The world has been going through a perceived crises for some time now. Unemployment rates are high around the globe and here in the United States the economy and jobs have been a pressing issue for the last decade.
During last November's elections there was a cry, by some folks, to elect people who will help the "job creators" - whatever that means. Never overly specific as to how those jobs would be created, the proponents of the "job creators" always tend to believe that giving economic breaks to, and loosening government regulations on, businesses will ultimately create those elusive jobs. But, I have a better idea! I've mentioned this in class many times to my university business students.
Here it is: do away with ALL government regulations on businesses. They can pollute as much as they want, ruin our water, air, and ground, to whatever extent they choose. They can also pay whatever wages they want as well...minimum wage laws would be done away with, totally. Soon, people would be hired in droves.
Plus, because there would be so much pollution, new companies would be formed to clean up all the mess our now non-regulated businesses would create. Ah...entrepreneurial ingenuity! Employment would boom! There would probably be more jobs than people to fill them.
Of course, there are MAJOR drawbacks. No one would be able to breathe clean air and respiratory sicknesses would skyrocket even further than they are now (the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries would then...need more employees too), our water would be a mess and unhealthy to drink unless heavily filtered, the plants grown in our ground would be contaminated (as would be the ground itself), the animals that ate the plants would, most likely, become less healthy (including us), and our overall health rates would deteriorate quicker than they are today (the U.S. is ranked 51st among nations of the world in life expectancy).
It is very, very, unlikely that the cleaner-uppers would be able to make our environment clean enough to negate the constant pollution emitted by the messer-uppers. And - most of us, and our children, and their children, and their children, would have an extremely tough time existing in such an environment, let alone have the money to buy much more than basic necessities.
But...people would have their precious "jobs."
It is interesting to me that people put jobs on a higher pedestal than quality of life. To paraphrase a Native-American Chief who was addressing the "White Man" about work and jobs - his words are so very prophetic: "What is this thing you call work? Everything you need is right here."
So, be careful what you wish for, strive for, and desire. Unless you fully think it through and attempt to make sure that it enhances the quality of life for everyone (including, of course, yourself), and everything, on this Earth...it can wind up being the cause of your own demise.
Years ago, as I staggered into the Emergency Room at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, I was gasping for breath with a life-threatening asthma attack. The doctors and nurses rushed me into a room and started to give me intravenous epinephrine to enable me to breathe easier. It was, to some degree, a frantic scene...one straight out of a medical series on television. As the lead physician (Dr. Joe) walked in, and all the others who were subordinate to him looked to the good doctor for approval, he gently checked all the doses, connections, charts, and the patient, to make sure everything was going as he directed.
As it turned out, after an overnight stay in the hospital, I was free to go home. Since I lived around the corner it wasn't a long trip. But...the memory has been imprinted in my brain ever since.
Life is strange and, as luck would have it, Dr. Joe was - within a few months - in my office with his prescription. I was to take care of his vision and was very pleased to do so. He and I became good friends. On occasion we would meet for lunch and talk about our philosophies of life. The first time we walked down the street together he confided in me by saying, "You know...if I hadn't have been there that night, you would have died. Your attack was that bad." In my mind...I knew it. However, hearing it from him brought chills to my being. How lucky I was that Dr. Joe was "on" that night.
We continued walking and I mentioned to him how incredible I thought life was, how fantastic it was that nature created so many amazing things and how beautiful our world truly was. He responded by telling me that he was awed at the inventiveness and innovation of humans and how much he admired the creations our species had crafted. Walking past the skyscrapers of downtown Philadelphia he said, "Look up, look around, look down. See what I mean." I couldn't deny what he was saying. Yet...I also felt that nature created the most incredible things this planet has ever been graced with. Species, mountains, oceans, energy, continents, vegetables, fruits, love, and so much more.
Both views are valid. In fact, both are very compatible. Humans, of course, have also invented war and weapons that may someday wipe out life as we know it, as well as the ability to save peoples' lives from disease and other ailments. Yet...the one thing that could save us all may be very simple. If we, each and every one of us, would step back and look at the beauty (both natural and man-made) that surrounds us, things may begin to change. If we just did that simple act, spent a few moments each day marveling at the awesomeness of nature and the innovation of humankind, we may see life from a broader perspective. Perhaps a perspective that will enable us to ALL say, "What the heck are we doing to ourselves?" Maybe we'll realize that our self-sabotaging behavior could ruin everything that is good about life and it's even possible that we might start to eliminate the bad.
All it would take is a few minutes of stopping our daily madness each day. Call it meditation, realization, or whatever you'd like. But...no matter what label you use, I believe that if each of us took a few minutes a day, at least a few times a day, and looked at the beauty of life and our exceptional existence - we may be able to save ourselves from ourselves. Look around - it's worth it.
Many students, seminar/workshop attendees, and friends, ask me what they can do to start the change process. My video outlines some initial steps that anyone can take.
Today we celebrate "Our Mother." The ceremonies, at least the ones associated with this specific day - and the week preceding it, started in 1970. Back then, I was a twenty-two year old who was very familiar with the Be-Ins that were held on Belmont Plateau in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. I attended them regularly and this time was no exception. It was not unusual to see thousands upon thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) of people gathered to listen to some of the most popular bands in rock-n-roll perform at no cost to the attendees. There was always a feeling of camaraderie there and, besides the enjoyment of music, a purpose - whether it was about ending the Vietnam War, or protesting prejudice and supporting civil/equal rights. But on this day, there was a different agenda, another goal of awareness, and a new call to action.
It was as much a Teach-In as it was a Be-In. Sure, there was lots of music, but there were also speeches about the destruction of our environment, the polluting of our rivers, stream, oceans, air and lungs. We were learning, or reinforcing, the realization that our penchant for "progress" was killing us. Humans, for some bizarre reason, have this self-sabotaging behavior of wanting to destroy our home. We will do whatever it takes to take whatever we want...regardless of the consequences to our planet, ourselves, or future generations.
The speeches that day by Senators Edmund Muskie and Hugh Scott, consumer advocate Ralph Nader, poet Allen Ginsberg, and many others, were calls to stop the madness and to enable us have our home become the pristine place it was not that very long ago.
That first Earth Day has morphed into a tradition and a movement. And, while some "believe" that climate change doesn't exist. Or...that pollution is somehow a result of "progress," with byproducts (like carbon dioxide) that should be taxed or traded. I, sadly, see that we haven't exhibited very much love for "Our Mother" or ourselves in the last forty-two years. Yes, we've made some progress in correcting pollution. But not enough. For every step we take to correct our problems we also add new ones. Our food is now "modified," our water comes in plastic bottles, or taps need filters to clean out what was originally clean, and our clothes contain toxins.
So...what have we learned since, at least, 30,000 people attended that event in 1970? Perhaps we're more aware of how we're poisoning ourselves, "Our Home," and our children. Maybe we've altered our behaviors and don't consume things that we know will destroy us. It's even possible that we're changing, in positive ways, as a global society. But - time is of the essence. Otherwise, it's entirely possible that someday in the future, they'll be no people left to celebrate "Earth Day." Be constantly vigilant. Because...there is only: one Earth, one atmosphere, and one species known as Homo sapiens. Let's all work to make sure they all exist in a healthy manner for a very long time.