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The Eleventh Commandment.

Free Rein's picture

“Every man for himself and God for us all.” This is my definition for the era we are living in. I welcome you to the 20th century where everyone wants to be competitive. Where nobody wants to be considered ‘less’ by the ever-judging society. Where everyone strives for the survival and benefit for his or her own good and doesn’t care about the external costs they impose on others. “Japanese genetic engineer Akari Ishikawa developed a form of lichenized fungus in which the photosynthetic partner consumed atmospheric CO2 much more efficiently than existing forms, and was able to grow in a wide diversity of environmental conditions… In public pronouncements, the Japanese government has maintained that Ishikawa acted alone, and cast her as a criminal renegade. Yet many Japanese citizens have seen her as a hero, who did what their government could not, or would not, do. Most Chinese scholars reject both positions, contending that the Japanese government, having struggled and failed to reduce Japan’s own carbon emissions, provided Ishikawa with the necessary resources and then turned a blind eye toward its dangerous and uncertain character” (P.32). The century where anyone who is trying to change the rules of the game is looked down upon and is rejected by the society.

 “We’re the solution, as well as the problem, as well as the creators of the problem” (P.6). I agree with every word in the above statement. “While analysts differ on the exact circumstances, virtually all agree that people of the Western civilization knew what was happening to them but were unable to stop it. Indeed, the most startling aspect of this story is just how much these people knew, and how unable they were to act upon what they knew. Knowledge did not translate into power” (P.2). The biggest challenge we are facing is being dependent on the government. Yes, we know that there are problems in the climatic system and in the contrary, we sit down and expect our leaders to stop global warming, stop the rising sea levels, reduce Carbon(IV) Oxide concentration and what not. When the government fails to achieve what, we hoped for, we in turn hold protests and demos chanting what a failure the government is. Other times we hide ourselves into the cloud of silence and pretend like nothing is happening. When the system strikes back again and this time around a larger mass is involved, we go back to the lame unisons and the process repeats itself instead of leading ourselves in the change we want to see. “Western civilization became trapped in the grip of two inhibiting ideologies: positivism and market fundamentalism” (P.35). “A key attribute of the period was that power did not reside in the hands of those who understood the climate system, but rather in political, economic, and social institutions that had a strong interest in maintaining the use of fossil fuels” (P.36) We watch the destruction of our planet every single day, overshadowing other with words like development and urbanization. I know there are a few environmental activists out there, but only a few are willing to take the risk. The risk of being discriminated against, assassination and jailing.

“But a shadow of ignorance and denial had fallen over the people who considered themselves Children of the Enlightenment” (P.9). I cannot deny the fact that I have been a victim of this too. Every day we encounter advertisements and information about the importance of recycling our waste products, using energy saving light bulbs, moderating our lifestyle and planting trees among other methods of conserving the environment and we hurriedly hit the ‘skip ad’ button. It’s funny how you get distracted when you realize that you cannot bunk through the adverts or you rant throughout the entire thing claiming how it’s ‘wasting your time’ because apparently, you want to watch an episode of Game of Thrones or Quantico which has been released some few hours ago. Isn’t it also funny how we are in the know of things that don’t concern the environment and lag in the matters that are wiping out the biosphere.

“Other scientists promoted the ideas of systems science, complexity science, and, most pertinent to our purposes here, earth systems science, but these so-called holistic approaches still focused almost entirely on natural systems, omitting from consideration the social components. Yet in many cases, the social components were the dominant system drivers. It was often said, for example, that climate change was caused by increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. Scientists understood that those greenhouse gases were accumulating because of the activities of human beings—deforestation and fossil fuel combustion— yet they rarely said that the cause was people, and their patterns of conspicuous consumption” (P.16). As much as we try to run away from the reality, as much as we don’t want anything to be addressed in black and white, give preference to shaded things, it’s time we run no more. It’s time that we man up, sit down and come up with solutions to the drastic change in the climate system.

“…between 1992 and 2012, total CO2 emissions increased by 38 percent.12 Some of this increase was understandable, as energy use grew in poor nations seeking to raise their standard of living. Less explicable is why, at the very moment when disruptive climate change was becoming apparent, wealthy nations dramatically increased their production of fossil fuels” (P.19). However, as much as I and ‘we’ keep on advocating for change in our day-to-day habits, we can’t help but be embedded into some circumstances. Circumstances of good will and faith that are geared towards improving the wellbeing of own lives. When poor nations take initiatives of urbanization for the welfare of the citizens, they are followed by grave consequences like mass destruction of property, animals and even human beings.

I don’t want this to be an arena to wash my dirty linen in public; of ways in which I have been ignorant and arrogant towards issues concerning the environment. Rather, I want it to be a platform of effecting the change that we have been yearning for. To vocalize on the real issues that are happening to our planet and reformulating the possible actions that can be taken to correct what has been bent. To know that the perfect time to address the grim issues of not only the future change, but also the current change in the climate system is now. I feel it’s the time we come up with the eleventh commandment,” Thou shall (henceforth) conserve the environment and not pollute it, for it is the last and only commandment for our own survival.”




Anne Dalke's picture

This essay is filled with quite a few long quotes, which move you from your definition of our era, where “every man is for himself” (not sure how “God for us all” fits in here) through the problem of our being dependent on a corrupt government and the need to come up with solutions,  to your final declaration of an “eleventh commandment,” the one needed for our survival: “Thou shall conserve the environment and not pollute it.” Environment, in this formulation, is not an archaic word after all, but that-which-must-be-preserved? I’m wondering how Van Jones’ efforts (as described by Elizabeth Kolbert in “Greening the Ghetto”) strike you in this regard? Is he living-and-working in accord with your commandment?

When we have our last writing conference, on Nov. 29, come with a plan for either revising this paper (is there any where you can “grow” it?), or for taking up the topic of “ecological intelligence” (see syllabus for details), or for somehow combining the two….we’ll need to talk, also, about which of your twelve papers you’ll want to re-write for your portfolio.