Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Insect Apocalypse

I shouldn't be so misanthropic. There's no reason to feel disappointed, for example, to learn that cell phones are not to blame for the decline in honey bee populations. But I do. It just would have been too perfect, you know? Imagine global food supplies crashing, exploding inflation, widespread hoarding, panic in the streets, total lawlessness because cell phones scrambled honey bees' on-board navigation. The apocalypse arrives not with a nuclear blast, nor a doomsday virus nor even a climate-change-fueled-mega-storm uprooting entire cities on both sides of the Atlantic, but on the wings of million, billion little yellow bugs dropping from the sky. And with something as stupid and petty and annoyingly contemporary as cell phones the culprit. Sigh. Too perfect.

The End may just arrive via insects anyway, though decidedly lacking in delicious irony. Anybody from anywhere in the American West in the last few years is already familiar with the mountain pine beetle, a nasty, tree-murdering little bastard currently experiencing his heyday as global warming pulls out the natural stops that once kept him in check. In the last ten years, they've infested more than six million acres in Wyoming, Colorado and Montana, making this current epidemic about ten times grander than any previous known.

Infestation is a death sentence for the forests they infect and the beetle's rate of expansion seems to be increasing exponentially. Of course, nobody has any real idea of what to do about it. Could be that if natural burn cycles were to take their course, a beetle-holocaust would right around the corner. Can't have that, though, seeing as how there's so many houses up in them hills nowadays. It's not just nature at stake anymore, it's property.

Let's not overlook the possibility, however, of these problems solving themselves. Apparently, pine beetles make for hungry bears, and I've always said that my favorite consequence of suburban sprawl pushing further and further into the forest was that of forest creatures consuming more and more suburbanites. It seems like a long shot, but if I hold out I might still just get a taste of that delicious, meaty irony I've been craving, sans-apocalypse.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Word up, Mr. Stanhope

I saw Doug Stanhope perform in the summer of 2009 and it was fantastic. He was drunk off his ass and the set started off a little slow, but by the time he got rolling the whole audience was being tickled to tears in hailstorm of spit and venom. This bit here was part of that routine.

As with everything else, he hits the nail directly: the media will never tell you what you really need to hear. Not because of any shadowy conspiracy or what could really be called an ulterior motive. It's simply that it would be bad business and major media outlets are for-profit businesses. That's no secret. The news has no problem giving the public truth, so long as it remains profitable.

Unfortunately, for all life on Earth, it doesn't just stop at making people feel bad about fucking in the front-hole. All environmental issues ultimately come down to questions of consumption and consumption is the motor that makes the system run. Media outlets rely on advertisers that rely on consumers consuming their products. If a media outlet tells you not to consume, advertisers must pull their support or face funding their own undoing. Therefore, when enough people are sufficiently freaked out by the global environmental crisis, Green Marketing is the solution. "Get by with what you need" does not sell anything. "Buy green" sells. Sadly, it is the antithesis of sustainability.

So, while scientists have been running around frantically for years trying to get people to own up to the reality of what's happening, the best you'll ever see on TV are the effects with no causes: towering trees crashing to the ground in South American forests, whales washing up on the shore full of toxic waste, great islands of plastic bags drifting through open water, little, brown children worldwide sick with typhoid or cholera or mercury poisoning, etc. Yep. It's a bummer, we say. Too bad there's nothing to be done about it.