June 16, 2009 – Time after time, I read about an environmental problem and realize that its severity is directly related to the fact that the Earth has surpassed its carrying capacity. How many times have you read, or heard, that something was a problem because there was too much of it?
For instance, think of the last time you called your doctor’s office to find out the results of a test. You call, you are put on hold or you must select a service from a menu, you are transferred, you leave a message, no one calls back. The reason you are never called back is because your doctor is seeing too many patients, and cannot give you the level of service she would like to give.
Picture your commute to work. You only live twelve miles from work, yet your commute takes a half-hour, sometimes longer. That, of course, is because you are sharing the road with too many other cars. If you leave late and are on the road the same time school buses are, your travel time doubles.
Your asthma started when you were in your twenties. Thirty years later, you take more medicine, stronger medicine, more often. Spring and fall are the worst, because of mold and pollen. But there is no longer an easy time of year, like there used to be. Air quality has worsened because of too much particulate matter in the air.
Watching the Olympics is always fun. You and your kids love watching the opening ceremonies, and the ice skating is always a show stopper. It turned out, though, that the big story this time wasn’t the athletes. This time, it was the air pollution. The pictures from Beijing were unbelievably awful; the air looked like pea soup! Doesn’t that affect their quality of life, you wondered? What can their life expectancy be over there, when they’re breathing all that pollution?
Two years ago, we were told that the North Pole had melted. Unlike the South Pole, the Arctic consists only of ice; there is no land underneath. Now, as the Arctic continues to warm, the pictures we see on the news of mother polar bears and their cubs are heartbreaking. They are sometimes stranded out in the Arctic Ocean, on an ice floe that becomes smaller and smaller. The temperatures are too high now, and their home is melting.
I’m not much of a photographer, but back when I was a real renegade, I called in sick one day. I loaded the camera bag in my car and went searching for pictures. It had been an exceptionally snowy winter, and everything shimmered in the sun. I managed to capture a wonderful image that day: old gray farm buildings, surrounded by bare-limbed trees, their starkness relieved by the beautiful white snow. Those farm buildings, like so many others, are gone now. Development swept them aside long ago. Too many people need too many homes and too many places to work.
On my walk with the dog this morning, I couldn’t help but notice the enormous pick up truck in front of my neighbor’s house. It was parked there because it’s too big to fit in his garage. That truck uses too much fuel and creates way too much pollution.
Ever notice how our sense of entitlement has grown? The “too-muchness” of it all means that we treat many possessions like junk, meant to be thrown away as soon as a prettier toy comes along. I’m not just talking about cell phones, either. Who knows how many televisions have gone into landfill because of the switch to digital reception? And the size of the new ones! Will people even bother to fix them when something goes wrong? Or will they, too, go into landfill?
Now ask yourself: Did any of these problems exist one hundred years ago? What has changed so dramatically that would have caused all of these problems to surface in just one hundred years? The answer is that all of these problems are caused by human beings, of which there are now too many in the world.