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Friday, January 28, 2011

58. The Earth is no Magic Pudding

In Norman Lindsay’s classic Australian story, The Magic Pudding, Bunyip Bluegum is lucky indeed – he becomes the owner of a pudding – a magic pudding. The pudding is able to speak, and even though it is also irascible and ill-tempered, it is greatly valued for its most outstanding characteristic: it is self replenishing; no matter how many slices are cut from it, its volume never diminishes– it just kept growing back.

For decades now, humans have treated the Earth like a Magic Pudding, behaving as though, no matter how many slices we take from it, it will also renew itself. In the past few decades, however, scientists have recognized that our Earth is no magic pudding; the resources that we draw from the earth are finite; once they are gone, they are gone forever.

The oil, coal and mineral resources we use in generating power and in the manufacture of goods are a diminishing resource; it is estimated that coal reserves, for example, will last for only a few decades. We are using up the Earth’s resources and placing enormous pressure on the Earth’s natural systems. The Earth’s coal resources, took between 60 and 300 million years to produce; it has taken humans less than 200 years to use them up.

Bunyip and his mates were lucky in another regard; their pudding was delicious – and no matter how much they ate, it didn’t make them sick! We’re not so lucky. When we use coal to create electricity or oil to power our vehicles and machines, the waste by-products damage our atmosphere – they damage the air we breathe. Our refrigerators let loose chemicals which do damage to our atmosphere – especially to the ozone layer, that part of the atmosphere that helps to protect the earth from damaging UV rays from the sun.

Many of the products we manufacture – often with the best intentions – end up doing irreparable damage. In the 50s, the pesticide DDT was hailed as the solution to the problem of crop-destroying pests; it was used freely. It took a decade or more for scientists to realize the damage DDT was doing to animals and birds and rivers.

None of this is new. Scientists have been slowly piecing together a clear picture of the damage that humans have been doing to the planet: the degradation of our air, water, soil and mineral resources; the depletion of fossil fuels; and so on.

What is new is the sense of urgency

The world population continues to increase exponentially. That means that there will be an incredible increase in human demands and human effects on the environment.

Optimists place their hope in human technology and ingenuity – their step of faith is in our capacity to avert environmental disaster through our cleverness, our ability to find technological solutions. Certainly we have begun taking the technical steps – car engines, for example, or much more fuel-efficient and exhaust systems are cleaner than they were ten years ago.

More sober critics – and these include some of the world’s leading scientists – believe that while the technical steps must be taken, that may be too little, too late.

Scientist and thinker Paul Heinrik Robert believes that human demands are on a collision course with the planet’s capacity to meet those needs. He places the moment of collision at roughly 2050 – at which point, life on earth will become unsustainable.

He proposes a program he calls The Natural Step. He asks the simple question: what must we do to ensure that life on the planet is sustainable? His answer is straight-forward; there are four conditions we must achieve:

1. We know that the mineral and oil resources we take from the earth have damaging effects upon the ecosphere: they pollute the Earth’s water, soil and atmosphere.

2. We know that many of the substances we manufacture – CFCs, plastics and so on – are also either damaging to the Earth, or are not easily recycled.

3. We know that the Earth’s topsoil – on which we rely to produce food for ourselves, and upon which all living creatures are reliant – is being degraded and lost. Our methods of farming are destructive in both the short term and the long term.

4. The inequalities that exist – between rich and poor people, between First and Third world countries – must be addressed if the world is to live in peace.

The Natural Step brings together the findings of science and the needs of human beings in a strategy that aims to ensure that life on our planet is sustained.

What is needed is a revolution in the minds and hearts of people across the planet. We are all children of the earth; it’s the only home we have. The Natural Step embodies a non-confrontationist approach to the mounting of this revolution to save the planet for our children, our grandchildren, and generations thereafter.

Doing what we can

Robert’s four point agenda is a demanding one; it requires the attention of governments and corporations across the globe. But each of us – especially those of us in the energy-wasting First world countries - can contribute. There are dozens of ways of conserving precious resources – like water, and dozens of ways of diminishing our ’carbon footprint’.

As a writer, and in particular as a song-writer, I can make a contribution too: I can write articles, stories and songs that will hopefully raise the awareness of others. They also serve to keep my own mind clear and focussed on the importance of these issues.

A Gallery of Environment Songs

Here is a small gallery of songs I have written about environmental issues.

The Natural Step
© B.Carozzi, Words & Music, 2000

There once was a time when the Earth was so green
Full of wonders and beauties - but lately it seems
That vision is fading like an innocent dream
And we wonder how long we have left
For we're clogging the rivers, polluting the seas
We are taming the wild, we're destroying the trees
While our Earth home is dying we do as we please
Makes you wonder just how long - how long we have left

Here is the News: Reports of a massive oil spill in St George's Sound,Alaska, have begun to emerge. This follows yesterday's report that the supertanker, the Exxon Valdez, had run aground and was beginning to shed itscargo of crude oil. Scientists fear that this spill could be the worst inhistory, and could do irreparable damage to the delicately balanced ecologyof the region...

A time - it will come - when we reap what we've sown
When we'll finally pay for the chances we've blown
When at last we will see that it's our fault alone
And we'll pray that enough time is left ...
Enough time to save what we've so nearly lost
When we've seen what we've done and we've counted the cost
Enough time to change from our dangerous course
For it's time for us to take ... The Natural Step

The sea board states of Northern America have been ravaged by the mostviolent hurricanes ever recorded. Winds of up to 250 kilometres an hour haveravaged coastal cities and towns. Scientists believe these vicious stormsare a result of the El Nino effect, a cyclical weather pattern originatingfrom the warming of Pacific Ocean waters near the coast of South America.This warming has been directly related to the phenomenon known as GlobalWarming, which is linked to the over use of fossil fuels in the generationof power ...

There's a time for to reap and a time for to sow
Now the seed has been planted and soon we will know
Will it die in the dust, or will that seed grow
Will it blossom and spread 'cross the land
Will the message take root in our mind and our heart
Will we see there's a chance if we all play our part
Or will we instead turn our backs and depart
And try to pretend to ourselves - we just didn't hear

Nobel prize winning Swedish scientist, Paul Robert, predicts that we facean environmental catastrophe so great that life on the planet could becomeunsustainable in less than fifty or so years. However, we have a smallwindow of opportunity open to us, he says, to reverse this trajectory ofchange... but it will involve making hard decisions. His strategy, entitledThe Natural Step, seeks to make a solution possible through the carefulanalysis of the sustainability of any proposed development ...

Every mother and father, every daughter and son
Time to roll up our sleeves for there's work to be done
If our world's to be saved , each and every one
Must decide it's time to take ... The Natural Step...

We are all children of the Earth
© B.Carozzi, Words & Music, 2000

In a small and quiet galaxy
That's called the Milky Way
There's a group of planets orbiting a sun
And there's one - a blue-green world
That is so vulnerable and small
Where life began, where life is holding on

And we are children of the stars,
We are all children of the stars
It's from the dust of stars that we were formed
In this vast universe , so dark
Our life is here - a tiny spark
We are all children of the stars

Each night we view the miracle
The stars in grand array
The silent glory of the Universe
We stop and look around us
At the wonders of our world
The miracle of life upon this earth

We are all children of the Earth
We are all children of the Earth
This Earth, this wondrous Earth, it is our home
It is our shelter in the nightIt is our hope in morning light
We are all children of the EarthWe are all children of the Earth

We are all children of the Earth
This Earth, this wondrous Earth, it is our home
In this vast universe , so darkOur life is here - a tiny spark
We are all children of the Earth
We are all children of the Earth
We are all children of the Earth
This Earth, this wondrous Earth, it is our home
We are all children of the Earth
We are all children of the Earth
We are all children of the Earth

Sustainability© B.Carozzi, Words & Music, 2001

It's all about the Earth's fragility
We've got to keep the planet liveable
Anything else would be unforgivable

If life's to be sustained down here
We need a healthy atmosphere
We have to follow simple rules
And stop relying on fossil fuels

It's clear - that something's very wrong
And if you'd like to make a difference
Then join in with this song

The future - it's no real mystery
If we're not careful - we'll be history
We have to mend our ways - for sure
Or we'll be joining the dinosaurTy-ran-osaurus Rex

He's long gone - we could be next
If we don't change our ways
We'll just be another museum display

It's clear - we've been asleep too long
This is a wake up call for sustainability
Come and sing along

We fill our seas with human waste
Waste resources that can't be replaced
We've gotta start using our brains
Or life on Earth can't be sustained...
It's all about the Earth's fragility
What we need is SUS TAIN ABILITY
It's time we kicked up a fuss
Cos the future of the Earth is up to us

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