Who will mourn the consumption monkeys?

by Robert T. Nanninga

arth Day used to be such a joyful occasion. Hope mixed with activism and a parade of diversity, this multigenerational, multicultural labor of love for our planet was something to look forward to. No longer the happy party, Earth Day has become a time of serious reflection.

    “What on earth are we doing?” is a good question. “What on earth are we doing that we shouldn't?”, “What are we not doing that we should?” and “Are we ready for the future already in motion?” are others.

    Here in San Diego our yearly teach-in takes the form of America’s largest and most successful Environmental Earth Fair. Always fun, always informative, people gather in the park to recharge their revolutionary spirit, while reaching out to others trying to save the world.

    Six years under the assault of the Bush Administration, the environment and environmentalists have been hard-targeted by global corporatists who don't even bother with the pretense of ecological stewardship. News of imminent climate change and shifting weather patterns does little to steer the Bush Administration from its titanic course.

    The ghost of future hardships overshadows any sign of hope. Ocean levels are rising; are Californians ready for reality served Katrina style? Is San Diego County ready? As easy as it is to point fingers at the federal government, local communities bear the brunt of the blame. Generations of San Diegans are responsible for the ongoing destruction of the part of the planet currently known as San Diego. We live here. This is our mess.

    George Bush has nothing to do with the Gregory Canyon Landfill. George Bush has nothing to do with the loss of agriculture, the mind-numbing traffic, the development of hillsides, the toxic residue running off our communities into the Pacific, or the planting of ecologically-malignant species at the expense of the native flora, fauna, and indigenous cultures.

    That San Diego County has long surpassed sustainability is hardly the fault of George W. Bush. We did this and will continue to, as long as we continue to support the current paradigm of wasteful indifference. Building malls, sport stadiums, and other temples of consumption in the middle of a river valley floodplain is courting ecological disaster. Subsidizing overpopulation through overdevelopment does nothing to improve the quality of life in the region.

    Until San Diegians and Californians seriously address the issues associated with population and ecological sustainability, we will never know security – economic or otherwise.

    Climate change and dwindling resources will force all Californians to rethink how they live. Here in San Diego we will soon come to terms with the fact that we can no longer feed ourselves. Overfishing, industrial pollution, and collapsing food chains will mean the Pacific will provide little for the residents of the San Diego County/Tijuana mega-metropolis of the near future.

    Now is the time for all of us to reconsider the choices we have made up to this point. Are we leaving anything for future generations?

    Environmentalism, once the bastion of middle class altruism, has become a matter of self-preservation. Protecting the environment is now the domain of soccer moms with asthma kids, corporatists reducing waste to increase profits, and Nimbys seeking status quo. Whatever the reason for their conversion, I am glad that more people are waking up to the ecological mess we have created.

    If there were a twelve-step program for environmental redemption, admitting to a history of suicidal behaviors that enable the dismantling of the ecosystems that maintain our tenuous existence on planet earth would be the first step. The second would be to understand evolution is the sum of its parts: Human actions will result in corresponding reactions such as climate change, mass extinctions, and societal collapse.

    Earth Day celebrations and other environmental gatherings need to be more than a chorus of hallelujahs and hand-wringing. Earth Day must evolve if it is to remain pertinent. The time of hope and happy endings has past. It is time for environmentalists to shift into militant mode.

    The paradigm of plunder and pollution must be abandoned, and the culture of mindless consumption smothered, if San Diegans wish to survive the 21st century. Elected officials unwilling or unable to address the ecological destruction of Southern California should be driven from office and the processes of governance.

    Without a revolution of spirit, and a change in direction, life as we know it will be our undoing, and we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

    Robert Nanninga, a Leucadia resident, is a Green Party Activist, freelance journalist, actor, performance poet, and a founding member of the Iris Forum, the first multi-partisan environmental think-tank. Observations From The Edge can be read weekly in the Coast News.