Ecology And Environment

Understanding Sustainability

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"Understanding Sustainability"
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A sustainable enviornment is a complicated issue which needs a macro and micro definition,  as well as a look into ancient societies, pre human existence, and how humans have changed the natural order of the earth. Human beings are part of the natural chain of the planet, having evolved like any other of the astounding number of life forms we see today, and cannot be entirely blamed for creating non-sustainable enviornments.

What we know of the "Age of the Dinosaur" tells us they were the number one species of their day. Their success and domination of the earth for millions of years shows how a sustainable enviornment can work to help one group to thrive, yet might not be in the best interests of others-namely mammals. In those days flowering plants had not evolved, nor were there great differences in the kinds of trees existing. The Dawn Redwood tree was predominant, and exists today in a few specialized locations, namely in small coastal areas in China.

Something happened to upset the balance of life. Most widely accepted theories include one, or several asteroids hitting the earth, creating conditions which upset the balance of sustainability, and eventually the demise of the dinosaur. One theory developed by Peter Ward, a professor from the University of Washington, cites massive volcanism that heated the oceans to the point of frozen methane deposits melting, and releasing huge volumes of hydrogen sulfide into the atmosphere. This is a deadly poison where small quantities can snuff the life out of oxygen based creatures.The planet did not have as much oxygen in the atmosphere at that time, so it would take less hydrogen sulfide to do more damage. Whatever the cause, the sustainability of the time was irretrevibly lost, at least for the dinosaur.

Looking forward sixty or seventy million years, we find human beings living in most places on the planet, extremely adaptable and capable, they created a host of different cultures. How this exactly happened is still open to great debate, but for this essay let us focus on one Southwestern Native Tribe-the Anasazi. Building great stone cities on cliffs with irrigation canels to their farm fields, roads for trade, they vanished, abandoning the cities in relatively few years. Plausable explanations include war, social breakdown, and most interestingly a few hundred year drought. If drought is the answer we can rest assured it wasn't coal fired power plants, corporate abuse, or oil drilling that caused the proplem; rather, a naturally occurring event that plagues the Southwest today. Their sustainable way of life had been lost due to natural variations in the earth's climate.

Recently it has been postulated that indigenous man did in the Woolly Mammoth, Cave Bear, and the Saber Toothed Tiger, due to over hunting. This is a far reaching conclusion seeking to blame mankind. We have found Mammoths with fresh grass in their mouths and stomachs, indicating once again a severe climate event. The overwhelming evidence points to somekind of flash freeze, whereby these animals were literally frozen in their tracks. How could this be? Well we don't know do we?

In today's world, mankind cannot be excused from creating many situations that are dangerous, and life threatening to many species-including man himself. Looking at the macro version we see countries, multi-national corporations,national defense, states, cities, and towns addressing the solutions for long term sustainability. It is undeveloped with an emphasis on sustaining profits for the few at the expense of our natural resources. Mistakes made can threaten the earth and its cultures just like a naturally occurring climate one can. Companies and corporations are often guilty in destroying the natural sustainable resources that improve life, or for one to make their livelihood from those resources. The Niagara river today is lined with rusting hulks of factories that threw their waste in the river only to be carried over Niagara Falls and into Lake Ontario. Do not eat the fish unless your completely healthy, not pregnant, and then only two at the most per week. Makes one feel good about their fish.

This is one of tens of thousands of examples of people not even thinking about sustainability. The old Native cultures would make decisions based on the effects of seven generations. What was decided had the children of the future in mind. This then is what our corporations and companies need to practice. Governments do not make things, but laws, regulations, and taxes. It's imperitive that our corporate leaders think about their children, and what harm they bring forth into the world today. In a hundred years the decendants will either be full of poisons [like us], or they will live in a much less contaminated enviornment. To all who can listen - which would you prefer?

We as a member of one culture can have influence on others. No one thought we could pollute the oceans with mercury, PCB'S, oil, and plastics, etc. When tissue studies were done on different cultures, amazingly the Eskimo's turned out to have the most substantial number of pollutants in their bodies, a counter intuitive result; therefore, no one is immune. It's time for everyone to know that sustainability means health and wealth for the future.

The micro level entails the average person. It's fairly easy if one has a piece of land with timber,water, and other resources so one may live on or off the grid. Solar, or water power, wood heat, siphon activated septic systems [if one has some elevation to play with], gardens, and livestock raising are all options to the traditional trip to the grocery store. People in towns or cities recycle, although if one does not live close to a recycling factory, much of what is supposed to be recycled goes to the local landfill [the transportation costs are too high]. Try to support local businesses and farmers. Eat organic when possible, and orginize local groups that share your concerns. If we the people realize the power we have in our sheer numbers - change will come about. And stop drinking out of those plastic bottles, glass is made of silica; one of the most prevelent minerals on the earth!

More about this author: William Wright

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