mardi 24 mars 2015

When you’re the last one, you don’t care much about environment – Into French “après moi le déluge”

We often ear about ecological disasters, may be without paying attention to the resemblance of the many cases, whereas they occurred very apart one from the other. May be you eared about massive oil spills like Exxon Valdez[1], Amoco Cadiz[2] or Deep Water Horizon[3], or nuclear accidents like Tchernobyl[4] or Fukushima[5] or massive water contamination with chemicals (medicines, contraceptive pills, fertilizers[6], pesticides[7]…) or the plastic debris concentrations in the oceans[8]. These are only few and world-renewed cases. But any reader will surely be able to dress is own list with the damages he’s advised in his country or even in his town.

Some people could say me that it is due to the so called modernity. The appetite of money and wealth, combined with some ideological adjuvants created these disasters. The ugly capitalist bankers of Wall Street, greedy as the Scrooge of the tale[9], force the professionals to neglect security rules, conducting to disasters like Fukushima[10]. A variant is to blame the communism and its disregard for the protection of nature. But the biggest ecological disasters are not from our time, but from ancient period, like the deforestation of the Eastern Island[11] or the desertification of Sahara[12], both caused by excessive wood cuts, the first hundreds of years ago, the second millenaries ago, both without any banking system, nor money.

So what does have in common the disappearance of the Aral Sea[13], the deforestation of Eastern Island, the Fukushima nuclear accident or the rise of junk food in western styled countries? I think that we can find a common factor: the disinterest for tomorrow, the loss of the future.

How can we understand it well in order to gain something for our own world? Let’s make some basic consideration about time and nations. Some people consider that the world is composed of individuals, grouped in various social network called towns, regions, countries, as a sort of Russian salad where all the ingredients jumble in a bowl, but are not integrated. Other people consider, on the contrary that we are not mere individuals but members of a family who roots in the past and points to the future. In that vision we are in charge to transmit and enhance the heritage we received from our fathers, not as owners but trustees. And the social networks are no more than families of families, from the small one of the father, his wife and their children to the biggest family of the human kind. In the words of Terence Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto, I am Human: nothing of what is human is foreign to me.

A lot of implications came from that link made in us between the past and the future. Ascribing ourselves in a greater movement, our needs and our satisfaction can’t be the alpha and omega of our preoccupations and occupations. Moreover, it requires organizing our life in order to transmit and for the part we can, improve the legacy of time and culture. But it can’t be a static reverence of the past because as transmitters we are not allowed to die in order to give something dead, the past. On the contrary we will make ourselves slaves of this past, as glorious as it could have been, looking like old nobilities in their ruining ancestral castle. It is a creative tension between the tribute to the roots which give us life and the need to reform the institutions they issued in order to maintain flourishing the life of our family. A tree that ceases to grow will die. At the same time, if we don’t clean the tree from the deadwood and the branches in excess it stops to give fruits. But cutting the roots in order to develop the tree will kill him.

The good trustee is the one who know that is a ferryman, in charge to transfer safely an heritage from the shore of his parents to the one of his children. He although know that they will have to do the same, so he take his decision to the light of the very long term. He always tries to be the fair and just he can with his ancestors, himself and his descendant. For that reason he studies the story of his family, culture and nation. He try to know the reasons why his ancestors dealed this or that way, their motivations and constrains in order to adapt this tradition to the new coming times. With prudence he although judge the quality and convenience of their choices, not to feel better or worse, but in order to make the best decision he can. Reverence is not slavery to the past, but conscience of the debt, with its lights and darkness.

As a trustee he’s although in charge to prepare the next generation to this mission of transmission. For that he does his best to make them love the roots they’re coming from, but without any obsession nor jealousy or envy for the other families (whereas the neighbors or the foreign countries). As a just and fair opening to the future he’s opened to the good things coming from the youth and from abroad in order to enhance the common heritage. In a word he’s a balanced man, going continuously from the past to the future, inspired by inside and outside ideas. In that ways he gives life to the future, inspired in the good things of the past and of the foreigners. 

Let’s now imagine a man deprived of this link with the past, and therefore with the future. He may have children, and even take care of them. But how will he deal it? Such a man, even with the better good will, is only a person of the present and the immediate moment. He may realize a lot of things, and create businesses or big public realization like stadiums, hospital and even cities. But the way he is seen the world leads him to produce projects for now only, not anchored in the tradition in order to remain for the future.

When the romans were building a bridge or a city they were doing it for the greater glory of Rome, which means for centuries. 2.000 years later we still use some roman bridges, even with full loaded trucks! On the contrary we now build our urban bridges with programmed obsolescence, which is typical of a civilization of the present moment where 30 years seems to be like eternity. And when we edify for the very long term we proudly announce a 120 years guaranteed concrete as a galactic exploit when one of the Pantheon of Rome stand up since 2.000 years…

With the same logic a man who’s the last one, or to be more accurate, a man who lives as if he was the last one doesn’t care for what is coming after him. We can typically see it in the nuclear power industry. The one we developed since 1945 was not the only one possible[14], but the easiest and quickest to develop, in order to deal with together with the nuclear military industry and the oil shocks of the 70’. In a special way the sort of the fission products released by the water pressurized reactors was bypassed for many years, with the problematic idea to store them for millenaries[15]. In a similar way, under the same short-term state planning, in this case for the food production increase[16], the agroindustry had but no consideration for the consequences of the massive use of chemical fertilizing on the behavior of the soils and the nutritive qualities of the food[17]. Today we now that indiscriminate fertilizing lead to the disappearance of the micro-organism which vivify the soils and allow the plants to assimilate the micro-nutriments so important for the health of the living. With few exceptions the men that promoted and organized these harmful activities were honest and sincerely interested in the good of the community. Promises and effects were great and immediate, guaranteed without any painful consequences. So why they didn’t see what is evident for us? Because they were not in the long term, but only in the present moment, they were not able to notice the things that really matters.

They are dozens of examples in a lot of fields of the negative consequences to live as if we were the last generation, without anything to deal with the future and the long term consequences of our actions. Choosing harmful teaching methods for reading, creating old people’s homes that banish them from their families, inciting women to work instead of nursing themselves their kids, inviting married people to muddle emotions and true love, promoting pornography and moral poisoning of youth are some examples of so the called crisis of western countries. May be you will hardly find the connection between reading methods and the promotion of pornography. But they all have a common core, the refusal of the vocation of transmitter. What we call “economic” or “moral” crisis, depending of the day and the point of view, it in reality a crisis of the transmission, , to skip to an eternal present where our acts are not ascribed in the course of time, but suspended in an everlasting today. That’s the reason why we continuously discover “problems” and face “sanitary scandals” that are just the other name of the decision taken yesterday, without caring of their consequences. But if God forgive ever and men only time to time, nature never does it. The real question is why, in spite of dozens of similar cases, in but already all the fields of human activity, we continue to speak of “accidents” caused by “bad persons” that were conducted by their “greed”  as if our social models were innocent of all trace of evil. Pope Holy John Paul II spoke of “structure of sin” that conduct normal and good willing people to act badly and even against what they know to be good and fair because of the pressure and even repression of the community.

This “structures of sin” are very pernicious because they’re always presented necessary to “serve the liberty of the people” or “for the good of the community”. And many times we perceive their action once we are their victims. A good way to detect them is to ask oneself some basic questions “can I say in public all what I think true without negative consequences for me or my family?” “If I had another alternative, would I do the same choice?” “Are some people suffering hidden consequences of my act?” “Am I really free to do it in another way if I wanted?” “Will I apply it to me or my children or do I reserve it for the others?” “What if this was done by a foreigner instead of me?” You might be surprised of the real degree of freedom you have.

This vision of the man as unbound to the others, ascribed only in a false present that is not son of the past nor father of the future create this type of “structure of sin”, a social construction which produce short term driven decision and the incapacity to think on the long term, the one of the centuries. Now that we are more conscious of this fact, will we be as ostriches, hiding our head in the sand in order not the see it? Or will we face the consequences of our past choices, and assuming our mistakes, decide to change the way we deal with the future? Our children are not ours; they are entrusted to us, like the world we are living in. What do we do to let them better than the way we received them?

But facing the consequences of our acts is possible only with interior freedom, the freedom of the man facing with Eternity in each of his moments. Interior freedom is for that reason the most important battle and the only one you really need to fight. The same questions you just ask yourself will help you like “Am I ready to pay the price of saying only and always what I think true[18]?” Once you answered positively to this question you will became what Kipling called “a man, my son[19]” able to face equally all challenges that life is customary to give.

Such interior freedom is priceless – it is the only way by which one can be at peace with his conscience – but it as a high cost, that one can pay only rooted in values and forces that pass the centuries. And to that question – how and where to root oneself – Kipling doesn’t answer. “If you can” lead you to ask who might be powerful enough to give you the strength to face the entire world without collapsing or crushing under his pressure. This question is centric for your life, because if you’re not able to jeopardize the world pressure on your conscience, you’re his slave, for richer or powerful that you seem to be. But at the same time, being really free means that you serve only what’s true and good, ie conform to the reason. The challenge is then to find a master friendly to you that is stronger that the entire universe, but follower of the reason, without reducing to it and. If one of these dimensions lacks, such a master will enslave you. But, if all of us have the desire to be men like the one portrayed by Kipling, then it is not vain and such master does exist. The next step, quasi the easiest, is to check who in the world’s history match with these requisites of power, reason and friendship leveled to their maximum…

[1] The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska, on March 24, 1989, when Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker bound for Long Beach, California, struck Prince William Sound's Bligh Reef at 12:04 AM local time and spilled 260,000 to 750,000 barrels (41,000 to 119,000 m3) of crude oil over the next few days.
[2] The Amoco Cadiz ran aground on Portsall Rocks, 5 km (3.1 mi) from the coast of Brittany, France, on 16 March 1978, and ultimately split in three and sank. It resulted in the largest oil spill of its kind in history to that date.
[3] The Deepwater Horizon oil spill began on 20 April 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico on the BP-operated Macondo Prospect. It claimed eleven lives and is considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. Following the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, a sea-floor oil gusher flowed for 87 days, until it was capped on 15 July 2010.
[4] On April 26, 1986, the explosion of nuclear reactor n°4 at the nuclear plant of Tchernobyl, Ukraine, then USSR, cause the greater nuclear accident ever occurred, leading to an unknown number of deaths. The lack of information is due, partly to the social collapse following the end of soviet era, partly to methodological difficulties (estimations vary to 31 to 27.000 fatalities). The catastrophe was due to a hazardous security test, conducted outside of established procedures by a different team than planned, combined with a poor security culture in the USSR nuclear industry and an unappropriated design of the reactor. In addition to massive soil contamination a 30km zone around the plant is “restricted” with a mortal radioactivity level expected to continue for 20.000 years. Direct costs are estimated various billions of $ a year, split between Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
[5] A catastrophic failure occurred at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant on March 11, 2011, resulting in the meltdown of three of the plant's six nuclear reactors. The failure occurred when the plant was hit by the tsunami triggered by the Tōhoku earthquake. The plant began releasing substantial amounts of radioactive materials beginning on 12 March. Responsibility was pointed to the TEPCO owner and operator for the serious neglects both in security equipment, firm culture and practices. TEPCO acknowledged an impressive list of lies, control falsifications, ignored regulator mandatories or predictions, incapacity to respond to a “cascading nuclear disaster” with the subsequent absence of decisions in the crucial first moments of the crisis. The government shared part of the critics, especially the lack of anticipation of such an accident, with the respective role of public and private institutions.
[6] Indiscriminate use of fertilizer, most of the time under state and regulators pressure, in order to maximize food production, lead to soil washing and impoverishment. Nutrient that are not fixed by microorganism finished in the rivers where they provoke various type of noxiousness like algae’s proliferation or poisoning fishes and drinking water catchment . 
[7] Use most of the time in combination with nutrients, pesticides are biocides that affect all the livings, human includes. Several cases of farmers poisoned by the pesticides they were using had been judged or are in court. The biggest industrial accident of history, the Bhopal disaster, occurred in a in pesticide plant.
[8] The currents system ruling the oceans lead floating debris to concentrate in the convergence zone of each of it. The most renewed and studied of this concentration is situated in the North Pacific one. It is a discrete pollution cause by the photodegradation of plastic to the molecular size leading to it ingestion by the livings.
[9] A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, 1843
[10] TEPCO has been accused of security leaks for years, partly for immediate profit reasons, partly due to cultural reasons (the rigid bureaucratic structures, reluctance to send bad news upwards, need to save face…). 
[11] Even if the history of human occupation of Eastern Island it is certain that the vanishing of original tropical forest and the related remaining trees, 350 years ago, is directly related to human behavior. Interesting is the fact that settlers didn’t changed their way of life, until forced by the vegetation and climatic change they provided to cause. Because of their incapacity to gesture the wood cuts, unlike Europe in the middle age, islanders loosed the possibility to navigate or to fish, compounding even more their ability to survive.
[12] Even if natural causes are involved, as the modification of earth’s rotation axis, the human activity, especially wood cuts, contributed to the desertification of the Sahara, from 6000 to 3900 BC when it became arid. As a residue of the period we can notice the West African crocodile. As for Eastern Island the problem was the incapacity of men to adapt their way of doing to the changing circumstances. Instead of improving their techniques or improving their efficiency they continued with the same, until exhaustion of the local resources.
[13] One of the biggest human caused natural disasters ever occurred, leading to the drying of the Aral Sea, one the 4th biggest lake in the world, between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, at the time USSR, following the order of Stalin to develop the culture of cotton, melons and rice. Both rivers feeding the Aral Sea were diverted to irrigate the desert, with a waste of 30% to 75% of collected water, still occurring nowadays. Today, only 12% of Uzbekistan's irrigation canal length is waterproofed.
[16] In Europe the Common Agricultural Policy lead to pay farmers to produce more, buy machines and apply massive chemical treatments, conducing do overproduction, fall of the prices, years of surpluses stocking, farmers bankruptcy, sanitary scandals (pigs fed with dioxins, cows with animal flours, horse meat sold as beef…), and a loss of quality and diversity of the production (taste, chemical-free, regional products…)
[17] See the cases against Monsanto in Argentina, India and other countries where the ‘‘green revolution’’ was introduced with the state support.
[18] Saying the true doesn’t mean to say everything to everybody, but the part each one deserve, according to the justice. You don’t say in the same way to a child or an adult that her mother is dying, but you have to say it. And some things can never be said, even to a public authority, like the secret of confession for catholic priests.
[19] From his famous poem If  

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