The Planet is Fine

“When we say ‘the world has ended,’ it’s usually a lie, because the planet is just fine.” -The Fifth Season, Jemisin

A specialist in tectonics, structural geology, and field mapping, and currently serving as co-chair for the President’s Commission on Sustainability, Dr. Meg Reitz came to speak to our class a few weeks ago, and the idea that stuck with me most from her lecture was what she said about climate change. To paraphrase, she said that geologically speaking, Earth will be fine. Humans are the ones in trouble.

It seems Jemisin has done her research on this, judging by the quote with which she began the first book of The Broken Earth trilogy. The way I think of it, natural disasters are kind of like natural selection, helping the earth to survive rather than humans. If we continue at the rate we’re going, it seems we will just die out on our own. I guess it’s best for the well-being of the planet, anyway, which apparently we don’t have to worry about at all. Why was this so surprising for me to hear? Why have I never, or at least not that I can remember, heard it put this way? Why does everyone who advocates for climate change issues always push the idea that it is Earth that needs our help, when it is really us?

One possible answer to these questions has to do with the everyday actions we can take that have the ability to combat climate change and what will actually motivate people to take these actions. Some people may feel like they’re doing something more for the world by taking shorter showers or recycling if they believe they are saving the whole planet, including everything and everyone in it. It’s certainly grander! Besides, it seems that people see the faces of the starving and poor and homeless from developing countries virtually all the time, especially when organizations are vying for donations towards hurricane relief and child education sponsorship. The real question is this: Why aren’t humans more responsive to the pain and suffering of other humans? Is it because after a while, the faces don’t seem real anymore? Is it because our constant exposure to the suffering of others has desensitized us to it?

Ever since reading Jemisin’s quote and realizing its relevance to Dr. Reitz’s lecture, all I can think about is the people who are affected most by natural disasters who seem to contribute to it the least. I feel as though there needs to be a change in strategy when it comes to urging people to take action against climate change, because it turns out that people are the face of it, not the planet, or even the polar bears.

Father Earth seems to be protecting himself in the same way our own Earth is. Why would he need or even want humans on his planet, screwing everything up? They are responsible for the loss of his son, and if it comes down to who should be afforded the opportunity to live, why would he have any reason to choose humans?

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