As a planet-locked earthling, I’m thinking about Earth today. Such a quotidian planet. While I’ve been to others in my mind, this is the only one on which I’ve ever been or am likely to be. And yet there are no laws protecting it from my own species. Corporations are treated as individuals, legally. Only they’re much, much bigger and have lots more money. They can drill and dig and spew and slew all they wish. I can mutter a feeble, “Hey!” but they legally have to pay no attention. It’s like that guy with a loud device on a quiet bus. Or someone smoking too close to the door. They invade the little space you occupy and there’s nothing you can do about it. We look to our politicians to learn how to be better bullies. Our corporations look past us to the bottom line. When the planet dies, that will indeed be the bottom line.
We tend to make fun of those who believe there’s other life out there. Whether sci-fi nerds or gullible believers in conspiracy theories, we tell them all intelligent life is located right here. In your bank account. Your net worth. The contribution you make to the GNP. It all comes down to numbers. As if there weren’t something magical about walking in the woods. As if all of this is just dress rehearsal for the play of getting rich. The beasts we had to fear used to lurk in the jungle. Now they brazenly drive through our cities in expensive cars with tinted windows. They build towers to defy the spacemen to come down. “Don’t worry,” they seem to say, “our money is great enough that we can come to you.” And yet, we are still left with only one planet. And it seems to be getting quite stuffy down here.
I worry about our throwaway culture, because there’s nowhere else to go. You can’t prevent me from fracking the very ground beneath your feet. Or like Martin Luther, prevent me from flying over your head. You don’t like my loud music? You don’t like my noxious fumes? I can blow my vape into the shared, public airspace if I want. Ownership is a funny concept. Our species has been on this planet for a geologic sneeze and yet we plant our flags and bray our allegiances. It takes treaties and accords for us to act like civilized people. We won’t call it “global warming” because that offends those big people called corporations. If it feels a little warm in here to you, turn on the air conditioner. If we use up this planet, we can always buy another one.