Earth Day

Here at Backyard and Beyond, we celebrate our planet and its life, and its life-giving life, every day.So consider the exhortation on the bridge of the Torm Thames, a chemical tanker tied up at the end of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn last month, right around the corner from the Back 40. Sure, it’s a piece of corporate greenwash, doubly iconic since right below this it says NO SMOKING, the cargo on these things being so often flammable. Shipping regularly pollutes the waterways with spilled fuel and garbage; in the flushing of ballast tanks, ships also introduce invasive species, like the Zebra mussels choking the St. Lawrence and the Mitten crab now appearing on the East Coast, including the Hudson. The Torm Thames is a Danish flagged ship; I presume it’s more tightly regulated than those ships with flags of convenience, but 40% of the worlds shipping as measured by deadweight tonnage is registered to just three countries: Panama, Liberia, and the Marshall Islands, long akin to pirate coves, and there’s a reason for that. The global shipping business is an incredibly murky, morally dubious enterprise, as ship owners evade environmental regulations, crew safety, and vessel conditions to increase their profit margins. It’s another of those systems most of us are completely unaware of but which are key to our way of life. Of course, it is precisely that “way of life” which we must change. But that seems rather unlikely, not to mention historically unprecedented. Such change only comes about via traumatic crises, and, since by inclination, ideology, and politics we don’t care about the future (sorry, kids) that’s what it’s going to take.

There are Picnics for the Planet today, complete with minor celebrities, but it seems to me that fasting would be a better response to Earth Day than consuming. So, in honor of my ancient mother of a planet, I’ll be sticking to water (a finite resource, as it happens) today from sunrise to sunset. Cheers!

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  • Nothing more sacred than unloading whole carcasses of sheep from a minivan into a shopping cart on Atlantic Ave. 2 hours ago
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