We shouldn't fool ourselves too badly, though. The human species has a LONG way to go before we achieve anything approaching true environmental awareness. Or any sense of a long term big picture when it comes to ourselves, our role on earth, and our incredible, unprecedented ability to manipulate our environment. And by extension, the environment of every other organism on the planet.
GREEN is not building a more environmentally friendly Walmart. At best, that's damage mitigation. True green is conserving our natural habitats, and trying to live in balance with Nature.
Southern West Virginia. These Appalachian mountains harbor some of the richest diversity of life on earth. Their rich forests attempt to atone for our excesses by sequestering carbon, a byproduct of the ever-increasing need to provide energy for our growing world community. By just being there, these woodlands provide habitat for thousands of species of plants, mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, insects of every stripe, and things that we don't yet even know about.
But fuel is required to feed our mechanized society, and this is one of the ways that we get it. The above shot shows an active mountaintop removal, in which places such as shown in the first photo are leveled to expose underlying coal seams. The depth of destruction is mind-boggling, and it's stupefying to realize that a species so collectively brilliant - us - could be so incomparably stupid. For a very short term gain, we have wrought a scorched earth change that will be with our planet for thousands of years, probably. From an indescribably lush and diverse forest to a lunar landscape, practically overnight.
The pressures to enagage in crimes such as mountaintop removal won't vanish anytime soon. In 2006, world consumption of coal was about 6.75 billion (BILLION) tons of coal. By 2030 our use is projected to rise to a staggering 10 billion tons, an increase of 48%. If we let that happen, you can expect to see many more fabulous mountains lopped off and planted to exotic grasses. There is no mitigation for this sort of thing.
This crew is reveling over warblers in a big West Virginia woodland. I know, because I was there. On that same trip, we also thrilled to red trilliums, pipevine swallowtails, sharp-shinned hawks, tulip trees, the nest of a Black-and-white Warbler, greenshield lichens, and more other stuff than you could shake a stick at. Earth Day organizers would have been proud of us.
Parts of this very mountain, with its richness of life and endless intellectual stimulations, is scheduled for a life-ending double-whammy: a scalping of its timber, then pulverization by mountaintop removal. Hasn't happened yet, but many of its sister mountains have fallen.
Remember, the people that allow this sort of thing to happen have no knowledge of, or interest in, such places. They should be made to sit in the front of the Earth Day 101 class.
Just as all other animals on earth have a finite carrying capacity, so too do we. This chart shows the astronomical rise in the human population, with the huge spurt coming with the so-called Neolithic Revolution - the modernization of agriculture. Now, at least for a while, we have the ability to feed what many experts believe to be far more people than the planet can sustain in the longterm. And the pressures to provide for all of our wants and needs will only continue to skyrocket as well.