The singular truth
Last week there was a front-page photo in the Inquirer showing a comely girl with her naked upper body painted all over with what the caption said were oceans and continents on earth. Although it was a thoroughly decent picture with nothing revealed (her left hand was cupped over her left breast), what I found objectionable was the usual appeal to “Save Planet Earth.”
Save Planet Earth? What hubris! Who are we, puny humans to save Planet Earth? It was created beautiful and perfect to sustain life and the thoughts we leave behind, but not by us. That was how it came to us, that was how we found it; until we destroyed it with greed, with lust for power over peoples and lands, and with an unrelenting, consuming ambition to be gods of this beautiful earth, our own Olympus.
But save it now? How? How can we bring back to life the clogged rivers when before dredging is done at one end, the other is again choked with plastic bags and fast-food styrofoam? Can we make the trees grow back? Can we take out the oil from the drills and put the earth’s lubricants back to soften the impact of moving plates?
No. More explicitly, impossible!
Why not? Because if you try to put your ear to the ground you can hear the earth. It is a living, breathing thing of which we are a part, in an infinite connectivity that has no termination. So never say we are dredging this river or planting those trees to save Planet Earth as if it were an inanimate, passive thing spinning somewhere in space, crying out to us, its saviors to save it from dying, haha!
Mother Earth (I prefer this term) can save itself, no thanks to humanity. Right from the time it was created it was already equipped and programmed to accumulate heavy clouds above to fall in torrents of incessant rain and typhoons and cause floods to drown us and throw back our trash to us.
Earth can move mountains to cause landslides and destroy homes and the people in them; it can heave and reposition its tectonic plates to crush our superstructures and superegos and, sometimes, to roil the usually calm sea to swamp the shores and spill into our streets, sweeping homes, cars and people.
No, the slogan is all wrong. Save Planet Earth? Save her, save ourselves would be a much more truthful caption for that otherwise lovely picture of the painted girl. (I hope the toxins in that paint didn’t harm her skin.)
Michael Jackson did give a hint of this oneness, this sense of being a part of all, of living and dying as a part of all creation: “We are the world, we are the people… there are people dying… we’re saving our own lives?” True artist that he was, did he know something many of us have yet to realize although it’s staring us in the face, has been staring us in the face, since the beginning of time—“ashes to ashes; dust to dust”? Can there be anything more explicit than that?
Yes, spend all your money at Vicki Belo’s clinic for that younger-than-springtime glowing skin, but before even she and Hayden Kho go into their second make-up and break-up, that too will turn to dust.
We come and go, earth will still be around—at least before it gets swallowed up by a black hole—saving itself, sending down rains and typhoons, shaking itself with earthquakes, releasing heat from erupting volcanoes, and now even digging graves for us with its sinkholes. It will plant the trees and water them to maintain its watersheds and to sustain its water supply, when we’re no longer around to cut them.
Which is why I read with much interest the Youngblood essay titled “The big picture” (Inquirer, 4/14/12) by John Mark Manuel, because I think he got it right.
You don’t need to poison beautiful girls with toxic paint to save the earth.
Excerpts: “I just wish to let everybody know that I equally admire all those who have helped the environment in their own unsung ways. I wish to remind everybody that there are different avenues for the same advocacy. No given avenue is wrong, but joining simply to belong is NEVER the right advocacy.
“Fight for what is right, not for one that’s trending. Fight for all trees, not just for those 182 trees (in SM Baguio). Truth be told, I’ve seen some of those tree advocates use their cars around the city more often than walk. I’ve seen the same activists who shop at SM with their luxury plastic bags in tow.
“From my own shrill perspective, this issue has turned into a ‘Scarlet Letter’ scenario. The truly noble guardians of the Earth have been infiltrated by pop culture fencesitters. It’s also become another page straight out of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes.’
“…I will be called an ignorant, indifferent cultural elitist by some, but I’ll keep on being an environmentalist the best way I know. I won’t exactly be taking to the streets or social networks in the very near future. But until then I’ll just sit back and spare every bug that passes the dinner table.”
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