United States of Ecocide: Spilling and Consuming Way to Oblivion
May 29, 2009 By Dr. Glen Barry, Ecological Internet
A great, free nation remains immobilized in the face of ecological collapse
The United States of America is an epic experiment, as despite great accomplishments and numerous imperfections, we share a long history of constantly striving to improve our union. As Americans settle in for Memorial Day to remember veterans of all stripes – from great wars of world defense to more recent military adventurism – it is appropriate to consider what the current Gulf Oil Spill says about the American way of life. Plainly, our addiction to oil and consumption in general threatens to destroy regional and global ecosystems – the water, air, land and oceans –upon which Americans, humanity and all species depend upon for habitat and life.
America is truly exceptional. Yet it is not because of our materially excessive lifestyles, as best demonstrated by our wide girths and ample posteriors. There is more to America than consumption. Our greatness is primarily due to our wavering, imperfect yet unique commitment to freedom and liberty. Over two hundred years ago a just revolution was fought asserting individual liberties from monarchial authoritarianism. The principles of freedom and liberty were a gift to the world. This is what truly has set us apart. And despite two decades of consistent roll-backs in civil and human rights, Americans remain for now free peoples to prosper or expire.
America has and continues to face many challenges – repudiating slavery, enfranchising most, world wars – and most recently the inevitable slowdown of economic growth as speculative, industrial capitalism runs its course. America has enjoyed for awhile super-sized living and grown to be what it is based upon liquidating ecosystems. We have progressed to the point where regional ecosystems are collapsing – most obviously in the Gulf Coast, but throughout the vast country as ecosystems are dying. America now faces our most difficult and profound test ever, coming to terms with our deeply ecologically unsustainable lifestyles, and committing to national and global ecological sustainability.
Clearly the American way of life has been built upon liquidating our own and foreign natural life-giving ecosystems to access resources for consumption. To equate mowing ancient forests, dumping waste into water, over-fishing oceans, polluting the atmosphere, and the pervasive toxic chemical cocktail with progress and development is absurd. It is entirely possible that oil deep undersea and within our shared Earth was not meant to be drilled, much less burnt. America must directly face our profound dependence upon oil and destruction of natural ecosystems as the basis of our economy; or our country will collapse, many if not all will needlessly suffer and prematurely die, and a livable Earth may cease to exist.
The oil spilling endlessly into the Gulf of Mexico – one of America’s most rich ecosystems –shows clearly Americans of all types will commit to ecological sustainability or our free country will cease to exist. Marshes and rivers and forests and fish are far more than resources – they and all natural ecosystems provide for humanity’s habitat and existence upon Earth. The American way of life must be updated by what Ecology – the radical science – teaches us about limits to growth and requirements to sustain the biosphere. And to reflect moral outrage that as we continue to literally stuff ourselves and over-develop to death, two billion people live worldwide on under $2/day, 800 million without access to clean water. Collapsing ecosystems will almost certainly be used as the pretext for some sort of more authoritarian political system.
The American dream and way of life is built upon ecocide – willful murder of the environment. Such ecocidal behavior is problematic not only because we are literally eating Earth to death, but also because Americans use so much more than their fair share of the surplus natural capital, relative to the family of nations, than can be done sustainably. It is deeply troubling – bordering on evil – that 4% of the world’s population consumes 25% of its oil. And now sadly the rest of the world is copying America’s conspicuous over-consumption as a way of life. In an over-populated Earth plagued by inequitable consumption, clearly there has to be more meaning to life than having more stuff, including first meeting all humanity’s basic needs.
The resources necessary for all the gadgets, cars, energy and consumption found in the American dream are largely being taken at the point of gun by the U.S. military, and through neo-colonial dependency arrangements between U.S. business and resource owners. 911 was direct blowback from several decades of such behavior. It is time to stop thinking in terms of tribal nationalism and embrace the human family; as ecological challenges including forest loss, water scarcity, ocean decline, air pollution, soil depletion, nitrogen saturation and biodiversity loss threaten to destroy all nations’ peoples. How many more U.S. soldiers must kill and die needlessly in foreign lands to support these inequities and unsustainability?
Let us buttress America’s commitment to true freedom and liberty with equal devotion to equity, justice and global ecological sustainability. Future American and global ecological sustainability looks less urban, more organic; simple but quality lives; less government, more community, and dedication to protecting and restoring ecosystems. It is possible and crucial for all our shared survival to live simply, laugh often, and love deeply as we lead deeply fulfilling lives within the context of a healthy and vibrant environment, and a steady state economy which can last forever.
It is well past time to show American resolve and commitment and get the damn oil leak capped. This is an unprecedented ecological emergency that portends the future. There should be millions of Americans streaming to partake in skimming oil and cleaning what comes ashore. This is our task, our job, our life, our future, our country, our Earth and our ecology at stake. Further, I would like to take this opportunity to call for criminal investigations of BP and the U.S. government’s oil departments, for the immediate resignation of Ken Salazar as Secretary of Interior, and for a permanent global ban to ecocidal offshore oil drilling.
Ecological Internet recently declared a planetary ecological emergency based upon overwhelming new ecological science indicating Earth is at or near the tipping point, and key global ecosystems and life-support systems are failing. All true Americans and global citizens are urged to dramatically reduce their personal consumption and to commit to massively reducing their personal use of oil. And the U.S. government must cease to be an oil oligarchy, divorce itself from this Earth destroying industry, and stop waging war to feed its oil addiction. Failure on either account may justly lead to the next great American Revolution: a people’s power Earth Revolution on behalf of Earth, all her life, and the human family.
Dr. Glen Barry is the President and Founder of Ecological Internet (EI). He is recognized internationally by the environmental movement as a leading global visionary, environmental policy critic and public intellectual committed to communicating the severity of global ecological crises and actively organizing with others sufficient responses. He is an independent political ecologist, a writer of essays and blogs, and a computer specialist and technology researcher. See http://www.ecoearth.info/ and http://www.facebook.com/ecointernet for more information
 April 13, 2010, RELEASE: Planetary Ecological Emergency Declared, http://www.ecoearth.info/blog/2010/04/release_planetary_ecological_e.asp