DEAR READERS: The mythic quest for infinite economic growth and the reality of an ever-increasing population have combined to trigger and accelerate climate change and the annihilation of the Earth's biodiversity and metabolic, ecologic and other natural systems and processes. Yet it is only upon the functional integrity and interdependence of these natural, organic systems, and our consonance with them, that the health of our economy and species are secured, along with that of other animal and plant species.
My colleague, the late professor Barry Commoner, sought to make this symbiotic consonance a reality. He invited me to join his Center for the Biology of Natural Systems (now called the Barry Commoner Center) while I was at Washington University in St. Louis as a tenured associate professor of psychology in the late 1960s, and in so doing, opened my mind to these fundamental laws and calls for eco-justice and social justice. If he and several other scientists had been heeded at that time, especially by powerful politicians and industries, we probably would not be in the predicament of a global dystopia we all face today.
In my opinion, Commoner's four laws of ecology -- as written in his 1971 book, "The Closing Circle" -- should be in every school curriculum. The four laws are:
1. Everything is connected to everything else.
2. Everything must go somewhere.
3. Nature knows best.
4. There is no such thing as a free lunch.
When our politics, economics, health care, education, agriculture and all other commercial and industrial activities are designed to be integrated mindfully, in concert with natural organic systems, we may yet save ourselves from socioeconomic and ecological collapse. Responsible self-governance in harmony with natural systems is a keystone bioethical principle for a viable future.
Environmental activist Paul Hawken opined: "We are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration, and the other, exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth, we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich; it is a way to be rich."
DEAR DR. FOX: I just wanted to send a quick thank-you for introducing me to the David Wallace-Wells book "The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming." I started reading it and didn't want to put it down. While I already knew a lot of it, there is also so much I didn't know. We need to do more for the planet, but unfortunately, there is a political party that is always going to fight against it.
I am going to share this book with my family, as well. -- S.P., West Palm Beach, Florida
DEAR S.P.: Yes, it is a great piece of science-based writing, as well as a wake-up call. Back in the 1980s, I was part of a gathering in Congress to sound the alarm over the "greenhouse effect," today known as global warming, which is part of climate change. The evidence was already there, but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce chose to ignore it and maintain business as usual, as did many other countries.
I would venture to add this observation: The nemeses of past civilizations and empires -- depletion of natural resources, relative overpopulation and overconsumption, famine, plagues, pestilence and war -- were regional. Now we face the global nemesis of the fossil fuel age, including overlapping elements of capitalism, colonialism and unsustainable agriculture and other polluting industries.
It is time for us all to step back -- which does not mean a setback for the GDP, but rather embracing the survival imperative of planetary CPR: conservation, protection and restoration. We must provide these to the natural environment upon which our lives, and all lives, depend. Stepping back will facilitate the economic and social transition to a post-industrial, post-fossil-fuel era of mindful consumption -- but only if we vote to secure the collective political will. An informed majority must answer the call for personal responsibility, austerity/voluntary simplicity (to minimize our carbon footprint and its collateral harms to the life community) and benevolence toward others, be they human or nonhuman. All planetary citizens are worthy of equal respect and consideration.
AVMA PREZ: RESPONSIBLE OWNERSHIP OVER BREED BANS
Pit bulls are no more naturally aggressive than any other dogs, and local governments should crack down on irresponsible owners rather than ban specific breeds and types of dogs, says AVMA President Dr. Lori Teller. Aggression depends on how dogs are trained, socialized and treated. Teller encourages responsible pet ownership, including the study of dogs' body language and the practice of never leaving a child alone with any dog, regardless of breed.
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