Original v. Cover — #6 of a Series

(midnight. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Earth and Moon from space Pictures, Images and PhotosThe featured song last week addressed the matter of U. S. involvement in near continual warfare, which defined almost the entirety of the decade beginning on January 1, 2000.  As we look forward to the next ten years, extending to January 1, 2020, U. S. military action in Iraq persists and significant escalation is planned in Afghanistan.  Future military intervention in other countries looms as a disturbing possibility.  If continued long enough, the United States may well follow the fateful trajectory of the Soviet Union, plummeting into the same abyss, having failed to learn from their predecessor’s untoward experience.  Continued U. S. military action and/or the eventual demise of this country to at least Second World, if not Third World status, will exert varying degrees of impact upon the rest of the world.  Despite this, many nations will likely survive mostly, if not fully intact.  

As we consider the decade ahead, perhaps the most critical matter of all is that of climate change.  As our mother earth’s ability to sustain human life deteriorates, adverse impacts will first be noted in other areas of the world, gradually spreading like a terminal malignancy throughout the remainder of the planet.  We can only imagine the accuracy with which our mainstream news media will disclose these developments to the general public, if this occurs at all.  More and more people will, of necessity, be crowding into continually shrinking areas of land, thereby reducing the amount of the earth’s surface available to produce that which is necessary to perpetuate life.  Those newly encroached upon by incoming refugees may not always welcome their new neighbors with open arms and may not be willing to share their meager food and water supplies with their recently arrived guests.  We can imagine the results, however much we may wish not to engage in such an uncomfortable exercise.

Yet, there are many who doubt that human activity has any connection whatsoever with climate change, if, in fact, it even exists.  Let’s say, for the sake of argument that the skeptics are correct.  What would be the adverse outcome incurred by implementing significant conservation measures, and increasing reliance upon wind, solar, tides, and other non-polluting sources of energy?  At worst, whatever supplies of carbon fuel still exist on planet earth will last much longer, more expensive and  less accessible sources of such energy can be left undisturbed until absolute necessity might dictate otherwise, and there would be less disruption to the environment caused by exploration and development activities. There would be fewer toxic pollutants released into the air that all living creatures breathe and into the water universally relied upon to allow life to continue.  New technologies could be developed that would eventually become more cost effective, particularly in a relative sense as traditional sources of energy become less available and increasingly scarce.

Some prefer to subscribe to faith rather than science, and may believe, without question, that the earth is only 6,000 years old.  Scientists tell us that the earth is 4.54 billion years old and that the light we see from distant stars, in some cases, left its origin billions of years earlier.  For those wanting to learn more, you can go here.  Mitochondrial DNA and fossil evidence indicates that modern humans originated in Africa about 200,000 years ago, according to the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian Institution.  

To the extent that the best scientific evidence is accurate, we could envision the span of time that modern man has existed in comparison with the age of the earth as follows:  We can visualize this by considering the distance between opposing goal lines on a football field – 100 yards or 300 feet.  If the beginning of the earth could be plotted at one goal line, using the field as a time line, one would need to traverse the entire field, stopping 5/32 of an inch from the opposing goal line before the earliest signs of modern human life would appear. Considered on the scale of a twenty-four hour day, with the time of the earth’s earliest beginning starting at the stroke of midnight, the appearance of modern humans would occur slightly less than four seconds before the clock struck midnight again, a relative blink of the eye.  By contrast, the age of the dinosaurs lasted for more than 160 million years, 800 times longer than modern humankind to date.  Perhaps one reason that some avoid and/or disdain science is that the more one learns, the more one realizes that human beings are less important to the entire scheme of the universe than we might prefer to believe.

This writer has entertained a recurring thought that perhaps the following analogy might exist.  We are well aware that the fever experienced by mammals when beset with a virus or a bacterial infection is a survival mechanism, designed to raise the body temperature to the level that the virus or bacterial infection is no longer able to survive. Once the fever has fulfilled its purpose, the body can return to normal functioning, free of the earlier ravages. Perhaps humankind has recently become similar to a virus or bacterial infection in relation to Mother Earth.  Could rising temperatures (aka global warming) serve the function of gradually raising the temperature of the earth’s surface to the point that the offending invader cannot survive, after which the planet could gradually return to life as it existed prior to humankind’s brief, but ultimately unwelcome arrival in this world?

These concerns aren’t new.  Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published in September, 1962, a book often cited as the springboard for the environmental movement.  The United Nations celebrates Earth Day each year at the time of the vernal equinox, usually on or about March 21st, a tradition begun by peace activist John McConnell in 1969. Earth Day is celebrated in the United States on April 22nd, the brainchild of Sen. Gaylord Nelson-D, Wisconsin, commencing as an environmental teach-in on April 22, 1970.  By 1973, soaring gas prices and long lines at gas stations further raised public awareness.  Jimmy Carter installed solar collectors on the roof of the White House. Ronald Reagan, his successor, removed them.  Environmental awareness, for most, became as anachronistic as leisure suits, shag carpeting, disco and avocado-colored kitchen appliances.  People sought to purchase ever larger, heavier and less fuel efficient sport utility vehicles, assuming that cheap, safe, and abundant energy would last forever.

Having addressed the possibility that climate change skeptics are correct, what if they are mistaken?

Those who participated in the Nazi death camps reported a phenomenon that may be a microcosm of what we might expect if the earth becomes increasingly inhospitable to human life.  Once the process of killing a new group of prisoners in the gas chamber was completed, those performed this grisly work described finding a pyramid of naked, human bodies. Children, the elderly and the infirm formed the base of this pyramid.  Those who were more physically capable could be found in the middle.  And those who were the strongest could be found having fought their way to the apex, having secured the dubious privilege of drawing one additional breath before passing from their earthly life.  Might an analogous scenario, albeit on a much grander scale, repeat itself once severe climate change reaches a more advanced stage?  Our imaginations reflexively recoil once we begin to contemplate what such a world might look like.

If you have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or other loved ones who will likely survive until the mid-21st century or beyond, what kind of world will await them?  The actions we all take today, tomorrow and beyond will help to create the world in which they will live. Will the legacy that we leave behind be treasured or reviled?

We would all do well to thoughtfully consider these questions.  That is the least we can do for posterity.

The featured song this week first appeared in 1971, eloquently addressing environmental concerns. Although it sold more than a million copies as a single, was the second most successful song on the album on which it appeared, one of the most successful of all time. The album itself was ranked #6 in 2003 of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, according to Rolling Stone magazine. This song first appeared on the Billboard Top 40 on July 17, 1971, rising to a #4 ranking, remaining on that list for ten consecutive weeks. This song was also #1 for two weeks on the R&B single charts from August 14 to August 27, 1971. In 2002, this became Gaye’s third single to win a “Grammy Hall of Fame” award.

Although many of you may have guessed the identity of this song already, it is also from Marvin Gaye’s 1971 album, What’s Going On, and is entitled, “Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology).” This song was written solely by Gaye, and as described in wikipedia, “became one of his most poignant anthems of sorrow at the world dealing with the environment.”  Gaye played the piano, strings were conducted by Paul Riser, multi-tracking vocals were performed by Gaye, and additional background vocals by the Andantes. The instrumentals were provided by The Funk Brothers and a leading saxophone solo by Wild Bill Moore.  

Marvin Gaye (1971) — “Mercy, Mercy Me” (The Ecology) was the second single released from his “What’s Going On” album, following the even more successful title track.

Robert Palmer – Mercy, Mercy Me/I Want You (1991) – Robert Palmer’s version is actually a medley of two of Marvin Gaye’s songs, beginning with Mercy, Mercy Me and concluding with I Want You.  His cover version reached #9 in the UK and #16 on the U. S. charts.

Hall & Oates turn in a very nice live version in Tokyo on April 22, 1998, on the 28th anniversary of the first Earth Day in the United States.  Japanese singer, Sing Like Talking fills in as a third lead singer:  

The Apostles (1992) perform a great instrumental, acid jazz version.  The video features some stunning visuals as well:

Susan Werner (2009) performs live at the beautiful, historic Thalian Hall in Wilmington, North Carolina.  This writer was fortunate enough to visit this historic venue in March, 2007.  It has been in continuous operation since 1858, and is the only surviving theater designed by John Montague Trimble, one of America’s foremost 19th century theater architects. It is currently undergoing an extensive renovation, and should be even more impressive when this work is completed.  

Werner’s thoughtful, Windham Hill-like version, featuring piano and cello, along with her vocal interpretation provides a marked change of pace from the earlier four versions:

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  1. “Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)”, perhaps as much as any other song, speaks directly to the challenges that have already faced us for decades and during the next ten years, the actions (or lack thereof) by the world community will likely shape much of what the remainder of this century will become.

    Here are three other versions that were all quite respectable, and were seriously considered for the final five, but since not all could make the final cut, however, if you have the time, they are definitely worth a look…  

    Here’s a very respectable version, with tasteful jazz vocals, by Boyz II Men, from their 2007 album entitled, “Motown” (2007) – Although the song is listed at 4:28 in length, the sound fades out at the 3:10 mark:

    Here’s a pleasant 1984 version by the British reggae group, Aswad, featuring multi-part harmonies:

    Alicia Keys covers “Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)” during a July 7, 2007 Live Earth Show in New York City, featuring Keys on keys and vocals:

    Welcome to the new decade!

    • justCal on January 2, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    …being what it is I’m not optimistic.

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