Here is my contribution to Blog Action Day (October 15). This year’s theme is Climate Change.
I came late into the whole global warming consciousness thing, and it came by way of Hollywood, and partly via science fiction.
The notion of a world ravaged by either a nuclear holocaust, a biological disaster, or an environmental catastrophe was a formula and a post-modern speculative fiction staple. Inevitably this would involve a man who had miraculously survived all that and was chased by aliens, mutant zombies or intelligent apes.
And that man was usually Charlton Heston. And in later times, he was usually Will Smith.
But the notion of the environmental disaster producing something more menacing than zombies had not occurred to me until The Day After Tomorrow, a film much pilloried in its day for its cheesy acting and story line, and much praised for its spectacular special effects. The key horror in this film was global warming induced climate change that proceeded at a breakneck pace. In a matter of days, a series of unfortunate climate events had conspired to bring a slew of storms and blizzards that led to a new ice age.
Real weathermen and climatologists deemed that speed to fast, too fantastic, and laughed it off as a silly film. But the prospect of a climate gone mad due to a line up of disturbances struck a chord in me, and I wondered if it could all really happen.
The second film that made a tremendous impact, is of course the documentary based on Al Gore’s “The Greatest Keynote Presentation that ever lived” – An Inconvenient Truth. In the film, Gore seemed like quite an affable presenter, cris-crossing the world delivering his slide show on global warming. The film’s main thesis was that excessive C02 buildup caused by our burning of fossil fuels and the decline of the world’s forests was causing global warming and the end result would cause the climate to change.
On paper, a film about a guy giving a slide show sounds like a dull premise, and yet I mark this documentary us as one of the most frightening films of all time for the message it delivered. That we had gone so far, so fast, in putting the world on an auto-pilot to destruction.
One of the key sequences in An Inconvenient Truth showed the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina on the city of New Orleans in 2005. The floods, the levees breaking, the looting, the survivors on rooftops, the failure of government relief agencies to respond – all would be replicated in 2009 in the Philippines with the floods due to typhoons Ketsana and Parma.
These typhoons came at us with atypical strength – Ketsana would dump more rain in Metropolitan Manila than had been experienced since 1967, 42 years ago. Parma was likewise atypical, pouring more rain into the northern part of Luzon island than could ever be remembered. In both cases, the water level at dams and reservoirs rose to record heights. While the levees did not break, as in the case of Katrina, water was voluntarily released by government officials to prevent the dams from breaking. And the results proved devastating – much wider in scope than Katrina.
In the mountain ranges of Benguet, the constant rains fell on slopes denuded by deforestation, causing massive landslides that killed entire communities and isolated towns and cities.
In the news coverage, Philippine weathermen from the national weather agency Pag-Asa struggled to find a clue for all this. And the dreaded “C” words were offered as the cause. Climate Change, they said. Climate Change is the villain. Not us.
Ridiculous. By now, we know who is truly responsible for Climate Change.
Cartoonist Walt Kelly (of the comic strip “Pogo”) gave us the correct bogeyman for all of this. In the 70’s he wrote. “We have the met the enemy, and he is us.”
When looking for the root cause, look no further.