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Continuing to wade through the accumulated digital clippings here at my perch in the Vermont clouds, where a foot and a half of snow over the last two days has made the task a bit easier by slowing life down considerably. So let’s continue with some more recent dispatches that have caught my eyes and ears of late…
You probably don’t know it (I sure didn’t) but our entire lifetimes and those of all other human beings throughout human history have been spent in the geological era called the Holocene, that period of time that followed the retreat of the ice age glaciers 12,000 years ago. Now, however, some geologists are suggesting that the Holocene Era is over and the Anthropocene Era has begun, a new geological age in which human activities not natural processes are the force responsible for shaping the surface of our world. It’s a semantic change, really, but it’s a very, very interesting notion, a bit of perhaps necessary symbolism if you will, that I think deserves some consideration if only for the attention it would bring to the tremendous impact people are having on the state of the Earth. We’ve now surpassed all of nature itself as the dominant force in the world. It’s the first time in billions of years of geological history that a single species has achieved such utter and overwhelming dominance. Truly we are as gods and surely that’s worth some discussion. Declaring the dawn of the Anthropocene Era would certainly be one way to start it.
Okay. This is just funny. And perfect. And brilliant. And you should watch it right now.
The National Audubon Society recently awarded author Richard Louv the Audubon Medal for his efforts to bring attention to today’s divorce rate and it’s effect on kids. I’m not talking about when Mom and Dad split up. I’m talking about divorce from nature. Louv wrote what I think is one of the most important books of the last decade, Last Child in the Woods, which talks about childrens’ increasing separation from the natural world and the tremendous costs and consequences of this trend. If you haven’t read this book, you definitely should, especially if your family isn’t getting enough of the Great Outdoors. Louv coined the term nature deficit disorder, and it’s an apt turn of phrase that I think should be the subject of widespread public dialogue. If we’re not exposed to nature we can’t appreciate it. And if we can’t appreciate it, we won’t care much about saving it. Thus Louv gets to the core of most of what ails us. Nice to see him honored. It’s very well deserved.
In the The-More-We-Know-The-Less-We-Know Department comes this tidbit about local food. Here in Vermont, we’re blessed with a lot of agriculture and organic growers, etc. As a reuslt, we’re all about the local eating up here, which is great because local food doesn’t have to travel as far as “industrial” food, and that’s better for the environment. Right? Maybe not. At a conference in Britain last month, one presentation argued that local is not always environmentally preferable because the impact of so-called “food miles,” the distance food travels from farm to plate isn’t always what it seems. The differences lie in freight efficiencies. For example, it’s less carbon intensive per pound of food to carry a large quantity of food a long distance all at once than it is to transport small quantities of food via multiple vehicles or means. Not sure how I feel about this. The facts may be true in some cases, but I’m hard pressed to believe a quart of milk from the next town over is trumped by a quart from the next state. And local food has all kinds of benefits and ameliorates all kinds of impacts that are unrelated to the climate crisis, like its contributions to healthier local economies and healthier people. Nothing’s black and white, you know, and this story proves it both ways…
There’s got to be a joke in this next news item somewhere, but I’m sure not going to look for it. Researchers have found an association between cell phone use and poor sperm health. Not a cause-and-effect relationship, mind you, just an an association, but still it’s a pretty odd finding considering that where men on phones are concerned it’s the big head that pretty much does all the talking. (Damn…I wasn’t even trying. Honest.) Anyway, a study about sperm health also asked its subjects about their cell phone use, and researchers discovered that the more men reported talking on their cell phones, the lower their sperm count and sperm quality was. Again, there’s no connection proven here just an strange relationship. A much bigger study is needed and is apparently on the way. Trust me when I say I won’t be phoning in its results when they come….