Almost a month ago I wrote this piece, moved by a simple streamed video. I know that I never finished the story but I cannot now breathe more life into it than I was able to do at the time. I therefore offer it exactly as when I left it. I hope it means something to you.
I just watched a short documentary produced by Australia’s ABC Foreign Correspondent program: “At the Edge of the Earth – Alaska” *. I don’t normally watch this show but I was just browsing to see if there was actually anything I would consider worth spending the time to see tonight. I couldn’t wait for tonight. A picture of three polar bears ensured that. Not that I am usually swayed by such images. You can’t afford to maintain attachments to anything these days. It all becomes too much to bear if you do. There’s no pun there. I meant what I said.
Anyway, I watched the show, and saw everything I believe, everything I have already let go of, everything or almost everything that I can foresee, confirmed once again before my eyes and in my heart. And it is so sad. So overwhelmingly sad to know that there is absolutely nothing that can stop it or turn it aside. Nothing.
I saw a people who are doing now the same things, living life more or less the same way they always have for many thousands of years. Nothing has changed except they now use oil to power their boats, guns instead of bows and arrows, and electricity for refrigeration, because there is no ice. No ice. That is the big change. And it is not of their doing. As the pragmatically feisty old lady says – “It is whatever it is they down south are doing” – that has changed everything. Civilisation. That is what is at the root of the problem. And there is nothing to be done. Nothing to stop it. It is already happening. Already in progress, and nothing can turn it around.
In this remote situation I saw the bubble that we are all in. That lady knew what is happening and yet is happy for the oil drilling to go ahead because it will provide jobs for her people. Is that not the same conundrum facing all earth’s peoples? We are all too intrinsically and inextricably tied up in what is happening to really want anything to change. These people have some among them who are mobilising to fight the continuing degradation of the environment that expansion of the oil industry brings. but just like similar people closer to the heart of civilisation their protest is futile. What they fear is already happening and they have the very same reasons as everyone else to need to hang on to the temporary benefits that it provides.
Temporary is the keyword to all of this. We want change but we don’t want the merry-go-round of the bubble in which we live to stop. even though we know it must. In this there is no difference between climate change demonstrators, climate change doubters or even the unconcerned.
The recurring theme in this short film is piles of bones. Animal bones. It is perfectly obvious that all the animals that make up these piles of bones, even the top predators, will eventually disappear, leaving only human bones, unburied human bones, to pile up as a last testament to a civilisation, however tightly or remotely grouped, that could not stop or prevent its own destruction. The show does not cover that part, nor will you read, hear or see it mentioned in 99.999% of anything placed for your consumption. That’s because the show must go on. The merry-go-round must keep turning …until it can’t.
* Alternative link if that service is not viewable: https://www.abc.net.au/foreign/at-the-edge-of-the-earth/11627598