Tomorrow begins a new year, a new decade, a new century and a new millennium - surely a time for thinking about the future. For Y2K, our culture worries about disasters caused by its reliance on computers while, according to the stock market, it bets the future on increased consumption, especially of computers, media, and the Internet. Unfortunately, like the magician who distracts us from the real action with his sleight of hand, modern society dazzles us with technology and entertainment, distracting us from the damage created by our consumption.
Concern for the future should center around our relationship with the Earth, not with high technology. We need to disconnect from machines and the media and begin to reconnect directly with the Earth and our local environment.
In the foreseeable future, the countless organisms with which we share this planet will continue to interact with each other, with us and with the natural environment, ever evolving in order to reproduce more successfully. What began as a lifeless, rocky sphere with a toxic atmosphere became our home, this place of ineffable complexity and indescribable beauty. Life changes this planet. It creates diversity, fertility and stability.
The sum of all this life has been called "Gaia," the living Earth. Yet, people seem to be increasingly unaware of this spectacular organism, our dependence on it, and the widespread damage our lifestyles inflict. The living Earth becomes more remote to us as it is conquered and developed in the name of progress. Forests are clear cut; precious water resources are polluted and wasted. Species are extinguished, the atmosphere is altered and farmland is developed - all at an increasingly alarming rate. Opportunities for direct interaction with nature become fewer and fewer and are often reduced to manicured suburban lawns and mall plantings. Media becomes our environment.
Last year, Americans, on average, spent half of every day, twelve hours, exposed to the media, up from ten hours in 1995. Unfortunately, the media has just one goal: to increase our purchases of advertisers' goods and services and of media itself. Many brilliant minds work to increase the sales of specific products especially to children and young people. The media won't tell us to decrease consumption. That would put them out of business. But, when we pay careful attention to the Earth, we learn that we need to consume less.
The Internet, this decade's hot new thing, despite promises of open communication and widely available information, seems to be evolving into just another way to encourage more consumption. Dot-com pervades our existence. With the material world just a mouse click away, our ways of living can become even more disconnected from the effects our choices have on the environment. For example, our current system produces almost 16 pounds of waste for every pound of product we purchase.
There is a vast and increasing ignorance about how we might live sustainably and equitably on this Earth. We can begin to reclaim the knowledge of how to live here by directly interacting with the natural environment. This is why the organic home garden, based on human energy, recycled wastes and sunlight should be a part of everyone's future. It provides a pathway to greater understanding of "Gaia" while it satisfies some of our most basic needs.
Begin now to plan your organic garden for next year.
Happy New Year!
This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth
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