Kent Pitman

Kent Pitman
New England, USA
Philosopher, Technologist, Writer
I've been using the net in various roles—technical, social, and political—for the last 30 years. I'm disappointed that most forums don't pay for good writing and I'm ever in search of forums that do. (I've not seen any Tippem money, that's for sure.) And I worry some that our posting here for free could one day put paid writers in Closed Salon out of work. See my personal home page for more about me.


NOVEMBER 25, 2010 11:11AM

Reflecting on Our Shared Good Fortune

Rate: 15 Flag
Earthrise, Apollo 8, 1968Thanksgiving haikuEaster Island
Moai Rano raraku

“...On an island as small as Easter, it was easy to see the effects of the deforestation as it was taking place. But the inhabitants continued their destructive actions. They probably prayed to their gods to replenish the land so they could continue to rape it, but the gods didn't answer. And still the trees came down. Whatever one did to alter that ecosystem, the results were reasonably predictable. One could stand on the summit and see almost every point on the island. The person who felled the last tree could see that it was the last tree. Nonetheless, he (or she) still felled it.”

Easter haiku
Earthrise (Apollo 8)

If you got value from this post, please "rate" it.

The excerpt from, quoted here under a theory of fair use, is borrowed from a larger work, Easter Island, that is Copyright © 1995-2005 by Cliff Wassmann, and that I recommend visiting to enjoy in full. Images of Easter Island and Island Earth are NASA photos in the public domain, obtained courtesy of Wikimedia. The two haikus (or senryus, if you prefer) are my original work, Copyright © 2010 by Kent M. Pitman, All Rights Reserved.

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Yes! Not only a reflection, but a reflection for all of us. Thank you Kent!
Thanks so much for this. I had no idea.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING and rated with hugs
I read somewhere (Oxford Pub) that thinkers predict that the Interstate will crumble.
Trees will Poke Forth.
The Pony Path Return.
General Braddock chopped Trees for armaments, ships, cannon balls and commerce. Now what? These greedy corporatist seem to "think" they are smart? Perfect Crimes? White Collar V.C. who make a Earth, Space, Land, Sea ... Inhabitable? They may smirk now?
Ya know me?
I'll take any Day!
Thanks we Alive!
Thanks 'd Rate.
It don't work.
In next Life?
If there is?
I may be?
I stuffed!
No be Full!
No Fools!
Chicago Guy, I'm glad you found it useful. At first I worried the message might be hijacking the holiday, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was really what the holiday was about.

Linda, it's not the prettiest of stories, but it's an important one. I'm glad to be able to share it. You have a happy Thanksgiving, too.

Art, thanks for visiting and offering your bits of imagery. Thoughts of the crumbling of cvilization are strange to consider. A theme park I used to go to in Arizona got closed down and boarded up. In a way, the world is a theme park and it would be a shame if the rides stopped running and it became like the ghost towns of the west, humanity absent, but with the twist that there was no one left to even view it. That it's even a possibility is horrifying to contemplate.
Gobble gobble! Multi-layered.
Hi, Fred. Thanks for visiting. Yes, I hope it makes both a political point and a point very apropos to the day, that we must put our collective good fortune into perspective. The Universe is a pretty harsh place, or so the SETI outcomes seem to suggest to date, so it's great that we managed to end up with such an oasis.
As you said, short and to the point! I hope sometime in the future I'll be able to visit that island. A friend of mine did a few years back.

Happy Thanksgiving!
I think it is a very apropo post for Thanksgiving. My family has a tradition of not only reflecting on what we are thankful for today, but reflecting on what we can do in our community/world to ensure reasons to be thankful in the future. Ensuring that we even have an inhabitable planet in the future in which we can live much less celebrate is a necessity. Rated
Kanuk, you'll have to report back if you do. I think it would depress me too much, but I can see how it would be interesting.

gringa, thanks for visiting and sharing how your family does things. That sounds like a good tradition. :)
I love that Earth-rise photo. Always have. It shows how delicate the really is when shown against the immense backdrop of space.

One need look no further than Haiti to find a present day Easter Island. They were in great trouble long before the devastating Earthquake last January (date?). But, the problem we face isn't as much the overuse of natural resources as it is the overpopulation that requires more resources than the Earth can give.

Nature has a history of balance that can't be ignored. I don't believe that the human species is doomed, but I do believe that nature will hit the reset button one day and we will end up back in the stone age with a fraction of the population we have now. Gawd, I sound like such a Debbie-Downer. I disgust me.

That said, I do give great thanks for living in such an incredible age. Each day brings problems, but also some form of amazement. Roll it all together and it is really something to witness.
Point taken, Kent, or at least I hope so. That, what, elegy? for Easter Island is so sad; the last sentence--"Nonetheless, he (or she) still felled it--is a marvel of tragic understatement.
Thanks, Bonnie.

Jerry, yes, I think the write-up at that site really makes its point, but I agree with you a couple of those sentences in particular are really powerful, which is why I didn't try to compete with them by adding my own prose. It's just terrifying to think that our capacity for denial extends that far; it makes discussions with Climate Change denialists that much more chilling.
Whoops, Michael, I wrote a reply to you but forgot to press "Post this comment."

The population issue is one where we're already beyond the level we should be, and it leads to a fragility because we aren't prepared for the kinds of resource fall-offs we're likely to see really soon. The world's resources are presently overleveraged and we're experiencing the kind of fragile boom that was the success of the housing industry just before the bills came due. So I think it really is more a resource issue than a population issue even though population is at the heart of it. In a sense, the population problem is just a given at this point and while controlling population going forward is important, if we don't do more than that, we may not live long enough for such controls as we put in place now to ever matter.

Some people expect that means it will get too hot to live, and heatstroke is sometimes a concern, but that won't be what does humanity in. And some speak of being mired in garbage, which we are, but that won't be what does us in either. The real issues are more subtle. For example, the dying off of the coral in the oceans due to rising temperatures making the oceans more acidic is subtle and hard for people to understand. Certain kinds of drought situations, like the drying of Lake Mead are visible to people in the area, but they aren't a crisis until one day (predicted by some to be as early as 2021) there isn't any water. The fires in Russia are another easily dismissable thing for people in denial, but were enough to wake up the Russian government. And the floods in Pakistan have even caused Osama Bin Laden to take note of Climate Change. These things are individually dismissable by those determined to deny, in the same way that the effects of cigarette smoke could be denied. Any individual cancer was, for a long time, attributed to other things. Only over time did we see the bad stuff. But with the world's health, we get only one shot, and we have to fix it early.
easter island.. one of the great mysteries of human existence. some new scientific and archeaological understanding of it, have you heard? it seems that the totems were their version of rapacious, environmentally-deadly capitalism and that trees may have been felled to move the rock totems. possibly a very accurate metaphor for human existence.
vzn, I haven't heard the story in precisely that form, but what you say isn't terribly different from the story told at the site I referenced.
Too easy it is not to let ourselves think of this even as it affects us all. Thanks for this, Kent.
Anna, you're welcome. Thanks for taking a moment out with us all to reflect.
It's so strange consider what might have gone through the mind of the last tree-felling actor on the island. Can one even imagine a primitive mind being that non-reflective?

With the vastness of the earth however, it is easier for me to understand the mentality if the inhabitants canot see all of the land from any vantage point. Great piece Kent!
Gary, it's true. People have trouble with things they don't see. Which is why education and science are so important. And speaking of “no child left behind” (best segue I can muster) there's this scary story out yesterday on “No Fish Left Behind.” We really have to start taking these things seriously. This is as close to seeing it as we're likely to get... at least, unless someone trained in the visual arts finds a better way to make this apparent.
You're analogy is ligitimate even if the theory of Easter Island doesn't hold out in the long run.

As far as I can tell Easter Island remains a major unsolved mystery. Instead of proving the mainsteam hypothisis experiments have disproven it; therefore it is still unexplained as far as I'm concerned.