Next Thursday is the Fall Equinox. The sun will rise due east and set due west, everywhere on the planet. On this day, the sun is directly above the equator as it moves swiftly from the northern to the southern hemisphere.
This Equinox broadcast marks the beginning of Living on the Earth's tenth year. For a decade, these essays have been, and still are, dedicated to the proposition that we need to evolve a new relationship with the Earth. Understanding the flows and cycles of the natural world, we should use direct, energy-efficient and environmentally-sound approaches to fulfill our basic needs. These approaches include wider solar energy-use and a greater reliance on the bounty of green plants. Individual actions, education and community alliances are needed to work toward a future we can look forward to and live with, all over the Earth.
Over the past decade, mounting evidence has increasingly condemned our current relationship with the environment. Hurricane Floyd is just the latest of many weather events, including droughts and deluges, which confirm the worries of climate experts. The increasing incidence of serious insect and water-borne diseases is further indication of just how out of balance we've pushed ecosystems. And yet, the dominant culture seems ever more to be headed in the wrong direction-toward greater energy and toxic chemical use and further estrangement from the natural world.
Hundreds of millions of people around the world don't even have enough resources to satisfy their basic needs for water, food and shelter. Every day, more than 30,000 people, mostly children, die from lack of life's bare necessities. Although there is only one-half an acre of arable land per person globally, it now takes at least an acre and a half to feed the average American. Yet farmland here disappears under pavement and buildings at an alarming rate.
While First World nations strive for ever-faster Internet service and ever-more television channels, many Third World citizens go without even basic health care and education. In India alone, a third of a billion people are illiterate. Faster E-commerce isn't likely to help them.
Yet, the global production juggernaut keeps creating more material goods for those with too much already, always encouraging greater consumption.
Many people in the United States and other wealthy nations would benefit from consuming less. Junk foods, violent entertainment, big cars, toxic chemicals, alcohol and tobacco are just some of the goods whose shrinking consumption could improve the health of humans and the environment. Yet the perverse logic of global capitalism considers all of these goods, as well as traffic accidents, hurricanes, floods and expensive medical problems as positive in its accounting system. The more costly the problems, the bigger their positive impact on the global economy.
This economic system creates less self-reliance and greater dependence on distant sources nearly everywhere, while its side effects like climate change and political unrest- argue for the opposite.
The world's poor don't need more cars, computers, cell phones, fast-food restaurants or television shows What they do need is 2,000 calories of nourishing food per day, potable water, positive role models for their own lives and peace.
It's comforting to know, however, that there's a steadily rising undercurrent of practical opposition to this dysfunctional system from those who take the warnings seriously. Increase pleasure by decreasing consumption and make more intelligent choices: garden, stay home, buy less, use solar energy, read, talk, walk, and just simplify life.
Thanks to so many listeners who've shared stories of their successes along this path.
This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth
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