Destroying the Natural World in Order to Save it?

A close-up of a tree with Joshua Tree National Park in the background Description automatically generated

Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) in the Joshua Tree National Park, California. Bernard Gagnon, Wikipedia.

Prologue

Headlines in the Los Angeles Times infuriated me. One was about the planned destruction of thousands of Joshua Trees in “private” land in the Mojave Desert in order to produce electricity for a relatively rich community that preferred ceramic roofs to rooftop solar panels. This obscene decision will wipe out more than the treasure Joshua Trees in 2,300 acres of desert land in Kern County. It will kill countless endangered and threatened species like tortoises. In addition, construction in the desert environment will spread pollution to the neighboring towns of Boron and Desert Lake whose residents are impoverished. Their protests were ignored by Kern County officials who went out of their way to satisfy the developers and the affluent people who will receive the solar electricity.

Questionable research

The other headline was also troubling. Sammy Roth, climate columnist of the Los Angeles Times, saying that we cannot ignore “research” telling us that “we need big solar farms.”

We don’t.

I say this reluctantly because Roth has been reporting with insight and understanding of the gigantic anthropogenic forces powering changes taking place in the climate of the planet. But there’s no scientific evidence we must destroy the very natural world that gives us life in order, supposedly, to save it in the long run.

For example, Los Angeles needs to be self-reliant in carbon-free energy. Relying on solar farms in the deserts of Southwest America and wind-turbines from as far away from Los Angeles as Wyoming is not wise or sustainable. It’s the same ignorant idea that humans and civilization can coexist with nuclear bombs. They cannot. So far we have been unusually lucky. But luck is not science, technology, wisdom, or passion for life. Luck is a series of accidents with lethal effects or no effects at all. It’s all a big gample.

Los Angeles cannot rely on accidental luck. It should build an infrastructure of public transportation powered by electricity. Bring to life trams – as they existed in early twentieth century. Expand the subways to all neighborhoods of the city. Residents of Los Angeles would then have no excuse to drive a car. Solar energy should power the generation of electricity, a process based entirely on the abundant and reliable energy of the Sun. Wrap all skyscrapers with solar panels and mandate that all parking lots, houses, and buildings, public and private, including churches and malls, must have rooftop solar panels. Stop lighting the skyscrapers at night.

Solar panels

Solar panels seem to be unacceptable to those who reject climate change. These people are benefiting from hooking society to their product. Others ignore solar panels because they value the looks of ceramic roofs more than their own health and safety and safety and health of our civilization and the planet. Or it’s possible, some people are so removed from the natural world they have yet to figure out that something different and dangerous is lurking in the rising temperature of the planet.

Role of governments

These reasons also reflect the indifference and even collaboration of governments with the climate profiteers, the fossil fuel billionaires. The federal government announced it permitted so many private solar and wind companies on public lands, it had already produced about 25 gigawatts of renewable energy.

Why is the government of California, for example, allowing private ownership of land within the Mojave Desert and other public land domains? Is it too difficult to comprehend that mountains, rivers, lakes, islands, deserts, and forests belong to all of us, not to billionaires or corporations? Second, even an elementary respect for the idea of democracy forbids private interests and individuals from making profit on public territory and the exploitation of the wealth of the country, which belongs to all Americans. So, allowing petroleum and coal and gas companies excavating public lands and waters for petroleum, coal and gas is not only illegal but patently suicidal. After all, science is warning us that keeping adding heat-grasping gases to our atmosphere is more than foolishness. It is certain invitation to the wrecking of our civilization and possibly the extermination of life on Earth.

Epilogue

The United States and other countries threatened by rising anthropogenic temperatures have more options than covering their homes and other structures with solar panels. They should try decarbonizing their agriculture by reverting to traditional ways of raising food. Stop using pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. These chemicals are petrochemicals. Without the hear-trapping petroleum, machines like tractors and harvesters are useless. This means a return to horses and bulls for land cultivation. Large farms must be split to several pieces, thus giving chances to more small family farmers raising food. The revival of rural America is possible. Such a transition will reduce the heat-trapping gases by 30 to 50 percent.

Another reform to reduce the dangers of rising temperatures is to stop wars. The US can immediately withdraw from its hazardous role of fighting a proxy war against Russia in Ukraine. That would also order NATO to stop arming Ukraine. The next major step for the US would be to order Israel to end its war primarily against Palestinian women and children. The elimination of these two major wars might reduce the greenhouse gas emissions, at least, by another 20 percent of more. That would give a chance to humanity to rethink its purpose withing a healthy civilization and planet. The Earth is sacred. We should never contemplate of killing biodiversity or ecosystems for the convenience of developers or states.

Evaggelos Vallianatos, Ph.D., studied history and biology at the University of Illinois; earned his Ph.D. in Greek and European history at the University of Wisconsin; did postdoctoral studies in the history of science at Harvard. He worked on Capitol Hill and the US EPA; taught at several universities and authored several books, including The Antikythera Mechanism: The Story Behind the Genius of the Greek Computer and its Demise.