I Would Apologize Too: A Letter To Mother Earth

August 23rd, 2012 by David Leland Hyde Leave a reply »

I Would Apologize To Mother Earth Also, Except That Implied In An Apology Is The Intent To Stop Committing The Offense, Which I Am Working Toward, But Have Not Yet Achieved…

Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Something about fast food, the Catholic Church, electric wires powered by San Francisco’s electricity grid and a sky turned apocalyptic in a pleasant Photoshop surprise, seemed appropriate to post again with this would be apology. Available as an archival fine art digital print.

(See the photograph large, “Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California.”)

Recently master photographer Youssef M. Ismail of Organic Light Photography wrote a blog post titled, “I’m Sorry – An Open Letter To Mother Earth.” This beautifully written expose is also an openhearted lament for what we humans have done to our home planet Earth. Echoing Youssef M. Ismail’s sentiments, talented photo blogger Monte Stevens made a blog post in his own words that he called, “I also apologize.” I would like to continue the trend and the tradition by adding my own message to the conversation.

The Holocaust?

I was also inspired to write this blog post by the holocaust that is currently transpiring. That’s right, I said holocaust: bigger than any holocaust we’ve ever seen of humans. I’m talking about the animal holocaust, the wholesale slaughter of our feathered and furry friends and relatives, directly by murder and indirectly through the destruction of their habitat.

Part of what also inspired me to write this letter to Mother Earth was an article in the current issue of Rolling Stone by Bill McKibben called,  “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math: Three Simple Numbers That Add Up To Global Catastrophe – And That Make Clear Who The Real Enemy Is.” Bill McKibben has authored important books such as The End of Nature, The Global Warming Reader: A Century of Writing About Climate Change, American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau with Al Gore, The Age of Missing InformationDeep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future and others.

“Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math”

In his Rolling Stone article, Bill McKibben reminded us that in 2009 world leaders signed the “Copenhagen Accord” agreeing that the most our civilization can survive is a two degree Celsius increase in global temperature. Two degrees is the fatal first number. Scientists estimate that we can pollute the atmosphere with approximately 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide and still remain below the two-degree safety limit. This is the safe second number. Engineers have since calculated that the amount of carbon in proven coal, oil and gas reserves is five times what will produce the pollution to exceed the safe two-degree temperature increase. That is, we have more than 2,795 gigatons of carbon already discovered and big oil and energy companies are still looking. This third and scariest third number is the amount of carbon already known, that if burned, will produce a planet 11 degrees warmer and “straight out of science fiction,” wrote Bill McKibben. This means that we need to convince Big Oil, gas and coal companies to keep 80 percent of fossil fuel in the ground. What it comes down to is that as a species, we humans need to let go of greed, the fear of not having enough, to survive. Strange that it’s necessary to let go of the fear of death to avoid experiencing it.

Is “Big Oil” Or “You And I” To Blame?

Therefore, to begin with, after I stop doing it, I will apologize to planet Earth for my part in continuing to drive automobiles and run other engines that burn fossil fuel, thereby supporting and fueling big oil’s greed addiction. For more on Big Oil’s greed addiction, see the blog post, “Exxon Profits $11 Billion As Oil Prices Skyrocket.” I drive much less than the average American, diligently combine trips and carpool, stay home a lot rather than “going out,” but I am still part of the problem. I could blame it on the car companies for not offering me convenient and reasonably priced alternatives, but other options are out there and have been for some time. There are diesel conversions to make it possible to burn biodiesel and there are electric vehicles available now, bicycles, horses, no I’m not joking, and many other ways of getting around besides petroleum powered automobiles. I live in a rural area and notice that many of my neighbors will drive the 54 miles round trip to Quincy, California or the 212 miles round trip to Reno, Nevada, several on the same day. If these neighbors took a little time to communicate with each other, or set up a system to notify each other when they would drive to town, we could all make travel and errands into social events. We are so addicted to convenience that we often “take separate cars” to the same event.

Alternatives have existed for cleaners, detergents and other household soaps and products for many years. I am sad that I have been aware of these alternatives for at least 20 years. I have made a point of using some of them, but up until the last few years I still used some toxic cleaners and other household products. Detergents that contain phosphates inevitably work their way into streams, rivers and lakes fertilizing algae and causing it to grow out of control killing native fish and other water dwelling beneficial insects, animals and plants.

I do recycle, compost and have a grey water system saving water and energy, but I could do much more. I eat locally when I can, but I often eat foods from far away lands, thereby increasing the fuel costs and my carbon footprint. I will apologize for this too, when I stop doing it.

Is Meat A Problem?

I still eat meat, but need to cut back. Humans are meant to be omnivores, not gluttons. In North America, the sustainable practice would be to get rid of the cattle that are destructive to the land, inefficient with resources and provide a lower quality meat that has a higher fat content than meat from the original native species: buffalo, or the American Bison. It is not the eating of meat that is a problem, but the quantity that Americans consume that poses a resource problem. If Americans reduced our meat intake just 10 percent, we could feed 60 million more people around the world. Science has proven we eat many times the protein necessary for our health, not to mention the consumption of fat and grease that leads to many diseases. For the overeating of protein, I apologize.

I apologize to Mother Earth for the toxic substances I use in my everyday life. I feel remorse for being naive and thinking government agencies are here to protect the public from poisons and other harm, when agencies such as the FDA, FTC, DEA, FAA, FCC, FDIC, ICC, NIH, and SEC are corrupt. Government agencies fill their board of director seats with executives from the very companies they are supposed to regulate.

Junk The Junk

Americans receive almost four million tons of junk mail every year, the equivalent of 62 billion pieces, about 240 mail items for every man, woman and child in the country. I am sad to admit that at most times in my life I have not had time to sit down and write every company that sends me junk mail asking them to desist. One year I did do this and had about six months of blissful junk free mail where I only received the mail I wanted before the whole process started all over again. I apologize for not having gone through the process all over again.

Coffee filters, paper towels, paper napkins and other household paper products are not naturally white. I will apologize later when I have stopped adding to the use of these products and instead opt for unbleached paper products or better yet, use washable or recyclable cloth napkins and towels. The bleaching of paper creates dioxin, which is a deadly poison that wipes out all living things in its path through our disposal and waste water systems.

More Apologies To Apply?

I apologize for having kept my hot water heater on high until recent years when I turned it down to a lower setting and bought insulation to keep from wasting heat and maintaining higher energy and carbon use than necessary.

I apologize for the times in my life when I didn’t recycle. I am sad that on those occasions I didn’t take the few minutes necessary to find out what company did the recycling in the area I lived.

Toxic paint both interior and exterior has surrounded me most of my life, but whenever I had to paint anything, I didn’t necessarily use the most Earth friendly product. I didn’t want to spend the extra money or do the research. I apologize. Paint and paint products account for over 60 percent of the toxic chemicals that private individuals dump into landfills.

At certain times in my life I drove on worn out, nearly worn out, unbalanced or under inflated tires, which alone wastes up to two billion gallons of gas per year in the US. I apologize that sometimes when buying tires I have gone the most economical route rather than purchasing the longest lasting, most fuel efficient tires, or just as stated above, cutting down on driving altogether. I have often not paid attention to rotating and balancing tires every five thousand miles.

Simple Actions For A Longer Life On Earth

In the book 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth authors John Javna, Sophie Javna and Jesse Javna explain that we can have a significant effect on the environment simply by maintaining major appliances such as refrigerators, range stoves, air conditioners and others. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy estimates that if each of us only increased the efficiency of our appliances by 10-15 percent, we would decrease the demand for electricity by about 25 large power plants nationally. I still use some inefficient appliances, but of course filling landfills with old ones just to replace them with new ones only compounds the waste problem. I apologize for not having phased out old, inefficient appliances a few times when I had the chance.

My list of apologies and promised apologies for the future could go on and on. Here’s just a few areas where I notice that either myself or my neighbors are doing more than our share to destroy the environment and continuing to do so, while we pay lip service to being sad and sorry about the state of our world:

–       Leaving water running while brushing teeth or doing dishes

–       Washing dishes with a dishwasher (hand washing uses half the water)

–       Forgetting to get tune-ups and other car maintenance on time

–       Buying and driving gas guzzling autos

–       Using non-rechargeable batteries

–       Not Recycling Alkali batteries. The technology does exist.

–       Not bringing our own shopping bags to the supermarket or grocery store

–       Having our own shopping bags in the car but not remembering to bring them into the store

–       Wearing bleached clothes that very often also contain formaldehyde

–       Using traditional oven cleaners

–       Using permanent ink markers and pens that contain harmful solvents

–       Maintaining a lawn in an arid climate

–       Buying food or other products from places that use Styrofoam

–       Using paper plates and plastic tableware

–       Choosing plastic over other materials in products

–       Failing to research products we buy to be sure they are not polluters or wildlife killers

–       Investing in polluting companies, big oil, and other Earth destroying industries

–       Not having your home heating system properly tested, tuned up and maintained

–       Keeping the heat on in your home or office when you are not there

–       Keeping any lights on in your home or office in rooms you are not in

–       Throwing away magazines and newspapers without recycling or donating

–       Purchasing foods that use extravagant packaging for marketing advantage

–       Using disposable landfill choking diapers rather than cloth washable diapers

–       Keeping all or most of the lights on at night in your business

–       Using disposable cups at work rather than bringing your own from home

–       What else are you wasting or neglecting to save?

If you are guilty of any of the above, you are helping to spell doom for our home planet Earth. It is easy to look at the vanishing beauty in nature and at environmental destruction and point the finger at someone else, or disconnectedly say that we will have to do better. However, if each and every one of us took more small actions each day, it would make a gigantic difference. We have to vote with our pocketbooks, as they say, and through our other choices to ensure the survival of our own planet Earth. I apologize for usually doing too little too late myself.

Our Addictions

One of the main issues is that as a society we have become addicted to convenience. We have also allowed television and other major media to program us to want more than what we have as a general practice. My father used to say that the secret to happiness in this world is to want less, to desire less. What we must seek if we are to live is long-term prosperity, not abundance at the expense of the air we breathe, the water we drink, or the wildness of the natural world within which is the preservation of the Earth, as Henry David Thoreau warned us.

Are you, dear reader, apologetic?

To learn more about living lightly through the ahead-of-their-time example set by Ardis and Philip Hyde, see the blog post, “Living The Good Life 1,” For a lively discussion on creating a sustainable world and related issues see the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 1.”

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25 comments

  1. Well done, David! I hope we can all do our part, starting with me.

  2. Thank you, Monte for your comment and thank you again for your blog post that inspired me to continue the tradition as well.

  3. pj says:

    Good stuff my friend, and needless to say I’m with you…

    There’s much we all need to do, from our individual actions to shining a light on the actions of the decision makers to building and spreading the word about movements of resistance.

    I’ve been a bit lax lately — not so much in my own daily life though there’s always room for improvement — but in my activism. It’s time to step it up a few notches. Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. Glad this blog post inspired you, PJ. You’re blog posts and perspectives have been an inspiration to me.

  5. Thank you David for continuing this. I hope this trend will become common and that we all start making a change. Your post has made me even more remorseful as I am still guilty for the very things you mention. I am doing my best but sometimes I slip. Hopefully we can all keep encouraging each other to make good on our apologies and on our promises to be better.

  6. Youssef, I appreciate your visit here. You started the trend with your eloquent words. I hope it continues and spreads too. None of us are doing as much as we can, but our society doesn’t make it easy. Bucking the status quo and making individual decisions that we know are right is difficult. Remaining in complacency like most everyone else is much easier. That’s why your post coming from the heart is important for people to read.

  7. Greg Russell says:

    Apologetic? I’m ashamed, of myself and of my fellow humans. Thanks for posting the links to both Youssef’s and Monte’s blogs, as well as adding your own heartfelt sentiments.

    You’ve provided a “checklist” here, David, for all of us to live by.

    I might add to it by suggesting you keep a 5 gallon bucket in the kitchen and bathroom and collect cold water while you’re waiting for hot water for dishes or a shower. Use that water to water your garden, or to fill your toilet’s tank when you flush it. I also try to collect waste water from our washing machine and use it to water dry spots in my lawn (I know, I know…lawns)….

    This is inspiring David…thank you.

  8. Thank you, Greg. Dad was one of the first who said the wars of the future will be over water. Generally, it’s getting late on planet Earth.

  9. Hugh Sakols says:

    Charles Mann in his book 1493, states that European colonization of the Americas marked the beginning of another mass extinction similar to what happened to the dinosaurs. My wife also collects any dripping water to use for any plants we don’t have on irrigation.

  10. Hi Hugh, glad to see a comment from you. Hope your school year is getting off to a good start. It’s been a crazy summer. Anyway, that is about when the holocaust began. Think of the Passenger Pigeon and the Buffalo to name a few. Happy to hear you’re doing your part to conserve water and other resources.

  11. Thanks for an eloquent post, David. I am afraid that I am guilty of many of the same things that you list. It is easy to just consider myself “human” and use that as an excuse for weakness in fighting against these earthly sins.
    We also do some little things. While we do use a dehumidifier to keep our basement from becoming a jungle of mold and mildew… we use the water we collect to take care of our gardens. Everything we can possibly recycle we do. If we will not finish a glass of water it goes into a watering can for the plants. The little things add up.
    But it is a drop in the bucket compared to what needs to be done and we try to further our efforts. It is easy to consider our contribution to pollution as small compared to the giants such as the oil industry etc, but the fact is that a small effort made by a billion people can turn into a huge change for the earth.
    That is a good list you have accumulated and I am going to try to achieve more of what is listed.
    Nice post!

  12. Hi Steve, you’re right about the little things adding up. We are all working on it. Part of the problem is that we just don’t get any reminders or encouragement from the media or other authorities we respect, many times not even environmental groups. Most of our leaders and people we look up to are wasting far more than we are. The US Government is the world’s biggest polluter. Hopefully the more we take over responsibility from those that we follow, the more they will follow our mandate.

  13. Let us hope so, David.

  14. Thanks for that, Steve. This next decade will be very interesting, starting with this year. It is 2012 after all. It’ll be intriguing to see what that means by the end of it.

  15. Steve Sieren says:

    Great list of ideas David! Another idea that could be added is when adding any new exterior lights at home or commercial buildings is to point them all downward or remove old uplights, they contribute to light pollution.

  16. Glad to hear from you, Steve Sieren. I don’t remember if light pollution has any direct detrimental effect on the state of the Earth, but it sure is more than bothersome at times. Many people have no idea how agitating major cities are, just in sights and sounds, until they get way off in a rural or wilderness area where you can truly see the stars at night and experience peace. All that light is a great mental pollutant, not to mention that of course those lights are being run by a grid powered by a fossil fuel mix. This is one of the reasons I find Las Vegas unromantic and revolting. I don’t find wastefulness sexy or provocative. The colossal squandering of resources on all those imported water features, lights and lawns doesn’t seem justified merely to get people to squander their money. One squandering to cause another just doesn’t make much sense to me, even if it is a “good time.” Pretty scary what some people consider a good time.

  17. Richard says:

    A very revealing post, David. There many things that we consume way too much of. My neighbors for instance just held a yard sale this past weekend and their whole driveway was lined with just used clothing. This was just for two people! People spend so much time on material things like this that are so worthless but so little on their own well-being. If people really want to look good then why not get in better shape, hit the gym, hike more, etc… and then maybe the existing clothing will look good. No amount of clothing can change what is underneath.

  18. Thank you for the great points and illustration Richard. The story about the clothes is unfortunately true about many, many people. Aren’t we all regularly buying one item or another to cover up our inadequacies in some way?

  19. Amreet says:

    I love this – informative and insightful! Thanks for sharing David. All of us have a part to do to reduce our carbon footprint if we want to keep living on this planet.

  20. That’s right, Amreet. I’m grateful for your participation.

  21. Dan Baumbach says:

    Thank you for writing this David. I wanted to respond to Youssef’s post but I couldn’t find a way that didn’t sound mean. I know Youssef and like him very much, but his post angered me because I think an apology is way too easy. It’s like someone who beats his wife getting contrite and saying they’re sorry, which they often do, and then beating his wife again. Rather than apologize, I’d much rather take full responsibility for my participation in the earth’s demise and change as best I can. But, no matter what I do, my living on this planet has an effect on it and I won’t apologize for my existence!

  22. Dan, I am gratified that you mentioned this because as much as I was moved by Youssef’s statement, impressed with his eloquence and 110 percent behind his intent and purpose, I had some of the same concerns. It’s easy to apologize and then keep on in the same way. Others besides Youssef Ismail have made comments to me like, “It’s a shame what we’re doing to the Earth,” not even being aware of all their own actions that are part of the problem and not being aware that we do have a choice. We can buck the trend, decide not to be one of the lemmings that just accepts the “business as usual” paradigm. “Big Oil” for many, many years has known about alternatives to the internal combustion engine. A number of technologies, including a car that ran on water by splitting off and using the Hydrogen from the Oxygen, have been invented, yet Big Oil has chosen to continue a wasteful system for the sake of profit. The only way they will make a transition is once they discover a technology that will allow them to profit in the same extravagant way they do now. This does not mean that we have to go along with it any more. The more people that stop buying into the mass hallucination and start taking solutions into their own hands, the sooner the influencers will change. Alternative technologies are now here and available. We can make a difference ourselves starting right now.

  23. Mark says:

    Beautifully written post David. I was touched when i saw Youssef’s original post, and the followon by Monte, and I must say you have really continued it in spades with a heartfelt look inwards that applies to all of us. I think the key steps are recognizing our impacts, and although being remorseful in the acknowledgement of it shows sensitivity, what really is going to count is action.

    However, there are many times when I wonder about the actions of individuals. I know it takes individuals to add up to make a difference, but I grow increasingly frustrated with the general lack of attention to this.

    I will give you an example that hit home here with me recently. We recycle a healthy amount. It is a bit of a chore because we have to haul it all ourselves to a local center. However, I just can’t stand throwing out a piece of plastic or large amounts of cardboard and paper. Our city has consistently rejected curbside recycling because it would cost too much. So instead, an alternate plan was put in place to have residents pay for it directly, which would amount to something like $5/month. It is obvious more people would recycle if they had the curbside convenience. In a city of 130,000 people, last count only had about 1500 sign up for this. That is pitiful. The service needs minimum 5000 to even make it work for them. Really? $5/month to contribute to the better good of the planet? That’s nothing.

    It is things like this that are just small examples of how the general population as a whole just can’t seem to get it together.

    McKibben’s article in Rolling Stone was a real masterpiece. He really demonstrated what a mess we have become entangled in.

    The bottom line is that people as a collective whole will not start adjusting their behaviors just for the common good, it has to hit them personally, and quite frankly, it has to hit them where it counts, in the pocketbook. We are so spoiled. We bitch when gas rises $0.50 a gallon, when Europe is already paying 3 times what we do. They drive smaller cars because they couldn’t afford to go anywhere with something larger. We have cheap gas, and cheap energy – and until that changes – I don’t see things moving as a whole.

    Sorry I got off on a bit of a rant here.

    BTW, there is a cool site called Catalog Choice for those catalogs people don’t want. They make it easy in one step. I have used it and I can say it works pretty good. I receive a very small amount of catalogs now compared to before I signed up with them.

    https://www.catalogchoice.org

  24. Thank you Mark for your generous and well written addition to the discussion. You’re right about individuals being slow to act. I am essentially saying the same thing, but coming at it differently. I am saying that individuals, including myself, have been waiting for the powers that be to make it easier for us to be more environmentally aware and proactive. Unfortunately, the industrial-economic elite are not going in an environmentally friendly direction, nor are they putting any inspiration or conveniences in place to make it easier for all of us to go that way either. Therefore, I’m calling out individuals to take leadership, to flip the power pyramid upside down. I’m saying, let’s stop waiting around for our cities, towns, counties, states, countries, or corporations to do what’s right. We are the cites and towns. We are the ones who must make the tough choices and act. Hopefully this will motivate people into the right frame of mind, but I realize there’s a great deal of inertia to overcome. Pretty sad that people won’t even spend $5.00 a month to make the world a little bit better. Although, sometimes it is all in how it is presented to them and how. Sometimes it takes quite a bit to cut through the daily marketing and information noise that buzzes constantly at us.

    Nonetheless, Mark, my friend, and others, please take heart. Remember the story of the introduction of the refrigerator. When refrigerators were first invented, the manufacturers sent representatives around to homes with an ingenious plan for selling people on the new device. The proposition was that they would take a person’s ice box as a trade in for a down payment and then each household could pay the same $15/month that they were paying the ice man to deliver ice. After two years they wouldn’t ever have to pay anything again until it was time to get a new refrigerator, which they could obtain by trading in their old one and starting all over. So they would have years in which they wouldn’t have any payments. The response broke down essentially into quarters. One quarter of the people said they would take a refrigerator right away. One quarter said they needed to think about it. One quarter said they would get one once they saw how it worked for other people. One quarter said they didn’t want one at all, get lost. They delivered the first 25 percent of homes their refrigerators and word began to spread that they worked better than iceboxes. Soon they went back to those who needed to think about it and they bought refrigerators. The next quarter of people saw how everyone liked theirs and soon they also came around. The last quarter of people after 75 percent of people had refrigerators were still slow to turn around, but gradually even they caved in and embraced the new technology. Right now not even one quarter of people care a hoot about the environment or are doing anything about it. However, the number is growing all the time. Eventually, everyone will be green. Everyone will want to do everything they can because they will begin to see the consequences and it will become status quo to be environmentally conscious. At that point even the toughest nuts will crack. Hopefully it won’t be too late.

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