Sunday, January 06, 2019

Global Rehabilitation

It is said that, in about 5 billion years, the Sun will enter the "red giant" phase, where it will expand in size, engulf our orbit and destroy all life on earth. 
We couldn't wait. 
On the morning of August 6, 1945, an apprentice electrician was dismantling his house, removing clay tiles from the roof, when he looked up and described "a gigantic fireball. It was at least five times bigger and 10 times brighter than the sun. It was hurtling directly towards me...It was the sound of the universe exploding." His house was destroyed. He spent the next two months in a hospital recovering from his burns. When he returned to the ruins of his house, he found his father's pocket watch, blackened and rusty, the crystal blown away, with shadows of the hands fused into the dial, marking the time of the blast, 8:15 in the morning, the very moment the atom bomb exploded over Hiroshima. 
Tsar Bomba, 10/30/61. No sunscreen necessary.
With the radiance of ten suns burst forth at once in the sky, a new world was born at 8:15 am. Since then, over two thousand nuclear weapons have been tested in the atmosphere and underground. The largest, named Tsar Bomba, was 3,800 times more powerful than the one dropped on Hiroshima. The radiance of 38,000 suns. Even larger bombs have not been detonated because these lose most of their destructive energy to the atmosphere. Lost destructive energy, they say, is a waste. To give a sense of the destructive potential, the radius of total destruction of Tsar Bomba was 34 miles; third-degree burns were caused at 62 miles; a thermal pulse was felt at 170 miles; windows were broken at 560 miles. More windows were broken at greater distances by atmospheric focusing of the shock wave. The blast rings are usually superimposed over major cities to give a sense of the destruction.
Here is another sense. Many have taken the Great American Road Trip across the Dakotas, and Wyoming, visiting the Badlands, Black Hills, Bighorn Mountains, Yellowstone, and beyond. A beautiful journey. Consider: If the blast were to occur over Deerfield Reservoir in the Black Hills, the entire hills ecosystem and community would be destroyed, third-degree burns would occur at Devil's Tower National Monument, a thermal pulse would be felt in the Cloud Peak Wilderness in the Bighorns and Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge in Nebraska, and windows would shatter at St. Mary Visitor Center at Glacier National Park in Montana, Ripple Rock Nature Center at Capital Reef National Park in Utah, the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve visitor center in Kansas, the St. Croix River National Scenic Riverway visitor center in Minnesota, the Park Theater Complex at Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba, and the Grasslands National Park visitor centre in Saskatchewan.
You are here!
58.6 megaton blast radius.
Red = total destruction, orange = third-degree burns, 
orange-yellow = thermal pulse, yellow = broken windows. 
Stewardship
In recent years, there has been much talk about environmental stewardship. The concept has been clarified and enlarged since Aldo Leopold wrote these words in A Sand County Almanac in 1949: "There is as yet no ethic dealing with man’s relation to land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it. The land-relation is still strictly economic, entailing privileges but not obligation" (Leopold 1949). Today, the concept of stewardship describes a mindset of responsible care for and intimate understanding of the biodiversity, sustainability, integration, and services of an ecosystem. Ultimately, the ecosystem is the earth.
Coincidentally, in recent years there has been much study of abusive relationships. Researchers have identified signs of an abusive relationship. These include: 1) Speed: They move into a relationship too quickly, 2) Isolation: They separate the individual from their network of friends and family, 3) Dominance: They take control over the other person's life, 4) Exploitation: They force the other person to give up valuables, 5) Violence: They do physical harm. This can be difficult for some to recognize because of the false normalcy that can be established in long-term abusive relationships.
Speed. Thomas Jefferson predicted that it would take 1000 years to settle the land as far west as the Mississippi River (Hart 1895). Within 103 years of the Corps of Discovery expedition, the bison was nearly extinct, herds of cattle were being driven south to north and back, railroads crossed the territory, and homesteaders were staking claims. Land rush, gold rush, timber boom, oil boom, all were rapid expansions into territory with little, if any, consideration of long-term adverse impacts upon the ecology.
Isolation. Fencing, rails, roads, mines, farms, and cities fragmented the landscape, cutting off migration corridors and gene flow, progressively decreasing the size and quality of native habitat until, in the case of the tallgrass prairie, only 4% of the original remains, and that in small, widely scattered parcels threatened by invasives and loss of genetic diversity.
Dominance. The wild and native habitats were largely replaced by agricultural, urban, and industrial platforms, so that the native large mammals - bison, antelope, grizzly, elk, bighorn sheep, moose - were reduced to fractions of their original numbers and range. Old growth forests, prairies, wild rivers, wetlands, and many species within them saw a drastic reduction in numbers and extent. Leopold called it "man the conqueror...the land as slave and servant."
Reconstructive surgery needed.
Strip mine scars and tailings near Larson, ND. GoogleEarth image. 
Exploitation. As Leopold observed, the objective was economic gain via resource extraction. Oil, coal, gas, iron, gold, timber, soil, water and dozens of other commodities were removed from the land, usually leaving a degraded, damaged landscape behind. Many of these scars are visible today. Many sites are toxic.
Violence. A large percentage of the scientific community is developing "exciting" new ways to destroy humans and civilizations. The ultimate weapon, the doomsday machine, is already in service. An atomic blast properly placed, is so powerful that it vaporizes rock. It etches shadows in concrete. It can cause earthquakes. It sterilizes the ground. Turns sand into glass. This is not normal, rational behavior, it is violence against humanity and the earth.
Intervention
If these behaviors were conducted by an individual, it would be reasonable to conclude that the person was the perpetrator in an abusive relationship, perhaps irrational, delusional, even self-destructive. This is well understood. It has become commonplace as of late for public personas, upon being exposed as addicted, abusive, or violent, often all three occurring together, to enter a rehabilitation facility. Sometimes this comes after friends and family orchestrate a joint effort to convince the person that they have a serious problem requiring treatment. To benefit from the program, the individual needs to go beyond changing behavior, beyond simple abstinence - "white knuckling" - to changing the mind. The problem isn't the drinking, it's the thinking. The problem isn't in the hands, it's in the head. 
Thus, some will benefit from treatment, remaking their thought processes, attitude, and behavior and, therefore, their relationships. And they live a well-adjusted life thereafter. But the road to recovery is a long one, requiring a lifetime of effort. In some treatment programs, a sponsor is needed. One addiction recovery program defines a sponsor as an addict "who has made some progress in the recovery program and shares that experience on a continuous, individual basis with another [addict] who is attempting to attain or maintain sobriety” (Wilson 1939). 
It ain't my fault, you drove me to it.
We would do well to apply this to our relationship to the earth. A change is required in the individual and collective thought process, attitude, and behavior toward the earth. A moral inventory. An honest look in the mirror. And when we find ourselves backslidin', feeling that urge to overindulge in natural resources, to exploit the things around us without regard for consequence, to hoard the earth's riches, to blame others for our behavior, to manipulate the living and non-living things around us solely for our own personal benefit, and to resort to violence when we feel challenged, it is time to call for help. Don't try to fight yourself on your own.
As some in recovery are known to pray, "Give me courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other." 
Amen. 


Hart, Albert Bushnell. 1895. Formation of the Union, 1750-1829. Page 139. Longmans.
Leopold, Aldo. 1949. A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There. Oxford.
Wilson, Bill and Bob Smith. 1939. Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism. Alcoholics Anonymous. 

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