Friday, February 09, 2007

Nematodes Are Your Neighbors

Last night, I went to hear a lecture by E. O. Wilson. I learned some very interesting little "facts", although Wilson readily admitted that scientists really don't know anything for sure:
  • There are 5000-6000 species of bacteria in one spoonfull of soil.
  • There are 700 species of bacteria living in the human mouth.
  • Four out of every five living creatures on the planet is a nematode.
Wilson began his lecture with an open letter to an Evangelical preacher, suggesting that the religious right and the scientists should work together to preserve and protect the biodiversity of creation. However, his lecture turned into a very basic lesson about preserving the environment through a slide show of endangered species and receding tropical forests. I walked away thinking, "I learned all of this in middle school."

I'm tired of identifying the problem. I feel like we all know about the major problems in the world--poverty, environmental degradation, global warming, etc. But I want somebody to stick it to us. Tell us what we should DO about it! I had a similar reaction to Al Gore's movie,
An Inconvenient Truth. The title implies the discomfort we will need to accept in order to resolve the problem. But again, the film didn't really hold the individual responsible for the contributing factors that are under his or her control.

What I'm seeing is that it is easy to identify a problem, but we always let the individual off the hook, we excuse the individual and blame industry, government. In doing so, we
E. O. Wilson
disempower the individual. We neglect to remind people that their action is power. Their inaction is also power. No one ever presses the individual into a corner and says, "hey YOU!" I was waiting for Al Gore to do it. Rather, there were little suggestions interspersed with the credits... "Buy a Prius."

E. O. Wilson called the audience last night at Harvard Divinity School, a "potent group." But he let us all walk away from his talk without asking us to commit to anything. Teach us how our daily behavior eliminates species, deforests the tropics! Challenge us to make a change! Without such a prod, I don't see the point of any more talk of the world's problems.

I think we know what the problems are. I think we also know what we would need to do to make some headway. But the fact is, we don't want to. We want to feign concern while carrying on with our comfortable lives. Now THAT is an inconvenient truth.

"A society is defined not just by what it creates but by what it refuses to destroy." -John Sawhill

1 comment:

Zumma Zumma said...

facinating, and to think that they have a digestive system is remarkable.
There is so much life in the universe...you can't escape it...it's EVERYWHERE