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Can Human Beings Redirect Their Need To Control And Consume The Earth's Resources? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Can human beings redirect their need to control and consume the earth's resources?

by C. F., Wellesley, MA



The destruction of this planet can be accounted for by one simple fact: as inhabitants of the Earth, we feel we own it. We are convinced that the Earth and all species belong to us and are under our control. Mankind has demonstrated this destructive control in a mind boggling number of ways. The first incident occurred in Alaska when an air raid was declared against hundreds of wolves to force the caribou and moose populations to swell. Alaska's motivation for the air raid was simple enough: if the caribou and moose populations swelled, Alaska would attract a great number of hunters and tourists. A similar event happened in China when former leader, Mao Zedong, declared war against the sparrows because he felt they were a nuisance. Millions of Chinese walked through the streets banging on woks and pans to terrify the birds, forcing them to stay aloft until they dropped dead from exhaustion. In Arizona, a mutant Chinese grass carp, a freshwater fish, has been put into ponds and water hazards of golf courses to keep the water weed-free in order to prevent the loss of golf balls and to make the scenery more appealing.

The episodes that occurred in Alaska, China, and Arizona are perfect examples of the way humans everywhere try to control the uncontrollable: nature. We are spoiled children; if some aspect of the natural world disrupts our ability to make money or be comfortable, we throw a temper tantrum until the disruption is resolved. These tantrums have left the world in a state of emergency. The human population all over the world faces global warming, ozone depletion, rapid deforestation, water pollution (more than 1,200 beach closings in the U.S. in 1990 due to bacteria from sewage), air pollution, acid rain, the extinction of an increasing number of species due to poaching, and the destruction of the wetlands. Ironically, we are responsible for the condition of the world, yet we still yearn for a sense of belonging to it.

This yearning has turned into a trend in the developed world. Songs about the destruction of the earth are gaining vast popularity. I hear this trend in the words of my favorite musicians including the Samples and Acoustic Junction, whose songs feature lyrics that send environmental messages. The Samples paint a frightening picture of our disrespect for the Earth. Acoustic Junction blames the selfishness of humans for the destruction of the Earth.

There is clearly an environmental trend in advertising also. Catalogues and magazines feature "earthy" clothes made from "natural fibers." Cosmetics are advertised as "natural," "made from herbs and wildflowers." Soda and soap companies market "au natural" clear soda and soaps. The manufacturers of these products are targeting consumers who will buy these products because they appear environmentally sound (even though in many cases they are not). It is ironic that manufacturers use the concept of saving the world simply to make a profit. Possibly, however, all is not lost. Perhaps, the energy expended by advertising companies and consumers could be harnessed and directed toward a good, common purpose.

The fact that consumers respond to environmental marketing indicates an audience and an interest in the condition of the Earth. It is highly doubtful that people will stop buying and consuming, but they may learn to buy wisely. Some earth-aware companies are already operating. Ben and Jerry's, for example, is an ice cream company that markets a popular ice cream which contain nuts from the Brazilian rain forest. A portion of the proceeds from sales goes to help save the rain forests. Bread and Circus supermarkets cater to environmentally aware consumers. Their business is booming (as evidenced by a recent buyout) and their message is clear: profit and concern for the Earth can walk hand-in-hand. Patagonia is another company which links its operation to saving the Earth. At the end of each catalogue is a section containing articles about pertinent environmental issues. Bonnie Bell Cosmetics is another company that links its business to healing the planet. Bonne Bell promises that they never test products on animals. They also ran an ad recently that invites consumers to become "Friends of the Wilds" by becoming a charter sponsor of the Wilds, a 10,000-acre wildlife refuge in Ohio that preserves and breeds endangered species.

If all human beings direct their need to control the planet toward changing that planet in a positive way, we can save the Earth. We must recycle, write letters to our congressmen to stress the importance of environmental funding, and insist that companies make goods built to last and use recyclable packaging. We must make changes in our day-to-day lives (like traveling in carpools to cut down on air pollution and boycotting products tested on animals). These are not, however, things that we should do while it is the "trend" and then forget when earth tone clothes go out of style and soda is colored again. For, if we neglect the earth as our predecessors did, our children will pay an even greater price: they may not live to see it. My generation must make reparations for the mistakes of our predecessors by fighting the destruction of the planet every second of every day. If we succeed at making these amends, we shall finally be free of our need to control every aspect of this great earth. We shall take pride in simply belonging to it.



"The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth."

- Chief Seattle


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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