Overall I’m the sort of person that does my best to keep as many people agreeing with me as possible. In this blog I’ve written about music festivals, trips to the post office; things that most people, regardless of their personal beliefs, can relate to in some way. But lately I’ve been having a hard time coming up with fluffy subjects to write about. This is not surprising given what is in the news these days, with the uprisings in the Middle East, the natural disasters in Japan, and the not-so-natural one that is unfolding at their nuclear power plants. Then there is our own country’s financial crisis and the fact that the tundra is thawing and the polar ice cap is melting at an alarming rate. While the things within my own household are going along just fine, I am feeling the weight of the bigger things that feel beyond my control. Some days I want to ignore the news completely because the knowledge one gains from becoming informed is painful. And pain is to be avoided at all costs, right?
Well I’m starting to think that feeling a little pain is in order. A few years ago I injured my back in a car accident. The doctor cautioned me about numbing the pain too much. If you can’t feel the pain, it’s easy to reinjure yourself, he told me, and it can make things worse. And he was right. On a few occasions I pushed it too far and paid for it the next day.
Maybe as a culture we’re taking too many pain killers; they come in so many different forms these days. All of our distractions and obsessions can keep us from facing some pretty painful realities about what we’re doing to our planet, and consequently the people who live on it. Watching the nuclear crisis unfold in Japan is like someone pulling off a Band Aid to expose a festering wound that we’ve numbed and covered up for too long. Now that it’s exposed we can see that we shouldn’t have built nuclear power plants in one of the most seismically active regions in the world. It seems so obvious in retrospect. And the reality of what it could mean is beyond painful, it’s horrific.
And what other things are we choosing not to notice? They are too numerous to count, and it’s overwhelming to start tallying them up. And yet, how are these problems going to go away if we ignore them? The answer is that they aren’t going to go away at all. Nobody is going to rescue us from the damage we’re doing, not God, not the aliens, probably not a giant asteroid hitting the earth. The problems we’ve created are only going to get worse unless we start paying attention, and taking action. We can start by speaking up, questioning the system that allows corporations to degrade our planet and by demanding that human health and safety take priority over money. We can start by educating ourselves about some of the things we’d like to ignore. Even if means going outside of what makes us comfortable. Even if it hurts.