This is not a disaster movie


Disaster-action movies like Independence Day, The Core, The Day After Tomorrow and the more recent 2012 get a lot of audience attention and, as the lingo goes, ‘earn big at the box office’. Those movies make money because people get a peculiar thrill from big screen depictions of major cities in our world being spectacularly blown into bits.

What makes them so much fun is that we can enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes from those visuals from the safety of our seats in the theatre or in the comfort of our living rooms knowing that by the end of the movie Earth will again be saved from space aliens or natural disaster when nature turns into a preternatural monster.

In those movies, the best scientific minds overrule the fearful or narrow-minded skeptics and, along with the cooperation of all the major corners of the Earth, use their deep knowledge and noble intentions to save the world. The overriding theme is that together we can save our planet. Of course, along the way great masses of people lose their lives and there is much destruction.

In the old days of comic books, individuals with superhuman powers would keep the planet safe. Among them were Superman, Wonder Woman and Captain America.

This week, as life imitates art, we put the movie drama and science fiction aside for the real life version of the world coming together to save the planet, and human life besides. The United Nations summit on climate change in Copenhagen drew political leaders from 192 nations including Canada and the United States. Also invited, just like in the movies, are the great minds, the scientists who have the data and are warning of the dire consequences of continuing to use up the Earth’s non-renewable resources without care for the resulting devastation of the ecosystem upon which we depend – whether we choose to accept that or not – for our dear lives.

The air we breathe, the water, which we cannot live without for more than three days, and the land beneath our feet are all under threat. But because it is an all too common human trait to rest in denial about crucial matters, we will wait until we are desperate before we act. Desperation, sadly, is a great motivator. However, when the problem is as big as the planet itself, then we may not be in for a happy ending, because this is no movie and sometimes life does not imitate art.

It has gotten to the point where street-corner talk is about the ‘end times’, about how all this was predicted in the Bible, in Revelations. Is that the kind of discourse that will carry us forward?

This brings to mind a little story which tells of a young minister who, driving through the countryside, spots a farmer tilling 40 acres of glorious farmland. The minister pulls over and calls to the farmer: “God has certainly blessed you with a wonderful piece of land”. The farmer replies: “So true, but you should have seen the disarray it was in when God had it to Himself!”

The saying is: ‘Pray to God, but row to shore’. In short, we must help ourselves out of this mess.

The 20th Century was a time of tremendous advancements in industry, but the price we have paid for all that industrial advancement is that we have done tremendous damage to the natural environment. We have to accept that just as there was life before oil became king, there most certainly is life after oil. The era of dependency on fossil fuels must be brought to an end, for it is not the whole answer to everything.

Now that we know better, any further shortsighted support for the activities that have put us here in the first place would be nothing less than criminal. For, beyond the point of being a moral issue, as Al Gore likes to term it, how we relate to this planet will be a matter of how we survive the coming era.

Barack Obama notwithstanding, we had better start making major changes in our everyday lives and stop looking for Captain America alone to save the planet.

On a note of weather change…

It took some time, but for better or for worse the snow has finally returned to Toronto. The young ones may find it fun but not everyone is celebrating (you know who you are). Time to bring out the snow shovels?


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