Rambling Earth Day Rant

Last year on Earth Day I was hobbling in the March for Science in Colorado Springs with my friend, Lois and her son, Mark and a few other people. It was a blustery day. I made these posters in honor of my dad who was a scientist — a mathematician — in Colorado Springs, at NORAD. I thought they were awesome and they pulled on my heartstrings, but most people had no idea what that ruler was.

The march had speakers and Antifa and law enforcement and a lot of oldsters — old hippies, old teachers, and old whatever I am. There were many young families with great kids. There was even a mathematician. I think he and his sign would have delighted my dad.


This year, obviously, with my messed up hip, I’m not partaking, but I probably wouldn’t partake anyway. I’ve never been an activist probably because I don’t like crowds of people. I’ve marched twice in my life. The first Earth Day and Earth Day last year.Β Many people disagree with me, believing marches accomplish a lot, and that’s OK. They get to have the parking place I’m not using. πŸ˜‰

The way I see it, without a functioning planet, it really doesn’t matter what else is going on. I think it was Wendell Berry who wrote something like, “The smallest unit necessary for the survival of humanity is the Universe.”

Right now, a mile as the crow flies from the Great Sand Dunes National park, there is a drama playing out. The BLM wants to auction leases for drilling (fracking?). Those who support this argue there is a mountain range between the proposed drilling area and the Sand Dunes. Those of us who have a brain understand that a mile is a human construction and it’s all one place as far as the ground is concerned. You can learn more about this here. If you’re so moved, please write your Congress people.

The Great Sand Dunes has been identified as America’s quietest national park. The night sky there is unbelievable to people who are not used to such profound darkness (and starlight). The water that flows from the Medano Glacier every spring is crystal clear and ice cold. It is the (almost free) playground of the people who live in my valley. When I was last there, in October, on a blustery day with a cold wind and the threat of snow, there were tourists from all over the world. It’s a unique and beautiful wild place.


The red indicates where the leasing parcels are, the blue outlines the Sangre De Cristo Wilderness area, and the green shows the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. The yellow are small passes (hiking and 4-wheel drive) over the mountains.

The human factor here is that the county in which this would take place is one of the poorest in the US with some of the highest rates of opioid addiction. Some theorize that the jobs the drilling would bring to the area would be good for the people and help solve some of its worst problems. I honestly don’t think so.

That’s the tension that confronts us all the time. People need things NOW — and I mean NEED not WANT. Back in the 1980s China justified its rape of the environment by saying, “We’re an underdeveloped country. You can’t expect us to follow rules we don’t have the technology for and that will keep us from catching up with the rest of the world.” They had a point. I got it. I’d lived there and I’d seen a highway being built by women with small hammers breaking concrete. I knew the condition of Chinese sanitation and of their drinking water (boil it first). Hepatitus was almost endemic. I’d been to factories on Chinese communes that were, essentially, in people’s living rooms. I’d (routinely) ridden a bicycle 20 miles RT to buy food. It was really a hard way to live. Should they have had to STAY at that point for the good of the Earth? That was the question. It’s huge.

If I’d been making the decision, I’d haved moved forward with what was working — and bicycles were working as was their shambling public transportation system. I’d have stuck with the bikes and built up (as they did) their public transportation. But people wanted cars and freeways. These days, many Chinese have two cars and traffic in Beijing makes California’s fabled 405 freeway through LA look like quiet country road.

Now that they CAN do something, they are, but they have to fix everything they broke. That’s complicated. Every bit of environmental irresponsibility sets off a chain of disasters. When I lived in China there was almost no smog because there were very few cars and industry was small. Thirty years later, China has had to contend with some of the most dangerous smog the world has ever known. Beyond air quality for current breathers, is the effect of that air on the atmosphere over a period of years.

Back in the 1950s, Chairman Mao had the idea that China could move forward (The Great Leap Forward) if people started making steel in their backyards. Seriously. OK that sounds nuts, but people did. He also had the idea that since birds eat seeds, an all out war on sparrows could not happen too soon. People killed birds. The result of these two dubious programs was a lot of crappy steel (and less fuel for cooking and real industry) and crops overrun by caterpillars. People went hungry. Yeah.

But he made the point that individual people doing their small parts can make big changes.


17 thoughts on “Rambling Earth Day Rant

  1. That was an interesting read. Your details of life in China at that time is something I did not realise and perhaps the people got the true meaning of life. Mao made a lot of mistakes, but more have been made since. My No. 2 son introduced me to the music. If there were only “nothing but flowers”.

    • I don’t know. People just did what they had to do and many were surprised when that was all OK with me and my ex. I guess they expected me to label them as “backwards” but I didn’t see it that way. I wouldn’t have minded heat in my apartment, though. It was an El Nino year and we had four months of clouds and rain. It was COLD in that concrete building. That’s when I learned Celsius. At 12, things became bearable again. πŸ™‚

  2. Initially I was all in on fracking. But the more I read, the less in I became. Watching “Gasland” changed my opinion on fracking for good. But I think that’s as it should be. I have no problem with having an opinion one way or the other, just so long as you are informed. And I have no problem with changing your opinion once you know more about it. I did.

    Great piece. And LOVE the song!

    • I agree with you — I think the first thing to do when you find you have an opinion is to question it. It’s important to know where the opinion comes from. A lot of times I find (for myself) my opinions come from personal taste or habit. I’m pretty stuck with personal taste, but habit? πŸ™‚

      • Indeed! How many people truly question their own opinions?
        And so true, taste is taste. But habit is always subject to change, or should be.

    • Yeah or an army of small people ignoring the dummies completely having accurately perceived their irrelevance. I don’t believe you can change people. They can, however, change themselves πŸ™‚

  3. Hi Martha, I love your post. Well done you for writing about it, and illustrating the possible impact of putting business before the ecosystem. I know how gloomy it is to read about, but it is equally gloomy to write about. I have been girding myself to write something on this subject, but from an Australian perspective. But first I need to do some happy posts to restore my equilibrium. You know how it is. πŸ™‚

    • Thank you, Tracy! I think peoople are not often malicious, just uninformed or daunted by the immensity of the problem, not sure what they can do (a LOT actually). I’ve always been amazed and amused by Chairman Mao. He KNEW that if the whole population of China got into it it would change things. He was too ignorant to know it would be for the worse.

      • True. But has the lesson been learned? It’s a shame that the Chinese keep concreting over their best agricultural land. And then have to buy up agriculture land elsewhere. We concreted over our best agricultural land long ago. What’s left here is not hugely productive, but is valuable because it’s scarce. Unfortunately, it is not valuable enough to look after it well.

      • Yeah, you’re right. Just like Texas concreted over its wetlands (who likes swamps and mosquitos, right?) and that pretty much caused the major damage in last years hurricanes. I don’t think people see past their own noses most of the time.

  4. This makes me so mad.

    Isn’t the thing with fracking that they have to spend so much on infrastructure that it is not actually economically viable anyway, without subsidies? I mean, why would anyone want to ruin such a quiet, natural national park and swap it for an ugly environmental mess that won’t even make any money!? Urgh. 😦

    My dissertation was about minamata disease and it’s social impacts in Japan. Just after I had graduated, I heard similar things were happening in China with mercury poisoning. It is SUCH a shame that they couldn’t learn from mistakes from other developed nations. I mean, those poor people that were poisoned in China should have never had to go through it as the companies already knew what dumping mercury into the water supply would lead to…

    It’s also such a shame that the US and UK don’t put more money into subsidizing renewable energy (and the future) rather than desperately reaching for more places to frack.

    • I agree completely. One BIG argument against this oil deal proposal is that on my side of that range is one of the largest solar farms in the world. Most of our electricity comes from there. There’s a big push behind the statement, “We don’t need it!” and in the county where this is proposed, they have a huge wind farm that supplies THEIR power.

      If they want to give people jobs how about a (clean) factory to build wind farm equipment? I don’t understand people. We’re all driving gas powered cars because there is still no affordable choice AND the distances here are immense. I just don’t get it.

  5. After reading this, I thought you might like a couple of my blog posts as well. For instance, this one is about how one person’s behavior can have a kind of ripple effect on others — in this case, on the driving experience, but it’s really a metaphor for how we influence each other. “One” person riding a bike doesn’t do much for the environment, but it also makes it a little more likely that someone else might both because of imitation and also because as more people ride, it becomes somewhat safer and more convenient on average. https://petersironwood.wordpress.com/2017/08/27/me-too/

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