Monday, January 30, 2006

Really inappropriate...

So, I work at Global Footprint Network, where we promote the Ecological Footprint as an accounting tool that tracks the (un-)sustainability of the human economy. We work with countries NGO's and businesses around the world to get ecological limits to human activities recognized and respected.

As you might guess, the news is pretty bad, so far as humans wrecking our environment is concerned. Most people have at least a sense of this, I think, if not the precise and
quantitative understanding of the ecological crisis that we have at GFN.

But every now and then I run across something so ridiculous, so obscene, so ecologically stupid, it stands up as an emblem of how completely screwed human "civilization" is unless we make some serious changes in our attitudes and practices right away.

I ran across one such emblem today. My colleague Mathis sent some photos of an "architectural wonder," an "engineering masterpiece," recently completed in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. UAE is a tiny country on the Arabian peninsula-- and, as it turns out, the only country in the world with an average Ecological Footprint per capita greater than the United States (they are 9.9 global hectares per person, versus our 9.5).

So how insane is this little country, that oustrips our Footprint by a full 0.4 gha? Well, here's how crazy you have to be to beat the U.S.A. at a contest to see who can wreck the planet the most and the fastest.

Here's the "engineering masterpiece" under construction...

...and the finished view. Notice the palm trees, and remember, this is a desert. It's like 120 degrees F there all the time.

So what is this thing--this giant silver phallus in the desert? A ski slope.

How ridiculous is that?

This goes to show that just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do it. Just because the market suggests that building something like this is "economicall rational" (i.e. profitable) doesn't by any stretch make it ecologically rational.

And most of all, with billions of people living on $1 or $2 dollars per day, without access to clean water, basic sanitation services, or basic health care, it is criminal to spend ungodly sums of money, energy and resources so that rich people can go snow skiing in the middle of the desert.

I find this project offensive, and indicative of the moral bankruptcy of the social, political, and economic system that permits this type of thing to happen.

I do what I do at Global Footprint Network out of a great sense of love and compassion for humanity and all of nature. I dream of a world without war, exploitation, violence, and ecological devastation--a world with community, love, health, intellectual stimulation, wonder, awe, and a sense of harmony and resonance between humans and the rest of creation.

But seeing projects like this thing in Dubai hurts my hope for a peaceful, sane and sustainable future. It makes me wonder what the hell I am fighting for--why should I work for a sustainble human society when we do stuff like this? Do we really deserve not to go extinct? I hope so, but ski slopes in the desert make me worry otherwise.

1 comment:

Josh said...

Is commenting on your own blog considered self-congratulatory? I hope not.

Anyway, my colleague Mathis keeps pointing out that to get all bent out of shape about the indoor ski slope in Dubai is kind of dumb, considering there's plenty of examples of ecological recklessness that aren't halfway around the world.

We have our very own Dubai here in the U.S., just a day's drive away from where I sit. Any guesses?

Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is acutlaly worse, because there's about 4 times as many poeple there than there is in Dubai. And it's the fastest growing city in the U.S.

Mathis makes a point aligned with something Chomsky always points out--why criticize other countries? It's more important to criticize our own country, since we might actually be able to do something about that.

So let Dubai worry about Dubai--I'm taking down Las Vegas! Hey, it wouldn't be the first time I was arrested there...