Sunday, December 2, 2007

back from Oaxaca, back in the land of consumption

I have been reading the nature diary of Jim who is now in Chiapas in the Yerba Buena reserve. All of his writings echo the feeling of wonder at the natural world and also the intense sadness and sense of loss when I see or read about the accelerating loss of biodiversity and not incidentally health and beauty of the planet. At the moment, he is seeing the reserve-in-name-only being stripped of the magnificent trees.

He says: Way up in the cloud forest, chainsaws whine away. During the day groups of men pile heaps of logs along the highway, and then the logs are loaded and spirited away. The pillaging is of such a scale that clearly most of the wood is being sold commercially, not taken home to local people's kitchens. Atop all that, Yerba Buena's owners are felling large trees in the much smaller tract across the road from the reserve, where I live. Throughout each day large trees crash to the ground with the entire attendant popping of other trees' branches as they're ripped off, the raining sound of bark and epiphytes cascading from the sky, the shaking of the earth itself. Sometimes when a giant falls I ask myself what I'm doing staying here. After I think about it awhile, I realize this: What's happening here is no different from what's going on everyplace else. It's just that here it's all done at such an elemental level that you can see the effects of people's appetites. When the big trees fall you can go look at the new hole in the forest, smell the crushed herbage, see the dislodged epiphytes and see the disoriented birds and squirrels whose nests have disappeared. In contrast, when people in North America and Europe turn up the thermostat more than it needs to be, they don't see the meter at the power plant saying that more energy needs to be generated. They don't see the air- polluting coal that has to be mined, mostly through ecosystem-obliterating strip-mining, to produce the energy they're calling for. They're not confronted with the environmental violence that'll have to be committed someplace on Earth, at some time in the future, in their name, responding to that wrist-turn at the thermostat. For my part, I prefer being here, where the violence at hand is other than by remote control. When a tree falls so close that it jars the ground you're standing on there's no room for hypocrisy or self deception. If you use the wood from that tree, there's no escaping the knowledge that you are an accomplice to the removal of that tree, and to the destruction of the biotic community that once depended on the tree”

I am working on buying nothing, trying to contribute to “good causes” like Amnesty International, Planned Parenthood, Oxfam, Greenpeace etc. etc. But it seems that once I make a small contribution to any of these organizations, I am inundated with an avalanche of mail for more worthy causes, all these organizations seem to generate heart wrenching mailings as often as once a week. I feel emotionally and financially stressed, there is never going to be an end to misery or worthy causes, the nature of non-profit solicitation and the distribution of mailing lists guarantees that the more I contribute the greater increase in the number and frequency of mailings from worthy causes. In addition the small amount that I am able to contribute, 10 or 15 dollars probably does not cover the cost of the beaurocracy, the paper (more dead trees!) and postage for these mailings. So what am I really doing besides acting out of guilt and sorrow?

Photo credit: From the new release: What Would Jesus Buy?

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