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Linda Schuyler Horning: Mother Nature’s myriad of weapons

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Linda Schuyler Horning

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”

— Mahatma Gandhi

I’m struck-dumbfounded, really, by an overwhelming sense of awe. How can this tiny invisible microbe, COVID-19, wield such incredible power? In a matter of weeks, it has shut down the world’s most prosperous nations, grounded their airlines, paralyzed their economies, and kept most of their populations at home. Many of us have never seen anything like it before.

The most immediate effect of the pandemic has been, not the resolution of the disease, but the reduction in carbon emissions from shutting down industrial activity. Satellite images over Wuhan, China in the six weeks prior to a March 23 article in The Guardian show a significant fall in global nitrogen levels. Nitrogen levels are a key indicator of the presence of the types of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.

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Is Earth fighting back?

We’re not used to thinking of Earth as an entity that can act in its own defense, but Earth, or rather “Mother Nature” has a myriad of weapons in her arsenal. In addition to pandemics, nature can provide floods and droughts, insect infestations, firestorms, tornados, tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. She can give us heat waves and cold waves and entire ice ages. Mother Nature is so powerful that, according to author, James G. Lewis, who wrote Arming Mother Nature, NATO actually spent years prior to the 1960’s trying to figure out ways they could weaponize nature against our enemies. If they could figure out how to detonate a hydrogen bomb under Earth’s crust, for instance, they might be able to trigger a tsunami in a region of the world they found to be distasteful.

The question of whether nature is self-aware is raised by Gar Smith in a column for The Berkeley Daily Planet. He points to our “Indigenous ancestors” as keepers of a truth often lost on their European colonizers. They saw, and continue to see, Nature as a living force “ — a complex matrix alive with spiritual potential and worthy of human devotion.” Smith also pointed out recent books and scientific studies that support the existence of so-called “plant communication.”

With so many of my fellow human beings sick and dying from COVID-19 infections, it would be wrong for me to take sides in this debate. I shouldn’t have to. I want to be on the same side as Mother Nature, but, sadly, Earth could do with fewer of we humans right now. As Elizabeth Kolbert writes in her 2014 book, “The Sixth Extinction,” “It didn’t take long for Homo sapiens to begin ‘reassembling the biosphere.’ We did it first by expanding our populations to every corner on Earth. Then, we discovered vast energy stores lying underground.”

For about a century, oil has driven the world’s economy, but it might soon be coming to an end. Robert Rapier, senior contributor to Forbes Magazine tells us, “exponential increases in electric vehicles (EVs) and ride-sharing are predicted to be two key factors that will make oil obsolete.” The pandemic has significantly reduced demand and collapsed oil prices.

Forgive me if I don’t cry crocodile tears over that one. Earth could certainly do with fewer greenhouse gases, and this is an area where we humans might actually be able to make a positive difference.

The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763) is aimed at reducing America’s carbon emissions by around 40%. It’s good for Earth, and it’s also good for people. If passed, the dividend part of the act would help us recover from this economic shut-down. It takes money from the oil companies, and puts it back into the hands of ordinary people. It will also help spur the economy by focusing on low and middle income people first.

Linda Schuyler Horning lives in Nevada City.


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