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Survivalist 101

I read Edward Cross' op-ed with some amusement and some sadness. The fear-mongering labels are out in an election year, and we're all afraid of something.

I'm afraid, but have I been "mongered?"

Fear is one of our animal instincts that keep us alive. It's genetically wired into humans and animals alike. What humans bring to fear separates us from animals. We cultivate fear. We are mongers of fear.

Survival 101: All living things need air, water, food and shelter to survive. For all intents, these are the big four. Without clean air, drinkable water, uncompromised food and shelter, we all are going to die faster. There is a particular order to nature, by which all things live and meet their demise.

It isn't just science that tells us so; we have some pretty big practical examples to understand the concept of survival.

I admit I was horrified when I saw the broken Deep Horizon well spill 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. BP used toxins to disperse the oil on the surface, and once the sludge sank, it was out of sight, out of mind, and America went back to its shrimp scampi without another thought.

The effect of that spill still is being studied, but there is proof of the damage in the increase of deaths in fish populations, in the disappearance of vegetation and in changes in the migrating habits of animals. BP touts the billions it spent on clean-up, but the damage is done, and the effect will last for a dozen generations.

Nobody had to monger my fear. I saw what happened, and I understand the ecosystem, so yeah, I was afraid. The gulf has been a food source for millions of years and remains one today.

Globally, there were dozens of fossil fuel disasters that year. There have been thousands of accidents in 50 years. Our refusal to conceive a better energy policy has kept us fettered to an outdated system that will make an uninhabitable Earth. We have been cultivated as consumers, and we're too good at it.

And it occurs to me the earth is in a scary situation. I'm an environmentalist, in that I understand fully how the ecosystem ties in with survival of all species.

Air. Water. Food. Shelter.

In January, a West Virginia chemical spill left 300,000 people without drinking water. Following the story to this day, I see the pattern of corporate malfeasance one more time, as the company responsible dodges culpability and covers its assets, and taxpayers get the bill for clean-up that never really is adequate.

I submit here that anyone who isn't concerned is unreasonable.

In a perfect twist of reality, the company that caused the West Virginia chemical spill is called Freedom Industries. Having been hit with numerous lawsuits, Freedom Industries filed for bankruptcy protection, and if history is any indication, will walk off with a slap on the wrist.

The Sierra Club identified 62 similar facilities in the same region, capable of the same accident. There is hope, as West Virginians have taken to the system and gotten a bill under consideration to enhance regulation of above-ground storage of the chemicals used in coal production. It's a good start, but we'll have to see where it goes.

The Keystone XL pipeline is another of these crazy attempts by the oil industry, dragging every last scrap of oil out of the ground and insisting nothing bad will happen. Industry officials lie about the science on a regular basis, underestimate the risk and bulldoze the rhetoric with misinformation campaigns. Most of the Canadian oil will go to China, and the states just get to let it happen because it's about money, not energy.

Until the inevitable accident, and water tables are rendered useless, and vast acres of land look like a moonscape. When politicians discuss the migration of population on the Plains, I wonder if they consider how big a population can be supported without potable water.

If it were really about energy, we'd all have solar panels and feed our excess into a grid. We never would run out of energy, and no wars could be fought for sunshine. Ironically, the oil industry is the best poised to start the solar revolution, having the raw materials and infrastructure -- not to mention the capital -- to get it going.

My concern leads to understanding, and understanding leads to action. I'm not hopeless. I still believe it can be turned around. But I'm keeping my eyes open.

Mary Hart-Detrixhe is a lifelong resident of the prairie and Ellis County. Her work can be found at www.janeQaverage.com.