It was hot and HUMID in southern Oregon yesterday. Horribly humid. Like Dallas. Or Houston. Or Tulsa. In the summer. Except that yesterday was May5th, a day usually sunny and bright and in the midi-70’s with a light breeze, perhaps. Relatives of mine in Texas said it has been cold at night there recently. Really cold. It made me think, again, about this whole process of climate change and what we have been doing to our home, Mother Earth, for so long that now the wheels of nature have begun to grind in the other direction. We have major hurricanes where we don’t expect them and are not prepared for. Earthquakes in the middle of the nation. Sinkholes swallowing up entire houses. Drought and parched earth or flooding and homelessness. It is hard to think that we don’t deserve some culpability in this, as we drill and drill and drill into the earth to extract whatever we can to build whatever we can or to go wherever we want to go whenever we feel like it.
Mitt Romney spoke at some college commencement the other day and, apparently, what he told them to do, to be successful adults, is to have as many children as they could as quickly as they could. Really, Mitt? REALLY? Over 7 billion people already inhabit this planet, which is groaning under the weight of all of us and all of our stuff. Aside from having to figure out how to keep everyone fed and clothed, what about clean water? Education? Healthcare? Old age? We are now living longer than ever, statistically. Does it make sense that we should keep procreating just because we can? It reminds me of what Ed Deever, our nextdoor neighbor from my childhood, said when their famiy got too big for their small house. “Well, it appears that we have just screwed ourselves out of place to live.” Indeed, they had. And so have we, here on Planet Earth.
I get to talk to some really interesting people on my TV show, BACK PAGE. A couple of years ago, I interviewed a brilliant woman named Robin Morris Collin who, along with her equally brilliant husband, Will, had put together a three-volume encyclopedia on sustainability. Both of them are professors at Willamette University. Toward the end of the interview, I asked Robin, “What’s the one thing that would turn it all around for all of us?” I assumed I’d be hearing “Ride your bike,” or “Recycle your paper, cans and glass,” or, even, “Change out those lightbulbs.” But I heard none of those. Without hesitation, Robin looked at me and said, “The education of women.” And she is right. Educated women have more say in their lives, are curious about the world and how it works. Educated women organize to make changes that need to happen. And, most of all, educated women tend to give birth less often than uneducated women who become baby factories in some of our poorer nations. Thus, we wind up with children who are starving or dying of disease because the uneducated woman figures she can’t so no to her husband who is her sole means of support.
And, even if all those children we produce manage to live until adulthood, what kind of world are we leaving to them? A world with poisoned water? Unsustainable crops because of the unpredictable weather? Oil pipelines and gas wells leaking out all over the place, contaminating our land, rivers and oceans? Water they can’t drink? Genetically-modified food they can’t eat? Is this really what we want for our future generations?
A few months ago, I sat next to a young man, an oil guy, on a plane from Tulsa. “Tell me what you think of fracking,” I said to him. “Absolutely safe,” he replied. “Really?” I asked. “Oh, yes,” he said, “100% safe.” I leaned in a little closer. “Would you drink water from a well close to where they were doing fracking yourself?” I asked. “Absolutely,” he replied, “I’d have no qualms about drinking that water. It’s 100% safe. Absolutely.” I leaned in even closer until my nose was just a few inches from his. I looked him squarely in the face; I made him look at me. “Would you feed it to your young children?” I asked. He blinked. Then he blinked again. Sweat popped out on his forehead. He didn’t give me an answer, but he didn’t need to. His face told me what he couldn’t say. I know I kind of bullied him, tricked him, even. I feel a little bit bad about that. But not much. Would I do it again? Absolutely. 100%.