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The Alphabet Series 2000: D is for Denial

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
April 5, 2000


"Loyalty to a petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul." — Mark Twain

In the past two years, worldwide weather has turned decidedly hostile. In 1998 Hurricane Mitch slammed into the Gulf coast of Central America, killing tens of thousands of people. At the end of 1999 Europe was subjected to weather it was not prepared to deal with, France being the hardest hit. In North America hurricanes and flooding devastated the East coast, leaving death and destruction of epic scale in their wake, not to mention a water pollution problem that will be with the residents of North Carolina for the next 40 years. So far this year, Mozambique has being pounded by flood waters so intense the country looks like an immense lake. And closer to home, the Tornado season has come early, with Fort Worth, Texas being ravaged by two tornados in a matter of hours.

The weather is beginning to shift in ways that are not favorable to humans, yet humans refuse to change the behaviors that have set these hostile weather patterns in motion. For years now, at least two decades, environmentalists and scientists not on the payroll of big business have been saying that global warming is a reality, but instead of taking heed the establishment personified by President George Bush, and all his cohorts in corruption, have denounced such warnings as over blown rhetoric of the political left.

No matter which environmental claim that has been forwarded by concerned citizens there has been a orchestrated effort on the part of the status quo to denounce such concerns as a threat to the American way of life. Well, as recent events have shown, the American way of life is a threat to life on this planet. Sometimes this threat is to a single species, such as wolves being gunned down to the edge of extinction so that a rancher can continue to live out some anthropocentric fantasy of entitlement. But for the most part human indifference to the environmental consequences of our actions, is far reaching, threatening entire biotic communities.

In some cities, air quality is so horrendous, health officials forced to issue warnings suggesting that the very young, and the very old stay indoors to protect their lungs for the caustic air. Yet those same official continue to drive about the polluted cities never making the connection that the only way to ensure breathable is to stop releasing toxins into. But since convenience is now the human god, and I dare anyone to challenge that statement, we will continue to pollute until nature squashes us like a bug on the windshield of planetary existence.

Here in Southern California groundwater is no longer fit to drink, and we must purify it if we are to have clean water. But since denial is easier than outrage, we buy it in bottles and continue on as if nothing is wrong. Unable to safely deal with the amount of waste being produced by Southern California's exploding population, we simply pump it in to the same ocean we allow are children to swim in. Talk about denial, we even eat fish caught in waters contaminated with our own fecal matter. Obviously the uprights are not the smartest monkeys in the zoo. Proving once and for all that language is not the barometer of intelligence, as once thought.

Deserts, such as Southern California, are another hotbed of denial. Our habitat, and the species that inhabit it, has evolved to survive with minimal amounts of water, yet human indifference to planetary systems has erased the species most able to survive in this dry region, only to replace them with water intensive species that require more water than nature provides. It is amazing that we still allow residents to grow lawns, knowing the amount of water they require. I can imagine the day when humans are dying of thirst on what was once a well-manicured lawn. Perhaps a suburban dust bowl will force people finally come to terms with their decision to live in a desert.

I realize this column is titled "D is for Denial", but I would like to introduce another D word to the conversation. D is also for Damocles, which according to the Oxford Concise Dictionary means "imminent danger in midst of prosperity." In Greek mythology it was Damocles who feasted while a sword hung by a hair above his head. To continue this train of thought the word Damocles finds it's root in the Latin "damos a hereditas" which means inheritance the brings more burden than profit. Not being big on denial, I realize the sword is about to fall.

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