by Aaron Turpen
Perhaps in 10,000 years when archeologists are digging up our cities and looking at our bones for classification, they’ll see our modern achievements and what we did to get them. Then, maybe, they’ll create a new classification of hominid for this period in man’s evolution and call us Homo Dumbassticus.
The museum plaques to describe the badly-rendered models of what we must have looked like (likely complete with 1970s Austin Powers outfits) will say things like:
Homo Dumbassticus, reigned during the Holocene and met his apex during 1950-2100AD. Marked by contrasts, this most modern of our predecessors had a large capacity for thought and reason, but evidence shows little capability for common sense or even awareness beyond self.
Thus we will be consigned to history. Not remembered for our intellectual heights, our artistic grandeur or our mighty technological achievements. Instead, we’ll be remembered as “those idiots that couldn’t tie a shoelace without blowing something up or dumping oil on it.” The good news is that they’ll probably have no idea who Al Gore is.
So, in order to speed along the progress of Homo Dumbassticus, I present here my top five worst environmental disasters caused by modern man. Each of these took place after the turn of the century (1900) and are all ecological and/or environmental disasters on a huge scale. The kind of scale that gets recorded in the fossil record and ice cores and tree rings and places like that.
Disaster #1: Modern Warfare
Gone are the glory days of war when men met mano-e-mano on the field of battle, clashing sword and shield, kicking and biting, and generally making war a personal affair. In those days, you really had to have a reason to go to war and risk death and dismemberment for your cause.
Nowadays, most people who die in warfare are civilians, not military personnel. Bombs, napalm, disease, biological, chemical, and nuclear attacks, and worse do most of the damage. We even have the audacity to call some of our munitions “smart.” As if anything intelligent is involved in slaughtering people and blowing stuff up.
Byproducts of our modern warfare include:
lots of unpronounceable chemicals being released into the atmosphere and earth when stuff gets burned, blown up, melted, etc.,
birth defects, sicknesses, long-term disabilities, and more (both human and animal),
churned earth, destroyed forests, ruined waterways, and general havoc on all ecosystems involved.
The worst part about war is that the people who most deserve to get killed in it usually don’t. The politicians, warmongers, genocidal maniacs, and military-industrial tycoons are usually spared the knife. It’s always the unwilling, the innocent, and the taxpayer who is levied with the heaviest price of war. Not to mention the environment and our planet’s natural resources. The good news? There isn’t any. Bad news? We seem to be ramping up our war efforts.
Disaster #2: Chernobyl
Some extraordinarily prime specimens of Homo Dumbassticus in Russia (then the USSR) decided that since they were going to shut down their nuclear power plant as part of its maintenance schedule, they should test a theory about cooling and nuclear reactions. I’m just surprised they didn’t try to photograph the event. Of course, for all we know, they did.
The result of this ill-conceived scientific inquiry? A huge reactor core meltdown, some fire, and our species trademark: an explosion.
Hiroshima? Bah, that was nothing compared to this. 400 times the radiation is released into the area, decimating whole towns and with radioactive clouds floating as far away as Ireland. Thousands of cancer cases, untold amounts of ecological destruction, and thirty years later, you still can’t go into the 30-kilometer dead zone. When those descendants of 10,000 year from now go there, it will still be a dead zone.
The good news? Not a single cockroach is known to have died.
Disaster #3: Oceanic Garbage Patches and Dead Zones
These are everywhere. The largest known oceanic dead zone is the Mississippi Delta, where the Mississippi River flows into the Gulf of Mexico. This dead zone is a stretch of coast from Houston, Texas all the way over to Louisiana that is so polluted that nearly nothing can grow there. Most of the pollution is farm runoff, in the form of excess nitrates from the over-use of synthetic nitrogen fertilization of soils, which runs into the Gulf and spurs the explosion of algae there. This algae robs the water of oxygen, making it uninhabitable for other plants, fish, and other marine life.
That is just one example of it. The Ganges River is another example of this. Physical garbage is nearly as bad, floating everywhere in the oceans.
The largest known patch of this garbage is the well-reported Pacific Gyre Garbage Patch at the left-center of the Pacific Ocean. Another large patch is known to exist in the garbage collection zone at the bottom-center of the area commonly known as the Bermuda Triangle.
The good news is that the oceanic dead zones are mostly solvable merely by stopping our incessant over-use of synthetic fertilizers and either moving to more organic methods (preferred, of course) or utilizing year-round growth methods to trap the fertilizers in the soil so they cannot runoff into streams and rivers.
The bad news is that those garbage heaps continue to grow and we don’t really have a realistic way to remove them. Although I’m sure some brainiac will invent a bomb to fix the problem. That is, after all, what we’re good at: blowing stuff up.
Disaster #4: Oil Spills
These happen constantly, though we usually only hear about the big, nasty, can-easily-be-blamed-on-BigOil ones. Smaller ones generally get ignored. Everyone, for instance, has probably heard of the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989, but few know that most of the oil pipelines in the TransCanadian and Alaskan Pipeline leak regularly. Not to mention the leaks caused by Disaster #1 in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Valdez dumped nearly 11 million gallons of crude onto the coast around Prince William Sound in Alaska. Don’t ask me why an American piece of land is named after a British Monarch. This makes as much sense as letting a drunken captain drive a huge oil tanker. Twenty-three years after the disaster, there is still an estimated 26,000 gallons of oil coating the shoreline.
Other recent oil spill disasters include the Pacific Adventurer spill in Australia. This wasn’t even an oil tanker, but was a cargo ship that lost several containers of ammonium nitrate (that’s lovely stuff) and dumped an unknown amount of oil that has covered about 37 miles of beach around Brisbane.
Another lovely event happened in Russia when ten ships broke apart and sank or ran aground during rough weather in the northern Black Sea region in 2007. 1.3 million gallons of fuel oil, an estimated half million gallons of diesel fuel, dumped cargo of various descriptions, and 7,150 tons of sulfur.
Those are just some of the events that happen yearly, dumping petroleum, interesting chemicals, and other envrionmentally-unfriendly things into the world’s oceans, rivers, and their ecosystems.
The good news? Peak oil. The bad news? We still use oil.
Disaster #5: The Ginormous Military-Agricultural-Pharmaceutical-Governmental Complex
Most of our modern actions as Homo Dumbassticus center around the conglomerations of military, agricultural, pharmaceutical, and governmental units. More often than not, these cabals work together to rip of everyone they can find, including Mother Earth.
They have no souls and are willing to explode chemical plants in Bhopal, India, so they can save a buck or two by not bothering with safety measures. They’re willing to ignore famine and disease in Africa and let people die because allowing those people to grow their own food and maybe take care of themselves might interfere with their governmental needs of warfare and land ownership.
They create diseases, spread them amongst the population, and then pretend it’s a natural “pandemic” and start pimping pharmaceuticals and vaccinations to “cure” them. Meanwhile, they patent and control basic chemicals and even natural fruit extracts and viciously attack anyone who says anything untowards about their “innovations.”
This happens while they cause yet more disease with their questionable agricultural methods, their meddling with natural processes, and their genetic modification of everything from plants to sheep. Then they destroy biodiversity by introducing their genetically modified organisms (GMO) and “accidentally” letting them blow foul. Then they have the audacity to sue neighboring farms for “growing” their patented seeds, despite the fact that those seeds blew over from their own fields.
The good news? People are beginning to see through these shams and tell them where to shove their schemes and patents. The bad news? They’re still going on.
Conclusion That’s my list of the epic disasters of Homo Dumbassticus. Take it or leave it and let me know what you think one way or the other. I’m going to go find a stick and some root grubs and see if I can blow something up.
Got comments? Email me, dammit!
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