The modern Green movement began on Christmas Eve 1968. That was the night on which the three men of Apollo 8 took the famous photograph known as “Earthrise.”
The sight of our beautiful blue planet against the blackness was made even more poignant by the moon in the foreground. The moon was the reason the Americans where there, orbiting around our celestial friend, but what they found was the earth. Found in the sense that for the first time, in color no less, the apparent fragility of our world was obvious.
Trouble is that it’s not true. The earth isn’t fragile. It’s a unique geological and biological wonder that has weathered (so to speak) billions of years of assault from comets, rocks, meteors, interstellar particles and radiation, as well as her home grown phenomena like volcanoes, shifting tectonic plates and a boiling hot metallic core.
Our galactic home-room’s character is rooted in change and adaptation. Only those who anthropomorphize a planet (now there’s an odd concept) could worry about it dealing with stuff. She has dealt with so much in the past to get where she is now, being in a period of relatively slow change and relative stability (as she finds herself) is the equivalent of being on planetary vacation.
When people say the earth is fragile, what they really mean is that the systems that support human life are fragile. That’s the subtext to most of the blather written and spoken about this topic. It’s not actually the earth folks are worried about…it’s their own life. Not that I see a problem with that. Survival is our first and most important instinct, and to lose it would almost guarantee our demise.
Here’s my point: we need to understand that there is a hierarchy of risk. In my lifetime, the risk of my dying from galactic cataclysm is infinitessimally small. Ditto volcanic action, earthquake, tectonic plate movement. The greatest danger to premature death and the illness that might precede it comes from my own actions, and that of my fellow man.
We’re finding now that mass production, while providing lots of stuff to lots of people, might not always have given us the safest products. Mass production, by the way, isn’t the problem – it’s the inputs that are the problem. Understanding the way in which we interact with, and ultimately absorb, everything in the environment has become hugely valuable in tracing the beginnings of disease. And, sadly, the shortening of lifespans. Think here of asbestos, or thalidomide, or tobacco. At the time, these were considered useful, and they are in some ways…but they have downsides, too.
That’s the value of the Green movement in my mind. By noting that we can use science and scientific technique to gain a more complete knowledge of how we work, we will understand how our bodies react. By improving the stuff we have around us – the quality of our food, the safety of our cleaning products, the efficacy of our dietary supplements – we can live better, longer lives.
My job is to spread the word about the ways in which you can improve the environment around yourself, your family, your friends and your colleagues. They are small ways, but simple to include in your life. That’s my way of reducing the risk, another way of going Green.