I had forgotten just how hot it gets down South, however. Two months of days over 100F. And another two months of days in the 90s.
Growing up in Virginia Beach, I knew it was hot and humid but the massive crop failures of corn tell me it never used to be this hot. Something has changed.
Despite the state of the housing market, the building continues. Hampton Roads is a network of asphalt and power lines. The greenery of Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake, has been scraped clear, replaced by strip malls and waffle houses. Massive shipyards occupy the lands between rivers, their effluence giving the Bay an unnatural luster. And every mile of highway is packed bumper to bumper with idling autos.
As we move into Fall, the crispness of the air reminds us that soon we’ll be heating our homes again. The leaves fall from the trees, reducing their uptake of carbon just as we fire up our furnaces. Oceanic plankton falls into a near torpor as the sun moves south of the equator, likewise reducing carbon uptake. Shorter days mean longer hours of electrical usage. But that isn’t even close to the major contributor of atmospheric carbon.
It’s our food.
Ask yourself, how is it that every single McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, etc. can make as many hamburgers in a day as they do?
How can they make them so cheap?
When you consider all the time and energy used to bear, feed, raise, maintain, and slaughter a cow, how is it that a million fast food restaurants are never short of beef?
Travel to South America, and it’s all around you: the constant deforestation is evident from the massive plumes of smoke. All to clear land for factory farms and the granaries which supply them. But these photos are from places in the United States.
We have seen the documentaries. We know how deep the abuses go. Yet we continue to support food industries that cram their animals full of steroids, hormones, and antibiotics simply to keep the animals standing long enough for them to get to the slaughter house. The bodies of these animals react to these factors with adrenaline, cancer, and disease, standing in their own excretions throughout their brief lives. When one ingests the meat of such abuse, it becomes a part of us.
So why do we do it? Why prop up an industry which is poisoning us, destroying the world around us, and changing the climate of our entire ecosystem?
‘Cause it’s cheap. So long as it’s on the dollar menu, we cram it down our gullets. And it isn’t always a simple matter when layoffs, down-sizing, out-sourcing, and company failures are still at historic levels. Baby’s gotta eat, and no parent can tolerate a hungry child.
That is NOT the case with all of us. Those who CAN make a difference have an obligation to do so. Yes, an obligation. Morality will never adequately be legislated. Nor should it. But I can’t tell you how sick I am of hearing those earning over $250,000 per year whining about how much they pay in taxes when their actual tax burden is at one of the lowest rates in history.
Even more infuriating is hearing the extreme conservatives complain about “the Welfare State” when manufacturing has fled to the second and third world, eliminating jobs across entire regions in America.
Compounding the issue is the cost of higher education. How does one attend college if the family is out of work? What options are available? This “Welfare State” is a construct of extremely short-sighted fiscal policies and weak international negotiating which led to the end of American manufacturing. Result? The Chinese make everything for us and hold the third largest stake in our national debt. Meanwhile, our sacred leaders told us, “It’s all right, folks, just keep going to the mall”.
This is the flaw of unregulated Capitalism, and our elected officials let it happen. By proxy, WE let it happen, because we elected them. We have allowed our daughters to hit puberty at the age of six because of the hormones in the milk we give them. We have allowed some of the finest areas of wilderness to be flattened and carted away because we decided the short term value of the minerals beneath it was preferable to leaving something beautiful for our children. We have allowed enormous regions of our population to lose all hope and merely exist in their state-funded housing. We have allowed promising industries like wind/solar/and geo-thermal energy to stagnate because petroleum interests successfully lobby against subsidizing them. And we allowed the price of a quality education to become a luxury only the wealthy can afford.
“Well, Christ, Allen, that’s a hell of a rant, there. Maybe you should go outside, or get laid.”
True enough. Doesn’t change the fact that we let ourselves get fat on High Fructose corn syrup and diseased meat (E-Coli, Salmonella, Trichinosis, Mad Cow Disease, etc.). Doesn’t change the fact our air quality is steadily getting worse and our fresh water reserves are drying up from supporting factory farms. Doesn’t change the fact that we have had our blinders on for decades, even when we discover mighty flows like the Rio Grande no longer reach the ocean.
So at last, I’ll come to the point: there are those of us who are trapped by our own income and level of education, but there are far more of us who can make positive change through our own choices. It starts at a fundamental level: what we eat. Demand clean food. Food free of additives and genetic modifications. We don’t need the amount of corn we grow, so why not put the land to better use?
-Buy local produce to reduce the petroleum used in transportation.
-Ask yourself, “Do I need bacon on this?”
-Shun organizations which use feed-lots and factory farming techniques. Patronize organizations like Chipotle who are making a difference by using sustainably-farmed ingredients.
–Buy Fair Trade coffees. (For all the criticism Starbuck’s gets, they have made a huge difference in the way coffee is grown, contributing to healthy farming and livable wages for the growers.)
–Spend extra for organic foods. It’s better for you, and it tastes better, too.
The world changes with our choices. What we eat, what we buy, how we build our homes and climate control them. What we drive to work. And most importantly, who we allow to influence us.
If we want it, we can own the business of alternative energy. We can educate our people to stimulate innovation beyond unstable financial instruments. We can heal those who are sick instead of profiting from their extended treatments.
If we choose to.