Sunday, July 04, 2010

Linh Dinh: Earthbound

by Linh Dinh
Common Dreams

At an airport, I saw two adjacent ads, "DENVER THANKS OUR MILITARY," then, "LIVE. EVERY TRACK. ALL SEASON LONG. NASCAR ON SPEED." No irony was intended by this juxtaposition, but our troops are certainly killing and dying to sustain our car infatuation. On television, coverage of the Gulf of Mexico disaster is frequently interrupted by car commercials. Our oil car habit is destroying this planet, but we cannot wean ourselves from this addiction. We express ourselves through automobiles, after all. Cars are us. In much of America, one rarely sees bodies, only cars. Our land and cityscapes have been deformed for the hurling, private steel box.

A flying car will soon be available for $194,000. Its Italianate name, Terrafugia, translates to Fleeing the Earth, so our Jetsons future is still on, many hope, even as more Americans are sleeping in their cars, and many more are struggling to fuel their lugubrious lemons. The Motor City, Detroit, has been in full collapse mode for decades, to be slowly reincarnated as an urban agrarian zone. Instead of the clanking of heavy machinery, one will soon hear cockcrows among gunshots.

We will not flee this earth. On a finite planet, growth is also finite, and we've already reached all limits. There will be no economic recovery, because economic growth is no longer possible. The cheapest labor has been found, and demand for all resources, primarily oil, is outstripping supply. Nearly a billion people are already starving, and a billion lack clean water. The average Mozambican uses a gallon of water a day, less than a third of what you and I flush down the toilet each time. By contrast, the average American consumes 151 gallons of water daily.

We use more of everything. With five percent of the world's population, we engorge on 24 percent of its resources. Got a problem with that? If we can pay for it, we're entitled, aren't we? But there's the problem. We're the world's biggest debtor nation. We haven't been paying for squat. As a starving planet looks on, we're like the biggest pig who refuses to leave the all day, all night, all-you-can-eat buffet, with our moment of reckoning willed and deferred to our distant progeny. It's a farce, really. As we slobber, no one dares to nudge us from the trough because, well, we're so well-armed. We'll kick your ass! Got a problem with that?

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