Our Global Gas Chamber

One of the great (mostly) untold stories of the Age Of Oil is the array of toxic chemicals in hydrocarbon exhaust and the accumulation of exhaust-borne particulates in the bloodstream and brain. We are largely indifferent to these byproducts of our industrial-grade obsession with hydrocarbons, but our willful ignorance cannot hide the facts the way catalytic converters hide the odors they produce.

A particularly daunting informational pdf from the State of New Hampshire details the chemical miasma we find ourselves in:

  • Gasoline emits ethanol, benzene, toluene, xylene and toxic air pollutants (TAPs) such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, 1,3-butadiene, diesel particulate matter, acrolein, cadmium, chromium, and lead.
  • Diesel engines emit unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, NOx, sulfur oxides, PM, black carbon, VOCs and carbon dioxide.
  • Lawn and garden equipment emit carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, VOCs, NOx.

Additionally, the Google summary for the pdf notes that:

  • Natural gas emits carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides.
  • Oil emits carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, arsenic, and benzene.
  • Coal emits carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, arsenic, and benzene.

We are pumping megatons of this crap into the air that we breathe. It is also the air that the disappearing birds and dying insects depend upon. In fact, I was thinking about this intersection on Saturday when I was tending to the familial fig tree … and realized there weren’t any birds around.

None. Nada. Zippo.

Twenty years ago, the fig tree would be alive with a variety of birds drawn to its high perches brimming with sweet fruit.

Saturday, I didn’t see a single bird, nor did I see any evidence that any had been by for a free feast. No half-eaten fruit. No feces. No nothing.

In years past there would’ve been birds singing, too. That was always a part of my childhood in Livermore … the irrepressible sound of birdsong.

Saturday there was silence.

All summer long I walked past a pile of birdseed that had obviously been disgorged from my mother’s old, worn-out bird-feeder by a human bumping into it. It was strewn across the concrete in the shade in front of the living room window. I didn’t clean it up … I just walked past it every Saturday … and it didn’t change in size. It just sat there uneaten like an epitaph silently screaming out the word “ecocide” to anyone who’d take the time to notice.

I noticed.

And I notice the increasing absence of life all around me. I saw one dragonfly this year. One. I feel like a parched desert traveler stumbling upon an oasis if I see a butterfly … the rareness of that once-common event becoming more and more like the sighting of a comet with each passing year.

There are fewer insects, too. Not the teeming communities the figs and grapes once sustained. Not the armies of flies on the fallen fruit. Just a few stragglers barely keeping alive a story that seems to be coming to an ignominious end.

Then I drive back home like a lemming in a tiny metal box, jockeying for position in an endless, almost mob-like pack of toxin-spewing vehicles that, when you project it out globally, is forcing whole ecosystems to try to breathe in a de facto gas chamber we are expanding into every corner of the planet.

Of course everything is dying. And we are willy-nilly killers forever hustling to get to something that won’t really matter if we end up taking the whole damn planet with us.

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'Our Global Gas Chamber' have 3 comments

  1. October 4, 2019 @ 4:31 am Friday's Top News Before The Opening Bell - Mike Swanson (10/04/2019) - WallStreetWindow.com

    […] Our Global Gas Chamber – Newsvandal.com […]

  2. October 4, 2019 @ 11:32 am Tom O'Neill

    It may seem quite a stretch from the awakening to absence to which this reflection invites one, but at the beginning of the 20th century in a masterful essay on Protestantism and capitalism, Max Weber wrote of “the entirely negative attitude of Puritanism to all sensuous and emotional elements in culture and religion.” Weber argues that Puritanism spawns capitalism, and can thereby propagate Puritanism’s deep antipathy to the beauty of nature. As this present reflection suggests, our idolatry of the profit motive as the supreme criterion of ethics is murdering our aesthetic sensibility. In reducing our fellow humans and the whole order of nature to opportunity-for-profit, we regard ourselves as taking control. As the reflection at hand declares, we haven’t realized what a vulnerable victim we are to the folly in which we’re engaged.

  3. October 4, 2019 @ 12:03 pm jpsottile

    So, this religiously-driven financial rationalization of all things eliminates the aesthetic value of all things as all things are reduced down to nothing but the value listed on their price tags? The only other value is the value of all things on the balance sheets of those doing the selling. Therefore, all things simply become a number on a ledger, which is what late-stage financialization is all about … moving numbers from computer to computer in market trades to simply make bigger numbers.


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