We Need to Protect Our Resources Now

by Robin EH. Bagley

I recently read an article about Stephen Hawking’s prediction that we (as in humans) are taking our species to the brink and will need to colonize space in the next 1,000 – 10,000 years in order to avoid extinction. Sounds crazy, right?

Before you break out the tinfoil hats, let’s think about who Stephen Hawking is. He’s often called the Einstein of our times, one of the pre-eminent physicists in the world, has an IQ of 160, and has studied the beginnings of the universe. So when he talks, I think it’s worthwhile to listen.

Lest we think we have at least 1,000 years to get this all figured out, Hawking warns us that the next 100 years will be crucial for humans to survive long enough to figure out how to live in space. Now 100 years doesn’t seem so far away, does it? My grandmother turns 100 this year, so we can say that it’s really a lifetime we have left to solve some pretty big problems.

We can’t all work on how to colonize space, but we can all work on how not to kill ourselves off in the next few hundred years. Personally, I think that’s just common sense.

There are many ways, large and small, that people like you and me right here in South Dakota can make a difference for our kids, grandkids and beyond. Let’s start with protecting our natural resources for future generations rather than sacrificing them to extractive energy companies and big ag. We know that there’s tremendous potential for solar power here, but most of utility companies and our state government, legislature included, can’t be bothered to remove the barriers that would make it easier for South Dakotans to invest in solar for their homes and businesses. Net metering anyone?

In case we forget, South Dakota is one of just seven states without net metering, so we’re behind the curve. We see cities and utilities in other states making leaps forward in renewable energy, solar and otherwise, but because of our regressive climate, those things aren’t happening here. We’re part of the problem, not the solution. In Spain and Italy companies are exploring incorporating wind turbines into existing structures, such as bridges. In Portland, the city has started generating electricity in some of its water pipes. Yes, hydro power in city water mains – genius!

And while we’re on the subject of water, let’s remember that water is necessary for human life. The human body can exist for about three weeks without food but only three or four days without water. Let’s stop ruining our water. That South Dakota’s water is pristine is a myth. Go grab a glass of water out of the Big Sioux and drink it. It’s the 13th dirtiest river in the nation. Yum.

Recall that the Big Sioux basin is where the state would like to concentrate new confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), mostly large dairies. This further endangers the river; it’s the opposite of protecting it. On the other side of the state, the Madison aquifer is threatened by in-situ leach uranium mining. Radioactive water will not turn us all into Spiderman (yes, I know he was bitten by a radioactive spider, but you get the gist). If we think we can count on our state or federal government to protect our water, I have two words: Flint, Michigan.

In the interests of keeping humans around for a few thousand more years, we need to clean up our act. Let’s get busy with renewable energy and stop peeing in our own pool. Personally, I like Earth and think it could be nice if we could stay.

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