he ravages committed by man subvert the relations and destroy the balance which nature had established between her organized and her inorganic creations; and she avenges herself upon the intruder, by letting loose upon her defaced provinces destructive energies hitherto kept in check by organic forces destined to be his best auxiliaries, but which he has unwisely dispersed and driven from the field of action. When the forest is gone, the great reservoir of moisture stored up in its vegetable mould is evaporated, and returns only in deluges of rain to wash away the parched dust into which that mould has been converted. The well-wooded and humid hills are turned to ridges of dry rock, which encumbers the low grounds and chokes the watercourses with its debris, and–except in countries favored with an equable distribution of rain through the seasons, and a moderate and regular inclination of surface–the whole earth, unless rescued by human art from the physical degradation to which it tends, becomes an assemblage of bald mountains, of barren, turfless hills, and of swampy and malarious plains. There are parts of Asia Minor, of Northern Africa, of Greece, and even of Alpine Europe, where the operation of causes set in action by man has brought the face of the earth to a desolation almost as complete as that of the moon; and though, within that brief space of time which we call 'the historical period,' they are known to have been covered with luxuriant woods, verdant pastures, and fertile meadows, they are now too far deteriorated to be reclaimable by man, nor can they become again fitted for human use, except through great geological changes, or other mysterious influences or agencies of which we have no present knowledge, and over which we have no prospective control. The earth is fast becoming an unfit home for its noblest inhabitant, and another era of equal human crime and human improvidence, and of like duration with that through which traces of that crime and that improvidence extend, would reduce it to such a condition of impoverished productiveness, of shattered surface, of climatic excess, as to threaten the depravation, barbarism, and perhaps even extinction of the species.
If a man walked in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer, but if he spends his whole day as a speculator shearing of those woods and making earth bald before her time, he is estimated as an industrious and enterprising citizen—as if a town had no interest in forests but to cut them down.
It is true that the trees are for human use. But these are aesthetic uses as well as commercial uses—uses for the spiritual wealth of all, as well as the material wealth of some.
Man has generally been preoccupied with obtaining as much 'production' from the landscape as possible, by developing and maintaining early successional types of ecosystems, usually monocultures. But, of course, man does not live by food and fiber alone; he also needs a balanced CO2-O2 atmosphere, the climactic buffer provided by oceans and masses of vegetation, and clean (that is, unproductive) water for cultural and industrial uses. Many essential life-cycle resources, not to mention recreational and esthetic needs, are best provided man by the less 'productive' landscapes. In other words, the landscape is not just a supply depot but is also the oikos—the home—in which we must live.
A lot of people ask, 'Do you think humans are parasites?' It's an interesting idea and one worth thinking about. People casually refer to humanity as a virus spreading across the earth. In fact, we do look like some strange kind of bio-film spreading across the landscape. A good metaphor? If the biosphere is our host, we do use it up for our own benefit. We do manipulate it. We alter the flows and fluxes of elements like carbon and nitrogen to benefit ourselves—often at the expense of the biosphere as a whole. If you look at how coral reefs or tropical forests are faring these days, you'll notice that our host is not doing that well right now. Parasites are very sophisticated; parasites are highly evolved; parasites are very successful, as reflected in their diversity. Humans are not very good parasites. Successful parasites do a very good job of balancing—using up their hosts and keeping them alive. It's all a question of tuning the adaptation to your particular host. In our case, we have only one host, so we have to be particularly careful.
I say it is impossible that so sensible a people [citizens of Paris], under such circumstances, should have lived so long by the smoky, unwholesome, and enormously expensive light of candles, if they had really known that they might have had as much pure light of the sun for nothing.
New technologies are advancing to the marketplace. but consumers can be wary of change. If they unequivocally demand alternatives to gasoline, for example, the marketplace will be activated, but ±ere is plenty of resistance to overcome. Recently, the president of Shell Oil, John Hoffmeister, expressed his views on world demand for energy and business opportunities ahead. Shell Oil's position, as Hoffmeister explained it, is ±at America will always need foreign oil even as it aggressively develops alternatives such as solar, wind, ethanol, gasification, and hydrogen sources of power. This view contradicts those who have strenuously argued that our national security requires an end to foreign oil dependence, especially in the Middle East. It is difficult, if not impossible, to have an intelligent conversation about energy if we cannot agree that independence from foreign oil or, in the very long run, independence from fossil fuel, is achievable. In the best of circumstances, it will take time to end our dependence, but many experts believe it is time to commit to this worthy goal. Our national security and our nation's economy depends on supply and demand shifts that are orderly, predictable, and carefully managed. Chaos is the enemy of national security.
Los Angeles air quality has improved in recent years because of new regulations on automobile and plant emissions, but the American Lung Association still ranks the Los Angeles area as the metropolitan region in America most polluted by year-round particles, short-term particles, and ozone. This persistent ranking contrasts with other data on Los Angeles's environmental progress. For example, the number of "exceedance" days in the Los Angeles / Long Beach area of southern California (days that ozone exceeded the acceptable levels) in a recent three-year period (1997-1999) fell to an average of 23 days from a total of 154 days in the 1980-1982 period. This is a significant decline, and new technology can take most of the credit for this change. For example, it is estimated that it would take twenty of today's new cars to generate the equivalent air pollution generated by just one mid-1960s car. Los Angeles is an interesting case for another reason: Its local government is seeking greater federal regulation than is currently mandated by federal policies. The disagreement centers on emissions generated by certain mobile sources, for example, locomotives, cargo ships, and airplanes that are not under the control of the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The struggle to determine the appropriate level and source of regulation is debated regularly in California.
The creativity behind social marketing can be alarming. A recent television ad depicted water disappearing into a storm drain as a voice warned that lawn fertilizer in the spring can wind up in the Chesapeake Bay. "No crab should die like this," the announcer opines. Later, the announcer appears on screen with a small tub in hand, exclaiming "they should perish in some hot, tasty melted butter!" This promotion by the Chesapeake Bay Program, a subsidiary of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, promotes the Maryland region's seafood as a reason to protect the bay. One ad proclaimed: "The lunch you save may be your own." The designer of the ads explained that he intended to reach people who had not been reached in twenty years of traditional environmentalism. As s creative people enter the social marketing arena, humor will be evident in the ads that break through to register awareness, change behavior, and stimulate action on behalf of the cause.
In the Ne± Netherlands, a unique partnership between Shell Oil Company and Dutch greenhouse businesses enables surplus carbon dioxide produced at the Shell refinery in Pernis, outside Rotterdam, to be pumped into greenhouses as an alternative to pumping it directly into the atmosphere as waste. The partnership was made possible because of an existing pipeline (built a decade ago but never used) activated to pump gas from Rotterdam to Amsterdam. Dutch entrepreneurs bought the pipeline from the government and then modified it for the distribution of carbon dioxide. The anticipated results are quite remarkable. Ninety-five million cubic meters of natural gas will be saved by the fruit, vegetable, and flower growers, and carbon dioxide emissions at the Shell plant will be reduced by 170,000 tons.