Surviving Halloween, one more time 

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Somehow, I survived another Halloween. I don't know how I managed to avoid being bitten by vampires, decapitated by mad butchers, harpooned by horned devils or eaten by zombies. No, it all turned out rather benign, other than a slight hangover from a few too many peanut butter cups.

Still the world marches toward self-destruction and oblivion in its seemingly leisurely way: carbons were burned, food was thrown out, and 65 billion animals on farms around the world farted and/or burped at least once or twice. So did 7.3 million humans. Speaking of methane, I'm sure one or two ship's captains in the Arctic pulled up alongside bubbling chimneys of the invisible gas, marveling at melting permafrost below.

The weather was as bizarre as we've come to expect in these wacky days of the extreme. Hurricane Patricia was not named for my wife Patricia, but it did make for some fun teasing around our home the last week or so. She came in like a lion, for sure, but quickly became a bladder-engorged lamb, peeing everywhere she went, including, in one case, around 20 inches of rain in one day in Texas.

In case you are wondering about how all this works, the earth is warmer because of fossil fuel pollution's ability to trap heat, and warmer air holds more water vapor. Just draw a frown-y face on your fogged-up mirror next time you take a hot shower and think about how you've just demonstrated that phenomenon.

So there's more rain when it rains and boy did it, here at the end of October. Plus we now know that the first nine months of the year contain seven months ranking first in their monthly category of record breaking warmth: hottest February on record, hottest March on record, etc. One can assume October will weigh in as a record breaker, but by then we'll be well into speculation that 2015 will be the warmest year ever recorded.

We also now know, thanks to an exhaustive investigation by Inside Climate News, that Exxon Mobile knew fossil fuel pollution would cause global warming, and they set about researching that in the 1970s and '80s — only to hide that research in lieu of obfuscating their own findings.

I will pause while you light a cigarette to ponder that sentence.

And while I've been trying to fully understand the destructive impact that campaign of disinformation had on humanity, I find myself persistently distracted by zombies. I can't help it; they are everywhere, reminding us to stock up on brightly colored packets of sugar or we too might be devoured and become part of the zombie team. I venture zombies, with no capacity for conscience or self-reflection, just consume and then consume some more. Ergo, my bellyache from too many peanut butter cups.

You can't really stretch the analogy too far, when it comes to zombies, our continued drive to reproduce offspring, and our consumption of the planet's resources. World Overshoot Day was August 13th, this year, the earliest yet recorded. World Overshoot Day is the day we use up the year's natural resources that can be replenished. That means we're in deficit about one third of the year, something that will catch up with us in more obvious ways as we continue our zombie onslaught.

And I've been reading about Adolf Eichmann, the bureaucrat responsible for the death of so many Jews in World War II, adding that to my stable of unstable thoughts.

I will pause again here, this time to apologize for any analogies or metaphors that might make me appear cavalier. This is a sincere effort to understand that-which-can-not-be-understood:

How can it be we are wrecking the planet for future generations?

Anyway, Eichmann was the subject of a book you've either read or heard about: Eichmann in Jerusalem: a Report on the Banality of Evil. This report, by Hannah Arendt, basically concluded that Eichmann was not evil, insane, ideological or sadistic. He was just a mindless bureaucrat and a very organized one at that, responsible for the death of a million Jews. She concluded that Eichmann "...had no motives at all ... never realized what he was doing..."

Are we a species of Eichmanns? Are we zombies? As I struggle to understand this I will twist Arendt's phrase to suggest we are the evil of banality, that in the day-to-day struggle to survive and find some pleasure, to care for our families and build community, to make a positive impact on our world and pass on something meaningful to our families, we are vice-gripped into a culture of consumer banality.

As Bill Clinton might put it: It's the externalities, stupid. If we aren't going to be responsible for the pollution we dump into our atmosphere, our watersheds and our soils, then we are going to pay for it in the end. And the end, as they say, nears, because our economy was built on the notion the earth and space were limitless trashcans.

We don't intend the evil we perpetrate, any more than we wish harm to each other. It's just the byproduct of being alive, of burning electricity, getting from place to place, and eating three square meals a day. Excuses a zombie might make.


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Jim Poyser

Jim Poyser

Bio:
Jim Poyser is Executive Director of Earth Charter Indiana, a statewide organization that was one of over two dozen nonprofit partners in Greening the Statehouse. A former managing editor of NUVO, he won HEC’s Environmentalist of the Year Award in 2013.

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