Seeking a natural balance
David Hawke/Special to the Packet & Times As we grapple with a rapidly-changing climate, we are also trying to fit a constantly-growing population into a space that environmentally can't support them. This double whammy has created an imbalance between our basic needs and what nature can provide. New ideas are needed, and both government bureaucrats and regular folk have to accept "the old ways" no longer apply.
Whether by accident or by design, Earth Day falls right smack dab between those depressing April showers and their proverbial result of uplifting May flowers. Good a time as any to reflect on our complex roles in the natural workings of this miraculous planet.
If you're old enough to be reading this, then you will already be aware, at least in general terms, we humans need certain elements to live - simple things like clean air, pure water, adequate shelter, nourishing food, healthy soil. And space, perhaps better stated as "give me a place to stand, a place to grow."
As humans, we have evolved to be problem solvers. Yes, there are other species that can also solve problems, such as beavers that build dams to create ponds in which to live, octopus that can open sealed containers, and birds that shove sticks into ant hills to lure out their crawling dinner. But when it comes to tackling the big problems, humans dominate the field.
No matter what the problem - oops, I mean challenge (see, I listen to those inspirational corporate messages) - to find a solution, you need to know the contributing factors and their variables. Polar bears declining? Ice caps melting? Ozone layer depleting? Violent weather patterns emerging? Why? What's happening? What are the factors? What are the answers? To find answers requires research, information collecting, and analysis of that data. Perhaps a trend will be revealed or a constant variant discovered that causes the normal to become abnormal.
To discover a solution to your challenge, the above process will take time. If the problem is identified, metaphorically, on a Monday morning, good solutions are not usually delivered by 3 o'clock Friday afternoon. Oh, there may be an option for a possible solution that is pencilled in, but bona fide solutions need real thought.
When it comes to figuring out how to ensure our continuing existence on this planet, a lot of head scratching needs to take place. And a lot of information needs to be gathered, deciphered and reflected upon.
To be an environmentalist these days can be a depressing choice of lifestyle. Between the recent Harper Conservative government muzzling Canadian environmental scientists to the current buffoonery of the American government destroying data of its environmental agencies, it has the makings to be a gloomy Earth Day indeed.
Finding a balance between people's wants and needs and what the environment can provide is not a new challenge. The Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Saxons and others have been wrestling with this dilemma for quite some time. Unfortunately for humans, a warring species, the quick solution seems to be, "if we kill the neighbours, we can have their land, crops and space." This methodology has always yielded less than satisfactory results, as once a battle has been won, the war for more continues.
Today, in the 21st century, we need to take stock of what natural resources remain, who 'controls' them and how best to share these resources so the human species can survive past Friday at 3 p.m.
And so we discover another problem within the first challenge: How does one reason with fellow humans when it comes to balancing diminishing environmental resources with an ever-expanding population that bases its strategic plan on ever-increasing industrial growth using ever-dwindling natural resources to provide economic stability for the masses to provide enough food, water and shelter to raise a family? That statement alone makes no sense, yet, like the ancient Romans and Saxons, we soldier on.
However, despite humans' seemingly built-in need for conflict and war, we also have the ability to hope. And think. And plan. Notwithstanding the sun has a limited time before it burns out, and all races of our species (and everything else) will eventually be wiped out, between the now and the then, we will have to come up with some creative solutions.
First thing to grasp is nature is never static. Everything changes, all on its own, but sometimes the process is retarded or accelerated by meddling human factors. While nature is constantly changing, the basics are always there: clean air, pure water, adequate shelter, nourishing food, healthy soil. The real problem is space - and how we will, or rather must, learn to share it.
If you've got any brilliant ideas, please submit them by 3 p.m. Friday. Oh, and happy Earth Day, everyone.
David Hawke is a columnist for the Packet & Times. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.