How We Affect Our Environment
Our actions upon the environment — even in our
backyards — have a profound effect upon our survival. You may not notice it right away, maybe not even for
decades, but when we make our decisions and choices based upon “giving our
shareholders the greatest return,” and other strictly financial considerations,
we often lose in the long run. Or our children “lose” as a result of poor air, water, and overcrowding.
When great “natural disasters” occur, we tend to call these “acts of God.” Indeed,
the earth moves and shakes and
and chills and heats, and goes through all its changes. Man does not control these
changes. Earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, fires, droughts, volcanic eruptions, ice ages, high winds, etc.,
have been with us since the beginning of memory, and will continue to be.
While we can’t stop the forces of nature, we must begin to see how our actions (and inactions) exacerbate the effects of these natural forces,
and definitely affect our
ability to survive.
Take drought, for example. Do our actions have any
effect on drought conditions? Absolutely! Some have attempted to prove that the
great drought of the 1930s, and the resultant Dust Bowl era, was the result of poor farming practices. In order to maximize
the farming areas, and farm with the greatest of convenience, trees were cut
down, and the soil was not properly fertilized.
trees to do their soil-protecting, and with barren top soil due to the farming
methods, the land had no life and the dry winds blew it away. Act of God?
Hardly. It was the result of the ignorance of man on a large scale. We create
desertification on a small scale, right here in Pasadena, when we follow the
strict dictates of the fire department when they demand that we denude the soil
down to the bare earth. Such patches of soil are hotter than planted soil, and
lead to erosion.
Heavy rains are common after the drought and fire
cycle is played out. Such rains often do result in flooding and landslides.
Though we can call heavy rain an “act of God,” the effects can be lesser or
greater, depending upon what we have done to the land. In some cases, houses should
never have been built on steep hillsides, since building of the houses requires cutting down the trees and reshaping the
With the trees gone, and much of the land paved over, the water must go
somewhere when it rains. The trees and soil can process a fair amount of the
water, but with trees gone, and no way for water to percolate into the soil,
the water flows downhill, creating disasters for those who live in the mud’s
When we have removed all grass and brush cover due to the extreme dictates of the fire department’s
supposed “brush control” regulations, we set the stage for erosion, and
eliminate the natural cover for animals — and these principles apply even here in Pasadena!
A major earthquake could occur at any time along
any of the major fault lines throughout the world. While we cannot stop the
shaking, we can realize that we live in such an area, and plan to minimize the impact
on our family’s life in the aftermath, such as storing water, organizing
friends, having knowledge of first aid.
And some earthquakes may indeed have been caused by the hand of man. There are some scientists who believe that the Long Beach, CA earthquake of 1930 was the
direct result of over-pumping the oil from underground reservoirs there.
It would be difficult to plan for some disasters —
like a large comet hitting your neighborhood. Assuming you survived, so much would be
devastated that “waiting for help” would not be a viable option. If you valued
life, you would have lived your life in accord with “higher principles,” and
you would have developed skills that now might actually be useful in the post-apocalyptic world. To read a
possible scenario of a large comet hitting the earth, read Lucifer’s Hammer (by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, 1977).
Christopher Nyerges has been
leading survival and self-reliance classes since 1974. He is the author of 11 books,
including Guide to Wild Foods, Self-Sufficient Home, How to Survive Anywhere, and Extreme Simplicity. His life-long passion has been to demonstrate and to teach ways
in which each person can be a part of the solution to our environmental and ecological problems. He is the founder of the School of
Self-Reliance, and can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or