Humanity evolved to lay waste to the biosphere — today's cheery blurb

© 2019 Peter Free


09 March 2019



Visualizing magnitudes is sometimes useful


Comprehend, for example, humanity's unopposed urge to bury the planet in our "like a spoiled child" plastic trash.


There is not one human organizational or motivational system that efficiently and substantially operates in a countering direction.



Below, I briefly address two illustrations of this


Both examples were chosen to demonstrate how human reason often prioritizes one less important thing at the expense of an ultimately more important one.


The point is that we cannot help ourselves.



Take the humble gynecological speculum


One of our friends is a women's health nurse practitioner. She mentioned last night that one of her young patients commented that gynecological speculums were now made of one-use plastic, rather than sterilizable steel.


That's an alert observation for a 24 year old, in my aged curmudgeon's opinion. Most people would not have noticed, much less grasped the monumental waste implications of turning something that is quasi-permanent into a "use once and toss" object.


Not only do we ignore the "get rid of this" problem that we create thereby, we also ignore the waste of energy and resources that go into creating the one-use object in the first place.


Those of you who think in terms of systems, both planetary and human, no doubt intuit where I'm headed with this.



Here's another minor example — also from medicine


Diabetics now benefit from having insulin pumps that can measure and respond to blood sugar levels. These are made of plastic. Their insulin-containing plastic pods are sizeable. They are powered by use-once lithium batteries.


After a few days of use, when the insulin inside is depleted, the entire injecting and supply system goes into the trash. Toxic battery included.



Now visualize the numbers of patients in the developed world . . .


. . . who medically benefit from throw-away medical devices, of one kind or another.



I chose these examples because they are easy (from one perspective) to justify


Who wants to deal with the possibility of infection?


Avoiding biohazards of one kind or another is at the heart of competent medical practice.


If ever there was a justification for "use once and toss" — it lies in basic infection control.


Doesn't it?



Well yes — but maybe no?


Consider how the contamination-avoidance justification has entirely permeated our culture.


Take ubiquitous plastic water bottles, or all the plastic garbage that started life just yesterday at American fast food places. Today, yesterday's stuff's is on its (now worthless) way somewhere else.


Yet, as a medically trained lawyer, I would have little courtroom difficulty making strong arguments as to why our currently wasteful — but health and time-preserving — practices (medical or consumer) should carry on — until the Universe itself ends.


My point is that people reason exactly this way. If it is convenient and arguably health preserving, let's do it.



The upshot in our unregulated capitalistic system is the generation of short-sighted waste and damage


In the above examples, we treat infection control and convenience as ultimate ends.


In the United States:



one can manufacture just about anything


recyclable or not


for pretty much any purpose


in any conceivably wasteful




difficult to dispose of way


so as —


to do something arguably unnecessary


or even plainly stupid




and to whatever degree


one wants.



Indeed . . .


The current trend in dealing with alleged "recyclables" — because China no longer accept them — is to reroute them back to American landfills. Or to burn them, presumably to global warming's delighted benefit.


This foiled recycling example perversely delights me. We actually paid to ship enormous mounds of trash across vast oceans — on enormously polluting ships — just to avoid soiling our own bird-brained nests. Talk about the societal equivalent of living in gated communities.


This practice has human stupidity written all over it.


When you need an example of one of Capitalism's most egregious inabilities to properly account for "real" costs, this is one.



Our species mentality has trouble comprehending that everything operates in planetary systems


Physical costs accumulate. Our capitalistic economic ledger is not the one ultimately in control.


Just because a manufacturer can assign the Commons to bear the actual costs of "his" manipulations, does not mean that the Commons will not eventually get the rest of us back. But seeing that, and doing something about it, appear to be completely beyond our innate genetic ability.


Ergo, throw-away speculums and powered pump pods. And everything else, whose product existence was similarly reasoned.



The moral? — My guess is that none of this is ever going to turn around — insolong as Homo sapiens exists


That's because we, as a misbegotten species (assessed from the Earth's anthropomorphized perspective) are innately the issue.


The idea that humanity is a cancer on this planet becomes, every day, more apt than not.


Thousands of years from now, the Earth may be like a Disney theme park. "Aliens" will visit to let their children poke through the planet's cloak of toxic waste, looking for curious treasures of one kind or another:



Hey, mom, what do you think this was used for?


Well dear, you need to know something about those vanished bipedal creatures' anatomy and tiny brains . . .