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Two Related Rants

Bruce Driver

August 27, 2013

Category: Society > Government and Politics

Humans are lousy stewards of the planet

When we graduated from Yale, the human population of Planet Earth was 3.3 billion. Today it is about 7 billion. The United Nations forecasts that, by 2050, there will be over 9 billion of us inhabiting the planet. We act as if we can go on breeding with no adverse consequences for ourselves as well as the tens of millions of other species with which we share our only home.   

It is true that, in the U.S. and in other developed countries, we have learned how to control some of the environmental impacts of our existence. The air and water in the U.S. are better than they were fifty years ago, thanks to the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and other laws. But, even so, in the U.S. and in most other parts of the globe, we continue ruthlessly to develop land, push species to extinction, and foul the air with carbon pollution.

Some believe that we can rely on technology to save us from ourselves. Especially in the area of energy production, there is some hope, but this will only buy us time.   It will not address the fundamental problem, which is that there are too many of us consuming unsustainably.  

We have to go beyond technological fixes if we want to live in harmony with the planet. There needs to be a new spiritual basis of our existence, one that honors the Earth as a first principle.  

What might be the origin of a sustainable relationship with the planet? My sense is that it will not arise out of the world's existing religions or doctrines, with the possible exception of Buddhism, but will grow out of a broader realization of a better-educated world public of the consequences of staying on the track we're on. But whatever the origin, it must happen or the era of human domination of the planet will go down in history as immoral and short.

Beware today's Republican Party

When I graduated from Yale, I was apolitical. After law school, I was drawn to Washington, D.C. by an urge join the environmental movement. One of my first jobs was to work for the Republicans on the Environment Subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives. I had a catbird seat from which to watch the party start a slow, steady move to the right on the environment and many other issues. That movement continues today.

The Republican Party is now dominated by extremists who deny science, want to bring religion more forcefully into the public square, oppose birth control, want to put undocumenteds on southbound buses, eliminate environmental regulations, and starve the federal government so that "it can be drowned in a bathtub."

Republicans probably cannot win a national election anytime soon, given underlying demographics and their extreme positions. But they can take over the U.S. Senate in 2014. If you care about the planet and living sustainably, you don't want this.