A while ago, one of my many correspondents (who number in the hundreds, spread out the world over, living everywhere from posh condos in Dubai to caves in Afghanistan) contacted me about an interesting online initiative that had somehow escaped my attention. Apparently, every year an event called Blog Action Day is held worldwide, in which bloggers from all nations are encouraged to break from their normal routine (whatever it is they usually write about) and focus on a common topic. The idea is to raise awareness about global issues that affect all of us, regardless if you’re living in the Dubai condo or if you’re neighbours with Osama Bin Laden.
“Cool,” says I. “Great idea. What’s the topic this year?”
The answer, somewhat predictably, is “climate change”.
Now, in the past, I’ve written periodically on environmental topics, but I’ve never considered myself an expert in the field (in fact, I’ve sent you people to much better sites if you’re interested in that topic). In fact, there’s only one field I’m an expert in: criticism.
So with that in mind, I present to you, my valued readers, my generalized, overreaching take on climate change, in support of Blog Action Day 2009.
Simply put, my friends, we’re in very deep shit.
I was thumbing through Digg this morning, looking for interesting environmental topics to discuss in today’s post, and the vast majority of what I found is nothing if not unsettling. Now, I don’t pretend to be Al Gore or anything, and believe it or not I do try to maintain some level of optimism about the future of our species, but most of the stories I came across this morning were harbingers of our impending doom.
I mean, seriously – evil, viscous algae-goo spreading across the Mediterranean Sea, infecting everything it comes across? Bluefin tuna fished to extinction? Rising sea levels? Super-fast growing, super-poisonous ivy overrunning North America? It all sounds like a bad Hollywood apocalypse flick, but it’s all documented truth, and that concerns me deeply.
I spend the majority of my time on this blog writing about relatively minor problems – at least, minor when you contextualize them in the grand scheme of things. It’s somewhat shocking that problems like homophobia and racism still exist when, as a race, we’re threatened with the end of our civilization as we know it. All this pseudo-religious infighting seems awfully silly when you consider that aspect of our day-to-day lives.
My father once said “the only thing that unites people is giving them something common to hate”. That’s why all these alien invasion movies do so well in theaters: when faced with an enemy totally external to ourselves, we no longer look around and see Americans, Pakistanis and Chinese – we no longer see Christians and Jews and atheists – we don’t see skin colour or sexual orientation or political affiliation. We see our fellow humans, just as threatened as we are, because something else now exists in our paradigm that allows us to identify ourselves as fellow humans. We are us and they are them and there are clear lines drawn in the sand at that point, so when the brain eaters of planet Xorax Seven come knocking on our collective doors, we put aside our own admittedly petty conflicts, band together, call up Bill Pullman and Will Smith and proceed to give the invaders a warm Earthling welcome in the form of some serious alien ass-kicking.
It goes a step further than that. Look at movies like Armageddon. Yes, it’s a terrible film with a ridiculous premise. Bruce Willis knows dick about mining, and Ben Affleck didn’t manage to convince me of anything other than the fact that all his purported talent probably stems from his association with his hetero life-partner Matt Damon. But my dad’s philosophy remained constant: when faced with imminent, world-wide destruction, the people of Earth (or at least as far as this film is concerned, the important people of Earth, namely the Americans and the Russians) banded together to stop the catastrophe and save our world. Despite Bruce’s typically-stoic/heroic death in the third act, everybody pretty much comes out on top; hooray for the good guys, etc. We didn’t hate the meteor, per se, but it had the same effect on our common consciousness: it made us wise to our stupid “my God can beat up your God” arguments and how pointless those arguments are when the End of the World comes a-calling.
So why is it, despite constant reminders from our scientific community that we are methodically raping our planet, calling it fat and smacking it around for not putting the right amount of mayonnaise on our sandwiches, we still persist in ignoring the warnings and keeping up with our grade-school clique mentality? Where’s the catalyst? Why haven’t we put all that shit aside and started sinking all our efforts into curbing our abuse of our lovely little blue-and-green hunk of creation?
For starters, issues like climate change (and it’s associated bed-buddies: carbon emissions, the plundering of non-renewable resources, mass extinctions, et cetera) aren’t as cut-and-dried as something like an alien invasion or a big fuckoff rock coming to crush us all into fine powder. In Hollywood scenarios, the answer is clear: every problem can be solved by blowing something up, be it the alien mothership or the asteroid or whatever. In real life, all the nukes in the world aren’t going to stop us from defecating all over Mama Earth (though it might be worthwhile to consider using nuclear energy for something other than mass destruction).
Second of all, combating climate change isn’t glamourous. In one of his myriad famous speeches that I will now shamelessly paraphrase, John F. Kennedy said “we choose to go to the moon…not because it is easy, but because it is hard”, but what he really meant was “we choose to go to the moon…not because it is easy, but because we will look like total Bad Asses when we’re rocking our Stars and Stripes on a hunk of rock millions of miles away”. Going to the moon was an astounding achievement fifty years ago and it remains to be one of the pinnacles of human ingenuity even today, but it had the added bonus of being extremely press-friendly: apart from ensuring Neil Armstrong would be up to his eyeballs in nookie for the rest of his natural life, it also made Americans look good on the international stage and gave them all serious bragging rights if they ever happened to be drinking in Moscow or St. Petersburg.
Contrarily, the development of alternate energy and the systematic repair of our natural environment is an expensive, time-consuming process with no real money shot at the end. If we do our jobs right, the whole point will be that nobody will really notice: it will be a gradual change whose positive effects we probably won’t live to see – and who gives a shit about our grandchildren, right? Human beings, and especially those in the West, are very results-oriented people: we want bang for our buck and we want it right now. The general consensus seems to be that, unless we transform the Earth into some kind of hippie utopia (or else some kind of sterile, matte-painting Star Trek world) overnight, why are we bothering investing in ideas that will take literally decades to implement, and possibly centuries to see effects of the money we’re spending right now?
Here’s a thought that will maybe help you blockbuster fanatics start putting this shit in perspective. Imagine all the negative effects of climate change as a great big, alien-ridden ball of rock heading very slowly but inexorably towards Earth. It’s coming for your children, folks. It won’t get here in time to destroy you and me, but it’s going to get our kids. We all want to protect our kids, don’t we? If little Bobby or Suzie was being threatened by some nasty alien with four eyes and a tail, you’d lay the beat-down right quick on his extraterrestrial ass, wouldn’t you?
Unfortunately, that analogy can only go so far. The thing we’ve got to fight isn’t an evil organization from some distant planet, nor is it some cold, austere, impartial force of nature that just happened to cross our path. The dangers of global warming and pollution come directly from us – how we conduct ourselves in day-to-day lives.
This isn’t an enemy we can fight with guns and tanks and improvised weaponry. There will be no day of victory – no flag to raise over the crushed bodies of our foes, no rousing worldwide battle cry. There aren’t any heroes here, just ordinary people trying to fix the damage we’ve done ourselves. There’s no glory in this.
There’s only survival, my valued readers, and a long road of hard work to get there.
I don’t know if I can make a difference, and I’m sure you don’t either. Individually there’s very little positive change we can create. But maybe, if we drop the bullshit and stop fighting one another – maybe if we pool our resources (the sort of initiative things like Blog Action Day is supposed to promote) and stand together on this issue, maybe we can start to move the ball the other direction.
I’m not Bill Pullman. I don’t have any rousing words of encouragement, no speech prepared (some writer I am). All I have is an opinion, and thanks to the wonders of technology that we as a people have built for ourselves, I have a voice. You’re reading this, aren’t you? Guess what – this nifty portal goes both ways. You have a voice too. You have a choice. You have resources and you have options. What you don’t have is an excuse, and neither do I. Not anymore.
So let’s stop talking about raising awareness. Talking never accomplished anything. JFK could talk about going to the moon until he was blue in the face, but if it wasn’t for the hard work of all those people who shared his vision, we’d still be dicking around here on Earth. So forget talking. Now that you’re finished reading this, go read another blog. Educate yourself. Find out what you can do. That’s what I’m going to do, because I think it’s high time we redefined our priorities and started working together.
Come on – let’s go. We’ll see what we can accomplish together. I bet it’ll be pretty epic.