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Don’t Look Up

In December of 2021, Netflix gave us an inspired Christmas present. A movie. Directed by Adam Mckay and littered with stars including; Leonardo DeCaprio, Cate Blanchette, and Meryl Streep. “Don’t Look Up” was a timely and dark commentary on politics, society, and the desperate refusal to accept reality in the face of facts.  The movie briefly streaked across the Netflix menu before vanishing like a night comet.  It hit too close to the bone and, home.

On February 28th, the UN released a scientific report on the current climate crisis. It was brutal. Detailed statistics of global fires, floods, and continuing droughts. A litany of environmental destruction circling the globe. Extremes of hot and cold weather. Vanishing eco-systems and, the inter-dependent species that rely on them for survival.  Like April showers, the report briefly ruined the day.  We were quickly distracted by a parade of new spring hairstyles and fashions on TikTok. Our social media Influencers confirm that these are indeed Important Issues.

Meanwhile, on various elevated Hills across the world, political agendas and directives continue to pander to the mega-corporate shareholders. Banking dollars layered in arrogance. Seemingly, they occupy a different planet. Their world is not disturbed by broken supply chains, lost crops, or unemployment. Or is it?

Common sense has fled like a cheetah heading straight for extinction.  We conveniently forget that wealth aside, we all need these ecosystems if any of us is to survive.

We can’t bungee jump into space fast enough to save ourselves. The longest contiguous time a human (Valerie Polyakov) has spent in space has been 437 days. Tourist space flights aside, the grave fact is, that we are born and bred on a planet with gravity. In space, science has proven that muscles, bones, and immune systems, in a short time become compromised. Simply put, we have not yet evolved to live in space.

As we focus on our lives, we forget how our planet shelters us from deadly external radiation.  In space, astronauts, despite shielding systems, are constantly being exposed to various forms of radiation such as; solar, galactic cosmic, cosmic particles, and geomagnetically bound radiation. Radiation is so constant that astronauts closing their eyes still “see” bright flashes from cosmic rays hitting on optic nerves. I know, scientific facts are such downers.  Who has time for facts?  The freshly mowed, weedless garden begs for a weekend barbecue party.  A little Round-Up makes suburban life so much easier.

Swat away annoying scientific buzzing. Pump up the music and flip the burgers. Have a beer and chill. Who needs science when we have God and Amazon delivery? (Maybe Amazon is God and I missed the memo.) The food is hot, grab a plate. Today life is good. Reality is for nerds.

In general, scientists don’t like talking to Joe/Jane public, any more than Jane/Joe want to talk to them. Being a Nerd carries the burden of awkward social conversational barriers. Party poopers spreading uncomfortable facts with the salsa dip.

Instead, they prefer to bury their ideas under 1000-page research white papers written to each other. Who can argue with that? We all crave support and understanding. It’s safer to stick to our own herd.

Do you remember when scientists raised public alarms about bee populations? Guess what? Nothing has changed. In the last 70 years, numbers continue to drop by 30% every winter. Per a USDA study, destructive factors include “pathogens, and sub-lethal exposure to pesticides.” Damn that annoying science! Our golf course is gorgeous and the chemically cleaned water is so beautifully blue. Just look how lovely it all is and enjoy the moment! What harm does a little lake dye, algaecide do really? Stop thinking about things that can’t be changed. Come and play, enjoy the day!

I am not alone in my desire to enjoy life. Otherwise, what is the point of it all? But. Can any of us still afford to live in a world where golf courses, cruise ships, and penthouses are the social lighthouses of success? Winter is not coming. It is here.

Across the world, thousands of people are desperately trying to reach the commercialized golden shores of “first world” Western countries. Perceived lands of safety and abundance. Perhaps the commercials need to be updated. As the pandemic proved, there are no longer disconnected, safe-havens. Hungry, homeless people are everywhere.

Climate migration is not about a better job or a bigger house. It’s about survival. People with nothing left to lose can be both a powerful and destructive force.

The fear of this is resulting in a backlash of global ultra-conservative politics and right-wing grandstanding. Politicians always need a scapegoat. The “bad guy” is not Putin, Biden or LePen. It is “them”.  Those who are not “us” in color, culture, or skin. Those who want they think we still have.

We fail to understand that, in the current climate crises, we also have nothing.  Just a commercialized mirage of water that has already evaporated. Farmlands gone into dust droughts and wars.  Rivers and oceans polluted by chemicals and human waste.

The December Netflix movie gave us a window of thought. 2 hours and 18 minutes to re-consider our decisions and actions.

It scared the shit out of some people.  Upbeat TikTok videos quickly saved us from our fear with eyebrow beauty tips and kitten videos.  A bad hair day is vastly more upsetting today than global destruction- tomorrow. And, after all, how can I, one person change anything? It’s up to “them” to fix it all. But, is it?  Refusing to accept reality will lead to the disintegration of, everything.

I have kids. Do you? Every day I ask myself, what is their future? What will the world look like in 10 years?  It gives me nightmares that even frizz-free shampoo can’t wash away. Time for a revolution. Of facts, of science.

A “Scientific Revolution” is not new. The first one pushed the mental envelope around the 16th (1501- 1700 AD) through the 17th Century. It kicked the world into an industrial shift.  Nature vs the machine. Faster is better.

Science became an autonomous discipline. A distinct separation of philosophy and technology. A movement of utilitarian goals.

During this transformation, science replaced religion as a focal point for politics and progress.  The Renaissance and Reformation introduced new sciences and substituted a quantitative for a qualitative idea of nature. Something to be mastered.  A perception of nature as a type of machine rather than an interconnected organism.

Science sought definite answers to limited questions within the framework of unproven theories. It now demanded to know simply “how” without the  “why” that characterized previous Aristotelian philosophy.

This new questioning thought shift is best illustrated in the writings of Descartes’s Discourse on Method (1637), Pascal’s Pensées (written 1657–58), Bacon’s Advancement of Learning (1605), and Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651).

The commonality of these studies lies in their direction of skeptical, rationalist thoughts.   A rejection of “feelings” in favor of isolated, mechanical results. An emotional attachment to nature was relegated to the world of “flighty females” poets and, writers.

Our current Scientists Revolution brings an ironic flip. It is embracing a return toward the holistic understanding of Nature, Earth, and, the Universe.  A view that it is all beautifully, perfectly connected. A waking realization that it will take more than isolated experiments and white papers to save the future for any child.

I support the scientists and their courage in leaving the lab. I applaud anyone brave enough to leave their comfort zone and make a stand. It’s hard to take a stand with unpopular, dark visions.

I admire their “Chain Choices”. The targets they have chosen to lock themselves to. The Banks. It almost feels like an updated version of Jesus tearing down the moneylenders. From scientists, this makes it even more poignant. Many of them fund science programs.

Yes, the same banks in 2008 we bailed out to an ongoing tune of over $700 billion. The banks who believe interest rates and miscellaneous charges will somehow protect them from a dying earth and an incoming mass of revolt.  Them.

Money only carries the value we give it. Face it. In reality, it is just a dirty piece of paper we would be afraid to wipe our ass with. The value of anything is assigned by popular belief.

We know, subconsciously, that our “old” world of easy living no longer exists. We grasp, for our sanity, for the slippery, false comfort of “normal”. Amazon shopping sprees and spring sales. We insist that last year’s barbecue model is not good enough. We Need those cool extras to guarantee the success of our 4th of July celebrations. We need, want – to forget that tomorrow is already today.  The Buy, buy, buy that equals, Bye-Bye.

We are “good citizens”. We pay our bills despite ramped-up inflation and governmental mismanagement. We pay taxes resigned to Social Security deductions on our paychecks and the full knowledge we will never receive it. And in our last bastion of hope, we vote.

As if, this time, the politicians will save us. That political promises will be kept, and our systems are not broken.

“Don’t look up”. Reality can be terrifying. But.  As in the movie, scientists have stepped up, one by one, giving us a time frame of hope. If we listen. If we each truly believe not in a provisory “dirty dollar” but in our own individual power to create change. Today.

Change is not counted in pennies but in futures. One plus one plus one… equals everyone.

Look up!

Karin vonKrenner
Karin vonKrennerhttps://kvkrenner.com/
Karin vonKrenner is a journalist and photographer. She has worked globally for over 20 years, in times of peace and conflict. Karin directs her pen and lens to document the contrasting narratives of the human experience. Her work invites you to engage the world from new perspectives.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Laura, I always appreciate your comments and personal insights from my articles. You bring a bright spark into the dark. We are at the center of the see-saw, balancing, like children. Hope and a future on one side, destruction and chaos on the other. Nature, left alone, will heal herself as the pandemic so clearly showed. It is we humans who must seek a way to ourselves. To final wake from the false dream and acknowledge that ther is no “i” only “us”. Nature has always known this. We, forgot. Thank. you for your comments, always welcomed!

  2. I so appreciate your powerful and poignant essay about both the clear crisis and how human beings distract themselves away from dark truths-kind of like the alcoholic who doesn’t think they’ve hit rock bottom. The ancient wisdom of Feng Shui offers support for the interconnected world in which we live-and for working for harmony/balance inside ourselves and with the natural world. Obviously, both are very much out of kilter as your essay so vividly illustrates. When as many humans as possible can come to deeper realizations within themselves-face and heal the dark places within–while simultaneously facing the realities in the natural world-which takes great courage –then each of us doing our small part for the planet can make a difference. Jane Goodall offers this encouragement. So does Richard Attenborough’s Witness Statement “Life on Our Planet” and the journalist who wrote The Insect Crisis–As I listen closely to the wisdom of these individuals, I know not to use Roundup, to let the yard go “wild” so insects and animals can better flourish, eat mostly plant based foods, and use reusable bags. I rarely shop. I know we’re emerging from the Dark Age of Materialism which involves a shift to balance/harmony and away from excess-hoarding, storage units, stuffed houses. The beloved poet, Mary Oliver, expressed her dismay at the destruction of the natural world she gloriously celebrated in so many of her poems. I work to not be overwhelmed but rather inspired to do my small part and to speak up, too. I love the natural world with every cell of my being and want my great great grandchildren to flourish on Planet Earth. Thank you, Karin, for your perspective and fierce commitment to document this contrasting narrative of human denial and the very real crisis happening to our earth home. Toxic greed seems to be at the root of the challenge.

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