeans arrived in 1722, they found a barren island totally devoid of trees. The peak population of this sixty-six square mile island is estimated to have been as much as thirty thousand. In 1872, only one hundred and eleven native islanders remained. (Diamond). Could the Easter Islanders foresee the consequences of the destruction of their forests? If not, then why not? If so, why did they not act to protect this essential resource before it was too late?
When we look back in time, we find numerous examples such as these of a collective failure of societies to anticipate and deal with oncoming emergencies. With 20/20 hindsight, we look back and wonder: How could they not have seen what was in store for them?
And finally, a little-noticed news report that should scare the bejesus out of all of us: Canadian scientists have discovered that the population of oceanic phytoplankton has dropped by 40 percent since 1950 and continues to drop at a rate of about one percent per year. This fact just might foretell a catastrophe even greater than global warming which, as it happens, may be the primary cause of this phenomenon.
Are we, like the fruit flies in the bottle, predestined to meet a horrible fate due to forces beyond our control – beyond our control because we cannot overcome the blind economic interests which dominate our political processes and which own the mass media that misinforms the public?
Jared Diamond’s book, Collapse, is a monumental study of how societies from around the world – in Easter Island, in Pre-Columbian Central and North American, in Greenland – are demolished by the heedless destruction of the sustaining environment. And yet, in the final page of this book, Diamond closes on a hopeful note: “we have the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of distant peoples and past peoples. That’s an opportunity that no past society enjoyed to such a degree.”
A few corporate public relations geniuses with limitless budgets have convinced large portions of the American public that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was in league with al Qaeda, that their president was foreign-born and is a practicing Muslim, and that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by a vast conspiracy of climate scientists with motives still unknown. Now these same geniuses have taken on the task of convincing us that the solutions to our energy, economic and environmental problems are to continue the policies that created these crises in the first place.
The task before us is momentous, and the outcome is uncertain. Quite frankly, I am inclined to agree with the pessimists that humanity is about to enter into dreadful and prolonged dark age.
Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers". His e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Copyright 2010 by Ernest Partridge