Our national and global affairs are in perilous disarray, to the point where extremely sober observers are saying that we have brought imminent catastrophe upon ourselves and that it is just too late to escape.
While candidly admitting the difficulty and the danger, Of Thee I Sing nonetheless insists that something enormously significant and wonderful is actually coming to pass on this planet—that like a chick (out of food and space) pecking its way out of the egg into a whole new world, we are awakening of necessity to a vastly expanded understanding of what we are, where we come from, where we’re going, and what’s going on.
We are not headed for doom but for glory, and the United States of America has a vital role to play in that destiny—a role in which each of us claims a share as we choose to awaken.
“I love this book. America needs this book. Here are the answers to the horrified questions we keep asking ourselves: ‘How did this happen?’ ‘Who stole our country?’ Peter Childs has chosen every word with lucidity and precision, as he tells exactly how we got here, what we must do to save the great ‘American Experiment,’ and why it matters to the whole world. Read it...we need it!”
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OF THEE I SING
The American Experiment and How It Can Still Succeed
By Peter Childs
Balboa PressCopyright © 2013 Peter Childs
All rights reserved.
Throughout the following discussion we should keep in mind a central factor that has greatly increased each of the troubles we will consider; the exponentially-increasing number of human beings who continue to take up life on this planet. The "population bomb" has gone off; it took three or four million years for the human population to reach two billion. And how long to reach three billion? Thirty years. It currently stands at over seven billion and we can, if things go on as they continue to do, expect to reach ten billion by 2050. Surely it is not hard to see that this constant increase in numbers puts enormous pressure on all the systems that support human life. The sheer numbers of meals, houses, jobs, clothes, etc, etc, etc. that are now required every day dwarfs the numbers that applied even one generation before my own. There were only sixty million people in the United States when my parents were young; now we have three hundred and thirteen million. So it is virtually useless to address any single crisis without taking into account the effect of the population explosion on that issue. A planet with finite resources cannot indefinitely sustain an increasing population. We must face this crisis (virtually the only one that is not directly due to the activities of the corporate oligarchy) squarely and effectively if we expect to really fix almost anything else; one of the first things we can and should do is a study of the carrying capacity of our planet to establish how many people it can support at various levels of income; then we can make policy on the basis of fact rather than fantasy.CHAPTER 2
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, when machines began to perform the vast bulk of physical activities in which our industries engage, we have poured a steady stream of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, because CO2 is the major byproduct of our energy production system, especially since we started using coal and then oil as our chief energy sources. The most damaging result of this massive amount of CO2, so far beyond what would naturally occur, has been what we call "global warming. (The term "climate change appears to be taking the place of "global warming, since we have been experiencing extraordinary cold as well as extraordinary heat [both were predicted], but the overall trend is undeniably one of warming.) There is a natural cycle of which we have been aware for a long time, part of which includes periods of warming but there is no longer any doubt among sincere observers that the enormous amount of CO2 (together with other gases such as methane) that we have poured into our atmosphere has greatly and dangerously altered the natural rhythm of the present cycle.
One of the most severe effects of this exaggeration of the natural cycle is the melting of our polar ice caps, which is proceeding at a truly alarming (and increasing) rate, leading to a rise in sea level that is not just noticeable but which even at this early stage is beginning to overwhelm low-lying nations such as the Maldives. Heads are spinning with calculations and minds are reeling at the foreseeable effects of the now-unavoidable increase in these conditions (even if we put the pedal to the metal in reverse, it's too late to avoid a severe increase in effects; this car takes time to stop); just look at a map of human settlements in the U.S.A. alone (e.g. New York, New Jersey, Norfolk, Miami, New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle) that are close enough to sea level to be threatened in the foreseeable future. And we should realize that it's not just the ice caps that are melting; so are the Himalayan glaciers, which supply fresh water for something like two billion people. And Glacier National Park is expected to have no glaciers by 2035. How bright do the red lights have to get before we notice them flashing?
Of equal concern are the effects that this human-exaggerated climate change can be expected to produce on the weather. These range from extreme heat-related events in some areas to extreme cold-related events in others; we are already seeing extreme winters and extreme summers as well; floods, droughts, fires, and extraordinarily severe storms (all of which have been predicted by those who have been seriously studying the situation). Is it really so surprising that we get in trouble when we tinker with the natural heat/cold systems of our planet to the point where our major cold-storage centers (the arctic and antarctic ice caps) are disappearing? To so casually wreck the natural balance between heat and cold on our planet is to ignore the fact that God set these things up in stunningly precise balance. And for those life forms such as ourselves that can only exist within a relatively narrow band of natural conditions, a very delicate balance as well. We would do well to realize that God is not mocked; nature bats last.
Is it so difficult to see that the source of this CO2 is industry (together with the products it produces)? Or that industry has always been far more concerned with the money it generates than with its effects on the environment or anything else other than profits? Admittedly, these negative effects have crept up on us; it took a far-sighted person indeed to predict these things at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (some folks did, though), but in recent decades these effects have become obvious to anyone who was paying attention. A great many people are waking up to the seriousness of this situation but we have not yet reached the critical mass that will be necessary to turn things around. And we must not overlook the fact that the energy industry continues to oppose regulatory reform with every means at their disposal (like virtually if not literally every other industry whose activities have harmful effects), smoothly assuring an amazingly unquestioning public that everything is just fine. Shame on them, shame on us.
While we're talking about energy we must not pass by one of the most alarming aspects of our addiction to massive energy use; nukes. One has to be blind indeed not to recognize what an astonishing achievement splitting the atom was, or the potential uses for the enormous energy that is produced by nuclear reactors. But it is unwise to let our desire for things like electric popcorn poppers blind us to the problems inherent in this method of producing electricity.
These problems are significant and as yet insurmountable. Among the worst of them is the fact that the byproducts of nuclear fission are dangerous and will remain so for tens of thousands of years. What will this mean for our children's children, should there still be a habitable planet for them to live on? We tinker around with fantasies like burying nuclear waste in salt deposits or encasing them in glass, but does anyone seriously think that these methods will be viable for tens of thousands of years? And what about, for just one example, that underground waste at Hanford, Washington that has been creeping for decades toward the Columbia River? This is just the tip of the nuclear iceberg, but we don't seem to notice or care about such things. Things like the numerous deaths of uranium miners, or the fact that human error, computer error, and natural disasters are unavoidable; each of them is not a question of if, but when. We have already seen Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and now possibly the worst of all, Fukushima, where as I write three reactors have melted down. It will take perhaps twenty years to make them safe, if that can be done. A hundred thousand people have been forced from their homes, with no idea when or if they can ever go back. At the height of the crisis, the possibility of a "worst case scenario had the Japanese government considering the evacuation of Tokyo. Neither the government or the nuclear industry in Japan (or here) appear to be telling the truth about the seriousness of the current or future state of affairs (for example, they claim to have these plants in a stable condition, but today's news reported that levels of radiation have risen to the point where even their robots are unusable).
What is it going to take to make us wake up to the facts of the case here? What if there is another serious earthquake in Japan, or here (where several of our nukes are also on or near earthquake faults)? Even if we accept the highly questionable idea that the effects of nuclear radiation are only significant in large doses, we should realize that massive doses can and do and will occur whenever we have a significant accident at a nuclear plant. People will be hurt; a substantial area around Chernobyl is uninhabitable and will remain so for a very long time. We can expect the same thing with Fukushima. One very experienced nuclear scientist has predicted that over time we can expect a million cases of cancer from this disaster (some kinds of radiation can take a very long time for their damage to manifest). Is this really necessary? Can we not yet realize that behind the smooth assurances of those who want to build nukes is primarily a desire to make money, not concern for the welfare of the public or the planet?
How about nuclear war? "It won't be water but fire next time, says the Bible. Virtually every nation with the capacity to do so seems to be trying to join the "nuclear club; to possess the Big Bargaining Chip. We scream bloody murder about Iran trying to do so (not so loud about North Korea, India, Pakistan or any of the other members of the nuclear club because they already have nukes; they're club members) but our protestation lacks a certain force in the eyes of the world because we have more nukes than anybody, and we insist that that's perfectly OK. We alone have enough nukes to destroy human civilization (and God knows how much else along with it). This is intelligent? This is sane? This is loving? Oops, excuse that last one; I got carried away.
But when you think about it, what good could a nuke really do for any small nation when the Big Dogs have such vastly superior power? Does anyone really think Iran would drop a nuke on Israel or the U.S.? Their entire nation would be reduced to rubble in hours, and they know it. It's the Big Bargaining Chip that's so attractive, because so long as the international community plays the fear-based power game instead of the love-based cooperative game, the biggest gun gets to sit at the head of the table. This is how animal affairs have always worked. Now this basic behavior must change; we'll expand on that later. For the moment, we should realize that nuclear fission is a total nonstarter; with far more to be lost than to be gained through its use. And when will we begin to question the necessity of using every conceivable electrical gadget that is foisted on us by people whose primary concern is to make money? Why can't we see not just the possible significance, but the growing necessity of consuming less? Can we not see that at the very heart of the nuclear problem are the corporations that profit from the nuclear enterprise? These are the people who assured us in the beginning that nuclear power would be "too cheap to meter, safe as mothers' milk (which now contains numerous poisonous substances because of the pollution of our air, water, and food), and most recently, "environmentally friendly. How can it be that we keep on taking their word for anything? Where is the scrutiny that should be constantly applied to such dangerous endeavors? It is the height of naivete to believe that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will protect us, any more than the Environmental Protection Agency will, because the nuclear industry controls the government agencies that are supposed to protect the public from the dangers posed by that industry. In which connection we should note that so dangerous are its operations, the nuclear industry can't get insurance on them, so the government provides it. We'll examine how such a thing could happen more closely when we get to politics.
We should not lose sight of the fact that we are running out of oil (which, of course, provides a first-rate excuse for the coalies and nukesters to hustle their product). Sure, there is still a fair amount of it left but it's becoming steadily more difficult, expensive, and environmentally dangerous to get at. We've used up the world's oil supply so freely that we are at or near "peak oil, or the point at which foreseeable use exceeds foreseeable supply. And, by the way, we are supposedly in such desperate need of oil that we currently pay over four dollars a gallon for gas; but we still export enormous amounts of oil. Certainly not from humanitarianism but because there's money to be made. Forget coal; it's a filthy way to make electricity. From the mine through the power generation process to the disposal of waste, coal has significant harmful environmental effects, including release of mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulates into the atmosphere. Coal-fired power plants also happen to be our biggest source of CO2; even greater than automobiles, trucks, planes, or trains. And yet again, the reason coal continues to be a problem is because the corporations that profit from it continue to care only about the money they make, and they continue to mislead us into thinking that it's OK; not to worry.
We swallow it hook, line, and sinker because we're addicted to using ever increasing amounts of energy for whatever device can be invented to feed our habit; we want to believe that it's all right to keep on this way, so we accept the blandishments of industry and refuse to pay attention to the reality of the situation. We could expand this list indefinitely. The simple truth is, our air is filled with harmful substances which are the byproducts of industries whose operators do not care at all about the harmful effects of their activities; they are primarily interested in money. Our water is also terribly polluted, and for the exact same reason; industry spews a stunning cocktail of harmful substances into our water supply, heedless of the harm it causes. One of the latest horrors is "fracking; a cutting-edge technique for extracting oil and natural gas by fracturing underground rock formations in which they are stored. They pump enormous amounts of mephistophelian substances into our groundwater with the result that in several places people cannot drink their water; in fact, they can light it with a match! Again, it is large corporate entities that do these things, lying to us repeatedly about the damage they do, and we go along with it because we like the things we can do with the energy that these corporations produce and we don't much care about the damage they do until it comes right to our door. The corporations know that; they count on our unwillingness and/or inability to think seriously about the harm they're causing, and it works very well indeed. For them, that is; not so well for the environment or for ourselves a little further down the road than we're willing to look. No heroin addict was ever a greater sucker for his dealer than we are for these corporados who take such advantage of our unwillingness to think. Our environment has been terribly damaged and the damage continues to worsen; we must wake up and deal with this reality, and soon.CHAPTER 3
Another area in which we have turned over vitally important functions to enormous corporations is our food supply, distribution, and sale. There was a time when our food was produced primarily by small family farmers, and it was done organically because the agricultural chemicals with which we now bombard our land, air, water, fieldworkers, and farmside communities didn't exist. We hadn't yet learned to recoil in horror if there was a blemish on our apple or our bread was any color but lily white (a wonderful example of this attitude is the prevalence of "white bread; we pay to have natural vitamins removed, and then pay more to have artificial ones put in), and we were far better nourished than we are now, when our food supply is contaminated with an astonishing brew of chemicals that are well known to cause illnesses ranging from food poisoning to cancer. Not to mention "genetic engineering, in which man blindly plays God yet again; fifty countries have now banned or restricted genetically modified organisms but we don't even require that they be identified on the food that contains them. And watching the evening news, one has to wonder if our brains have been getting anything like their proper nourishment, particularly in the case of our children, in whom the early years are critical for brain development. Seriously. How else can we explain the near total absence of the ability to think deeply about anything important? Late flash: today's news reports that a new study suggests that part of the large recent increase in autism in children is due to the prevalence of highfructose corn syrup, which inhibits the presence of zinc, which is important in the formation of young brains.
Excerpted from OF THEE I SING by Peter Childs. Copyright © 2013 Peter Childs. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
PART 1: STATE OF THE UNION, 1,
The Environment, 10,
Health Care, 26,
The Economy, 35,
Current Events, 76,
PART 2: THE FUTURE, 81,
The Fifth Kingdom, 96,
The Four Great Questions, 117,