I’m not worried about the planet burning. If we try to choke the atmosphere, the atmosphere will choke us. The planet doesn’t care: It‘s been here millions of years before us and it will survive millions of years after. Those concerned about animals need not worry either, because animals have been going extinct for ages and new species are bound to come around.
I remember watching a documentary about what the earth would look like if humans underwent a mass extinction: thick vines would grow on the sides of buildings and wildlife would flourish. Clearly, the earth would be fine; humans, not so much.
These days we receive news immediately: We are made aware of a natural disaster, armed conflict, or bigoted act as soon as it happens. We are bombarded by information, all competing for our attention by intentionally manipulating our emotions. The angrier we get, the more we share things – and we know that viral items sell best. It seems as if we no longer have time to sit down and think.
Gruesome news is so common that we have been desensitized; the only way we can react to this is by laughing at it – but even a person’s sense of humor can be problematic precisely because our tolerance for stimulation has risen. Absurd, terrifying images circulate the web in the form of memes, shaming and dragging others is somehow hilarious, and some people intentionally cross moral boundaries for a quick laugh. Someone once sent me a dismembered appendage with a witty caption because he thought it was funny.
We are today in the midst of a climate crisis. People have been saying it for years. As early as the 70’s, songs like Asin’s “Masdan Mo Ang Kapaligiran” were already calling our attention to pollution as the price of progress. We were warned of the dangers of illegal logging and dynamite fishing. In the 90’s, I remember that there was concern about the ozone layer. In the early 2000’s we were worried about whales washing up on shores and cars emitting black smoke. Talk of acid rain gave me nightmares.
When I was in grade school we were already taught about recycling. Class projects usually involved repurposing trash. Recently, people have switched to reusable straws and eco bags. Plastic has been outlawed in some cities. We used to call it global warming, but when we realized it had the potential to be irreversible, it became climate change. Now that we are reaching the point where it will definitely become irreversible, we are calling it a climate crisis, swiftly spiralling into a climate catastrophe.
Stephen Hawking famously said that we should probably start looking for a new planet because this one won’t be habitable for humans anymore. So let’s call this crisis what it is: signs of the apocalypse. In Biblical times, people knew to look out for signs that would signify the end of life as we know it. Well, here they are. All the signs you could ever look for: famine, pestilence, war, and death.
Day after day after day there is news of blood, hunger, violence, sickness, ignorance. There are dragons in positions of power, and they have multiple heads – cut one off, two grow to replace it. I’m not trying to be alarmist or anything, but I think the alarm bells have been ringing for years now, and we just got used to the sound.
I know that for most people, news of the climate crisis feels absurd. This distrust is no doubt influenced by years of being exposed to a constant barrage of bad news and capitalist propaganda. There’s always something bad happening: Some forest was burned down by political businessmen, another dead body in the street becomes a crime statistic, or a sexual scandal erupts from a conservative institution. The bad: normal. The good: surprising, and doubtful.
We keep talking about changing the world for our children, but a lot of us don’t even want to have children anymore. We can’t even support ourselves, much less our offspring. The people who messed up our chances want to wash their hands or reinterpret current events by creating elaborate conspiracy theories or discrediting the young people who dare to speak up.
Eventually we will all die and even if we leave a better world for our children, even they will die. Despite this nihilism, some people still fight for a better, more habitable world. It is no longer your world; it has never been our world either, but we’re stuck here together. If you don’t want to act on the instincts of the better minds of humanity, then don’t get in the way. At this point, whether or not you believe in the science of it all, what have you got to lose? – Rappler.com
Carl Cervantes is grad student who makes zines. He posts his art on Instagram (@cerebralepitaph) and his other essays on Medium (medium.com/@carlcervantes).