I can’t see or interpret every signal that’s out there. I’m just not that good. The ratings are falling for American Idol. What does it mean? Could a renaissance in singing by trained professionals be just around the corner? Tiger plays again, but doesn’t win. Is it the golf gods, telling him he must return to family values before he gets another green sport coat? And Sandra Bullock… if I had seen the warning signs there, could I have acted in time to help her? The sleep I’m losing over that alone…
Then there’s been this thing with the planet Earth. Don’t say you haven’t noticed. Earthquakes… everywhere. And this volcano in Iceland affects us at the most primal level: It messes with our vacations. Earth has been having some kind of fit or spell lately, and I’m not sure what to make of the signals. Needless to say I’m not renting the movie 2010 right now; too scary. Mostly because I can’t imagine life without John Cusack.
I don’t mean to make light. We seem to be in a cycle of devastation that brings hardship where it’s needed the least, on people and areas deeply familiar with hardship. That’s a signal I’ve never been able to interpret, but I’ll save that one for the next time somebody’s in my face about either religion or home owner’s insurance.
So, what is it that Earth wants us to know?
Well, one thing it might be telling us is that there’s a kind of synergistic chain to the way life works on this planet that can often surprise and confound us. Last Saturday the LA Times’ Amina Khan offered an interesting positive spin to all the problems with volcanic ash. She quoted scientists who believe that the ash will help to “fertilize” the oceans. The thinking goes that microscopic phytoplankton, a key component of ocean food chains, often run out of iron and when they do they can’t grow any further. Volcanic ash, rich in iron and other minerals, can cause phytoplankton to start growing. I can’t prove this, but maybe one of the net outcomes is more sea bass on “special” at your favorite restaurant. Mouth-watering entrees brought to you by a hostile volcano.
Still, I’m not aware of any such positive dimension regarding earthquakes. Although one needs to remember that much of an earthquake’s death and injury are mostly the result of weak building codes or a lack of them. Man’s building codes. I remember watching a story from an earlier quake in China where a multi-story school building full of children fell apart like it was built of cardboard. That’s because, essentially, it was.
So that’s a clear signal from Earth, albeit delivered in a roundabout way. We’re put in touch with the disparity in quality concerning that which we create for some, and that which we create for others. For example, in confronting a man-made threat like traffic accidents, why do we make our school busses out of tin with seats structurally inferior to something you’d sit on in a football arena? Do we not value the cargo those buses transport? With what I guess was no thought about earthquakes, what was the thinking in China regarding cheapness in school buildings? Did it result in a greater number of schools being built?
Clearly we will say and do things that expedite our more immediate goals, not always looking at the big picture. I don’t know that you can imply any theism from my view that it’s not an “issue” whether we can continue to use our atmosphere and oceans as a garbage can, but at some point a level of regard for this mud-ball we stand on in outer space has to emerge. Things can’t be all business all the time. Tell me if you see that regard for our planet in the following: “With advances in drilling technology that reduce environmental risks, we need to re-look at offshore drilling. We have to utilize our resources here at home to reduce dependence. I want to look at new technologies such as slant drilling.”
That’s copied from Meg Whitman’s website, regarding offshore oil drilling. It was also made before the recent oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. I don’t see “solar” or “alternative fuels from renewable sources,” or a lot of other things in that paragraph. Yet Whitman has long been against drilling for crude offshore since the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. Now she says things like “given technology that ensures we can drill safely, I am supportive” when asked about it. My point isn’t necessarily in citing her flip, although you get that as freebie. What concerns me is that the people that lead us or might lead us are often looking at a “workaround” regarding nature. The planet itself is without politics, and we’ve been witness to that of late. Without bongo drums or a circle of leaves in my hair, I’m saying that I don’t hear a deep respect for earth in Whitman’s new tone. She’s not alone in that, as we learned painfully from 2000 to 2008. And all that is a signal I can see clearly.
Mirror Contributing Writeropinion@smmirror.com