In honor of our president’s Nobel Peace Prize reception, I’d like to make two points.
1. There once was a species of bird known as the Great Auk. It grew a little less than three feet tall and looked like a large penguin. Flightless, the Great Auks fed on fish in the North Atlantic and nested on rocky coastlines throughout NE Canada, New England, up into Iceland and Britain. The Great Auk lived upwards of 20 years. Explorers laughed at how indifferently these birds regarded human presence. For this reason, they herded them onto boats and killed them for down-feathers. Increasingly, eggers stole the eggs. There remained colonies of Great Auks as late as the 1830s, until humans completely wiped them out. (To read more on Auks, simply search Google. Also, consider Allen Eckert’s book, The Last Great Auk.)
2. First, read this. Now think about the fact that you can go NOwhere in this entire world and safely drink water. Period.
Violence towards humans is bad. Violence towards nonhumans is difficult. Violence towards water is beyond my comprehension. Giardia, a protozoa spread by fecal-contaminated water, is found all over the world (source); over the past 50 years, thousands of miles of river and lake have been Giardia contaminated by livestock. There are more than 200 known cancer-causing PCBs that still show up in our water supply, as well as in farm-grown and wild salmon. For the sake of brevity, I will not go into insecticide-contaminated water, although it is perhaps the most serious and prevalent contaminant.
The poisonous chemicals the U.S. government mandates that watersheds filter into our tap-water to counteract the poisonous chemicals we have dumped into the ground and the oceans inhibit more than backpackers in Wyoming, more than local governments forced to revise water safety regulations (eg. Portland), more than 3.1 million Indian children who die annually from drinking contaminated water. Chemicals like fluoride, for example, do nothing to detoxify water, but rather pass as a placebo, encouraging tap-drinkers that (a) the water is safer, (b) teeth are stronger, (c) fluoride intake is without considerable risk, and—most importantly—(d) fluoride consumption is natural. Fluoride is one of many byproducts of industrial development, specifically aluminum, concrete, and fertilizer. Oh, also military-grade plutonium and uranium! Fluoride was introduced into the U.S. water supply in the 1940s, round about the same time the U.S. was really pumped about manufacturing as much aluminum, steel, glass, and weaponry as they could muster. What do you do with all that excess fluoride, especially when it’s deadly toxic? First step: convince people it’s not that bad.
Fluoride is an example of intentional dishonesty. There are scores of other chemicals found in our worldwide water supply that we unintentionally support by encouraging industry. Additionally, for the past 200 years, the United States has not only contaminated the world’s water supply by encouraging economic growth at the cost both human and nonhuman life, it has systematically drained its own rivers until they no longer support life. Farms. Golf courses. Las Fucking Vegas.
I’ve fished the Deschutes River since I was 5 years old. I’ve watched that river level steadily drop, the fishery thin, and the surrounding, booming development siphon the water to drench the farms that feed the cities. I’ve seen dead fish floating in back eddies and met fisherman who remember when there were so many Steelhead you could actually look into the river see them. Not on the end of fly-line, but in the water. Swimming. I’ve visited the Deschutes for nearly 30 years, and I have never seen that.
Lastly, please look at this picture. The river that created this canyon, the deepest of the planet, no longer reaches the ocean. It just peters out.
We are a species violent towards anything that doesn’t serve our immediate needs. (Perhaps this is a characteristic of our civilization, not our species?) Human violence toward humans, I believe, is a byproduct of our violence toward everything else. We see the world as a resource and we fight to retain ownership. How can we heal human wounds when we are still destroying the basis of that human life, those resources we fight over? How can we preemptively reward the leader of the most industrial (read: violent) region on the planet?