My turn: Why try? It may be hopeless

Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2007

This is not something that you would read for pleasure. In fact, you might find it unsettling; however, we feel it's worthwhile and invite you to continue reading and even contribute to the conversation.

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So what do we have? Global corporations built on the premise that the only thing of importance is the bottom line. It's OK, that's the way of the world, dress it up as you like. Self-interest, greed, wealth and power have always been strong human motivators, in some cases to the exclusion of all other considerations - not only on the corporate level, but down to the level of the individual. So we pollute the earth and kill off a plethora of life forms in the process, but that's someone else's problem, culminating during someone else's lifetime, hopefully. If those species were smart enough - like us - they would make it; it's survival of the fittest, the law of nature. This attitude of course translates to "whatever it takes" to accumulate more money and power; negative consequences are mostly inconsequential, unless or until they become a public relations problem.

When the object is the accumulation of wealth we are willing to spend vast amounts of time and energy on manufacturing, transporting, packaging, marketing and selling a product. Whether the product has any real use or value is beside the point, and so is any detrimental impact on the earth and its inhabitants. We gave ourselves a license to pollute the earth with mountains of toxic waste, poison the earth's water and air supply, disregard the balance of nature, change the earth's climate and drive to extinction living things. A good portion of the products that supposedly make life better and more convenient actually alienate us from nature, fellow human beings and our own body and psyche. This process breeds discontent, illness and destruction - which, in the end, does nothing to make this world a better place.

From the poisoned environment comes disease of the body and psyche, and it takes a diseased psyche - one might argue - to continue poisoning the environment. Peeing in one's own well has become a metaphor for stupid and self-destructive behavior. How much more stupid and self-destructive is it to produce non-biodegradable toxic garbage (like plastic) that ends up in our communal well, the earth's water systems? Do we really disrespect ourselves and other living things that much? Are we really that stupid or lazy or inconsiderate? Don't we all - or at least most of us -- strive to be responsible people? Why do we insist on peeing in our own well?

Maybe we are just ill-informed, or we are overwhelmed by economic pressures, trying to make ends meet, and have no energy left to think about the bigger picture. Or maybe we are disheartened by the magnitude of the problem, and opt not to think about it to avoid depression and maintain some fragile level of sanity which allows us to function in our jobs and social interactions. Man-made environmental problems have become so unimaginably vast, the effects so pervasive, the deep-seated patterns of perpetuation so ingrained, the turn-around time so slow, and the efforts of poor little me won't make a difference anyway. The ratio of time and effort to progress seems demoralizing, and the realistically expectable results infinitesimally minuscule. Meaningful solutions are extraordinarily complex, and methods are crude; funding sources are scarce; the process is painstaking, and the personal commitment necessary is nothing less than heroic. Those that make the choice to commit to the endeavor and attempt to make meaningful change are oftentimes looked upon as busybodies, do-gooders, tree-huggers, hopeless romantics with plenty of free time on their hands to meddle in the affairs of others. So let's just stick to our old ways; doomsday prophets have always been around, and the world still keeps on turning.

We, however, are convinced that you can make a difference! The ocean needs your help! Let's enter into conversation about what we can do.

• Tag Eckles and Dr. Hildegard Sellner are Juneau residents and Turning the Tides council members.

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