Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not
sure about the former.
- Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
Earth Day is almost here. I don't believe in Earth Day myself. I think it's
a little silly to devote one single day of the year to being concerned about
the environment, but I suppose one day is better than no day at all.
Having been an environmental activist since 1968, I have seen the movement
go up and down like a roller coaster in popularity. It was big in 1972 with
the Environmental Conference in Stockholm which I attended and it became big
again in 1992 with the U.N. Environmental Conference in Rio De Janeiro that
I also attended. I remember that the priority issue in 1972 was the danger
of escalating human populations but by 1992, that concern was not even on
Well we are approaching the end of another 20 year period and it looks like
ecology is in vogue again thanks to global warming and a few other scary
things. Green is once again popular.
I can always tell when the environment is getting to be faddish again. My
indicator is the number of lectures I am booked for around this time of
year. It reached its peak in 1992, practically disappeared for awhile and
now it's coming around again.
What worries me is that the movement is constantly being sidetracked by the
issue of the day.
It's global warming now. When we were trying to warn people about global
warming and climate change twenty years ago, no one was interested. Now it's
become the "in" issue and the big organizations are tapping the public for
donations to address the problem although no one has come up with anything
that makes much sense. But global warming is good for business if you're one
of the big bureaucratic organizations whose primary concern is really
corporate self preservation.
Greenpeace is even telling people that they can slow down global warming by
(and I kid you not) "singing in the shower". Yep, you see all you have to do
is run the water, then get wet, shut the water off, and sing in the shower
as you lather up and then open up the faucet and rinse off. Ah, so simple to
save the world.
The problem is that these big organizations are to politically correct to
address the ecologically correct solutions.
Instead they are baffling everyone with abstract concepts like carbon
trading and carbon storage or trying to sell us a new hydrid Japanese car.
Even Al Gore with his Inconvenient Truth totally ignored the most
inconvenient truth of all. I'll get to that in a moment.
But let's look at the number one cause of global greenhouse gas emissions.
First and foremost it is human over-population, the very same issue that was
the priority concern at the 1972 United Nations Conference on the
Environment in Stockholm.
It's 6.5 billion people folks.
Remember in 1950, the world population was 3 billion. It's now more than
6.5 billion people produce one hell of an annual output of waste and utilize
an unbelievable amount of resources and energy.
And this number is rising minute by minute, day, by day, year by year.
And most of the people having children have no idea why they are even having
children other than that's what you do. Most of them don't really love their
children because if they did they would be very much involved in trying to
ensure that their children have a world to survive in.
Unless over-population is addressed, there is absolutely no way of slowing
down global greenhouse gas emissions.
But how do you do that within the context of economic systems that require
larger and larger numbers to perform the essential task of consuming
Corporations need workers and buyers. Governments need tax-payers,
bureaucrats and soldiers. More people means more money.
I've said for decades that the solution to all of our problems is simple. We
just need to live in accordance with the three basic laws of ecology.
First is the Law of Diversity. The strength of an eco-system lies in
diversity of species within it. Weaken diversity and the entire system will
be weakened and will ultimately collapse.
Second is the Law of Interdependence. All of the species within an
eco-system are interdependent. We need each other.
And the third law of Ecology is the Law of Finite Resources. There is a
limit to growth because there is a limit to carrying capacity.
Human populations are exceeding ecological carrying capacity.
Exceeding ecological carrying capacity is diminishing both resources and
diversity of species.
The diminishment of diversity is causing serious problems with
Albert Einstein once wrote that "if the bee disappeared off the surface of
the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees,
no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."
That is the Law of Interdependence.
Forget global warming folks. The disappearance of the honeybee could end our
existence as human beings on this planet far sooner than we think.
And the honey bee is in fact now disappearing. Why? We don't know why. It
could be genetically modified crops, I could be pesticides or it could be
that our cell phones are interfering with their ability to navigate.
Whatever the cause the fact is that they are disappearing. All around the
world bees are disappearing in a crisis called Colony Collapse Disorder.
And bees pollinate our plants. Everywhere on the planet, bees are hard at
work making it possible for you to live and enjoy life.
We hold on to our place on this planet by only a toehold. If anything
happens to the grass family, we are screwed. If the earthworms disappear, we
are in big trouble. If the bees disappear, well according to Albert Einstein
who was considered somewhat smarter than most of us, we will have only four
years. Just enough time to get a college degree to discover that everything
you learned is relatively useless when sitting on the doorstep of global
We are cutting down the forest and plundering the oceans of life. We are
polluting the soil, the air and the water and we are rapidly running out of
fresh water to drink.
Only corporations like Coke and Pepsi have figured out that water is more
valuable than gold. That is why they are bottling it in plastic bottles and
selling it. This week I saw a bottle of water in my hotel room that I could
have drunk for only $4.
Unbelievable. That means that water is now being sold for more than the
equivalent amount of gasoline. I hope that I'm not the only one who thinks
this is insanity.
Now for Al Gore's really inconvenient truth. In his film he does not mention
once that the meat and dairy industry that produces the bacon, the steaks,
the chicken wings and the milk is a larger contributor to greenhouse gas
emissions than the automobile industry. You see, Al may drive a Prius but he
likes his burgers.
This is why the big organizations like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club will
not say a thing about the meat industry. Last year I saw Greenpeacers
sitting down for a baked fish meal onboard the Greenpeace ship Esperanza
while engaged in a campaign to oppose over-fishing.
When we pointed out that our Sea Shepherd ships serve only vegan meals, the
Greenpeace cook replied, "that's just silly."
We see what we want to see and we rationalize everything else.
The oceans have been plundered to the point that 90% of the fish have been
removed from their eco-systems and at this very moment there is over 65,000
miles of long lines set in the Pacific Ocean alone and there are tens of
thousands of fishing vessels scouring the seas in a rapacious quest to scoop
up everything that swims or crawls.
This is ecological insanity.
The largest marine predator on the planet right now is the cow. More than
half the fish taken from the sea is rendered into fish meal and fed to
domestic livestock. Puffins are starving in the North sea to feed sand eels
to chickens in Denmark. Sheep and pigs have replaced the shark and the sea
lion as the dominant predators in the ocean and domestic house cats are
eating more fish than all the world's seals combined. We are extracting some
fifty to sixty fish from the sea to raise one farm raised salmon.
This is ecological insanity.
Yet the demand for shark fin is rising in China. Ignorant people still want
to wear fur coats. In America, we order fries, a cheeseburger and a "diet"
Ecological insanity folks.
Last week a reporter called to ask me if I had really said that earth worms
are more important than people. I answered that yes I had. He then asked how
I could justify such a statement.
"Simple," I answered. "Earthworms can live on the planet without people. We
cannot live on the planet without earthworms thus from an ecological point
of view, earthworms are more important than people."
He said that I was insane for suggesting such a ridiculous idea when people
were made in the image of God, and earthworms were not.
What we have here of course is a failure to communicate between two
radically different world views. His which is anthropocentric and sees
reality as human centred and mine which is biocentric and sees reality as
including all species equally working in interdependence. He sees us as
divine and better than all the other species and I see us as a bunch of
arrogant primates out of control.
But that's my two cents worth for Earth Day 2007.
Consider the humble honey bee and remember that the little black and yellow
insect you see flitting busily from flower to flower is all that stands
between us and our demise as a species on this planet.
We better see to it that they don't disappear.
May be freely published and distributed
Captain Paul Watson
Founder and President of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (1977-
Co-Founder - The Greenpeace Foundation (1972)
Co-Founder - Greenpeace International (1979)
Director of the Sierra Club USA (2003-2006)
Director - The Farley Mowat Institute
Director - www.harpseals.org
"Sail forth - steer for the deep waters only,
Reckless O soul, exploring, I with thee and thou with me,
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,
And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all."
- Walt Whitman
Address: P.O. Box 2616
Friday Harbor, Wa 98250 USA