When Truth is Unbelievable
As a college junior I frequented a website (www.dieoff.org) where prognosticators observed that with accelerating rates of environmental destruction, overpopulation and fossil fuel depletion, modern civilization was on the verge of collapse.
Despite the alarmist tone, these writings were not pseudo-scientific rants, but well-researched articles by eminent authors spelling doom. And there were books on these subjects, too, such as Richard Heinberg’s The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies. I kept my new-found realization that life as we knew it was coming an end to myself, for fear of being labeled a “Cassandra.”
Only that’s exactly what I would soon become.
In Greek mythology, Cassandra was gifted with the ability to see the future and cursed so that no one would believe her predictions. My own “prophecy” came in the form of J-curves, trend projections and grim statistics compiled by bright, trained minds, and also an intuitive sense of what would come of humankind befouling its own nest.
Despite fear of a similar curse, I tried my best over the next seven years to share my “vision” of the error of our ways.
More specifically, my message was that peaking global petroleum supplies were threatening the suburban American lifestyle and worse yet, that habitat loss, soil depletion and toxic pollution were beginning to threaten the human species.
Far from feeling hopeless, I shared my vision with others that by driving less, spending less, wasting less and wanting less—and by growing more food, making more friends and living lighter on the earth—we could survive and thrive, as well as make sure we left a habitable planet to the coming generations.
From Rotary Clubs to college classrooms, my presentations mostly received dull stares and polite questions from audiences who hopped back in their cars at the evening’s end and probably never thought about the subject again. But there was the occasional sentiment of entitlement—“Nobody can take my Hummer away from me,” murmured one attendee. And a boy in a middle school classroom worried out loud following my talk that the oil age would end before he could get his driver’s license.
Ambivalence prevailed among audience members who felt guilty for the planet’s plight while they cherished their energy addictions—their private car, big house, trips to Europe. The mainstream media, though, was decidedly unbelieving of my Cassandra-esque prophecies.
In 2005 Harper’s Magazine did a cover story on a conference I organized on peak oil, calling the movement a “liberal apocalypse” and likening its adherents to Christians preaching Armageddon. Not long after that I appeared on MSNBC’s “Scarborough Country,” where I was ridiculed for the notion of composting toilets, criticized by media personality John Stossel and had my “talking head” intermixed with scenes from the apocalyptic movie Mad Max.
I was reminded of a quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi—“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
If the axiom is correct, then I was somewhere between being humiliated and attacked, with the prospect of victory not far off.
But seven years after I began a crusade to educate and mobilize my fellow citizens, I find the environmental movement seems largely ineffective, the culture more distracted and people more ambivalent than ever. Climate change is seen as a hoax perpetuated by grant-greedy scientists, peak oil remains the territory of kooks and pessimists and the next iPad version is more important to the public and media than the next version of Earth we are creating by radically altering the atmosphere, biosphere and hydrosphere.
When millions of gallons of crude oil began gushing into the Gulf of Mexico after a drilling rig exploded, I heard the familiar corporate blame game with BP lambasted for its negligence. But calls to boycott BP won’t save the Gulf, or the planet. BP and every other energy company is merely doing what we consumers are asking them to do when we demand cheap energy.
Most upsetting to this Cassandra is that the poisoning of the Gulf could have been the wake-up call we need to change our ways. Instead, the leaking may be stopped or the oil captured for production, BP may financially recover, and we will be content to continue consuming happily—if only for a little while.
Or we could see the BP Gulf disaster for what it is—a depleting of our finite, fast-diminishing resources, a degradation of our habitat and an escalating poisoning of ourselves, our waterways, soils and air.
But of course, no one will believe me.
People across New England witnessed a dramatic celestial event Sunday night.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By David Reichmuth
Over the last month, I've seen a number of opinion articles attacking electric vehicles (EVs). Sadly, this comes as no surprise: now that the Biden administration is introducing federal policies to accelerate the roll out of electric vehicles, we were bound to see a reaction from those that oppose reducing climate changing emissions and petroleum use.
The majority of EVs sold in 2020 were models with a starting price (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) under $40,000 and only a fifth of models had a starting price over $60,000.
On Friday, China set out an economic blueprint for the next five years, which was expected to substantiate the goal set out last fall by President Xi Jinping for the country to reach net-zero emissions before 2060 and hit peak emissions by 2030.
The Great Trail in Canada is recognized as the world's longest recreational trail for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Created by the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and various partners, The Great Trail consists of a series of smaller, interconnected routes that stretch from St. John's to Vancouver and even into the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It took nearly 25 years to connect the 27,000 kilometers of greenway in ways that were safe and accessible to hikers. Now, thanks to a new partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee and AccessNow, the TCT is increasing accessibility throughout The Great Trail for people with disabilities.
Trans Canada Trail and AccessNow partnership for AccessOutdoors / Trails for All project. Mapping day at Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, British Columbia with Richard Peter. Alexa Fernando<p>This partnership also comes at a time when access to outdoor recreation is more important to Canadian citizens than ever. <a href="https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200527/dq200527b-eng.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies from the spring of 2020</a> indicate that Canadian's <a href="https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/moneytalk-mental-health-during-covid-19-1.1567633" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mental health has worsened</a> since the onset of social distancing protocols due to COVID-19. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/safe-activities-during-covid19/art-20489385" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayo Clinic</a> lists hiking, biking, and skiing as safe activities during COVID-19. Their website explains, "When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected."</p><p>TCT leadership took this into consideration when embarking on the accessibility project. McMahon explains that there has never been a more important time to bring accessibility to the great outdoors: "Canadians have told us that during these difficult times, they value access to natural spaces to stay active, take care of their mental health, and socially connect with others while respecting physical distancing and public health directives. This partnership is incredibly important especially now as trails have become a lifeline for Canadians."</p><p>Together, these organizations are paving the way for better physical and mental health among all Canadians. To learn more about the TCT's mission and initiatives, check out their <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/stories/" target="_blank">trail stories</a> and <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/TCT_2020-Donor-Impact-Report_EN_8.5x14-web.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Impact Report</a>.</p>