Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day 2009: Don't Stop Breathing to Save Earth

Today's news has quite a few articles about how America's president is saving the Earth.

I realize that there have to be rules about what we do with trash. Decades ago, I read that paleontologists and archeologists use trash heaps and garbage dumps to learn about how people live: and that just about everybody has had a place where junk is put. So, environmental regulations of some kind are thousands of years old.

I remember the first Earth Day, back in 1970. A green flag flew over the campus, and there was a groovy vibe to saving Earth from The Man.

I didn't change my lifestyle all that much, though. My parents had grown up in the Great Depression, so recycling and avoiding waste were habits I wasn't even aware I had: until I saw how much my contemporaries threw away.

Earth's a Tough Old Mother

"Mother Nature" has been portrayed many ways. One of my favorites is the version played by Dena Dietrich in the 1970s Chiffon margarine commercials: "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature."

I get the impression that some of the more enthusiastic environmentalists see her as a sort of ancient 1920s flapper: all big eyes and scrawny legs. A helpless damsel who needs constant rescuing.

If life on Earth were like that frail waif, we wouldn't be here now.
Our Debatably Dependable Sun
Earth circles a slightly variable star. The most obvious change over time is the sunspot cycle that affects the auroras and the ionosphere, and makes life interesting for people who maintain radio communications.

We still, as far as I know, don't know why the Maunder Minimum happened - so it's possible that there's still more to learn about the sun and its cycles.
Occasional Ice Ages
For whatever reason, Earth goes through ice ages at not-exactly-regular intervals. Six of them were big ones. We may be in the 6th now: It was a 'known fact' that we were headed for another glacial period when I was growing up, but fashions have changed.

Whatever point we're at in Earth's big freezes now, it's not as bad as the cold period that started around 800,000,000 years ago. Glaciers got to within 15 degrees of Earth's equator that time.
Asteroid Impacts Now and Again
Then there are the occasional asteroid and comet hits: the last big one may have wiped out the dinosaurs and made room for us.
And Yet, Life is Still Here
From my point of view, Mother Nature seems to have more in common with Queen Boudicca than a 1920s flapper: all big eyes and narrow legs, like Clara Bow. This isn't a value judgement: Clara Bow had a successful film career. On the other hand, Queen Boudicca left a deep impression on the Romans of her day. Figuratively and literally.

I'm Not Worried About Earth and Nature: But I Live Sensibly

I don't have quite the faith in Man And His Technology that many people do. The idea that "now we are in control of the forces of nature" wears a little thin when set up against something like the Mt. St. Hellens eruption. And that was a hiccup compared to Earth's more noticeable volcanic events: like the last eruption of the Yellowstone caldera, that covered about 2/3 of today's 48 contiguous states with ash. Then there was the Mount Toba event that may have come close to wiping out humanity.

I think that getting lead out of gasoline is a good idea, and that it makes good sense on several levels to buy what you need, and recognize everything beyond that as luxury. My household uses water and power in moderation - for financial reasons if nothing else - and we recycle.

But that doesn't mean that I'm going to go crazy over whatever today's intellectual fashion dictates.

Related posts More at
  • "Glacier"
    Encyclopedia of Earth
  • "Fossile Mysteries"
    San Diego Natural History Museum
    • Timeline of Earth's most recent 2,500,000,000,years

4 comments:

Brigid said...

"In life on Earth"

I think you meant "if" there. ^_^

"lead of gasoline" Is there a word missing here?

Anyway, cool article. Yes, live smart, but don't go all freaky hippie.

And your description of the environmentalist's vision of Mother Nature... ew.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Brigid,

Oops. Found and fixed. That's a couple of examples why a people shouldn't proof their own work.

And, thanks. Not all environmentalists are the same, of course. Sadly, there's a lunatic fringe that's doing no favors to their cause.

Mike's Air Conditioning said...

Using the solar and the other alternative energies are a very good way to make the earth a better place.This is all very good discussion to inspire one and all to look after the earth.

Brian Gill said...

Mike's Air Conditioning,

Thanks.

Everybody else, Mike's Air Conditioning serves the New York City metropolitan area - which is a surprisingly small fraction of America. ;)

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