My song "Poison the River" was written after watching the documentary film, Last Call At The Oasis.
While I was thinking of all the facts and figures I could research and pull together for this essay, I realized that my own backyard was actually the place to start. As it increasingly is for everyone when there's talk about water.
Now you may think I'm going to bring up the issue of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," that is such a hot button issue here in upstate New York. But if you want to learn more about that -- and how you, too, can light your tap water on fire -- see the various articles on the subject and the film, Gasland.
No, this is about a simple act of dumping silt and other particulate matter from a reservoir into a creek so that the water is more palatable to drink while the waste creates a huge issue downstream (irrigation for farmers etc..). The creek looks more like a river of chocolate in Willy Wonka than the pristine stream it once was.
So I'm just going to focus on the "upstream," "downstream" issue. Metaphorically, this is the issue of the day. For millennia, the downstream effects of the upstream behavior were never seen. Whether it's in social, economic, political or environmental terms, most people went blindly about their business without seeing the full ramifications of what they were doing. This is not to say people didn't care -- although I'm afraid there will always be some of those -- but "out of sight, out of mind" has played a huge role in how we've gotten into the environmental (among others) mess we're in now.
I remember as a child hearing someone say, "finish your dinner. There are children starving in (place name of "developing" country here).
As I got older, and maybe even then, I was wondering why that had to be. There must not be enough to go around. I never considered that something might be broken systemically... that maybe things need to be reprioritized in some way. Are we putting emphasis on the wrong metrics?
If the engine is growth... return on investment. And the fuel is efficiency... productivity. The exhaust is... whatever gets in the way.
If the driver of this car is rewarded in ways considered valuable in society, a lack of respect develops for anything that isn't in right relation to the goals of the driver. The driver is trying to make a little more with a little less -- all the time.
"Anyone who believes in indefinite growth in anything physical, on a physically finite planet, is either mad or an economist."
-- Kenneth E. Boulding
To me, the behavior sounds like someone that's afraid -- how can I keep getting more so I can feel safe enough -- or important enough? Or maybe it's just a survival instinct that we all possess -- let's make sure we have enough in case it's a hard winter... or ...I'll look important so I attract a good partner.
Whatever the case, and I'm sure there are thousands of them, we don't live in that world anymore. We can see our brothers and sisters across the globe. We can distribute necessary things far and wide. We are connected in ways that have never happened in history.
In the next blog... one version of how we got to this point...