Did we all get amnesia or is it just cabin fever? *
*Disclaimer: this is an angry post. If you need a light reading, please move on to the next post.
A little over a year ago, we had come to a point where a good chunk of the UK young-adult and sentient population was starting to understand a basic concept that scientists have been trying to impress upon us for decades.
We are poisoning the planet.
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
We have all seen one or two Netflix shows on sustainability or documentaries where cameras fly over terrifying heaps of trash. The scene of the whale calf smothered with particles of plastic in BBC Earth’s Blue Planet moved us. To greater or lesser extents, we all got caught up in the zero waste trend. Someone bought bamboo straws, someone else floral water bottles, or biodegradable detergents. Yet, among the many trends with which late capitalism has invested us, this was perhaps a good one we had to stick to.
As you read, I am aware that you wish I’d ‘keep it light’, as you need those 4 minutes of carefree break (plus one for the kettle) with your cuppa or coffee. However, I have considered the lightness with which many of us now face daily routines (justifiably to preserve our mental health). Still, I feel the urge to start this chat with you.
So, my earlier reference to amnesia is not because 2020 was a living hell, and we have all longed to have our brains erased like in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - even though it wouldn’t hurt. It ain’t that kind of amnesia. It is more that kind of tricks your mind plays on you when you stay for too long in a confined space (see above The Shining’s for reference). I firmly believe that we have regressed. Has the virus made us dumber? Or has our memory shrunk? Put it as you wish, we have lost our environmental awareness. We traded it for the sake of a greater good.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
Just a few months after the world stopped, comforting pictures about the decrease of CO2 planetary emissions started to pop out in the news. Good. Was this enough to ward off the threat of climate change, though? Probably not. Those satellite pictures initiated a recurring narrative that goes: ‘despite the pandemic, the planet is doing well’. I can understand that we would all need a happy ending at some point, but this story tastes more like a lie.
Last Sunday, I took a stroll in my beautiful local park, a few hours after the heavy snowfall. But besides the snowmen, snowwomen, and igloos, dozens of disposable cups were littering the whitewashed lawn. I paused my podcast and looked around. I sighed - in the hope that someone was as annoyed as me by that scene. I kept walking and reached out for a bin to throw away a tissue. The nearest bin was already overflowing. More coffee cups, and plastic lids, and water bottles, and face masks. Inside, on the ground, and on top of it. This is not okay.
I rushed home because the cold was making me yearning for a duvet and a cup of green tea. But then I thought: what happened to our reusable cups and fancy bottles? What if I suddenly crave a cappuccino, but I refuse to have it in a soggy and dubiously biodegradable plastic cup? Is ‘bring your own cup’ still a thing, or Covid-19 has really wiped out all the good stuff?
People are dealing with the pandemic in different ways: comfort food, veganism, slowness, home workout, Netflix, video games, porn. I don’t judge. Especially because my way of dealing with it, most of the time, is anger. I am sure this feeling resonates with how some of you might feel towards others - more or less specific groups of people - or towards the sense of isolation and frustration in general. I am angry at who blames Covid-19 as a scapegoat for all evil of the earth in 2020. Why do we need a common enemy to numb ourselves and avoid taking responsibility for our actions? Why can’t people be bothered with nothing but their own safety? If we don’t care about preserving our local parks and neighborhoods, where does that leave us?
The pandemic has pushed us back into a throw-away culture for the sake of a lighter and easier life.
Just a reminder: the planet is still experiencing a major crisis.
Would you be able to cope with another major planetary problem when this is over? #pickupyourshit
Doctored image of a turtle swimming with a protective face mask, Shutterstock