Saving the Earth / A Fallacy
A planet we call home is a mouldy speck of dust drifting in an endless void for an incomprehensibly long time. It is beyond saving. Nor it needs to.
I can sense your discontent through time and space, dear reader, but the harsh reality is that our planet is indifferent to its own or our existence. It is us, people, who are compelled to admire vast oceans and high mountains that humble us by their share grandeur.
21 March, 2019
by VILIUS PETKAUSKAS
illustrations AUSTE DZIKARAITE
As legendary stand-up comedian George Carlin once said: “the planet is fine – it’s the people who are fucked”. The sooner we learn, the better for all of us and this paradise-like pale blue dot we happen to be living on.
Now, I’m not trying to justify us shitting all over the place. Far from it. What I am trying to say is that we need not to get on a high horse with fancy terms like sustainability. Climate is changing. That is a fact. The thing is, it has always been changing. This is the only constant our planet knows (it doesn’t because it is a rock).
You may not be aware but Earth’s oceans were once purple (read here), whole Earth was all covered in ice probably multiple times (read here) and there was a time when a global rain lasted for 2 million years (watch here). To put that in a perspective, our planet had rainstorms that lasted 6 times longer than our species exist. Feeling powerful, dear planetary lifeguard?
On the other hand, we do have mighty bombs, that can level the whole planet to the ground, don’t we? Well, every year there is at least one bolide-caused explosion in our skies that is at least as powerful as one in Hiroshima back in 1945.
More attentive readers might point out that bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are light fireworks compared to later developed bombs. Yes, that is correct. The most powerful bomb ever to be detonated, the Soviet-made “Tsar bomba”, was 750 times more powerful than ones detonated in Japan. Russians said they were capable of making a bomb 4 times more powerful than that, with a power of 100 megatons.
That’s as powerful as a 170-metre-wide asteroid hitting the surface of the Earth. An event that happens roughly every 20,000 years. For example, an asteroid that is 1 km in diameter can release 47,000 megatons of energy on impact. This makes the most powerful nuclear weapon to seem a snap of fingers. Now, the asteroid or a comet that killed all non-avian dinosaurs (the ones that flew – survived and we are eating their cousins at the KFC) is estimated to be 11-80 km in diameter. Do the math.
Our bombs are mare farts in comparison to the power universe can unleash on us. Earth’s been through way tougher periods than us. If we’ve all left today, our whole existence would have been a shitty one-night stand from Earth’s perspective (one it does not have as it is a rock). But, surely, all of the powers that destroyed our planet are in the past, leaving us alone in the business of fucking the planet up. If only, friend. If only.
Climate change – the creator
Take the Sahara Desert for example. As recently as 5,400 years ago, the northern part of the desert was full of lush green – grasslands, forests full of monkeys and lakes with crocodiles (that’s why some oasis still do home them). Feats usually associated with the tropics, not desert.
There is a theory that put the responsibility for creating this USA-sized desert on humans. Overgrazing grass with a bunch of goats. Cool stuff.
A more dominant theory explaining the desertification of North Africa is *drum roll* the Earths rotational cycles. Around 8,000 years ago the tilt of our planet shifted from 24.1 degrees to the present-day 23.5 degrees. That sucked for Sahara as this meant a lot more heat for the area that is a desert now. It took thousands of years to completely burn the surface, but nature worked its magic.
Funny enough, scientists calculated that this change in Earths tilt wobbles every 41,000 years and Northern Sahara will be green again in about 15,000 years. Forbid, we invade the area with our goat army.
These fluctuations in climate, one might call them a changing of the climate or something like that, might have given us – us. Civilization, in essence.
You’ve probably heard about the Fertile Crescent or The Cradle of Civilization – an area were the first large civilizations with cities, writing, math and other nerd-stuff sprouted. An area that resembles a desert now used to be a lot more lush, similar to Sahara of the past.
However, our old pal climate change intervened and fucked that up completely. People living in this area had some stark choices to make as their habitat was changing. Since picking up tasty berries and hunting down the ever-fleeting burger-Antilope creatures was not a thing anymore, people took up the whole agriculture thing more seriously.
Think of it this way – hotter and drier climate forced people to take up foods we’d normally don’t – like some shitty weed you need to grind for hours and then bake before you can even eat it.
Arrogance is dangerous
Shoving sad pictures of dying turtles up people’s throats will accomplish jack shit. The planet will power through, developing some sort of plastic based life forms if needs to. It is what life does. As Mr Carlin said, maybe our only purpose is to make plastic for the planet.
Going further – claims to save the planet hide some dark implications. Saving the planet is such a vague term that in not too distant future it could become a reason to kill. After all, why not go to war with countries that oppose waste management if our goal is to save the planet? It’s a global task, that requires global action.
Our friend history shows that global ambition equals blood. Always and without exceptions. But if it’s to save the planet, why not, huh?
So, should we just wrap up in plastic and continue shitting everywhere? No. We need to save ourselves and quickly. The planet doesn’t care about the changing climate – we do. People living on coastlines do. People waring over ever shorter supply of water and grain do. The change is too fast and we are causing it. Earth doesn’t care if we stop changing the climate or not - it will prevail together with life on it. We might not.
Even the slightest fluctuations in climate have caused political mayhem. To name a few – bad harvests contributed heavily to the French revolution and more recently draughts inflated grain prices, forcing people to the streets, fuelling the Arab spring. Planet gave zero fucks about those events. We, the humans, did give plenty of fucks. And lives.
It’s all solvable – the pollution, the rising temperatures, the depleting resources. Only if we’d change our goal from abstract and outright dangerous “planet saving” to a specific set of tasks, maybe we could save ourselves. After all, we can accomplish a lot acting as an egoistic collective.
If only there was some way to influence decision makers to act, you know. If only we’d lived in a polity where the masses could regularly express their political opinion and get to decide who does what. Oh, wait. We do. Well, some of us at least.
Yet OECD data show that only one in five people aged 18-24 are interested in politics. Fewer vote. Don’t ever get mistaken – cleaning up will always be a political issue. And it is hard to see how one can “save the planet”, while at the same time incapable of putting an “x” on a ballot.
But don’t worry. The planet will be fine. Mouldy rock-spaceship will continue its aeons long journey. Just without the talking apes onboard.