Life was a lot simpler 50-plus years ago. The worst problems of the day seemed like minutiae compared with the violence and horrors reported now. Of course there were criminals and psychopaths; planes were hijacked, presidents and innocent people got murdered. But nothing in my lifetime compared to 9/11,. No one in the civilized world ever imagined terrorists becoming suicide bombers and using civilian airplanes as weapons to destroy New York’s financial center, the Pentagon, and the White House—along with the lives of thousands of families. The failure to imagine and prepare for that evil cost us dearly. It took months and years to process the terrible events of 9/11, graphically portrayed and replayed in the news media. During that time we had to figure out ways to protect ourselves in the future. For the first time in years, the rest of the world empathized and grieved with us (until we went to war with Afghanistan and Iraq). Collectively, we all suffered from post-traumatic shock, assimilating, grieving, trying to move on with our lives and find ways to prevent this type of tragedy.
Unfortunately, even in the short time since I started this blog, tragedies and violence have proliferated at such a frightening rate that I (along with most of the rest of the world) find it difficult to make sense out of it all. How are we to understand the shooting of 26 first graders and their teachers in Newtown, CT? Or the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan; the kidnapping of nearly 300 school girls by the Boko Haram in Nigeria? What about: the mysterious disappearance of a Malaysian airplane over the Indian Sea; the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teenaged boys in Israel followed by the revenge murder of an Arab teenager and a new war in Gaza; the killing of 298 innocent people on another Malaysian plane, (probably) mistakenly struck by a Russian missile? I’m sure I’ve left out many other atrocities here and abroad that resulted in widespread bloodshed.
Ohyes, I almost forgot about global warming! All those photos of the ice caps melting, sad looking polar bears, and the threatened extinction of various plants and animals essential to the continued health of the human race are quite alarming. Although most sane individuals agree that our planet is undergoing profound climate change, there are still people (most notably from the businesses emitting destructive pollutants) who deny the situation exists. Since the 1970s, temperatures have risen faster than ever before, with the 20 warmest years beginning in 1981 and all 10 of the warmest years occurring in the past 12 years. Sea levels have also been creeping up. Researchers project that by 2100, sea levels will be 2.3 feet higher in New York City. While no one can say whether the next century’s super storm Sandy will swallow the Big Apple, scientists are predicting that heatwaves, droughts, blizzards and rainstorms will continue to occur with greater intensity due to global warming. Moreover, 97% of climate researchers agree that global warming is real and caused by human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels that pump carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
What do we propose to do about all of these costly and overwhelming problems? Thanks to government gridlock, our elected officials here in the U.S. have been unable to agree on doing anything about anything. Politicians in the rest of the world don’t seem to be doing a better job—and many are doing far worse. Witness the travesty of President Putin denying responsibility for providing the missiles to Ukrainian separatists who shot down the Malaysian airplane last week. And how many more innocent school children will have to die because of the omnipotent gun lobby? If people can’t take responsibility for the violence and destruction happening daily all over the world, RIGHT NOW, how can we persuade people to worry about what happens to our planet over the next 100 years?
Global warming has been slow and insidious, while front page news bombards us daily with new stories of tragedy and bloodshed. Instead of being galvanized into taking action, inspired by outrage and empathy, it seems like our hearts and minds have shut down. We’re overwhelmed and overstimulated. It’s all just too much. What could be worse than killing innocent people and destroying the Earth? I’d call it global numbing.