Monday, April 14, 2008

Human Footprint - Stop Showering NOW!

On Sunday the National Geopgraphic channel aired a show called "Human Footprint" a frightening statement on how taking showers will lead to the end of the world. Seriously. The makers of the show try to illustrate how much of the earth's resources one human being uses in a lifetime from disposable diapers to loaves of bread. To help the viewer grasp the alarming numbers, they use props. Like, to show how the average American takes 28,433 showers in their lifetime, they took 28,433 rubber ducks and laid them out in a house, out the front door and down the street. The whole tone of the show is to inflict a guilt trip on how human consumption of earth's resources is "exceeding the planet's ability to replace them". So for those of you that shower and hoard the water without letting it go down the drain where it is then treated, returned to the environment to evaporate, condense and then fall again as rain into reservoirs of drinking water, stop that. Of course, for every shower I take, there are 10 Europeans that don't, so we can bring that frightening number down a bit.

One fundamental idea that people like the makers and airers of this show are missing is that humans are as much a part of earth's ecosystem as a panda or a whale or a rainforest. We have as much "right" to consume food, create shelters and use whatever means necessary to attract a mate and propagate our kind as any other species. If they illustrated, say, the lion footprint where they laid out a stuffed toy herbavore for every creature eaten by one lion in his or her lifetime, it would fill a good portion of the savannah. But we don't begrudge them that. In the show they pile up 19,826 eggs representing the average number consumed in a lifetime. Wow, 19,826 eggs. Let's see, a chicken lays one egg every day and there are over 8 billion chickens in the world. We better cut back. But my biggest issue with this - they counted them before they were hatched! Big no-no.

Another point they are missing is that when humans "consume" a resource, it doesn't cease to exist. I really do return to the earth the loaves of bread I consume, I just don't think you want to lay that out in the house. If they really wanted to get at the culprits of ultimate non-recycling, they would have to go after the space program. After all, when astronauts eject their pee into the cosmos it is gone forever, never to rejoin the water cycle. If there is a sudden outbreak of incontinence among our spacemen then the earth might really be in peril. But I suppose we could make it back with a comet strike or two. That would bring in resources and get rid of a lot of those pesky humans. A win-win.

But the biggest flaw in the mindset of this show is the idea that life on earth is at jeopardy and humans are to blame. The earth has been around for some 4 billion years during which time life has blossomed, spread, changed, and changed again until every nook and cranny is filled to overflowing with life. There is life in the hottest sulfur vents on the ocean floor. There is life in the icy sheets of polar glaciers. In fact, if the life of the earth were proportioned down to one year, humans have been around for all of 47 seconds. It's pretty arrogant to think that what we do in 47 seconds will reverse, on a dime, the trend of the previous year. It is possible, I suppose, that we humans, resourceful and elevated as we are, may overextend ourselves and go the way of the dinosaurs (I'd like to see the "dinosaur footprint" show - here is one twig for every tree eaten by the average brontosaurus...), but life will go on. Our demise might pave the way for some better species that better honors this earth and its precious resources and more importantly, takes fewer showers.


Ambie said...

Wow! I didn't realize I was doing so much to destroy the earth.I feel so disgusted with myself! I think I'll go take a hot shower and burn up some more non renewable fossil fuels.

Ambie said...

.. and then ponder the fate of the planet beneath the warmth of my baby seal skin comforter.

natalie said...

I wonder how many carbon footprints were left in the making of this movie? And what the heck did they do with all that leftover crap they collected to prove their painfully obvious point?

Ambie said...

too funny !

But really though you have a point. Somewhere a landfill got an unusually large drop off of rubber ducks.

Tim said...

I'm all for conservation, but when they start using cute little shenanigans like lining up ducks to prove a point, well, that's when I cry fowl.

ray said...

punny, tim. You quack me up.