The tide of mortal threats to our industrial society continues to rise — as is well documented in today’s Sunday papers — while the leaders and the institutions that are supposed to preserve. protect and defend us indulge in distractions. (Whether it’s a hike on the Appalachian Trail or a rant about Socialized Medicine, it’s a distraction.) Meanwhile, the tide rises:
- The Congressional Budget Office this week issued a new report on the national debt (little noticed in the furor over its cost estimates for “socialized” medicine) that reminds me of Thomas Jefferson’s observation: “When I reflect that God is just, I tremble for my country.” The debt continues to skyrocket, faster than the Gross Domestic Product. “To put it bluntly,” the New York Times [“The Debt Tsunami”] observes, “the fiscal policy of the United States is unsustainable.” There’s that word again. It means we cannot keep doing it. If we try — if we allow our representatives to refuse to raise taxes, cut spending and fix health care — then we will find out the bad way what unsustainable means.
- Various cheerleaders for the Way Things Used to Be pretend to see the end of the recession coming. But the end of the recession does not mean a return to what we used to think of as normal. People are showing a strong tendency to save money, drat them, rather than buy stuff, and that means that a great many people who lost their jobs in the past year are not going to get them back. Bob Herbert writes in the Times [“No Recovery in Sight”] that the official unemployment rate has reached 9.4 percent, much worse than recently predicted, and is headed for ten percent. And according to one study, the underutilized workers — who want full time but only get part-time, or who want jobs but are too discouraged to even look — now total nearly 30 million, the highest number in history and the highest rate in a quarter century.
- We who worried about the dramatically increasing reproductive problems in frogs and fish used to endure a lot of ridicule. Now, not so much. [“It’s Time to Learn From Frogs,” Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, again.] Because the problems are now occurring in humans, in the form of genital deformities in infants and declining sperm counts in adult males. The culprit? In all probability a class of widely used industrial chemicals called endocrine disruptors, meaning they interfere with the infinitely complex system that manages our bodies’ growth, functioning and reproduction. These chemicals are everywhere — in agricultural chemicals, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, cleaning compounds, children’s toys, food storage containers, furniture and carpets, computers, phones, and appliances. Only now has it occurred to some to research their long-term effects, and the results, just starting to come in, are horrifying.
Scary stuff, but remember the main thesis of BRACE for IMPACT: saving the world is not possible, but you and I can save ourselves — can start living sustainably — at any time we choose.