Sunday, August 02, 2009

Green Isolationism

Isolationists, most notably George Washington in his farewell address “The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible,” believe that one’s territory can be contained, one’s sovereignty sustained by removing oneself from the rest. And while it was probably wise council for a young nation to stay out of ‘political connections’ as we built our new nation, isolationism of any kind really is not possible in today’s world. Isolation is only an illusion, especially in our environment. Connections are the rule. A sand storm in Africa gives Central American’s asthma.

What happens in Buffalo, or Quebec, or Pennsylvania (where the Genesee River begins), the Hudson River, the Adirondacks, Syracuse, and Ohio in terms of their pollution, their air quality, the species that have invaded them, global warming studies that they’ve done all make isolationism absurd. As the invasive Emerald Ash Borer makes its way into southern New York counties, we should prepare here. We should understand and share the information.

Americans pride ourselves on being unique, standing on one’s own, being free and allowed to pursue Happiness—as one envisions it. However, as time goes on, as we mature as a species, we are learning that what we do matters to others despite our best intensions. Only in our minds can we litter, pollute, overuse resources, and not affect every living thing on the planet. [One can get a sense of this in the 2004 film, “The Fever” where it dawns on an urban sophisticate that everything she does affects how others in other parts of the world live.]

This imaginary isolationism, where the media only focuses on breaking environmental issues in our area, is why pulling environmental stories from surrounding communities is critical to our future. Americans thinking during the span before World War I that events in Europe did not pertain to us was a dangerous illusion. Instead of being able to isolate ourselves and escaping the madness that consumed a generation, we got suck up into it.

Aggregating news stories, now viewed as reprehensible within a medium strapped for money by its own profligacy, must be the future media model of reality. Though we cannot predict the future, we can get a pretty good sense of what is in store for us environmentally by observing what happens to our neighbors. If global warming studies in Ohio show how it’s going to happen there, most of those effects will probably happen here. The pollution next door means it’s only a matter of time before it is here—and maybe it is already, we just haven’t checked.

Finding out what’s going on with environmental matters all around us, including stories that nuclear power is failing in Germany or that the fish in the Great Lakes are getting toxic, “Up to the Gills: 2009 Update on Pollution in Great Lakes Fish,” [] There’s no isolation on a planet where barriers and levees eventually breakdown. And while it has become fashionable to cop an attitude that it won’t matter to us when an environmental problem occurs but doesn’t do so in our neck of the woods, it probably will.

1 comment:

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