Earth day, in the beginning

Before the bombing, gun battles, looting and oil-well fires, Iraq was a famously fertile and civilized area. A now notoriously cruel place where man’s inhumanity to man is played out on an international stage, it was famous for something completely different many centuries ago.

It was a paradise of sorts. It was from the lush banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that modern civilization sprang forth; the nomadic herders of the Fertile Crescent settled down to farm and cooperate with each other. Irrigation started, and towns grew up to afford protection and comfort for the people. Ironic, isn’t it?

It was near the Persian Gulf where the intelligent and energetic Sumerians constructed the first cities and invented the wheel 5,000 years ago. They also fought the first large-scale battles; they invented war.

The legendary Garden of Eden, if it existed anywhere, is said to have been in this fertile area, as was Babylon, where the calendar was invented.

But throughout history, man always has altered his immediate environment. Those ancient farmers converted the Fertile Crescent, including Iraq, into desert wastes by repeatedly damming and channeling the rivers and altering the course of nature.

Humans have the ability to become a force of nature, traditionally in a negative way. But our calendar shows Earth Day is upon us, and there are people now working to improve things (see Hydrogen now, page 20). It is time to see if we can turn things around and continue to raise our consciousness about how we can modify our environmental systems in a positive way and reverse human nature.