Thursday, April 18, 2013

When the Left Turned Green

At college in the mid-fifties, a Pete Seeger concert opened my mind to non-Republican ways of thinking –  about working people getting their just due and everyone getting a share of the pie.  I loved the lyrics of  “Roll on Columbia” by Woody Guthrie that advocated technology bringing wealth to all the people.
And on up the river is Grand Coulee Dam
The mightiest thing ever built by a man
To run the great factories and water the land
So roll on, Columbia, roll on
Your power is turning our darkness to dawn. . .
I was proud to identify with a Left that advocated a better world for all.
During the 60s, a couple of books were published, initiating the environmental movement. Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962, making DuPont’s phrase “better living through chemistry” a joke. Carson’s book inspired much needed citizen action to clean up pollution of our air, water, and land.
In 1968, an ugly side of the environmental movement emerged when Paul Ehrlich published The Population Bomb.  This book representing the radical, people-negative branch of the environmental movement, implies consumption [not the TB kind] is bad, because there are only so many resources to go around, and the best thing to do is have fewer people using them, else humanity will crash like a neglected fruit fly population in a milk bottle.   Ehrlich didn’t take into account that human ingenuity creates resources by finding new uses for existing materials.  In the Stone Age, iron ore was just dirt.  And the Stone Age didn’t end because they ran out of stone.
Ehrlich stated:  “India where population growth is colossal, agriculture hopelessly antiquated, and the government incompetent will be one of those we must allow to slip down the drain,” in other words, die.  Despite his callous recommendations, Ehrlich became the guru of the radical environmental movement.   However, Black Panthers and Catholics, unlikely bedfellows, understood the problem was one of distribution, not finite resources.  
Pete Seeger climbed onto the environmental bandwagon writing songs about the population explosion, species extinction, and pollution in general with such songs as “We’ll All Be A’Doubling” and “The Last Whale” in 1970, and “Garbage” in 1977.   These songs focus on people’s relationship with the earth rather than with each other.
As the concern for the planet increased, concern for the ordinary people on it decreased.  We all need a healthy planet for our own survival, but there are those, such as Ehrlich and the Club of Rome, who believe humanity is a cancer on the planet.  

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Belonging to the Beloved Community

When I signed up for the annual Canvass Dinner, I explained that I needed to eat in the Social Hall because I have to wear a gas mask in the sanctuary to filter out the allergens in that room and I can’t eat wearing a gas mask.  No problem, they said.  I confirmed my need to eat in the Social Hall twice more.  Not to worry, they said.
That day I arrived at three to help set out brats and buns for the dinner.   After we separated out special foods for the gluten-free, the dairy-free, the pork-free, the meat-free, and the all animal products-free diners, I laid my raincoat on a chair to reserve my place in the Social Hall.   Then around five someone asked me to welcome the arrivals and I went out to the parking lot with an umbrella.   Half hour later, when I came into the Social Hall to eat, my coat had been moved and the table was full. Nobody claimed to know why the coat was there or whose coat it was although my name was printed prominently on it.   One person at the table said, “Everybody knows you were supposed to reserve a place by drawing on the newsprint.”  The others at the table laughed.
  I was so furious I couldn’t speak. My mind flashed back to middle school Mean Girls.  Wasn’t my need to simultaneously eat and breathe as important as the needs of the voluntary vegans?  
I took my plate of food and went home.