For the Poisoned

I have always felt that something was deeply, innately wrong with the culture I grew up in. I never fit in well after I started public school in 5th grade. I didn’t know the whole picture then (and I hope I never do), but I could sense a pattern of conformity and social manipulation that had everyone (all of the adults included) in its clutches. This only became more apparent as I got older.

I’m 29 years old now and I’ve been researching the great crises of the 21st century for the better part of the last decade. What I’ve come to realize is that my earliest suspicions were right. But it’s much worse than I could have ever imagined, and it’s been going on for a lot longer than I’ve been alive.

If you’re one of the lucky few who was born in America or another wealthy, industrialized nation, then you know how it feels to be constantly bombarded with advertisements and the pressures of social conformity. This glittering, ubiquitous machine of hyper-consumerism has reshaped the entire surface of the planet.

It’s everywhere you look, every sound you hear. Never ending commercials, endless billboards, signs, and posters; 24/7 Walmart, gas stations on every corner well-stocked with all of our favorite government-approved poisons. All of this vying for our attention, begging us to open up our wallets and make a decision, but is the decision ever really ours? Do we have a choice in this endless parade of choices?

Do we get to decide any of the things that really matter, like where our food comes from, or the amount of toxins that are dumped into our local waterways? We get to choose between a Big Mac or a Whopper, a Coke or a Diet Coke, but we can’t choose whether to be poisoned or not. Society has made that decision for us without our consent. It’s done this by protecting and subsidizing a system of agriculture, food supply companies, and grocery store chains that stock and sell an endless variety of junk food and food-like products which by some measures are just as toxic to our health as cigarettes.

As I pointed out earlier, this has been going on for a lot longer than I’ve been alive to witness it. I can honestly say that I’m glad I wasn’t around when cars were still using leaded gasoline. For five decades there was a conspiracy of silence on one of the greatest public health crises in American history. The big oil companies were putting lead into our gasoline to increase profit margins, even though they knew it was killing us. And now it appears that history is repeating itself. We are still allowing lead into our drinking water, among other toxic chemicals, despite our modern knowledge on water quality issues.

What happened in Flint, Michigan was unacceptable. But it should serve as a wake-up call for the American people. Our public elected officials don’t necessarily have our best interests at heart. Big surprise, I know. What concerns me the most is that more people haven’t made the connection between the water quality of our rivers, lakes, and underground aquifers and the drinking water from our taps. It’s all connected. What we do to our natural fresh water sources has a direct impact on our drinking water supply. The chemical pollutants and trash we allow to be dumped into our rivers and lakes will eventually wind up in our taps at some concentration. The water treatment plants can’t filter everything out. And there is now a wealth of compelling scientific evidence of the dangers of fracking to underground aquifers, air, and soil.

Why is it that some well-educated people in this country can accept most or even all of these threats, but disregard the threat of carbon pollution from industry and car exhaust? A Swedish scientist by the name of Svante Arrhenius discovered that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas over a hundred years ago. The scientific community has since amassed a veritable mountain of evidence to support his theory, and all of it has been painstakingly analyzed and corroborated.

There is now very little doubt and almost unanimous consensus among climatologists about man-made climate change. So why are people so offended by this research? Why do they choose to believe in the ridiculous notion that all scientists all over the world are part of a grand conspiracy to mislead the public about climate change? I think that the simplest answer is they don’t want to admit that they’re partially personally responsible for the destruction of the planet. Nobody wants to admit that, but that’s exactly why we’re in such a terrible mess.

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A World Worth Protecting

I’ve given a lot of thought to this blog and the reasons why I have to write it. I’m going to be brutally honest with myself, and everyone who chooses to read this. My life has lead me down many paths, and each of them has left its mark on me. I was raised a Christian conservative in a typical white American middle class household. I went to church, supported the war in Afghanistan, and President Bush.

I used to see the world in black and white, good versus evil, and I unquestioningly believed that we were the good guys. I had very traditional economic viewpoints. I thought that unbridled capitalism was the best way to reward those who were disciplined and brilliant. It was all very uncomplicated to me.

I wasn’t aware of even half the issues our world faces, and I didn’t want to learn about them. I knew that people were suffering, and that things were pretty messed up in most of the world, but I blamed human ignorance and irresponsibility for these problems.

To understand my point of view, I have to point out that the Christian conservative worldview I once embraced was never my own. I wasn’t born that way, it was imprinted upon me by the trusted adults in my life. All children are born free of religion and ideology.

It wasn’t until my late teens and early twenties that I started seeing things in a new light. But in reality I was simply returning to my roots, to the way I saw things from the beginning, through the clear lens of curiosity. From the time I could walk, I spent a lot of time outdoors and had a deep appreciation for nature. I wanted to learn everything about the plants and animals in my environment, and the world around me. My true nature was always that of a scientist.

I was home schooled from K through 4th grade, so I had more free time than the average kid. I became an obsessive reader, constantly moving from topic to topic, and story to story. I grew up on Jules Verne and Little House on the Prarie. By the time I was ten I had a voracious appetite for Dean Koontz. I wanted to be a writer just like him.

It wasn’t until my late teens that my interest in the study of science started to fully bloom. It started with watching episodes of The Universe with my little brother and pontificating on the great cosmic mysteries together. Before long I was reading books by Stephen Hawking and Michio Kaku, and devouring endless articles from the scientific community.

By the time I moved out on my own I was a new man, independent, free-thinking, and rebellious. The more I learned, the more I wanted to make an impact, to change things for the better. But all I knew how to do was write, and so I started writing my thoughts on various issues and sharing them on Facebook. This went  on for years, and some great discussions were had in the past. But more often than not I noticed that the issues I brought up were mostly ignored in favor of idle conversation, or some other trifling distraction.

I finally had to accept that Facebook isn’t a very useful platform for activism, and that feeling is what eventually culminated in the creation of this website. My goal is to build writervism into a beacon of knowledge and ideas that can’t easily be ignored. I want people to know who I am and what I stand for because I believe in something greater than myself. I’m not writing this for personal gain. I will never personally host an ad on this website or ask for donations. This isn’t about me, it’s about the message the scientific community is trying to share with the world.

That message is loud and clear. To sum it up in a single statement, our world is dying, and the human race is killing it. We’re doing this in a number of different ways, and if we don’t fundamentally change the way we do things, then our future generations will never know the beautiful world we take for granted. If that’s not a sobering thought, then you haven’t been paying attention the past twenty years. You haven’t taken a close look at the Gulf oil spill,or the Fukushima disaster. You haven’t done the research on anthropogenic climate change. You haven’t considered the worldwide crisis of water pollution that threatens to destroy our most precious resource.

These issues are misunderstood because it requires careful research and study to understand them. If you make up your mind on these issues without thoroughly researching them, you’ve done yourself a major intellectual disservice. You’ve essentially decided that you’re going to accept whatever you’re told to believe without even examining the evidence to the contrary. That is the opposite of a scientific viewpoint. Science is based wholly on evidence and it follows the evidence wherever it leads, even if the evidence contradicts the most widely accepted scientific truth.

Science challenges our beliefs and demands that we question everything, especially our personal biases and convictions. Without the most rigorous skepticism, how can we ever know the truth, with so many people claiming so many opposing ideas to be true? In a world without skepticism there is no truth, only myths.

That is why civilization as a whole cannot exist without science. There has to be a framework of knowledge and understanding to support the pillars of civilization: medicine, technology, architecture, agriculture, and education. None of these would exist without the scientific method. I don’t think anyone can argue that.

People tend to embrace the products of science, while condemning the study of it. This is the height of arrogance, and the kind of attitude that powerful people have always preyed upon in the past, and continue to prey upon today. There is a very real movement in our world to discredit certain scientific studies through misinformation and misrepresentation of the facts. To be specific, it is in the best interests of big energy corporations and other major industries that the majority of the population doesn’t research the realities of climate change or pollution for themselves. There are powerful political forces behind this movement, whose aim is to protect a system of energy production, agriculture, and medicine that is making people sick and killing them, and polluting our planet to the extent that no species is safe from extinction.

This is the message from the scientific community, we are at the beginning of the sixth great extinction event in our planet’s history, and the dawn of a new geological era, the Anthropocene. These developments are the product of human interaction with the world. Just as we hunted the woolly mammoth and the saber toothed tiger to extinction ten thousand years ago, now we are over-hunting and polluting most of the remaining species of this planet to extinction. Even more disturbing than that, perhaps, is the fact that we’re permanently changing the geological makeup of the planet itself.

What people have to understand is that our economy and our way of life directly depends on nature. Our food comes primarily from plants and animals that depend on thriving ecosystems for their survival. Our houses and furniture and so many other items we depend on are made out of wood from the remaining forests of the world, while climate change and deforestation by industry threaten to push the trees to the brink of extinction. We’re doing the same thing to the oceans through mass pollution, and destructive fishing practices like dragging massive nets across the bottom of the ocean to catch entire schools of fish. We’re also destroying the remaining natural coral reefs of the world through overfishing, chemical run-off, climate change, and other unintended human interactions.

Our entire technological approach needs to change, or one day Mother Nature is going to change it for us. One day the oil and gasoline that powers your cars and the coal that powers your homes is all going to run out. And what’s our back up plan for that? We have built our entire civilization upon the extraction of non-renewable resources, and the extraction and utilization of these resources has created the biggest problem we face in the 21st century: anthropogenic climate change.

There is another way of powering our civilization that we’ve known about for over a hundred years. I’m talking about sustainable, renewable resources that will never run out: sunlight, wind energy, geothermal forces, and tidal forces. The powerful elite have historically suppressed renewable energy technology, and protected non-renewable energy because that’s the only way they could keep a price tag on it and keep people under control. When people are energy independent there is nothing they can’t accomplish for themselves, and they no longer need to depend on the system for their survival.

It is my sincere hope that our government will one day be reformed to protect the freedoms and natural rights of human beings, rather than the interests of international corporations that exist to control us, and ultimately to destroy us. I am not an anarchist, or a libertarian. I don’t believe that the world would be better off without government. Every time governments have collapsed in history, it’s created a power vacuum that was always filled by some other governing force. It is the natural inclination of human beings to organize around an idea with the hope of collective prosperity.

A simple analogy is effective to underline this truth. Anyone who lives in a house with children can attest to the necessity of rules and boundaries. Without them, you have total chaos and an environment where the children will have a poor chance of survival. But with effective rules and boundaries, the family thrives and prospers. It’s the same for societies; we need an effective government that protects and nurtures the people. We need rules and boundaries that apply equally to everyone. We need the right kinds of laws, and the right kind of government to enforce them.

This has never been more apparent than in our modern age of corporate supremacy and mass pollution. We cannot expect to live freely in a safe society where corporations are allowed to run and regulate themselves without government oversight or intervention. Why would any of these corporations consider our best interests over the best interests of their shareholders? The dollar is the bottom line in a capitalist society. The potential for profit will always override all other concerns, except when strict laws are put in place that incentivize the protection of the planet and its people.

People have always acted on incentives, it’s basic human nature. If the only incentive is profit, people will almost always act to their own benefit with few exceptions, and for the wealthiest people on this planet that means making decisions that endanger millions of others. But if there’s a stronger incentive than profit, such as the possibility of going to prison and facing huge fines and other legal complications, then the power is shifted back into the people’s hands.

Effective governance is the only way to counter-balance the power vacuum that corporations have filled and utilized to strip the world of its resources and commoditize our most basic needs such as food, water, and medicine. Right now we live in a country where the government has been systematically infiltrated and overtaken by the interests of the most powerful people. They have insulated themselves against the destruction they’ve wreaked. They live in their perfectly maintained mansions, or at the tops of their skyscrapers with air conditioning and room service, and all the comforts and luxuries of modern society. They have access to the best healthcare and the finest education, and they can freely travel the world at their leisure. In many ways they are the only class of people in this world to enjoy absolute freedom, but it comes with a terrible price.

I hope that we will one day see the wisdom in sacrificing some of our freedoms to protect the best interests of the human race as a whole. This is the sacrifice we have to make in order to protect not only ourselves, but the economy as well. Our economy directly depends on a thriving biosphere, where ecosystems are left to flourish with as little human intervention as possible. The environmentalist approach is the best economic approach, and the only sane approach to governing civilization. Our freedom to pollute and destroy ecosystems, and to strip-mine the last drop of resources out of the earth is the sacrifice we have to make for a lasting civilization that will live to see the next millennium and beyond.

We need to remember the power of the people, the power that’s surged through our society in the past and energized our greatest social revolutions. The challenges we face now are far greater than the challenges our parents and our grandparents faced. We have the fate of the world in our hands, and it comes down to how we choose to live. We have to fundamentally change, not for ourselves, but for our children’s sake. I’m writing this because I want my son to grow up in a world where dolphins, whales, polar bears, and elephants are alive and thriving. I want him to grow up in a society that protects the world, and puts the environment first in all its decision making. This isn’t about me, it’s about my son, Huxley Alexander, and all the other babies that are born each day. We can’t afford to fail them; this world is our only home, and it’s a world worth protecting.

 

Welcome to Writervism

This website, and the blog that it hosts, has a very simple premise, that words and the ideas they represent have the power to change the world. We are privileged to exist during the most exciting and terrifying epoch of human history. Our knowledge of the universe continues to advance at a rapid rate, and has produced a kind of technological utopia, but we’ve paid a terrible price for it. This beautiful blue orb we call Earth, our only home in the universe, is slowly becoming inhospitable to life.

The oceans are acidifying from the excess carbon in the atmosphere, while nuclear radiation from atomic testing and the Fukushima disaster, billions of metric tons of plastic pollution, chemical run-off from unregulated agriculture and factory operations, and over-fishing threaten to collapse and destroy most of the oceanic ecosystems by 2050. The oceans and the land masses on our planet form a symbiotic circle of life. One cannot thrive without the other. If the ecosystems in the ocean go extinct, then so shall the ecosystems on the surface. We are a part of these ecosystems, and if we can’t find a way to repair the damage we’ve done to this delicate web of life, then we will probably suffer the same fate as every other species we share this world with.

We are not unique or special, or beyond the forces of nature. We have to learn how to live in harmony with nature, or nature will find a way to live in harmony without us. Extinction events are a natural cycle of life on this planet. We wouldn’t be here if the extinction of the dinosaurs had never occurred. The only difference this time is human beings have unwittingly become the architects of their own extinction.

I have immense faith in the power of human will and innovation. I have unflinching faith in humanity. We have accomplished amazing feats, we’ve walked on the moon and landed robotic rovers on Mars. We have already invented the technology we need to save ourselves, and so many of the species whose survival depends on our ability to change and adapt. We still have time to change the course of events, to steer our world down the path of sustainability.

This website exists to aid in the effort of sharing the knowledge of these issues, and to help people develop a scientific understanding of the world. It’s a place for curious, free thinking individuals, skeptics, and writervists to gather, and share their thoughts and ideas and their dreams for the future. It’s a place for open discussion and rigorous debate, where ignorance will be challenged and scientific theories will be examined and explained.

Above all else, this is going to be an online refuge for ordinary people to participate in a cause much greater than themselves. I believe that everyone can make a difference every single day. That’s what writervism is about, it’s the humble belief that our words can make a real difference in a world that desperately needs us. Thank you for being a part of this cause, and for believing in a better future. Apathy is the easiest thing in the world, but caring, truly caring about our future, is the greatest challenge of our time.