I think I was four year old when I heard the first prediction that the end of the world was just around the corner. The neighbour kids passed on this bit of news while they explained how their mother planned to dress the sister all in white and that Geordie, (for some reason I only remember the name of the boy) would have a new suit to meet his maker. It sounded like a jolly time and I struggled to understand why we weren’t celebrating at our house.
Then I forgot about it. The appointed day came and went and nothing happened. The kids didn’t want to talk about it.
Since then, there have been many such occasions, some of them religion-based and some forecasting other disasters, others based on nature.
As a teenager, we were instilled with terror that an atomic bomb would be dropped any day and the earth would be destroyed. We were told to “duck and cover” and dive under our desks. I read up on how to build a bomb shelter because it was recommended that everyone have one.
A few years later, with the imminent destruction of North America over the Bay of Pigs emergency, my future husband and I packed up and left for Vancouver to be with my parents, since we thought we might as well live while we could. That crisis, too, passed without incident.
Then it was population explosion: the Doomsday Equation. The world was headed for destruction, thanks to over-population. It even had a date: Friday, November 3, 2026 – get ready! People started planning for families of one kid or none. China had already imposed a one-kid limit on their hordes. Archie Bunker’s politically correct daughter and meat-headed son-in-law vowed to stay kid-free and lectured us on this many times over the life of the show – until they had their own kid.
Now we are told, instead, that it is actually declining population in one-kid societies that will be responsible for the end of humanity. World-wide, population birth rates have decreased by half over the past 50 years. According to these latest prognostications, countries such as China and Canada have reached the point of no return. Our populations are inevitably declining toward extinction, especially in China. Canada will be okay as long as we let in lots and lots of immigrants.
The current apocalyptic predictions have to do with climate warming (although, not that long ago, in the 1970s, it was climate cooling moving us toward another ice age). But this time, there is something different. It isn’t just the religious who are holding their breath waiting for the end. It isn’t just gullible kids. It is all the well-meaning, caring and concerned average citizens who have been absolutely convinced of the truth behind these statements. Nor is debate allowed. If you raise any questions or suggest that there could be room for error, you are branded by the climate police as a climate denier! The label is hissed at one with the same contempt that would be heaped upon someone who denied that the holocaust happened. The labelers don’t see the difference between those who question the proof behind climate change and the fact that we witnessed the results of the holocaust. Somehow, the two are conflated as if they were the same.
Those who know anything about me know that I am a huge tree-hugger, so I was interested to hear the Guardian report that if we just planted one trillion trees, world-wide, all the climate issues would disappear. I like to check my facts so I did a little research on the issue. Imagine my surprise to learn that there are also scientists who claim – not a doubt in their minds – that trees are the cause of the greenhouse gas effect, that they emit harmful compounds that mix with pollution and exacerbate the problem.
This group overlooks the fact that most of what they expire is moisture which eventually falls as rain.
It’s funny how full of contradictions we humans can be. It is commonly held that politicians are all crooks and liars, but at the same time, climate accords made by politicians at home and at the United Nations are cited as proof that climate change is the greatest threat to the world.
Of course, climate change is real and it is having an impact on the environment. The question is, what’s causing it? The other question is, what can be done about this? The answers are not as clear as some believe.
Every living thing on earth changes its environment in some way. Man is not evil. Man is as natural as the trees and birds and the sun and the wind. Still, it behoves us to be more in tune with our environment, to consider the fact that there are better ways to do things, to know that our activities can have a negative effect. If we are affecting climate changes, then we need to do what we can to change our behaviour.
Still, we must also consider that scientists do not always agree on causes of global phenomena. Their models vary, their knowledge base differs. Scientists are as subject to bias-based theories and other influences as everyone else. They work with what they have, but they don’t yet know everything and climate models are very young. It is in the interest of the human race to question, to continue to seek answers and, especially, to keep an open mind.
Apocalypse is not going to overtake us tomorrow. We need, in the meantime, to learn how to live in harmony with the natural world around us. We need to question, explore, argue and debate the right courses of action, not shut down everyone who raises their hand with a question or idea.
The earth still has so much to teach us.