Friday, April 11, 2008

Dirt Cookies and Mental Meandering

It's not that I need a reason to get a poor night's sleep these, but last night it was dirt cookies that kept me awake. The link goes to an article about Haiti's poor surviving on "food" of yellow clay, salt and shortening. "Surviving" might be too strong of a word here. It kills hunger pangs and little more. Their small island can't sustain their population so they import much of their food and with rising costs due to fuel prices and items like corn now being used for biofuels, the basic staples are now out of reach for many.

All night long, I wondered what it would be like to eat dirt cookies. What if I was pregnant there? Here I worry about getting enough protein, fruits and vegetables. "I really need to eat more leafy greens", I tell myself. Even when I complain that I am "STARVING!" I am only a few hours passed my last meal. I laid in bed and thought how incredibly fortunate I am to have our tiny little house, with a yard to grow my own veggies if I like and enough money and resources that I am likely never to go hungry.

I wondered what we could do to help alleviate the situation in Haiti. We have spent, last I noticed, 517 billion on Iraq. How much less it would cost to feed a small nation. But that isn't a very good long term solution. Perhaps they could learn to be more independent. What if they could grow enough of their own food? The simple answer is that their population is too big for their environment. Maybe we should do nothing and let nature "self correct". It is in many ways an awful thought and it got me thinking about the world as a whole. In The Gambia, there are more people than the country can sustain. Wealthier countries and private organizations have flooded this tiny country with NGO's (non-government organizations). They are given food and immunizations. As a result, more children survive into adulthood. There are more mouths to feed and not more land to produce it. Should we be sending birth control instead of vaccinations? Perhaps we could send industry so people could get descent jobs and improve their own financial situation. Perhaps they would discover that having less children could be a good thing.

With more money (and less children), they could improve their own standard of living. They could eat more meat, buy computers and cell phones, maybe even their own cars. They could start living the good life like we do in developed countries. They could follow in China's foot steps. How quickly would that send the whole world into crisis? Surely, our planet cannot support everyone living the way we do in the US. Imagine the pollution and depleted oceans and rising cost of resources if everyone consumed like we do.

What do we do? There are 6 billion people on this planet. For a random comparison, there are around 150,000 chimpanzees - down from a population of over 1 million. We can't make space for a few hundred thousand extra of just one other species, but humanity can fill every nook and cranny. If anything covered the Earth like we do, we would be in a panic to exterminate it as fast as we could. Covering the planet is not enough. We alter and shape it's ecosystems all over the world too. One person with a bull dozer can change the earth more in a day than entire armies could do centuries ago. What are the lasting effects of one woman taking birth control pills and flushing the part her body doesn't use into our water supply? What about one person keeping his yard perfectly green with just one species by using copious amounts of herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer?

Take those things and multiply it by six billion. That is a thousand millions. How do we get our minds around the impact we have? How do we come together and declare that enough is enough? What if we decided to have a zero or negative population growth? I understand that economies don't do well if there isn't constant growth - heck, we measure the strength of our economy on new home starts. How much more growth can we take?

I recently heard the last two hundred years described as the "Fraternity Years" of our society. We developed all these new technologies - eagerly opening new box after new box and throwing it's contents over our shoulder. The concern wasn't "What is the impact?", but rather, "Oooo! What can we do with this?". It is a hopeful term, in my opinion, because it implies that we will eventually grow up. Personally, I don't see anything changing soon. The powerful get there by doing whatever it takes - and they will use up the world if we let them. We let them because we just aren't that uncomfortable. My fear is that by the time we are willing to trade in our SUV's, 2000 square foot homes and watermelon anytime of the year, the Earth and the humans living on it will be in very sad shape.


Amy said...

Kami ~ I hear you. I recently saw Al Gore's "The Inconvienent Truth" and I was blown away. I never in a million years realized the impact was of this magnitude. I know I've changed my habits, not all, but it's a start.

Familyof2 said...

We can't say that we aren't "aware" of what we should be doing either...perhaps if the lead story was what WE are doing to the planet instead of the W, Hilary and Obama are up to for the day then things could change...Awareness is only part...but a step.c

B said...

Definitely food for thought, just a shame people don't think about it as much as you do.