Tuesday, December 3, 2013

No man is an Island.

'No Man is an Island'
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.   John Donne

There is a debate going on in the world that goes something like this. The world is a resource and we can profit from it. If we use the earth intensively, digging, cutting, pumping, shipping, catching and building, then the general prosperity of all of us will rise. A sort of win, win for all.
So, the powerful man in his high rise in Vancouver or any other city, can finance and direct the resource extraction; be it mines in S. America, tar sands in Canada, forests all over, or fish in the world's oceans, and feel good about it. Enterprise in action.

There is a lot of truth in that too, if you are not being chased off your land in the countryside by mining company goon squads, or having your ancestral hunting grounds destroyed or fishing grounds stripped bare. What happens when the taking outstrips the recovery capacity of the oceans or forests and even the soil itself? When minerals are all gone and waste piles of toxic stuff remain, when oceans die, when people can no longer live and grow and hunt? Where will we turn next? Short term gain combined with terminal pain.

It turns out that the subject is complicated, but not really that impossible to sort out. To build an oil pipeline across mountains and across other people's land does benefit the larger population at the expense of the locals. It also turns out that in the longer term, ( getting shorter by the day) digging shipping and burning that oil will kill everyone, even the city folk. It is simply a matter of perspective. How to turn our thinking around?

John Donne's meditation, 'No man is an Island,' does give a perspective, pointing out that we are not separate from everyone ( and everything) else. What we do, does impact others. The death of other species, the diminution of the earth, is our own death knell as well. And this is not just philosophy or religion, it is also cold hard facts. For a brief while, like a flash of light, some of mankind may prosper, but then out goes the light. The bell tolls for thee.

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