Recently, we tuned our radio to an all-news station to hear the weather
forecast. Instead, we got a well-known, deep-voiced newscaster talking
about bubonic plague, its devastating effects and how it was stopped in the
past. To build up the tension, he mentioned a new strain of bubonic
plague that is resistant to antibiotics. Then, suddenly, it was time for a
few words from his sponsor. This, of course, is the reason he structured
his commentary the way he did: to call attention to the advertising.
The commentator asks in the same deep, serious voice, "Do you have a
problem with mildew stains in the cracks between your shower's tiles? ...
Just use this new, non-toxic and environmentally-safe product every day.
Simply spray it on the tiles after your shower, and say good-bye to
unsightly mildew. "
After being told about the problem of the mildew in my shower and this
nifty solution, how can I possibly care if a bubonic plague, resistant to
all known medicines, threatens. My bathroom tile is safe!
Seriously now, what is truly important? In our culture advertising is
clearly what's important. Buy something. Buy anything. But, just buy.
Whatever gets people to look at, listen to, or read advertisements is
used-whether it's the bubonic plague, sex or gruesome violence. It all has
the same importance if it attracts consumers and serves advertisers.
Meanwhile, there are some very serious problems which face all of us as a
global community. Bubonic plague is just one of many deadly contagions
spreading throughout the world as a result of the increasing movement of
people and products, the degrading of ecosystems and the changing climate.
Malaria is another. Closer to home, AIDS and antibiotic-resistant
tuberculosis stalk the poor in our cities while equine encephalitis and
Lyme disease spread fear in more rural areas and the Asian longhorn beetle
threatens our forests.
Earlier this summer, a group of environmental scientists broke with
tradition to warn about the profound changes that humans have brought to
the Earth's landscape, atmosphere, plant and animal life, and basic
chemistry. In the words of one of them, a former president of the American
Academy for the Advancement of Science, "I think things are so serious that
we don't have any choice but to speak out and say what we're seeing." She
likened human activities on Earth to what's happening on the Mir space
station, except that we don't understand the consequences of what we're
doing here. Just like Mir, we've got serious problems with our control and
energy systems. We're destroying both the forests which generate our
oxygen, and the ozone layer which shields us from dangerous radiation,
while we add insulation to the Earth in the form of greenhouse gases.
Our culture prods incessantly to find the cause of Diana's wreck or flight
800's crash, yet ignores the 30,000 to 40,000 people who die every day from
hunger and related diseases. They're mostly children who live far away.
Yet we're sold fancy foods that come from their villages and bioregions and
are told to worry about the mildew stains in our shower.
The situation for most of the world's nearly six billion people may be akin
to Diana's on that fateful night. We're being driven down the fast-growth
globalization highway at a ridiculous speed. Our corporate and political
leaders are drunk on power and greed and are out of touch with reality,
their depression barely held in check with Prozac or conspicuous
consumption. And like the paparazzi, the media focus not on the
out-of-control drivers, but on what sells advertising.
This broadcast begins the eighth year of Living on the Earth, dedicated to
the premise that we need to evolve a new relationship with our planet.
Understanding the flows and cycles of the natural world, we need to use
direct, energy-efficient and environmentally-sound approaches to obtain our
basic needs. These approaches will include wider solar energy use and a
greater reliance on the bounty of green plants. Individual actions,
education and community alliances are needed to work toward a future which
we can look forward to and live with, all over the Earth.
This is what's really important?
Living on the Earth thanks our listeners for their support over the years
and for making these important changes a reality in their lives and
This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth
(C)1997, Bill Duesing, Solar Farm Education, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491
Bill and Suzanne Duesing operate the Old Solar Farm (raising NOFA/CT
certified organic vegetables) and Solar Farm Education (working on urban
agriculture projects in New Haven, Bridgeport, Hartford and Norwalk, CT).
Their collection of essays Living on the Earth: Eclectic Essays for a
Sustainable and Joyful Future is available from Bill Duesing, Box 135,
Stevenson, CT 06491 for $14 postpaid. These essays first appeared on WSHU,
public radio from Fairfield, CT. New essays are posted weekly at
http://www.wshu.org/duesing and those since November 1995 are available