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The Alphabet Series 2000: K is for KLEPTOMANIA
Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
May 31, 2000
"Blind to the need of cooperating with nature, man is destroying the sources of his life. Another century like the last and civilization will be facing it's final crisis." — Fairfield Osborn
Daniel Quinn introduced the world to the concept of leavers and takers in his ground-breaking novel Ishmael. For those of you who have yet to read this insightful history of modern man, Leavers are the species that leave the planet as they find it, in balance. Takers are those that claim everything for themselves, regardless of the consequences. The Takers, armed only with the ideology of possession being 9/10 of the law, are robbing the planet to the point of bankruptcy.
Western culture is based on a perceived entitlement, that dictates human desires, regardless of how reckless or unsustainable they may be, to be paramount to all other considerations. Evidence of this is how consumer culture is now looting the planet as if ecological anarchy was a natural reaction to waking up every morning. If this suicidal tendency is not a psychological disorder I don't know what is.
People want something they take it. In Southern California wearing leather, feathers, and fur is a perfect example of taking something that does not belong to you for no reason other than anthropocentric vanity. Gold and diamonds are ripped from the ground at an enormous cost to the environment, so insecure people can feel better about themselves and their relationships. What we want we take, it's that simple. The reason mines are called mines is all to obvious.
Drift nets and bottom trawlers are strip mining the world's oceans. Whales are still being hunted because people believe their antiquated culture is more important that the whale's right to life. Want over reason also allows for endangered sea turtles to down in shrimp nets and nesting beaches to be overrun by tourism. Humans no longer see oceans as a source for food, we see it as an all you can eat buffet there for the taking.
Water is another resource over which we claim complete dominance. Harnessed water has been used to create sprawling cities with increasing populations, completely reliant on a shrinking supply of imported water. Without the Hoover dam, Las Vegas would not be the obscene testament to greed it is. Dammed, the Colorado River no longer reaches the Gulf of California. Robbing river ecosystems of water to grow iceberg lettuce in the desert, and suburban lawns benefits only the humans at the consumption end of the faucet. More evidence of our suicidal tendency is our culture allowance for the pollution of water resources, as if they were a collective toilet, of the bottomless variety.
Humans also target trees for rapacious acquisition. Toilet paper, disposable chopsticks, greeting cards, paper towels, product packaging, junk mail, and coffee filters were once life forms that played a vital role in the global carbon cycle. A typical tree provides nearly $200,000 worth of ecological benefits during it's lifetime, in the form of oxygen, air purification, erosion control, soil fertility, and wildlife habitats. As timber that tree is worth $600. You do the math.
Space itself is sought by every human. Once upon a time humans lived close to the earth in simple structures, making do with what they could carry. Now the false god of land ownership rules supreme, conveniently entitling it's believers to destroy the environment at whim. Even human waste takes precedence over native habitat. Landfills are where humans stash their ill-gotten gains once they are done with them. Parking lots and golf courses are other examples of human gluttony.
Here in coastal North County there is isn't an inch of earth that is not threatened by development. Beaches are disappearing because the federal government and the city of Oceanside claimed the coast as their own with sand-stealing jetties. The City of Carlsbad will not be content until it's last piece of open space is covered in tourist hotels and industrial parks. Pretending development is less invasive when a soccer field is attached, the City of Encinitas is planning a land grab to placate a few voters at the expense of the battered biosystem known as the San Elijo Lagoon.
Environmental sustainability is only possible if humans learn to learn with less. By accepting limitations on what we are "entitled" to, perhaps humans will survive long enough to evolve back to a place where respect for the environment was as natural as breathing. Rejecting the desire to take all within our grasp will be the first step in pulling back from the brink.