Thought for the day

Remember the old T-shirt slogan: "There is no gravity.  The Earth sucks?"  Given what just happened over in Iceland, I guess we have to say that it spits too. For some reason this unexpected volcanic event reminded me of the late George Carlin’s rant about the "save the planet" rhetoric of the environmental movement, and ...

Walt-Steve-foreign-policy-columnist20
Walt-Steve-foreign-policy-columnist20
Stephen M. Walt
By , a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.
Stephen Chernin/Getty Images
Stephen Chernin/Getty Images
Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

Remember the old T-shirt slogan: "There is no gravity.  The Earth sucks?"  Given what just happened over in Iceland, I guess we have to say that it spits too.

Remember the old T-shirt slogan: "There is no gravity.  The Earth sucks?"  Given what just happened over in Iceland, I guess we have to say that it spits too.

For some reason this unexpected volcanic event reminded me of the late George Carlin’s rant about the "save the planet" rhetoric of the environmental movement, and the earth’s ability to take care of itself:

Besides, there is nothing wrong with the planet. Nothing wrong with the planet. The planet is fine. The PEOPLE are f***ed. . . .Compared to the people, the planet is doing great. Been here four and a half billion years. Did you ever think about the arithmetic? The planet has been here four and a half billion years. We’ve been here, what, a hundred thousand? Maybe two hundred thousand? … Two hundred years versus four and a half billion. And we have the CONCEIT to think that somehow we’re a threat? That somehow we’re gonna put in jeopardy this beautiful little blue-green ball that’s just a-floatin’ around the sun?

The planet has been through a lot worse than us. … Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drift, solar flares, sun spots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles … hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worlwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages. … And we think some plastic bags, and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference? The planet isn’t going anywhere. WE ARE …"

You wanna know how the planet’s doing? Ask those people at Pompeii, who are frozen into position from volcanic ash, how the planet’s doing. You wanna know if the planet’s all right, ask those people in Mexico City or Armenia or a hundred other places buried under thousands of tons of earthquake rubble, if they feel like a threat to the planet this week. Or how about those people in Kilowaia, Hawaii, who built their homes right next to an active volcano, and then wonder why they have lava in the living room."

Add to that list all the people whose lives have just been disrupted by flight cancellations due to the volcanic ash drifting across Europe. And no, I’m not saying we ought to ignore climate change, acid rain, deforestation, endangered species, and other environmental issues. We just ought to remember that our environmental concerns are mostly about us, and not about some abstract concern for the chunk of rock that we happen to live on.

Stephen M. Walt is a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University. Twitter: @stephenwalt

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