Friday, April 22, 2005

Dude, Where's My Planet?

The bottom that human actions are depleting Earth’s natural capital, putting such strain on the environment that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted. At the same time, the assessment shows that with appropriate actions it is possible to reverse the degradation of many ecosystem services over the next 50 years, but the changes in policy and practice required are substantial and not currently underway.
--U.N. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report
Not that you would know by reading/watching/absorbing-by-osmosis today's mainstream media, but 1,360 scientists from 95 nations got together and issued a State-of-the-Earth report a few weeks ago. It's called the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

The results are disturbing--in the last fifty years, humans have caused more damage than in any comparable period in human history, and nearly 60 percent of Earth's ecosystems have been depleted, in some cases irreversibly--but not surprising to anyone who's been paying attention over the last ten years.

Which would be about, what, three percent of us? Even I know most of what I know because I had to learn it for grad school. Even I don't sit down every morning and gobble up the latest environmental news. For anyone with a soul, it's too depressing. For anyone who cares about someone besides themselves, even if it's just their children and grandchildren, the reality is unbearable.

So we look away, concentrate on goals more attainable than reducing the size of our collective planetary footprint. Like world peace, or a cure for cancer.

But one day everyone will wake up, and we won't be able to switch the channel, flip the newspaper page, and think of something else. Because the consequences of our carelessness and greed won't just be in Alaska or Brazil or Tuvalu--they'll be in our skies, in our streams, in our blood.

And we'll wonder out loud to each other, why didn't anyone tell us? And the scientists will personally bitch-slap each one of us and scream,


The message needs to be spread in a way that people can grasp, in a way that mesmerizes but doesn't sensationalize. There's got to be a middle ground between a stack of insomina-curing United Nations reports and movies like The Day After Tomorrow. It's too easy to dismiss the latter as mere fiction, as if fiction can never be based on fact, as if fact can never be scarier than fiction.

I don't have the answers, I just know that we have to talk about it. We gotta "green up" before it's too late. So I pledge to you, this Earth Day weekend, to live up to my blog title and focus more on environmental issues. I'll do my best to highlight good news when I can find it, and include links to pictures of baby animals every once in awhile.

Admit it, you like pictures of baby animals. Like Balmex for the soul, they are.


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Jeri Smith-Ready is a Maryland author of books for teens and adults.

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