Monday, June 19, 2006

Scattered Thoughts on the Environment and Civilization

The kids and I went to see "An Inconvenient Truth" a week and a half ago, when it opened in Portland. I was amazed, first of all, that this movie-cized lecture held my kids' attention, and they really liked it. On one hand, we all really liked the movie and felt it brought out many very good points. But when it finished, especially while the credits were rolling and they had suggestions for how to reduce carbon dioxide in the environment like "ride your bike", I just felt like this thing didn't go nearly far enough. I suppose that for getting the word out that, indeed, global warming is really happening, here's the proof, it was a good thing. It's being shown in mainstream theaters, rather than indies like I've been frequenting (and indeed, I felt dirtied by the awful advertising before the movie) in order to get out the word to the mainstream America.

But I have to wonder if it'll prove to do more harm than good.

Because I don't believe this is something we can "fix" and go about our lives as usual.

Ever since I read the book _Ishmael_, and then _My Ishmael_, both by Daniel Quinn, I've seen things in a whole different way. I have to say that these are the most influential books I've read in my life. Not the Bible, though perhaps since I've grown up always hearing the Bible it's just part of the fabric of my life. These are books that address the myth that we're taught from childhood about our culture and civilization. What myth? You'll have to read the books to find out, because I cannot explain it anywhere near as well as Daniel Quinn.

I find myself at kind of a weird juncture in my thinking on the environment. I was just listening to NPR while kneading bread dough, and there was a story about an oyster farm in Alaska. They were talking about a bacteria normally only found far south of Alaska, so far south that the oyster farmers had never heard of it. But last year this bacteria was found to be the cause of lots of people getting sick, from eating oysters from Alaska that were tainted with it. How did the bacteria get into the oysters from Alaska? From the water warming--imperceptible unless you're measuring it and charting it. Global warming at work.

So, the weird juncture is the two different thought patterns in my head. One is the bent I have to try to help people so that we all can live a better life. Get rid of poverty, level the playing field. The other thought pattern is to think, perhaps global warming is just the earth's way of purging itself, killing off a good portion of human population, so that it can heal itself and start off fresh. If the civilizations of the world were devastated, global warming would certainly taper off and begin to right itself. We wouldn't have the infrastructure anymore to continue living the way we do now, and we'd be forced to live more simply. More hand-to-mouth. Maybe that would be a good thing. But it sure would be painful, on a world-wide level.

I suppose where my two diverging thought patterns converge is the thought that we can either change how we live ourselves, or it will be done for us. It's up to us to choose.

I see more and more how environment and human rights issues are all connected. How we can't just fix one small thing, or it'll just go right back to how it was before. This calls for a complete overhaul on the way we look at the world and ourselves.

Ah, if I could just get everyone to read one book, it'd be _Ishmael_!


Mimi said...

You raise good points, Presbytera. I agree with you that all should have a reasonable standard of living. And, that our consumption means that others are left without.

And, the damage to the environment may not be healable, Lord have Mercy.

Xenia Kathryn said...

yes, ditto on what Mimi said. It's difficult stuff to think about, but it should be considered nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

Right now, I am more concerned with all of the toxins that we introduce into our body through food, vaccines, household products and air borne ingrediants. I think the issue of toxins is far more pressing than the slower moving global warming. But, I believe you are too.
So, I do agree that riding a bike is no cure for a serious problem. Totally agree with you, though reading different materials, that our whole culture needs an overhaul! Ok, the whole world needs one too!

Anonymous said...

oops, forgot to leave a name...
eeks! did I not proof read!?
please change: But, I believe you are too. to: But, I believe that you are concerned with these same toxins too.

DebD said...

Wow! I thought I was the only Christian who had ever read Ishmael! Its been a while, and never read the 2nd book. Was it just as good?


Elizabeth said...

Deb--My Ishmael really builds on the ideas presented in Ishmael. It's tempting to think of it as more of a "children's" book, since the student is a teenager. And indeed we've encouraged Hibi to read it for that reason. But it goes into the concept of "locking up the food" that I think is the most memorable concept in a Daniel Quinn book, most fundamental.

I've recently read _The Holy_ by Quinn and I have to say, it is frankly weird. I'm currently reading _Beyond Civilization_ which is practical application for the first two books, and I really would not recommend anyone read it without reading the Ishmael books.

It's always cool to find people who have read the same books as you, and really enjoyed them too!

Libby--I don't think that toxins in the environment and toxins in our bodies are all that different. Some of the toxins are poisoning both of us, and if we lived more healthy, wholesome lives we'd be ridding ourselves of both. It's all connected. I was reading an article on organic vs. local foods recently, and it was saying that the pesticide residue on the big organics trucked hundreds of miles, and therefore using lots of fossil fuels, may not be all that different than the locally produced, conventional farming. I thought, yeah, but that's not even the main point of organics. It destroys biodiversity in the ecosystem in which it's used. That's huge! The fact that I'm also eating poison, and more importantly that farm workers are around a huge amount of poison (average age of death of farm workers=49) is enough to say to me that we need to do something different. So, I always look for local AND organic.

Elizabeth said...

Oh, BTW Deb--I visited your blog and enjoyed reading some of it. I'll check back now and then. I saw on your friend list the link to Lizabeth Davis--I've met her, and I used to be on the Orthwomen list (where I originally met her). We met in person at St. Nicholas Ranch, where we used to live, when she and her family came for a family camp weekend.

As for the Orthodox homeschool list....I was on it years ago but quit because it was, at that time anyway, mostly stuff about classical homeschooling and we are not classical homeschoolers, but unschoolers. Sometimes the two do mix, but it wasn't enough of interest to me at the time.

Elizabeth said...

I should be more clear, too, about my reaction to the movie--I think riding your bike is a very good step in the right direction--reduce the amount of driving you do, do more getting there on your own steam, etc. But for the first time talk of the solution to the problem to come up was the credits I thought was a bit lame. Maybe there needs to be a Part Two of the movie: the solution.

DebD said...

Well, now you've piqued my interest with _My Ishmael_, but I'll probably have to re-read the first one for it to sink in

Lizabeth is a wonderful person! I wish she had more time to blog because it always blesses me when she does. My dd has actually had the pleasure of meeting her too. She was out in CA visiting family last year and the Davis family kindly picked her up for DL.


DebD said...

I forgot to add ;) Thanks for visiting my blog - I love getting visitors!

As for the homeschool group. I think its a bit more ecclectic now - but still leans towards Classical approach (which I'm not into either). But, I've been able to glean some good info. on teaching my kids about Orthodoxy.


Hybee said...

Also, whenever it showed him travelling, it was in a car or on a plane. How environmental is that? (Hint: Take out the "environ" part of "environmental" and you are closer to the truth).