When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted,
when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money.
Dante shudders at all the propaganda masquerading as journalism that prevails in print and on the airwaves. Our hope, by contrast, is that we will never fail to call a rose a rose.
There are certain inalienable truths that cannot be denied. One of these truths – often misattributed to a Native American leader of the 19th Century (Chief Seattle of the Suquamish people) but salient nonetheless – is that whatever we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves. Thus we devote Number Six of our magazine to green issues. We do not do so because it is fashionable. We do not do so as a token gesture. You will hear from us on this score again and again, just as you may have become accustomed by now to see our pages repeatedly concerned with human rights, good governance, social justice and the study of human conflict in all of its forms.
We would go so far as to claim that the defence of the natural environment is nothing less than the greatest battlefield of our age. Does it seem preposterous to state that the fight for Mother Earth dwarfs all others? What do struggles for national liberation, for human emancipation, for ethnic or cultural survival, for the defence of free expression and other noble human ideals mean? Indeed, what do nations mean, what do all their pride, their intransigence, and their economic prerogatives amount to, if the Earth is dying?
We know for a fact that while their shrinkage may have slowed, the polar ice caps are melting at a steady, inexorable rate. Climate change – global warming – is also an empirical fact, yet there are those that still decry it as myth. We can confirm that great swathes of the world’s oceans are all but permanently polluted. To take one example alone, the damage wrought by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is damage that will take centuries to undo, if that is even possible. Just on American shores we still contend with the ecological harm caused by the Exxon Valdez disaster that occurred when many of us were still children decades ago.
How long will it take before Japan recovers from the Fukushima meltdown? If Chernobyl is anything to go by, none of us reading this editorial will see the day when vast areas of Japan are once more habitable, a day that might come when the Irish Sea is no longer one of the most irradiated corners of the planet and that day will not come soon.
Untold numbers of as-yet undiscovered species of flora and fauna are being exterminated in the rainforests of the Amazon Basin, in large part to satisfy our hunger for fast food hamburgers. The tragic reality of our age is that it seems the steady extinction of our natural environment is an all-too-acceptable price to pay for so-called human progress and economic development. At least that is the response China, India and the United States keep providing in the face of urgent pleas to reduce their emissions of green house gases and the panoply of incalculable tons of industrial pollutants spewed into the atmosphere each day. It’s just bad for business.
And so the juggernaut of modernity keeps bulldozing its way to the future. But what sort of future will this relentless drive yield? Mexico City is now so polluted that routinely, on bad smog days, birds fall dead from the sky. The statistics for respiratory diseases in the Mexican capital are staggering. So too are the occurrences of congenital birth defects in Mexican maquiladora slum towns, where industrial waste, the aguas negras, or black waters, flow into open sewers, causing babies to be routinely born with encephalitis. Is that a fair price to pay for a cheap toaster?
And how many more wars will we wage in the Middle East in the name of petroleum, no matter how we might to try to disguise the underlying call to arms in the name of democracy, peace and security? More than a million dead Iraqis would beg to differ with that rationale.
We are journalists at Dante; we don’t claim to be scientists. But we are humanists unabashedly in love with our planet. Without reservation we stand our ground when it is a matter of life and death, when the uneven struggle to save the natural world is nothing less than a do-or-die effort. So we will not be squeamish or mince our words.
Nuclear power, like nuclear weapons, has had its day and must be got rid of. Dependency on fossil fuels is a fool’s paradise. Bio-engineered produce and insecticide-laden food is something we’d rather not eat. Organic isn’t hippy or retro-stupid – it is common sense and as Mother Nature intended. We cannot favour cutting down huge, irreplaceable tracts of Borneo’s old-growth rain forest in order to create palm oil plantations. In the flawed logic of growing a clean fuel source while burning so many trees, the emissions nullify the effort. Industrial fishing fleets have so depleted the fish stocks off the coasts of East Africa that former Somali fishermen now turn to piracy. Yet rather than examining our complicity, we condemn them. And who cares about elephants in Tsavo or gorillas in Rwanda and the Congo? Well, someone has to. And do we really have to strip mine Alaska for a paltry decade’s worth of oil and minerals? For that matter, must we do the same in virtually any corner of the Earth, from the Peruvian Amazon to the Australian outback?
So at Dante we embrace solar power, wind power and all forms of renewable clean energy, organic farming, an end to overfishing, the redoubling – nay tripling – of efforts to ensure conservation of all endangered habitats and all the species within them. We hope that one day penalties for environmental crimes and poaching will be as severe as any others under global criminal statutes. That Japan still has an active whaling fleet is an abomination. And if you’re really attached to that fur coat, let’s make it a requirement that to own that same coat you must first participate in the wholesale slaughter of baby seals and help club them to death personally.
What we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves. We do not suggest a return to the cave, we merely point out that we are doing nothing less than returning to a dark age, if in our insatiable appetite for the comforts and convenience of modernity, we fail to recognise that our ease and consumption comes at too great a price. Our lavish and untroubled destruction must end, or it will end us.
Dante and Beatrice
(Alias the editors)