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.