By William Markiewicz
Here are some illustrations of why I consider our planet environmentally doomed. It is only a matter of time.
In thirteenth century Poland, royal decree placed the aurochs, the last European giant bisons, under protection. In the text, written in a touching solemn tone, the aurochs were spoken of almost as human beings. Still, in the following centuries, other, more indifferent kings came, and the aurochs completely disappeared. So much for the power of decrees.
One American author/astronomer whose name I don't recall, in his book about quasars and black holes, gives a picturesque description of the end of life on earth caused by our Sun becoming a black hole: as the planet becomes colder and colder, the abuse of electricity causes short circuits and outbreaks of fire. Whole buildings burn as people just gather around trying to get all the warmth they can.
The author draws a good picture of what humans are. The situation he portrays was irreversible but even in situations where there is a choice, people are mainly interested in immediate gains. You cannot control all the minds. There are too many heads. Even if only a minority breaks the general rule, this minority will still be numerous enough to be uncontrollable and to cause, sooner or later, irreparable damage. Society, like all large and composite entities, is a perfect illustration of the law of chaos.
As populations increase along with their necessities, more and more of nature is destroyed and human expectations of what nature is shrink more and more. People become so alienated from nature that a little green point in the city, for a city dweller, is a "meadow" and some tourist resort, a real "jungle." In spite of videos and much documentation about nature in its true grandeur, for the viewer it is becoming more and more like a dream, like a report about some alien planet. Unscrupulous profit is within immediate reach while the threat of doom still seems far away. Let's not forget natural competition. Somebody of good will, seeing a neighbour who isn't, will say to himself, "I don't want to be anybody's fool. He is profiting from my worries so why should I suffer."
And here is how the trees in my own neighbourhood disappeared. Even a tenant who may stay a few weeks or months or maybe a year cuts all the trees he can in the courtyard for some futile reason or without even knowing why. Those trees, of course, don't belong to him, but to a landlord who doesn't give a damn.
Those who may contribute to helping wildlife last a little longer may not be the idealists, but those who make their living directly or indirectly from it. For instance, lumber merchants, Christmas tree merchants will cut and plant. Of course it wont look like original forest but at least it will grow and we wont build there as long as plastic doesn't permanently replace natural wood. The zoos may remain the last haven of "wildlife" on earth. The time may come for an unholy choice - this or nothing.
Frankly I don't know what can be done about all of this. The environmentalists win here and lose there, and in the final reckoning the losses always prevail over the wins. Personally, I like this phrase from the Bible -- "Work as if you will live eternally and pray as if you will die tomorrow" -- because it reflects all the dramatic beauty of an exaggeration which cannot harm, only help. All of us who care can do something on our individual scale so that as long as we live, something will live with us. Planting a tree or letting one grow, building a bird house, letting wild plants grow among a stone collection (so that the neighbours can't complain that your yard is not properly mowed), protecting any squirrel, raccoon that you can... I know that it doesn't sound too ambitious, but by doing all this you push away the spectre of times to come when it will sound ambitious.