Monday, February 9, 2015

Environmentalism : HOPE, as well as fear ...

It is easy - too too easy - to credit fear, fear of Fifties nuclear war and fallout in particular, as the main reason for the Early Seventies worldwide rise of the Environmental Movement.

As one of those young 1950s Boomers who did join the formally organized environmental movement early in the 1970s and who now has a great interest in the history of the early days of the Environmental Movement,  may I beg to differ?

Not seeking tenure, I offer up only my memories as the primary archival source for my historical thesis.

I was an unusually small and skinny kid, very nearsighted, hated formal sports and loved books.

This might have been alright - I boldly loved to physically explore my neighbourhood and was a bit of a wiseapple in class,  but for the fact that we moved frequently, or so it seemed.

( I attended three different schools in both Grade Three and Grade Eight.)

I got bullied as a result.

My dislike of the big and the strong and my sympathy for the weak and the small developed right there on the playground.

I enjoyed the stories my teachers told of how the antibiotic medicines that had saved the lives of kids like me that had come (could only come) from small and primitive weak microbes living in sewer water, basement slime and the jungle mud of primitive lands.

microbial davids vs Chemist Goliaths

I really enjoyed this unlikely triumph of these microbial davids over the Chemist Goliaths of smug modern science.

For while the salad days of the Chemist and Chemical Synthesis had faded by time I first went to school, their unaltered hubris has merely transferred out to another school - that of the physicist.

So while our Fifties collective motivation was rather shallow and utilitarian (we valued Mother Nature's other beings only from the fear that their extinction might rob us of our rightful access to something useful and profitable) I joined in to the general view that we must treasure - not destroy - even the smallest and most slimy of beings.

I hope I went beyond that .

Beyond that to a belief that the smart aren't always as smart as they seem nor the dumb as dumb as they seem and that all life has a form of high intelligence merely by being able to survive and flourish so long and had a right to exist on its own terms.

WWII as a study in the smart humbled and the humble exalted 

 I know for a fact this was the reason I so enjoyed all the franker, more revisionist, books about WWII that had been coming out in a flood by the mid 1960s - books I dearly loved as a pre-teen.

Mostly by accident, they were much less 'rah rah' than the first wave of postwar military histories.

They still thought they were celebrating bravery but , unconsciously, by providing many new details, they tended to reveal the unflattering sides of military operations the propaganda  ministries had earlier successfully concealed.

I saw WWII revealed as six long years of the supposedly smart nations and leaders humbled and the supposedly dumb nations and leaders exalted.

In 2004, I stumbled upon the little known WWII tale of the supposedly smart chemists' synthesized penicillin humbled and the supposedly dumb natural penicillium exalted ---so given my history,  how could I resist making it much better known ??

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