THE BLOG
02/04/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Nature Has a Way with Black Swans

This year, every major center of wealth or resources will make huge money decisions. There are gigantic government bail-outs in place or being argued over from Beijing to Washington D.C. How the money's spent matters not just because the "stimulus" might work or fail. Not just because of jobs, mortgages and debt. It matters because we're despoiling the planet at an ever greater rate and we don't have a replacement.

I cite only one example: the 50 year decline of many once-common birds in North America. Then there's the polar bear, tiger, rhino, mountain gorilla... the list's long and too depressing. We don't need a Gitmo to torture our fellow creatures. The often unrecorded effects we have on smaller organisms and plants? Ugly is too kind.

The recent coal ash sludge flood in Teneessee is a typical study of human hubris, short-sighted policies and corporate negligence. No company, not even a "publicly-owned utility" like TVA, will voluntarily spend money to protect the public or the environment unless there are regulations or strong pressure to do so. With the global economy suffering severe gastroenteritis, the impulse will be to spend lots of money rapidly to help as many powerful interests and voters as possible.

During the most recent Depression (1930s) we degraded the environment wholesale. Let's say our grandparents and their parents did not know better. They thought dams were wonderful. We know a whole lot better today, so what's our excuse for trashing the only planet we have to live on? For rampant and applauded population growth? For the myth that everybody should have an ever-ascending quality of life? There's not enough to go around and we certainly cannot afford to continue to waste, pave, waste and pollute ad nauseum.

Again the TVA is a classic case. Dam rivers. Coal mines and smokestacks into the air. Electricity and modern life brought to a section of bereft America after the Depression hit. Job done. What didn't matter? Damage to the environment, wildlife, forests, all the negligible creatures who can't vote or wield a credit card. This current era may be our last chance to get this right. So far the signs are not good.

U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Oilklahoma) has a strong new ally in his fight against the fantasy of climate change. Despite his minority party status, Inhofe fights to expose the global warming hoaxes he sees abounding. The new president of the European Union is President Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic, 67. He says climate change is a myth. European politics of climate change may get very much more heated due to mythical global warming.

Meanwhile, here's a look at the possible internal political factions among President-elect Obama's appointees. To cope with global warming, or worry first about the economy? On the one hand are those who argue that climate change will make an economy irrelevant. On the other, those who say we cannot afford to play nice with the environment because it ruins people's lifestyle.

The U.S. has great greentech potential. Might we once again make high grade batteries? We've done drug war, space race, arms race. How about a war on energy waste and a race to improve solar tech? We can no longer afford to pollute "for free." We need a new energy calculus that puts the real cost on ash heaps that must come down eventually.

There's now much media attention now given to "black swan" events in the world of finance.

Well, don't think the natural world is much different. Any cataclysm or drastic change -- any natural black swan event -- that's possible in nature will eventually happen. Mt. St. Helens, Hurricane Katrina, the Indian Ocean Tusnami. Yet we still play chemical roulette with the only atmosphere the earth has. I just hope those eraser-heads in D.C. put some measure of scientific insight into their careful economic calibrations. What good's an economy without a planet to live on?