Today, all humans in the world will add 15 million tons of carbon to the atmosphere, destroy 115 square miles of rainforest, create 72 square miles of desert, eliminate between 40 and 100 species, erode 71 million tons of topsoil, and add 2,700 tons of CFCs to the stratosphere, and increase the population by one quarter of a million.
The world’s environmental crisis is rooted in s a social and ethical crisis. We live in a nation where the wealthiest 1% own more than the bottom 90%. We in America are less than 10% of the global population yet we consume almost half of all the nonrenewable resources each year. The American Dream has become a nightmare for the rest of the world. It is futile to offer modernity to them. We wouldn’t allow such a blatant maldistribution in our own families, how have we come to support it among nations?
Fortunately, there are growing numbers who suspect that our culture is not sustainable. Our response to global crises cannot be simplistic insistence on more conservation alone. We must also have wiser use of all our resources and a greatly reduced waste-stream. We are caught in a double bind, however, because we know we must change yet we cannot imagine living any other way. Lewis Carroll illustrates our situation with his bread-and-butterfly in Alice’s wonderland. Its wings are thin slices of bread, its body a crust, and head a lump of sugar.
“What does it live on?” Alice asked.
“Weak tea with cream,” replied her guide, the gnat.
And a difficulty came to Alice’s head: “Supposing it couldn’t find anything else?”
“Then it would die, of course!”
“But that must happen very often,” Alice remarked, pondering.
“It always happens,” said the gnat.
The double bind, painful as it is, may be just what we need at this critical time in history. We are challenged not to just tinker with the system, but to transform it. We must do something completely new. History offers little guidance here. We have never been at this juncture before. I suggest we keep our “sugar heads” and find ways to nurture (culture) our lives and to allow other nations to do so, each within our own borders.