Three stories from the front page of this morning’s paper offer evidence that we really haven’t gained much practical knowledge over the past several generations and that we may be paying a heavy price.
It’s true that in many ways we seem to better off than our grandparents.
Take medical care for example. Generally speaking, better care is available today than in years past and antibiotics were unknown just a few generations ago. Of course, the increase in obesity and Type 2 diabetes among Americans has a nullifying effect on these medical gains. The obesity and diabetes epidemics are due in large part to the increased variety and abundance of foods in the modern supermarket.
One could argue, too, that our standard of living is higher than our grandparents’ since we have larger homes, more cars and all sorts of electrical gadgets. Our homes have central heating and air conditioning and we enjoy many more entertainment options than previous generations.
But the cheap oil and scientific innovations that have given rise to these modern “benefits” are also the sources of concern in this morning’ paper.
The big one, of course, is the oil spill that has dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico and appears to he headed around Florida and up the east coast. Although progress has apparently been made in recent days, it may be generations before we know what the impact of this catastrophe will be.
The second story details the trials of a woman who operates a child-care center in a house surround by land contaminated by an old gas station that closed 20 years ago. Although it seems obvious that the land is polluted with carcinogenic benzene, the wrangling continues over who should clean it up.
The third story tells how scientists, in creating genetically altered cops to eliminate specific pests, have opened the door to damage from previously benign threats.
All of these stories have one central theme: you shouldn’t mess with nature. The more we try, the worse it gets. Not that long ago, our ancestors understood that. If an area was prone to flooding, they moved to higher ground. They ate whatever the land provided, never thinking of shipping food thousands of miles. If something poisoned the water or soil, they stopped using it.
We’d all be better off if we tapped into that common-sense approach of our ancestors rather than trying to conquer the unconquerable.
Writing prompt for the day: What common-sense lessons have you adopted from your family’s ancestors?
Larry Lehmer is a personal historian and chief legacy planner at
Words Matter in Urbandale, Iowa, where he connects generations through
their stories. To learn more, visit his web site, send him an e-mail or follow
him on Twitter.
Flick photo courtesy of Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com.