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How did we get here?

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
July 13, 2006


It's been hot in Southern California recently. The dogs of summer are upon us and the world is slowly descending into madness. As I key in these very words people are being bombed in Beirut. Over the weekend it was Mumbai. Tomorrow it will be Baghdad.

As I write this, the sky is a dirty bright blue over the Batiquitos lagoon. Interstate 5 is at a near stand still. Bird song and a slight breeze remind me of why I live in Leucadia. A frivolous thought, perhaps?

Compared to the rest of the 7 billion people living on earth I'd say we the people of the independent municipalities of San Diego County have it pretty damn good. As a journalist I can't help wonder how long it will last, and what would happen if it all came crashing down.

The lifestyle and quality of life of Californians are directly related to the price we pay at the pumps and the amount of blood being shed in the Middle East. The air pollution fouling the air along the highway 78 corridor is directly related to the wall separating Israel and Gaza, and the saber rattling in Iran.

As heat rises I can't help but draw connections. Global warming is real, it happens. Climate change is real too. Automobile emissions play a big part in the equation that is no longer questioned by the rationally minded. Only naysayers and nincompoops would deny the burning of fossil fuels have altered the environment in ways not yet discovered. Clean air and water is hard to come by on planet earth, this too is tied to the violence in the Middle East.

Energy independence is more than getting out of the Middle East once and for all. Energy independence is about using less energy wisely, and in a way that doesn't damage the planet as much as Iraqi oil or Canadian tar sands. Ethanol is certainly not the answer. The answer is less people driving, less. Drilling off the coast of California will do nothing but hasten our discomfort.

As the price of gas goes through the roof, and the price of waging war in Iraq begins to be fully realized, things will take a turn for the worse. Communities that prepare for lean times will be the communities able to respond to them adequately, without the chaos we see unfolding in Dafur.

The people of New Orleans certainly weren't ready for the inevitable. Are we? I have to wonder if the Mayor of Oceanside would perform any better than Ray Nagy if disaster struck there. How prepared is San Marcos for a decade of drought, is Solana Beach ready to lose lives along the bluffs? What happens when the economy crashes, and the tourists stop coming?

If history has taught us anything, it has taught us chaos always follows calm, stable civilizations eventually collapse under their own weight, and nature always bats last. A global force, human nature is the cause of the sixth great extinction, and propels us to fight among ourselves the more crowded it gets. We fight over resources, we fight over ideology, we fight over space, and we fight over fighting.

I'm convinced the human experience does not have to end in ecocide and a descent into barbarism. An idealist, I believe there is a better way. As a realist I know we are going in the opposite direction.

Birdsong anyone?

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