It is one of those days. The air feels heavier for no particular reason yet for many reasons that have been around for a number of days, some even for months or years and most are not about to disappear or get fixed any time soon. Unless. An entire world at its mercy.
I struggle with awareness issues you see. The modern-day disease of the ones who cannot say “Oh well, it is what it is…” I am one of those who say “But why? It shouldn’t be this way…”
I often perform the dangerous activity of taking a few steps back to assess the “big picture.”
In other words, I am attempting to identify where I stand as an individual and where we stand, as fellow humans sharing a planet and the world that we impact, willingly or not (yes we do, lots.)
The latest environmental disaster, the typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, is a troubling event in more than one way. Planet-wide and humankind-wide. The typhoon has ravaged the country and will continue to do so for a long time, long after the mucky puddles have dried and the global media will have moved on to the next big event that rattles the world.
More than that though, this typhoon and many past and future similar environmental disasters, are defining a world that seems to just “roll with it” in a way that is detrimental to us all. The climate change files are getting plumper by the day with yet another discovery of what bakes us all up slowly but surely, and yet another disaster that claims lives and places and to the latter we say “thank God it did not happen here,” because we can afford the luxury of saying so, though it is solely due to luck provided by geographical location only.
There are warnings, some thin as gossamer, some thick as a sailor’s rope, but in the end neither able to tie us to the very reality we’re stepping on. As if we’re in a state of bobbing over it all helped by nothing more but the lightness of being spared (for now.)
But there is a good humane response to it all and that has to be acknowledged. Help is pouring in as we speak, and though the disaster is far from being fully assessed in all its beastliness, people are being given food and water, mobile hospitals are being set up and millions of dollars are being donated by countries around the world to help the approximately 11 million people who have been affected.
This is all an illustration of who we are in times of trouble. There is empathy, we need that. Media, the finicky mistress of terrible news, is doing its part in providing enough visuals to keep the empathy levels high enough so that help will continue to be sent to those in need. But if history is any lesson, the most diligent of us might just come across news of still unresolved disaster and ruin in the Philippines many months or even years after this. It happened in Haiti.
The reason I am saying this is not because I am trying my hand at being a nagger or a pessimist – I am neither! – but because of the discrepancy of all that our present world is displaying. I struggle with seeing the many facets of our world and wondering how on Earth (where else?) are we going to be able to deal with future disasters if their numbers and intensity will increase?
That the planet is slowly warming up is undeniable. A natural consequence of that are typhoons and hurricanes that kill, displace people and leave many without food or water for days, bringing the kind of desperation that makes people stomp and kill each other in their quest to alleviate their most basic needs, thirst and hunger.
Many environmental scientists are warning about approaching the tipping point. Many of us believe that to be the case while others roll with “It can’t be that bad, they’re just a bunch of scaremongers…”
It is rather unfortunate that human nature, empathetic as it is and a beautiful trait by all means, it can also turn severely dismissive of things that can and do alter the collective quality of our life on the planet, the only one we have.
A recent string of news pointed out to a “dream come true” kind of situation that is on its way to completion in the United States: asserting their crude-oil independence by 2020.
That means two things at least: the first is bound to affect us all because of an increase in carbon dioxide well over the projected allowed levels meant to ensure a halt in global warming, and the secondly, an extra shake-up for us Canadians, because the US oil independence, as desirable and guilt-free as it sounds (no more war-tainted oil) it may just open Pandora’s box when it comes to our oil. Someone will have to buy it and that someone might need pipelines to move it all the way to where it could be exported overseas.
Whether or not things will shape up to follow this scenario or a slightly different ones, my point is: If nothing will change, habit-wise, in the developed world and if the need for more, bigger, better (this one is questionable, yes) more typhoons and storms and climate changes will rattle us all.
We may or may not be able to help those in need when future big disasters hit, and not because we will lack empathy – that I choose to believe will never change – but because the way we treat the environment, which in turn will affect our lifestyle and our capacity to give.
We are slowly coming face to face with the consequences of increased and increasing levels of industrial, agricultural and oil/gas-derived pollution, massive deforestation done to occupy larger areas with various conventional-grown crops, ethanol-producing GM corn included, and the picture is not a pretty one.
Sad large-scale events like the typhoon Haiyan are meant to make us reassess. I strongly believe we should. A disaster of such proportions is a wake-up call that should extend beyond shocking images and heart-warming help.
As Dr. Seuss wrote in his visionary and superb illustration of an environmental crisis in The Lorax “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot/Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Unless is a powerful concept. We demonstrate often that we have what it takes to help our fellow humans when disaster hits. It is time we apply the same level of commitment to changing our ways. If we want to see things get better that is.
It starts with each of us and all as a collective made-up global mind. A matter of honor if you will…