I spent a summer doing fundraising for a Pacific Northwest environmental group. Door to door, grassroots, still one of the most effective methods of really getting people involved. Turns out actually talking face to face with people works better than asking people to like your Facebook group. Please subscribe below.
I ended up talking with this couple out on Bainbridge Island. For the last two decades, they had been restoring their 5 acre valley to its natural state. This meant removing invasive species by hand. You can’t bulldoze out blackberries. You remove them by hand, you plant native species to throw shade and take those resources. Scouring the earth just gets you scoured earth. It takes time and dedication to fight against the tides of evolution and prolific spread of those tiny seeds. They fought, and won, against the development of an industrial park upstream from their property. They had the highest density of salmon running in 5 miles.
This is in an area where the settlers said that you could walk across a river without touching the water when the salmon were running. They told me that every three days they had to come out and feed the fish, bulk salmon chow. There just wasn’t enough food. I was blown away. How was this possible? The place was a paradise. The air was fresh, heady with flowers, the sound of bees, the rich scent of soil and leaves.
Turns out none of that mattered. They talked to me about shoes.
Every once in a while your shoes wear down and you throw them away. Where did the soles of your shoes go? They didn’t just evaporate, melt into nothing. They become aerosolized. Right now you’re breathing the shoes of everyone within 50 miles, maybe more. The 600 thousand pairs of feet in Seattle are kicking up tiny poofs of vulcanized rubber, which float across the Puget Sound, and rain down into that damn stream. The fish don’t really care, the way that you don’t care about breathing it in. But the microbiota do. Some amoeba can’t handle it. Then the things that eat them have less food, and suddenly there are just less insects. Not enough that we would ever notice. Compared to a city street, that valley is humming with activity. But there’s just not enough food now. You could convince people to drive less, but you’re not going to get people to stop wearing shoes.
Conservation is screwed. Our model of how the world fits together is fundamentally flawed.
You can’t save the salmon. Species are just a frontend for the environment. It’s the part we pay attention to , the sticker on your bumper. Say you save the salmon. Where are you going to put them? Seriously, where will you put the things you save? They aren’t individual chunks that just look good on a plate. Salmon are a region, a temperature range, part of a trophic level. You can just as easily walk on moon as you can save a salmon. The world is changed. There is no where to put them.
Obviously, this hit home. This was the point when I decided that the world was broken and that we needed to work on fixing it. We are great at burning things. Fire is still our finest technology. It’s the fastest, most effective tool that we have. We used it to knock out the bricks in the wall of the world. Knock out enough, and things start to sag, start to fall. This is biochemical reality. It’s physics. You can’t beat the laws of thermodynamics.
Now we have new technologies and we need to love them like fire.
We only pay attention to the frontend. You can’t convince people to stop walking in shoes. We can’t even convince them to stop sucking down soda. So now I’m working with these new technologies. Building ponds that suck methane and carbon dioxide out of the air, trap all those aerosols and turn them into living things. Garbage in, fresh air out. Plants that grow as fast as we can burn them. Maybe make a place for things to go when this is all over with. It’s hard to take responsibility.
In order to make this change, there needs to be real action. We need to stop talking about things and do something. I’m working with a group called Exosphere. In January we will be down in Brazil building vertical farms, developing trees that grow at twice the rate so they can suck carbon out of the air, building fuel cells that run on dirt and water, and making boxes of modified bacteria that will be sucking pollution out of the air. If you actually got this far in the article, you probably don’t feel too great. Would you like to fix that? Come say hi. There’s room for you at the lab bench, building bricks to fill the holes we made in the world.
To find out more and be a part of the cutting-edge educational programs at Exosphere, visit them at HERE