Thursday, October 23, 2008

GMVW # 42: "Seeing the Forest for the Trees"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 42:  Seeing the Forest for the Trees
Song: If a Tree Falls by Bruce Cockburn
(Songwriter Bruce Cockburn)
October 23, 2008

The Environment:  After faith, family, and friendship, it’s what drives me the most.  It drives what I do for work, and to varying degrees what I purchase, where I volunteer, home and yard improvements and several of my magazine subscriptions.  It factors into the family’s choices for vacation destinations and other recreational activities.  Unfortunately, it also has to weigh in to how I vote.  It does not, however, drive my choice of Gem Video. Great music drives that, and if the music is pulling me to this heavy subject, so be it. 

There have been a number of well-meaning musicians over the years who have tried writing good music about their concerns for the environment.  Few have succeeded.  This Gem is the rare environmental song that has hit home with me on all levels:  Bruce Cockburn’s ‘If a Tree Falls’.  The song is about the destruction of vast tracts of the world’s rain forests, and the common use of the charred land for pasture, allowing cheap meat to be processed for bulk sales to fast food chains and other quick eats locales.

Before the most recent of global environmental concerns, climate change, the big ticket item for me was rain forest destruction.  The problem has not really gone away, it’s just been trumped.  Since the rain forests are so diverse and complex, many biologists feel that there is so much we will never know about what has already been lost, which makes it a bit tougher of a pill to swallow than some of the other environmental crisis.  It’s been a tragedy on many levels. 

Although not completely unexplainable, I have always struggled to understand why the environment has become such a hot political subject in the last 20 years. After all, two of our most important environmental legislative bills, the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, had significant development under the Nixon administration.  The most recent debate on whether or not climate change is being accelerated by human activities is a perfect example of how the environment has been politicized.  Since a vast majority of the worlds scientists believe human activity is a big factor in climate change, my question to the doubters is this:  What would it take to be convinced? 2 ice-free arctic shipping lanes? 3? 30 seasonal hurricanes?  40? Total loss of glacial ice in Glacier National Park? An Antarctic Ice Shelf calving the size of Rhode Island?  Connecticut?  Armadillos in the back yard? 95% scientific agreement that there is a significant human influence? 100%?  We don’t even have that yet for debate on the earth’s shape (spherical vs. flat).  If you are waiting for Rush to admit there’s a problem, don’t hold your breath.  He’s in too deep.  I do sense a positive change, however, in the political atmosphere. Hopefully it’s here to last.  I also sense a positive change in the American public, many of whom are realizing that bigger is not necessarily better.

As for my strong beliefs on these subjects, I have Dad to thank for sowing the seeds.  Dad always pointed out the natural wonders, small and large, on our hikes and journeys.  Dad also paid my initial membership fee to Greenpeace back in the mid-70’s.  At the same time he was subscribing Fred to the Wall Street Journal.  Perhaps Dad had a bit of the Irish in him with these decisions:  Like sending one son to the priesthood and the military.  More likely, he was simply recognizing his two son’s interests and inclinations.  In both cases, he nailed it. 

I’ll end this by making a plug for Cousin Tina Toran, who is doing her part to help the environment.  Check out her web site at:

- Pete

Gem Video “If a Tree Falls”

About the video: Made for MTV type video (though rarely shown)

Video Rating: 1


Best Feedback: Tina

oh pete, you really are so so so generous. thank you for calling attention to our site, more importantly,  i love the piece about your dad, and your gift subscriptions. again, thank you so much,
love tina


And: Andrea

Dear Pete,

Tina forwarded your Gem Music Video of the week to all of her sisters and I just want to thank you for what you wrote, how passionate you are about life, faith, family and music. Your words, and you in particular, are an inspiration to me, how you and Nancy live your lives and more importantly how you incorporate love, faith, friends and family so seamlessly into your everyday existence.  Each and every time, without fail, when I am with any member of the Steeves family, I leave where ever I am, smiling and happy, grateful that I am related to such wonderful, fun people.  Your siblings have very diverse interests, views and jobs, but you are connected by threads of love, beginning with your amazing parents and kept alive by you, your brothers, sisters and spouses. My sisters and I have the same connections as you, although, I have to admit there is more crazy in the Toran family than the Steeves, but tons of love and respect of one another.   I can speak for the Toran sisters in its entirety, when I say that we are madly in love with our Steeves cousins and are grateful that cranky Jerry and fun Fred had our parents, so they could have us. 

Have a great weekend and keep up the good work, you are a fantastic writer!

With love and admiration, your favorite cousin, Andrea


And: Jack

Oh boy, nobody is going to respond to this one! :-) 

I'll give the quick and dirty here.  First of all, I am what you might call a Teddy Roosevelt conservationist, so I stand hand in hand with you on a vast number of environmental issues both domestically as well as internationally.  I would sum up the great divide in this way. 

The environmental movement has become much like the perverbial town drunk who attends the baptist church every week.  It isn't the movement itself, but rather the spokespeople for the movement who are either unqualified on a number of levels...or profiteers who use the movement for their own personal benefit,,,or simply due to crazy people who are operating on a different plane of particular politician comes to mind.  Hysteria doesn't resonate with people and eventually drowns out the positive changes for the better folks like yourself are trying to make.  In short, the movement has been highjacked to some degree.   

Unfortunately Pete, human nature dictates that man's passions are more often than not superseded by his drive for cold hard cash, (The love of money is the root to all kinds of evil),...and after all is said and done, countries often succumb to the temptation...which is why China, Russia and India are among the worst polluters in the world and getting worse.  From the viewpoint of economies of scale, THAT is going to be the worlds biggest challenge in the years to come...the big three over in Asia.  We're working on it...perhaps not as fast as we'd like, but in a measured way so as not to disrupt the economy any more than it is.  Just my 25 cents. 


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